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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 03:21 am (UTC)
I have always used various Wacom traditional tablets. I found that they're well, well worth the cost... But you can still find them pretty reasonable second-hand.

My original graphite-colored Graphire lasted me something over a decade. I now have a 4x6 Inutos 3, purchased while Circuit City was closing down, and it has been kicking along well. I sent off a 9x12 version of the same tablet (acquired by my mom and given to me when her company was getting rid of them) to a friend after her original Intuos tablet finally died. Her dad had purchased her one of the Cintiq clones (I think it was the Monoprice? (edit: Cel mentioned it below. It was the Yinova), but it wasn't working well with her Mac's software.

I haven't been interested in upgrading past the Intuos 3 line, as I have seen reports of the newer ones not having the same longevity. The issues seem to stem from USB ports. (Also, the eating through nibs. I have never had to replace a nib on a pean for my older tablets. My Graphire actually died before that was necessary.***)

I found a good resource for any tablet is actually eBay. I purchased a used 12x12 original Intuos for just over $100, and used an adapter to convert it from an ADB port to USB, which allowed me to use it on my mom's laptop and my old iMac. That was my favorite tablet, and I'm still sad I sold it.

I do have a Wacom-enabled tablet PC as well, a sort of predecessor to the Microsoft Surface family: the Asus EP-121 (Eee Slate). This also came off of eBay, and was around $500 before shipping. It's very, VERY weird trying to learn to draw on glass, even though the surface of the Intuos line from 3 and before is quite smooth. The pressure sensitivity is somewhat spotty, and last I tried, Clip Studio Paint/Manga Studio did not work on it. SAI works fine. I don't know about Photoshop, as I never bothered to install it on the small, 64GB solid state drive it comes with.

My biggest issue with Wacom has to do with the drivers. For years upon years, the drivers would randomly uninstall themselves. Mac or Windows, you'd go to change a setting, figure out why suddenly your tablet is stretching across both screens (if you have multiple ones), or see why your sensitivity was wonky/non-existent, and the driver would be missing. I think this has been finally fixed, I haven't noticed it since upgrading to Windows 10, but that's a thing to put out there.

At the end of it all: no one starts off knowing how to draw with a traditional tablet. The better/quicker that your brain can associate where your hand is on the tablet to where your cursor is on the screen, the easier time you will have, but you still have to practice and draw a lot. There's even a learning curve for the Cintiq or tablet PC types, since the calibration at the screen edges can be REALLY weird.

(*** - Nib longevity has -a lot- to do with drawing style. If you are more heavy-handed, they will wear out quickly. I am the person in traditional media that makes lines sometimes too light to be picked up in a scan, so my nibs last forever. I spend a long time fiddling with pen settings. You can also try different kinds of nibs to see what lasts the best for you, and what you like the feel of. Amazon has a good selection for Wacom tablets, and my correspondence with Wacom confirmed that the nibs for the new tablets are supposed to work in older ones.)

And quick tip because I've heard several folks be surprised at this: If your screen ratio is the same as your tablet (16:9, 4:3, etc), you can place a traditional media sketch on the tablet and copy it that way.

Edited at 2016-11-09 03:27 am (UTC)


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