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Community Tablet Discussion

Hello! This is a post we've decided to make to help people who are shopping around for digital art tablets. Much of this will rely on user input, along with our own personal recommendations.

Whether you're a beginner or an experienced artist, shopping for a tablet can be one of the most individual, confusing experiences out there. There are so many different kinds at different pricepoints, but be aware that as a general rule, tablets are 'get what you pay for'. What you need will depend quite a bit on what you plan to do with it. If you're a casual doodler, you likely won't need a $400 dollar Intuous, much less a $1600 dollar Cintiq.

The first thing to figure out is your personal preference in regards to drawing on a traditional tablet, or if you're more comfortable drawing directly on a screen. Just be aware that the latter options, while lacking the mental disconnect between screen and where you draw that normal tablets have, are often far more expensive. I highly recommend doing everything you can to test between the two types before deciding to make a purchase, but if you are unable to do so there are many cheap traditional tablets you could try just to get a feel for it.

For easy reference, I will refer to the type of tablet that you draw on which is separate from your monitor as a 'traditional' tablet, and the type where you draw on it directly as a 'cintiq-type' (as that's most recognizable for people).

For beginners, here is a small list of cheap, traditional tablets I have heard of that you may wish to try, all under $100:

Monoprice

Huion

Turcom

Wacom Intuous Draw

Wacom Intuous Refurbished

These are small, cheap tablets that would be good for beginners to try while they work to get used to digital art and the disconnect between the tablet and the screen.

If you are an artist who is looking to upgrade from a cheap traditional tablet to something better, my -personal- recommendation based on experience is the Wacom Intuous 4. I took art as a contract job for a website and needed something better than what I had, and have not regretted my purchase since. My only complaint would be the rough surface texture, which will eat through your nibs, but I got around this easily via a screen covers.

The Wacom Intuous series are widely regarded as the best tablets on the market, thus the expense.

There are many options, however, and many artists will go through a couple of tablets before finding one that suits all their needs, so don't be discouraged if it takes you a few tries. It's usually fairly easy to re-sell a lightly used tablet or to donate them if you're feeling generous.

As for cintiq-type tablets, you may be able to try them via display models at stores. Unfortunately, unless you manage to find a good deal for something probably refurbished or heavily used, you are unlikely to find one that won't cost at least a couple hundred dollars, which is a costly gamble to take for something you might not like in the end (I have tried cintiqs and personally didn't care for it, myself). I would definitely recommend at least making a real effort to get used to traditional tablets before giving up, as it can a while. It took me over a year to get the hang of one!

I am now opening the comments for discussion over people's experiences and recommendations for tablets so this can become a post that is a good resource for new and not-new artists! What tablets have you tried? What were the pros and cons? Are you looking for recommendations based on your needs? Go for it.

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Comments

slinkslowdown
Nov. 9th, 2016 03:03 am (UTC)
Wow, talk about timing...

A few days ago, I had a commissioner offer to buy me a tablet, if I wanted one. [I currently use a mouse and only do coloring work, no drawing, though I've done traditional drawing in the past.] I turned them down, because TBH I assumed tablets were all those hundreds-of-dollars ones.

They said their offer still stands if I change my mind; I'll definitely think about it now.

Does anyone have any advice for choosing between the five cheap models listed here?

I've literally never used a tablet in my life, so anything I should know? Even if it seems obvious, tell me.

Do these need software? Will some only work on certain operating systems [I run Vista]? Are some more resource-heavy than others [I only have 2GB RAM and can't have anything else running while I use GIMP]? Will all of these work with GIMP?
kayla_la
Nov. 9th, 2016 03:16 am (UTC)
There are many cheap tablets (as I showed in the post), which should be fine for you as long as you aren't expecting them to be exactly on the level as the better ones. Usually you sacrifice pressure sensitivity levels and finicky drivers for the cheaper ones, but plenty of them are still pretty doable.

