Best digital drawing tablets?
January 10, 2017 7:59 AM   Subscribe

Looking to buy a tablet (small, not a laptop substitute) for my adult son who draws and wants to do more of it.

I've been looking at a couple of the Galaxies (Android) and the Wacom standalone Bamboo. There is also the possibility of an iPad, although he already has an iPhone. But bigger screen of the iPad would be better for reading on-the-go.

Obviously there are huge price differences among these items.

I'm wondering which are easiest to draw with, specifically. I have an iPad 2 and hate drawing on that capacitance (Is that right?) screen, even though I've tried a fancy stylus. And palm rejection is never quite right. I hear the iPad Pro is much better with the Apple pencil, but is this overkill for a non-professional?

The Galaxy Tab A seems to have problems with responsivity as well; the Galaxy Note is reported as better in this regard, but there are complaints about it as well (not updated since 2014, for example).

Any observations/recommendations much appreciated.
posted by DMelanogaster to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
smart tablets (iPads and Galaxies) are not the tools for this. They're just not built with the responsiveness in mind for drawing. They're entertainment consumption devices, not content creation ones. (The exception to this is the ipad pro, as you've found.)

What you want is a drawing or graphics tablet that hooks up to a PC or laptop. The big differences (other then size of drawing surface) is whether it has a smart-tablet like screen or not.

If you want him (or he's indicated that this is what he wants) to be able to draw on the screen in the same way you would draw on a piece of paper, then you're looking at something like the Wacom Cintiq 13HD.

If you just want to help him break into digital art, then something like the bamboo would be fine. These do have a bit of a learning curve (but are significantly cheaper then an ipad pro or cintiq)
posted by INFJ at 8:39 AM on January 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

My friend who is an artist bought an Android Chromebook tablet to travel with as a digital sketchbook. She loved it. It has some cool painting and drawing apps (she likes Sketchpad) and is very responsive. They're also really inexpensive!
posted by ananci at 9:25 AM on January 10, 2017

Depending on how comfortable you are with electronics and DIY projects, there are sets of instructions floating out there for how to add a flatscreen to one of Wacom's cheaper, non-Cintiq, tablets. The artist in my household went this route a few years back as a stopgap to hold her over until our household could afford a second-hand Cintiq.

We used a kit that built into an acrylic stand that mounted the screen with a slot in the side to slip the tablet into, but the maker who was selling those seems to have gone out of business. However, a quick googling has turned up a couple of different examples of instructions on how to mount the screen in the tablet itself: 1, 2
posted by radwolf76 at 9:48 AM on January 10, 2017

In my experience, either an iPad Pro with a stylus or a larger Wacom tablet, depending on your budget. I haven't been in the market for a while, but I use the medium sized Intuos and it's great. Size is important; if he draws tiny things from his wrist maybe a small one is ok, but most artists/retouchers I know need the larger size to be more comfortable.

There's an app (Astropad, I think) that will mirror the screen of a computer on the iPad Pro; that works ok. Personally I prefer the tablet because it's faster, but I'm also used to it.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 9:55 AM on January 10, 2017

If he's willing to use Windows, there's a variety of tablets that have built in Wacom digitizers and support touch sensitive stylus drawing, including some of the Surface line, which are a little cheaper than iPad Pros and more versatile.

Does he have strong opinions on what he wants to use? If he wants full fledged Photoshop, for example, that'll limit his options.
posted by Candleman at 10:26 AM on January 10, 2017

What is his ultimate goal? That might inform some answers.

I am an adult who starting drawing more in recent years for personal fun. I started with pen/marker but also tried out a fancy stylus when I got an iPad. It was a bit fun but I also experienced some frustration. Recently I got an iPad Pro and decided to try out the Apple Pencil and it is a world of difference. It is fun, responsive and once you get into the flow of using it you are just thinking about ideas and technique, not the technology.

