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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 08:18 pm (UTC)
My experience with Wacom tablets (haven't used others, only have read reviews and experiences from other artist about them):

Intuos 1 Special Edition 9x12. 2000-2005
The Special: it was black and had a programmable and removable row of buttons you'd insert under the screen protector.
I bought this size based of Wacom's recommendations you stick to the size you normally work in; most of my sketchbooks were 9x12," so that seemed like a no brainer.
I read the transition to digital was easy. It was not. It was quite a struggle and frustration for a long time.
It was heavy and too large to use on the desk in front of me, so I always had it on my lap. I had to make huge strokes for the smallest things.
I eventually wormed the cord out of the housing but that never affected performance.
It still works to this day; I've loaned it out a few times.

Graphire 4x5, 2001-2002
Computer lab tablet, I wasn't sure what to expect out of this model. It was Wacom's first foray into entry level/cheaper tablets.
It actually turned out to be a handy, sturdy little workhorse that I regularly recommended to new artists interested in getting a tablet.
It didn't have pen tilt sensitivity and had half the pressure sensitivity of Intuos. I never really noticed the latter.
Switching from 9x12 to 4x5 depending on location just made me want to stick with the smaller tablet.
I was really sad to see this line discontinued in favour of the Bamboo which had less features and reliability at the time.

Intuos 3 6x8, 2005-2009
Tired of working so large, I picked this up at a smaller size. SO much easier to handle, faster performance. Strokes were much easier to get smoothe and my arms weren't so tired while working, nor my legs for resting a tablet atop them like a heavy sketchbook. I ended up selling this to a friend.

Intuos 4 small, 2009-2015
A friend was going to an AI school and through him I purchased Photoshop CS5 suite, Painter 11, and the tablet for a ridiculous deal. I still use the software today. I still have this tablet and would still be using it today but...

Cintiq 21" 2013, about a year
Borrowed this from a friend while he was out of town and not using it. Drawing on screen was great, but the size of the tablet was incredibly cumbersome.
I did not have the desk space for it, nor was I going to buy an armature for someone else's hardware on the chance I decided not to upgrade myself. Having a screen to draw on and a screen to reference was amazing tho'. I knew having my own would be something to aim for.

Cintiq 13" 2015-present
An incredibly wonderful boyfriend bought this as a birthday present. As with the larger tablets I find I don't need or necessarily desire a larger screen. I will probably grab an armature for it tho', to make the tablet easier to reposition and to free up limited desk space.

My overall take is, unless you regularly work big, and by big I mean no smaller than 12x16 at any given time (not zoomed in), you absolutely don't need a large tablet. If you find most of your work is arm/elbow motion, yes the bigger tablet/screen will be beneficial. But if most of your work is finger/wrist, a large drawing surface will be wasteful and cumbersome.

Keep in mind those drawing screens are more than vertical space on your desk, tho', and you will most likely need or highly desire an armature to attach them.

Also, I have never, NEVER scratched up any of my screens as so many other artists have. I have never had to order replacement nibs either. There is a settings area for your tablet to adjust pressure, speed, sensitivity, buttons, clicks, wheels, all that stuff. If you get a Wacom, take advantage of this! I was nervous about getting a screen protector for the Cintiqs at first but they've never given me reason to. You shouldn't have to fiercely dig in for your heavier, thicker strokes. If you find you want more expression, recalibrate.
Nov. 10th, 2016 07:30 am (UTC)
On scratching on Cintiqs, this is something I found out that I think a lot of artists don't know (a friend of mine didn't know this till I told her my story).

I scratched my Cintiq Companion 2 and thought it was the end of the world, and I was having a bit of a fit.

HOWEVER it turns out that ALL CINTIQS COME WITH A DEFAULT SCREEN PROTECTOR. It can be difficult to pull off, but a scratch in a Cintiq is not a death sentence. Just pull it off and buy a new one ($30 on Amazon).
Nov. 10th, 2016 10:35 pm (UTC)
Woah thank you for this, I got a 13HD and scratched it right in the middle a while ago and just looked this up (I recently put on a new screen protector to avoid any more so the scratch is now 'under' it), but when I feel like I need to change it will definitely try to carefully pull that original layer off! Sounds scary but I asked Wacom how much to fix the scratch and they just quoted me like $300 so yeah.... :'D
Nov. 13th, 2016 02:11 am (UTC)
I DID NOT KNOW THIS! Do you know if this goes for all cintiqs? I have a 21ux and frankly am not a soft or light drawer lmfao
Nov. 13th, 2016 11:59 pm (UTC)
As far as I'm aware, this applies to all Cintiqs. I found this out through a post talking about one of the other Cintiq models.


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