Ready, Set, Draw: How to Choose a Drawing Tablet

Knowledge Base

Tablets offer a surprisingly authentic and versatile drawing experience with far less than the associated hassle. Using a stylus and a good piece of software, the intricacy of a modern drawing tablet is a wonder to behold. Of course, they will never fully replace the feel of pencil on paper, but they do allow their users to experiment with their creative imagination without the fear of ruining an already-started work.

Thankfully, drawing tablets are not that expensive. For under $100, it’s possible to get a great drawing tablet than can start or continue an established hobby.

Types of Drawing Tablet

The type of drawing tablet needs to be considered before you buy one. There are 3 main types of drawing tablets. They are:

  • Graphic Tablets
  • Pen Display Tablets
  • Tablet Computers

Graphic Tablets

This tablet is a traditional drawing tablet. It does not have a screen but has a flat surface that you draw on with your pen. As you draw on the surface, the image is reflected on your computer screen. Most of the cheap drawing tablets are graphic tablets. This is because they do not have screens that are the most price differentiator.

They are often used by professionals. Since they do not have many parts, they are more durable than other types of drawing tablets. 

The graphic tablet has been criticized because the artist cannot directly see what they are doing, rather they have a monitor to look at.

Pen Display Tablets

As the name implies, these tablets have a display. You can draw on the screen with your stylus in real-time. You do not have to connect the tablet to a monitor before you can see what you are drawing. 

The screen is pressure-sensitive. Thus all you need is a pen to draw with. Hence, if you do not enjoy the back and forth drawing with a graphic tablet, these tablets are for you.

And if you are a professional, these tablets produce high-quality work.

Because of the advantages of this tablet, it more expensive than the traditional graphic tablet.

Tablet Computers

These are often high-end tablets. They are tablets that do not require any connection to any monitor. They are not primarily meant for drawing, but by downloading an app, they can carry out this function.

You can draw on these tablets with your fingers or with a stylus. Aside from their cost, they do not have any notable disadvantages.

Pressure Sensitivity

This refers to the amount of force required to put on the surface of the tablet to get a line. Drawing tablets have pressure sensitivity levels ranging from 300 – 3000. 

If you want better work, you should go for a tablet with high-pressure sensitivity. This feature is what will determine the thickness of your lines.

Furthermore, it determines the richness of your colors and the transparency of your drawing.

A tablet with high-pressure sensitivity feels easier to use. It makes your drawing feel more intuitive and natural.


This factor determines how pleasant your experience is. It is usually down to personal choice.

There are two main types of connectivity: wired and wireless.

The wired tablet requires a USB cable for connection to your computer while the wireless tablet connects through Bluetooth or other forms.

Wired connections are more secure and stable than the wireless connections. However, a wired connection affords you less maneuverability. Just like you have to be careful with wired earphones, you need to be careful with this too.

Wireless connections allow you to move around with ease while using the tablet. However, distance is important if you want to have a stable connection with your monitor.

Drawing Area

The size of your tablet is quite important. If you are using the tablet for fun, or drawing is just a hobby, you do not need anything overly large. However, if you are used to a monitor and are in for serious work, you might prefer to get a tablet with a larger size.

While choosing the size, there are 2 important factors to consider:

  • Size of the Tablet
  • Size of the active area

The size of the tablet obviously refers to the overall size of the device. For your work, however, the size of the active area is the vital part you want to consider.

The size of the active area refers to the area where your stylus/pen can work. If the active area is big, it will allow you to work on bigger drawings. You will jettison the need to zoom and pan. 

Therefore, before buying a tablet, carefully consider the dimensions of the active area. Some tablets might have a large overall size but have a small active area, while others might have a smaller overall size but an active area that encompasses the entire device.

The overall size is important if you are going to be frequently on the move. A compact tablet will fit easily into your backpack as opposed to a bigger tablet.

Drivers and Software

The drivers and the specifications of your device are important. You should choose a tablet that can download the latest drivers and software. 

This is important because it affects the responsiveness of your tablet.

Responsiveness is a factor that determines how quickly the lines you draw on the tablet show up. A good driver will make this faster and will improve your overall experience with the tablet.


The stylus is arguably the most important part of your tablet. It will determine how well your tablet works and your overall experience with the tablet.

Pens come in different types. There are:

  • Battery-powered pens
  • Rechargeable Pens
  • EMR Pens

Battery-Powered Pens

As the name implies, these pens require batteries to work.

In most cases, these are AA batteries. Thus, to fit these batteries, the pens are designed to be quite a bit larger than normal. While this might not be aesthetically pleasing, they have a comfortable heft to them.

If your tablet uses this type of pen, you will need to have extra batteries on hand.

Rechargeable Pens

These pens are charged. You do not need to carry extra batteries with you, but you need to ensure a power source is nearby in case they run out of juice. Because they do not need to be fitted with AA batteries, they are usually slimmer than battery-powered pens.

EMR Pens

These are the best types of pens. They do not need charging neither do they need batteries. They are powered by an EM frequency.

No matter the type of pen you choose, ensure that it fits comfortably in your hand like a pencil. This will ensure that your work is as clean and accurate as possible.

Express Keys and Hotkeys

Drawing tablets have the ability to allow you to customize the buttons you find on them. Using this feature can save you a lot of time and make your work more enjoyable.

The number of these buttons varies from tablet to tablet. The more keys you have, the wider the options for customization, and the faster your tasks will proceed.


This factor is a measure of how many lines per inch your tablet has. It also refers to how much of these lines it can detect from the Stylus.

If you plan on producing images with very high-res, then you should obviously opt for a tablet that has a high line per inch (LPI) number.

A general rule of thumb is; the higher the LPI, the sharper the images formed are. You can compare this to screens. Just like an HD screen is less than a 4K screen, a tablet with a lower LPI is lesser than that with a higher LPI number.

Support & Warranty

Since you are likely spending up to $100 on a tablet or even more, it is important that you protect your investment. This will demand that your tablet comes with a warranty. That way if any issues arise, at least for the duration of the warranty, you can replace it.

Furthermore, your tablet should come from a company with excellent customer support. If you have any problems, you should be able to contact the manufacturer and get a solution to your problem.


As with electronics of this nature, you must know how long it will take to use the tablet before it runs out of power. 

If you are going to be using it at home, then the battery life might not really be a source of concern. However, if you will be traveling a lot with it, you should ensure it has a good battery.

A battery life of at least three hours is ideal.

Drawing a Conclusion

Digital drawing is great. With drawing tablets, it has become even easier and more fun. If you are looking to buy a cheap drawing tablet, you do not have to compromise on quality. A drawing tablet can be a great creative arena for a budding artist or a professional tool for your graphic design business.