As for the brands, I've heard a lot of people say they like their Monoprice tablets. Any of the ones I listed should be fairly safe though, as I tried to look for ones that had plenty of amazon reviews (definitely give those a read!).

I'm old enough that drawing tablets weren't really a thing when I was growing up, so it was fairly late in life that I finally tried one. If you're used to paper and pencil like I was, I'll be upfront with you; I really struggled to learn how to use a digital tablet. This is where people will often say you'll have an easier time with a cintiq, but A. I couldn't afford that and B. I tried one later and actually rather hated it.

My point is just that it's going to be a frustrating and difficult change to make if you're anything like me, but stick with it. It took me over a year with regular use to finally get a feel for it, and I almost gave up on many occasions. But now my tablet feels like just another extension of me. If I can do it, I imagine most can.

Also, every tablet is very different from each other, so if you upgrade in the future, expect to have to get used to the new tablet too. The convenience of digital art is worth it, though.

As for software, some tablets sometimes come with complimentary software, but typically all you need is the drivers. I always recommend going straight to the product's webpage to install the newest drivers instead of bothering with the CD that comes with, as those will likely be outdated.

Most tablets should work on Vista (I ran Vista with my older wacom for a long time) and in GIMP, but make sure you double-check the product page before you purchase, as it should list what it's compatible with, OS wise. You should be okay as far as RAM goes, I used my old tablet on a super old 1 GB RAM PC for a long time. RAM will be more of a hindrance for art software than tablets themselves.

Also, you can often find older drivers on the products' website that you can try if you're having trouble finding something compatible with Vista.

Lastly, be gentle with your tablet. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people destroying the cords from moving it around roughly, or losing the pen (which can be a pain to replace), or DROPPING the pen, etc etc. I personally just keep my tablet flat on my desk at all times and make sure to keep my pen in its holder when not in use.
slinkslowdown
Nov. 9th, 2016 03:21 am (UTC)
Fantastic reply, TY.

I actually haven't drawn traditionally in at least five years, so maybe that'll make it less awkward. I do digital coloring with my mouse almost daily and have adjusted to that completely, so I guess I have some experience with hand + flat surface = action on screen?

If anyone who's done art/coloring with mice previous to switching to a tablet reads this, LMK how the change was for you?
snowhawk
Nov. 9th, 2016 03:26 am (UTC)
The tl;dr version of my experience changing over (keeping in mind this was starting in 2000, and using Photoshop 4, and I was 19 and already set in my drawing ways): it was awkward as hell, but in the end, WELL worth it to learn.
chronidu
Nov. 13th, 2016 02:04 am (UTC)
Basically this, I did nothing but mouse drawings before I got my tablet, it was weird and shaky at first but once I got it down it definitely opened up a whole bunch of new doors in digital art!

Pressure sensitivity alone is def worth it.
talentedfool
Nov. 10th, 2016 10:25 pm (UTC)
For the cheaper tablets I really could not recommend NOT getting a Monoprice enough. After my Bamboo died, I decided to try a cheaper option, and everything from the beginning of trying to buy the thing to the end where I ended up just buying an Intuos Fun was just a goddamn nightmare.

I don't know where you live but because I feel it's pertinent as part of the overall review - I live in Australia, and the main draw of the Monoprice was it was a cheaper range but competent tablet. The tablet itself cost something like $40 which was very affordable, but shipping cost $50. They had absolutely no cheaper alternative for shipping, I asked their customer support. I ended up buying it through an American friend who would only have to pay $5 or so themselves on shipping and could ship it to me for around $20 (rounding down these prices).

TO ANYONE BUYING ONLING OUTSIDE OF NA, UNLESS THEY'VE DEVELOPED NEW SHIPPING CHOICES, THE PRICE YOU'LL PAY FOR SHIPPING WILL PROBABLY BALANCE OUT THE CHEAPER COST OF THE MONOPRICE.

