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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:




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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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.
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?
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.
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.


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