What Should You Look For When Buying a Graphic Tablet?

Here are the main things you should look for when purchasing a tablet:

  1. How big is the drawing area/ active area?
  2. Is active area regular or LCD that you can draw directly on?
  3. How many levels of Pressure Sensitivity does it have?
  4. Does the stylus require a battery, a recharge cord or neither?
  5. Does the tablet have hotkeys/expresskeys?
  6. Can the tablet be flipped for left-handers?
  7. What’s the weight and portability of the tablet?
  8. What accessories come with the tablet? What software is in the bundle?
  9. What price range is it in? Is it a good value of the price?
  10. What software/OS does it support?
  11. Are the drivers updated frequently?
  12. Is the customer service good?

Visual Guide to Buying a Graphics Tablet

Take a look at this visual guide below to see the different parts of a graphics tablet and what may be included when you purchase a tablet kit. If you are completely new to tablets or are looking for a quick recommendation, scroll past the picture for a breakdown of the types of tablets you can get.

graphic tablet buying guide

Personalized Recommendations for You

I am a __________
Non-artist, I want a tablet because I have wrist pain/discomfort
A beginner, or I want to buy a gift for a young adult
Experienced hobbyist, I want good value for a reasonable price
Professional/ Art School Student, or I want to buy the best/most expensive tablets

Non-Artists/ Office Work

For non-art work or light office work that don’t need a lot of functions, you’re looking at the smallest, most inexpensive tablets on the market. These tablets will have no or few hotkeys a small active area so that you won’t have to move your arm in big gestures when using it. These tablets have around 1024 levels of sensitivity and are also great for playing Osu!

The levels of sensitivity control how finely you can control the size and quality of the lines you make. If you’re not going to draw with your tablet, don’t worry about this as 1024 is more than enough for your case.

Take a look at these inexpensive mouse replacement tablets.

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Beginner/ Your First Tablet

If you are a total beginner and want the cheapest tablet possible that is capable of drawing, this is the section for you. If you are a parent or grandparent looking to buy a gift for your budding young artist who wants to draw manga or anime style art, this is the section for you.

The tablets I will recommend in this section have 2048 levels of sensitivity, the perfect amount necessary to have proper control over what kind of lines you can draw on the computer. This is very important, as a tablet with less levels of sensitivity will not be as good for drawing.

All these tablets are around medium size, and work best with a screen 15″-17″. The drawing area on these tablets are just big enough for you to make sweeping movements for smooth lines, but small enough that it’s portable. They’re all also under $100, so that if you decide that digital drawing is not for you or your kid gets bored, it’s not such a great loss to your wallet.

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Experienced Hobbyist/ Best Value

If you are an experienced artist and want to move over to digital, or you have a tablet and are looking to upgrade, this is the section for you. All the tablets here are 2048 levels of sensitivity, enough to draw the most detailed, realistic styles. All these tablets are medium size or larger, and are in the $100-$500 range. Investing in a tablet at this price range will give you a utilitarian workhorse tablet that will last for years. You can also find the cheaper LCD tablets in this section. They can be a great alternative to a Cintiq at a fraction of the cost.

Tablets in this section are also good for professional photographers.

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Professional, Art Student/ Most Intuitive Tablets

If you are a professional, and art student or a hobbyist bent on buying the best tablets possible regardless of price, nothing beats these LCD tablets. Having the ability to draw directly on the tablet is a huge step up from the traditional tablet, where there is a disconnect between where your cursor is and where your stylus is.

In this section, I recommend tablets from various manufacturers at a range of $500-$3000. These tablets all have 2048 levels of sensitivity, are all large sized, and have resolutions of 1366 x 768 to 2560 x 1440. The PPI count for tablets in this section is 90-108, depending on the size and resolution.

These are very expensive tablets, but they will deliver the best drawing experience. If you’re doing commercial work on a regular basis, it may be worth investing in one of these tablets to speed up your workflow and improve your ergonomics.

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Now You’re Ready to Choose!

taking the plungeAfter you’ve read the buying guide and delved into our reviews, you’ll have learned all about what makes a good tablet and what tablets match up to your needs. Now you’re ready to make a buying decision with confidence! Take the plunge and enjoy your new tablet!