When it arrived, came the trial of installing it. As mentioned, tablets, like most external hardware, require drivers to function. Monoprice tablets have this bizarre thing where their drivers just do no work. At all. I tried googling around and didn't really get any helpful leads, so I again had to contact customer support. They told me that yeah, this was a thing that happened, so much so that they recommended people just use a completely unaffiliated third party software, which is like a blaring siren in my head. However, I had payed like $60ish dollars for this thing so I was determined to make it work. The driver they recommended me... did not work.

Again, first google. A lot of people with the same complaint, but no answers. Customer support next: oh, that driver didn't work? Okay, here's another unaffiliated third party program to download and install to get that first one to work.

The problem with these third party programs is that if something goes wrong, Monoprice doesn't bear any responsibility for that, even though they were the ones instructing me to use it. It's also deeply alarming to have a company tell you, "Yes, our product straight up does not function, use something else instead I guess?"

It took me literally two hours to get this thing installed. At one point, as someone with severe anxiety, I couldn't cope and had to crawl into my closet and cry. I had a whole thinktank of friends on Skype call trying to walk me through it. By the end I was so exhausted I didn't even want to use it, but I needed to make sure it actually worked after all that.

The next issue comes with the caveat that I have been using WACOM tablets since my very first one, so this is more just a straight up issue of not being used to the differences - it just felt "off". It's so hard to describe, but the pen pressure just felt different, and the input felt a little laggier. It felt a little more "muddled" to me. If you're someone who has never used a tablet before in your life, you probably won't find any issue with the Monoprice (if you can get it working). It was just shattering that after all that effort trying to get this thing running, I couldn't even stand the subtle, but effective difference between it and a WACOM. I ended up just forking out for an Intuos Fun, and still have that Monoprice sitting gathering dust in my office.

(Side Note: if anyone wants a free Monoprice...)

This is all my personal experience. I have friends who use Monoprice, and actually got this one at the recommendation of one of said friends (who felt terrible afterward, but I don't hold it against her - she actually uses the same model as me, and didn't have nearly the same nervous breakdown experience I have, so it's probably a coin toss over whether or not it'll work), and many people have had positive experiences with it. I can only offer my own story.
talentedfool
Nov. 10th, 2016 10:26 pm (UTC)
tl;dr

PROS:
+ Affordable (as long as you're within a cheap shipping company)
+ Customer support WAS incredibly friendly and prompt in responding
+ As long as it's working, it's a very competent tablet, and fine for first-time users

CONS:
- The cost of shipping in certain non-NA countries basically makes it the same price overall as just buying a WACOM
- As a smaller company, if you run into problems, you're less likely to find any kind of support or answer by looking around online - WACOM, as a more prevalent product, just has a lot more information to help you already out there
- Drivers sometimes just do not work and you are forced to use third party ones, sometimes multiple
- While understandable as a cheaper alternative, I just don't feel it's quite as good as WACOM, and if you're someone who is used to WACOM, there is a feeling of dissonance that's hard to get over



In the end, I do feel there is a reason WACOM is the leading brand in tablets. While I HAVE had issues with my Bamboo in the past, a) I was able to quickly resolve them thanks to a lot of information on google, and b) I have NEVER had ANY issues with my Intuos Fun since I got it. Not a single issue, and very easy and pain-free install.

I cannot recommend getting a Monoprice. I just cannot.
whoop_zi
Nov. 10th, 2016 11:39 pm (UTC)
I've been drawing digitally for nearly ten years now and I've only ever consistently used Wacom's tablets that are under 100 bucks. I have pretty bad luck with electronics, and for some reason the cheaper models tend to hold up better for me. I would definitely recommend some form of Wacom Bamboo, or the Intuos Draw which is what I use now- it's a great tablet if you're just getting into digital art, but for someone like me who's being doing this for a while it works good too! In terms of compatibility, I feel like Wacom is your best option- it works with most drawing programs and should work just fine with GIMP.
And as far as transitioning from a mouse to a tablet- it is super awkward at first, but you'll get the hang of it pretty quickly. Whenever I get a new tablet, I still need a good couple days to adjust to it! It's definitely worth it to learn, IMO. Good luck!

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