Here are some drawings from this summer, when I was experimenting with it and trying various apps. I use Procreate most of the time now, but Adobe also has a set of (free!) apps that are fantastic. There are a lot of tutorials online as well.
posted by mikepop at 10:27 AM on January 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

I own a $400 Wacom and a $40 Monoprice tablet. They are comparable, though it took a bit of elbow grease to get the drivers working properly on Win7. I bought a second Monoprice and multiple pens because they are great workhorses.

If you want a Cintiq alternative, try the Huion GT-220.

There are many reviews for you to check out here
from a pro who uses Wacom/Cintique alternatives in his work.
posted by Wossname at 10:28 AM on January 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

The iPad Pro/Apple Pencil combo is simply fantastic. I say this having used a lot of drawing tablets.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 10:43 AM on January 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

For a traditional drawing tablet, seconding the Monoprice tablets for bang for your buck. However, I recently got an iPad Mini 4 for work and I really like having a device I can carry around with me. As a non-professional doodler, I wouldn't shell out for a Pro+Pencil or Surface for that reason alone, but if I was going to purchase a tablet-type thing anyhow, I would definitely consider the upgrade.
posted by yeahlikethat at 11:50 AM on January 10, 2017

I would start with the Wacom and set him up with software. He will need some if he doesn't have it already. I use Affinity Designer on Mac plus Photoshop and I may also be adding Clip Studio Paint (formerly Manga Studio) to that as well. I do the monthly (paid yearly) Photoshop+Lightroom subscription.

So I'd start with the basics and you can always upgrade later. Some people also prefer drawing on a separate tablet or on a screen tablet.

Otherwise I have highly considered the iPad Pro + Pencil combo as a stand in for a much more expensive cintiq. Many artists I follow on instagram use that setup.

But again, I think it depends on what he likes to draw and if he's got other programs and experience.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:32 PM on January 10, 2017

I had a decent Wacom tablet and used it about five times.

I now have an iPad Pro and Pencil and it's changed my life. I LOVE the app Procreate, and for lighter weight projects, I like Paper 53. I know dozens of people who use the iPad Pro for art as well, and I can confidently recommend it for that purpose.
posted by guster4lovers at 1:23 PM on January 10, 2017

Response by poster: I really should have said, I want this to be very mobile, for sketching on-the-go.

Thank you for all the recommendations. It's interesting that nobody is suggesting a Galaxy Note.
posted by DMelanogaster at 3:41 PM on January 10, 2017

I watched a guy on the subway in SF draw an amazing illustration on an iPad with a stylus. How old is your iPad? Find a really good drawing app and ask to try it on an iPad at the Apple Store. Or, buy one and try it and if you don't like it you have a couple weeks to return it.
posted by bendy at 4:26 PM on January 10, 2017

Response by poster: My own iPad is pretty old. It works fine. It's the non-responsiveness of the capacitance (I can't spell that word!) screen with stylus that isn't that great. There are a bunch of styluses (styli?) that are designed to get around these limitations, but nothing great yet. However, I'm aware that the iPad Pro with Pencil is a whole different animal.

However, I"m no artist. My son kind of is, and would like to do drawings to accompany a blog. He has a whole history of pencil drawing but hasn't done much in awhile. He's never had any sort of electronic device other than iPhone that you can draw on, and phone obviously is a tiny screen.

so. That's the story. Thanks!
posted by DMelanogaster at 5:34 PM on January 10, 2017

It's interesting that nobody is suggesting a Galaxy Note.

If you mean the ~6 inch ones, they're a bit small to really do art on IMO and the larger tablets are showing their age at this point.

You might see if you can track down local stores where he can try out both an iPad Pro and Surface to see which one better suits his style.
posted by Candleman at 9:44 PM on January 10, 2017

I really enjoy drawing and writing on my iPad Pro with Apple Pencil as an interested and inept amateur. It's miles better than other tablet-stylus combos I've tried, including the Samsung Galaxy Note (albeit a couple of generations ago). I haven't tried the Wacom. If he's been using an iPhone, he'll probably enjoy the iPad Pro.

However, it's costly, so he should try it out. Also, I have the smaller iPad Pro and I find it a bit heavy to carry around. It might depend how much weight he's used carrying.
posted by tavegyl at 3:28 AM on January 11, 2017

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