In this ultimate guide to drawing tablets, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about these nifty gadgets. We’ll start with the basics by defining exactly what a drawing tablet is and how it works.

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We’ll help you to understand technical specs, and what to look for when buying your own tablet. Then we will move on to some of our favourite drawing tablets on the market, and where you can purchase them at the best prices.

Once you’ve chosen your drawing tablet, we’ll talk a little about digital art, and how to get started with this fun skill. We’ll run through some of the best online digital art courses for beginners, one of which was tried and tested by yours truly!

Whether you’re looking to start your digital drawing adventure or you’re well-versed and looking to take the leap into professional-level digital art, we can help with finding the right drawing tablet for you!

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The ultimate guide to drawing tablets

What is a drawing tablet?

A drawing tablet is a flat surface upon which you can draw with a stylus. The results are carried, via cable or Bluetooth, into whichever software you use. The stylus can be used to do the drawing and operate the cursor – simply hold it a few millimetres above the tablet’s surface.

To use the tablet, you’ll need the right software. These include Adobe PhotoShop, Procreate, Gimp and Krita. PhotoShop has a monthly cost whilst Procreate is a lower one-off cost and the latter two are free. If you’re a beginner it’s worth trying the free options for now: they’re more limited in features, but will give you a taste of the program.

Drawing tablets with screen

Drawing tablets come in various styles, some are a touchpad which you plug into your computer or tablet. You then draw on the touchpad with a digital stylus and your work will appear on the screen.

However, some tablets have in-built screens so you can work straight on to the display. Some people prefer this as it feels like a more natural way of working, especially if you are accustomed to pen and paper. That isn’t to say that a screenless tablet won’t work for you, it’s something you can easily adapt to with a bit of practice.

As you might expect, a drawing tablet with a screen has a higher price point as there is more tech involved. There are some low-cost ones on the market though, you can find some starting at just over £100 in our best cheap drawing tablets round-up.

cheap drawing tablet 7
GAOMON PD1161 11.6" IPS HD Graphics Tablet with Screen

Why a drawing tablet?

Not only are drawing tablets the perfect way to expand your art knowledge, but they are also so much fun to use! You are free to experiment with different brushes, colours and techniques, all at the touch of a button.

Digital art can become a valuable part of your repertoire and can feed into non-digital artwork. For instance, digital drawing is a fantastic way of creating preparatory sketches, since you can tweak, flip, enlarge, shrink and adjust to your heart’s content.

For painters, digital painting is a spectacular way of developing your understanding of colour: you can switch colours in your creations with the mere tap of a button, and experiment with different schemes and harmonies.

Oh, and if you’re wincing at thoughts of those hideous attempts you once made on Microsoft Paint, rest assured that digital art tools are almost frighteningly advanced today. Stylus pens respond with incredible sensitivity to varying pressures of the hand and create marks in a near-infinite range of brush, pen, pencil and sponge marks and textures. Scroll through #digitalpainting on Instagram: you’ll likely be amazed that these were created on a computer.


Beginner and cheap drawing tablets

As a beginner, it’s important to do a little bit of research before buying your first drawing tablet. There are many different styles and price points for your new tablet –you need to consider what drawing software you will be using with your tablet.

As a beginner, it is worth choosing a cheap drawing tablet. And just because a drawing tablet is low-cost, that doesn't mean you have to compromise on quality. You’ll find many basic tablets have many of the same specs as more expensive ones.

In our round-up, we’ll show you the cheapest and most beginner-friendly tablets available! You can purchase a digital drawing tablet for as little as £30.


Best drawing tablets

You’ve tried out a beginner tablet and you want to step up your game to a pro-level tablet. We’ve trawled the market for the best of the best when it comes to drawing tablets, and you’ll find our absolute top picks for the best drawing tablets right here.

We’ve compared a variety of the top brands so you can easily decide which tablet is right for you. As you’ll see the price point shoots up for these tablets, easily going into the thousands. However, if you are serious about digital art, and want to pursue it professionally, these industry-standard drawing tablets are a must!

best drawing tablets 4
Wacom Cintiq 16

Best iPads for digital drawing

iPads are an incredibly popular way of digital drawing. You’ll need the software Procreate, as well as an Apple pencil.

The Apple pencil allows you to draw on your iPad screen with the same pressure sensitivity as other drawing tablets. This makes for a very smooth and natural process.

Procreate is very user-friendly too, making it a popular option for beginners. It has opened the door to digital art and made it more accessible, thanks to its low price.

You might already own an iPad, in that case, you’ll just need the Apple Pencil and Procreate. If not, here are the best iPads for digital drawing.

Looking for an alternative to Procreate?

Discover our guide to the top drawing apps for iPads.

2022 Apple 12.9-inch iPad Pro

ipad pro

As far as iPads go, this one really is the best of the best! This is reflected in its price tag… but if you are serious about your drawing, we’d recommend giving it a go.

It's top of the pile in terms of specs with an M2 processor that brings astonishing performance and new capabilities. The liquid retina XDR display gives super precise and sharp detail for even the most intricate of drawings.

As with all iPads, you will need to purchase the Apple Pencil and Procreate to start digital drawing.

2021 Apple iPad mini (8.3-inch, Wi-Fi, 64GB) - Space Grey (6th Generation)

ipad mini

Going for a mini version of the iPad is ideal for beginners. You’ll get the pro features of an iPad at a smaller price tag.

Although small, this tablet really packs a punch in terms of tech. Its A15 Bionic chip will handle all of your drawing needs with ease. Plus the all-day battery allows you to keep creating on the go.

2022 Apple 10.9-inch iPad Air (Wi-Fi, 256GB) - Space Grey (5th Generation)

ipad air

With a generous screen size, the iPad Air will make the perfect drawing companion. It’s cheaper than the pro but still has all the specs you need to draw effortlessly.

With a liquid retina display and true colour technology, the colours will be crisp and brilliant and the display sharp, perfect for digital drawing.

How to learn digital art

Digital art courses

If you’re a beginner and you’re looking to learn more about digital art, then an online course can be a lifesaver! They’re low-cost and often jam-packed with information, tips and tricks..

We’ve found a few online courses below that you might be interested in…

The Ultimate Digital Painting Course - Beginner to Advanced by Jaysen Batchelor & Austin Batchelor, Udemy

Speaking from personal experience, this course is fantastic. I undertook this course in 2020 and it was so much fun, and I learnt so much. Check out my Udemy journey over at @digital_art_by_katie on Instagram.
Katie Dolan
digital art course 1

This course offers complete beginners the chance to progress quickly, understanding digital painting of a variety of styles. You’ll discover how to draw characters, landscapes, portraits and a variety of other techniques. If character design or portrait art interests you, this is the perfect course.

Discover more about The Ultimate Digital Painting Course, Udemy

Intro to Procreate: Illustrating on the iPad by Brooke Glaser, Skillshare

digital art course 2

If you have an iPad and Procreate and you're looking to learn all the skills and techniques to draw like a pro, this course is for you. It’s tried and tested by over 100k students and is currently the Staff Pick over at Skillshare.

The course covers everything and really is the ultimate guide. This course will help you understand all of the basics; tools, techniques and settings. Not only that, but you’ll also master the drawing by following along with Brooke’s helpful video guides and tutorials.

Find out more about Intro to Procreate, Skillshare

Digital Painting in Photoshop: Create Amazing Concept Art by Robert Marzullo, Udemy

digital art course 3

This is a beautiful course for anyone interested in concept art. It requires you to have a little knowledge of Photoshop beforehand, so may not be suitable for complete beginners.

Throughout the 27 lessons, you’ll learn how to create a fully rendered character in detail. For this course, you can use any drawing tablet which has brush pressure sensitivity.

Robert has a 4.8/5 star rating from previous students, a very high score indeed! We think this is the ideal course for somebody wanting to delve into concept art.

Find out more about Digital Painting in Photoshop, Udemy


Finding the perfect drawing tablet for your artwork

Digital drawing is a unique experience which has no artistic boundaries! It’s practical in the sense that you can easily undo, change things and return to previous layers. It gives the user a different way of working as opposed to traditional drawing with pencil and paper. Starting your journey into digital art means choosing the right drawing tablet for you.

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Drawing tablets for beginners

Discover the best drawing tablets for beginners in our helpful guide. We’ll walk you through the specs and comparisons between each tablet to help you find the right one for you!

Authors

Katie Dolan
Katie DolanDigital Assistant, Gathered

Katie Dolan edits our needlework sections, focusing on our embroidery and cross stitch articles, as well as making videos for our arts and crafts projects. Katie runs her jewellery business, Ophelia Jewellery Art, on Etsy, where she sells beautiful resin-pressed flower earrings. She has a wide range of craft interests including embroidery – she particularly loves all things pop culture and a less traditional approach – The Simpsons and Rick & Morty are among her favourites to embroider. She has recently completed a silversmith workshop and hopes to expand her jewellery business with these new skills. When she’s not crafting, she’s usually fuelling her Harry Potter addiction with a Sunday film marathon and a couple of butter beers!

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