A graphics tablet is a gadget used by web designers, photographers, artists, retouchers, and others to create drawings or edit photos. If you frequently use Photoshop or another graphics application, a graphics tablet will speed up and simplify your work. It’s more accurate than a mouse or trackpad. Read on to find out what types of graphics tablets are available and what parameters to look for when choosing them.
Types of graphics tablets
Graphics tablets and regular tablets (like Apple iPad, Xiaomi Pad 5 or Samsung Galaxy Tab A8) are completely different devices. The latter are essentially computers too (although an iPad can be used in conjunction with a MacBook for drawing). And graphics tablets are PC peripherals. They come in 3 types and differ in design:
– devices consisting of a working surface and a stylus (for example, XP-Pen Deco 03). They are used in conjunction with a laptop or computer, to which they are connected via USB or wirelessly. In this case, they draw on the surface of the tablet, and observe the process on the PC monitor. This is the most budget option for beginners.
– models with a screen (for example, Wacom One 13). Editing a picture with a stylus takes place on the display, and information processing takes place on a connected PC or smartphone.
– Interactive tablet monitors (for example, XP-Pen Artist 22R PRO 22″) — you can work on them without connecting a computer. These are the most advanced and expensive models for professionals.
Which graphics tablet to choose
Active area size
The active area is the work surface on which you draw with a pen or edit an image. Its size is often compared with the paper size (A3, A4, A5, A6).
If you connect a graphics tablet to a PC for work, then their sizes should be proportional. Otherwise, it is difficult to find the required accuracy. Recommended Ratio:
|Screen diagonal, inches||Graphics tablet format|
|13–17||A6 or S (Small)|
|17–22||A5 / M (Medium, Medium)|
|above 22||A4 L (Large)|
A6 models (like the Wacom One small) don’t take up much desktop space and are easy to transport. This is a great option for those who are sketching, retouching photos, or using the device as a spare for field work.
A5 graphic tablet (Wacom Intuos Pro M) is a universal model for retouchers, web designers and artists.
A4 graphics tablet (Wacom Intuos Pro Paper L) is the most popular format, suitable for professional purposes. It is in demand among graphic designers, animators, 3D sculptors, digital artists, etc.
An A3 graphic tablet takes up a lot of space. Such models are used by architects and engineers for drawings.
This indicator is measured in LPI (number of lines per inch) and reflects the sensitivity of the panel to the movement of the stylus. The higher it is, the more accurate the transfer of your movements and the more detailed picture.
Most graphics tablets have a resolution in the 2540–5080 LPI range. For example, for the XP-Pen Artist 12 PRO 11.6″ this figure is 5080 LPI. That is, when you draw a 1‑inch line (2.54 cm), the device reads 5080 stylus pressures on the active surface.
If you connect the tablet to a laptop or PC for work, then a resolution of 2540 LPI is enough. If you are using interactive models, then it is better to choose a graphics tablet with a resolution of 5080 LPI.
Some models connect to a PC using a wire, others via Bluetooth. For example, WACOM Cintiq 16 uses a wired connection. In this case, pay attention to the presence of the ports you need.
From the point of view of mobility, devices with a wireless connection are more convenient. In this case, consider how much the gadget is able to work on a single charge. Most models charge via USB cable.
A stylus (also called a “pen” or “pen”) for a graphics tablet can be wired or wireless. The wired version is powered by the tablet via a connected cable. Wireless models come in two types — with batteries and magnetic resonance. The latter work from the active surface of the tablet.
The magnetic resonance pen is the most convenient option (and the most expensive). It is lighter, more compact and will not be discharged at the most inopportune moment.
When choosing a graphics tablet, pay attention to the presence of an “eraser” (analogous to an eraser on a pencil), programmable buttons (allow you to quickly select working tools) and interchangeable nozzles in the kit. For example, the XP-Pen Artist 24 PRO 2K comes with 2 styluses without batteries and 8 replacement nibs.
Check the maximum reading height of the stylus. In other words, from what distance from the active surface the device reads the pen and moves the cursor accordingly. A comfortable value for work is at least 6 mm. If lower, you can accidentally erase the desired element or draw an extra stroke.
Ideally, before buying a tablet, you can hold a digital pen in your hands to evaluate its ergonomics (convenience, ease of pressing buttons).
This parameter reflects the error within which the tablet reads pen taps on the hotspot. It is measured in millimeters. The smaller it is, the thinner individual strokes can be drawn without magnification (important for small format devices).
For example, if the pen precision is 1 mm and you draw 2 lines 0.5 mm apart, they will merge into one. However, such values are characteristic of inexpensive devices, even in models of the middle segment, the accuracy of the stylus is below 0.5 mm.
Reflects the speed of information processing from touching the stylus to the surface of the tablet until it appears on the monitor. This indicator is measured in reports per second (RPS) or points per second (PPS).
For professional purposes, it is better to prefer a graphics tablet with a response rate of 210–233 RSS or 133–200 PPS.
For example, Wacom Intuos M Bluetooth has a response rate of 133 PPS.
This is the ability of the stylus to perceive the force of pressure. This indicator is measured in levels and is a multiple of 1024, the maximum value is 8192.
Depending on the sensitivity to pressure, you can adjust the thickness of the lines, color saturation, transparency and naturalness of the shadows. The simplest analogy is a pencil. The more you press it on the paper, the brighter and thicker the line.
2048 levels are enough for comfortable work. But the higher the value, the more control in the work. For example, the XP-Pen Deco Pro Medium has a pressure sensitivity of 8192 levels.
Graphic tablets come with pen and touch-pen input. The first determines the position of the stylus, the second — the stylus and fingers. The second option is more convenient, for example, to change the scale. For example, Wacom Intuos Pro M has touch support.
OS and software compatibility
When choosing graphics tablets, consider the operating system you are using. Wacom pen tablets offer the best compatibility with Windows, Mac and most Linux devices.
Apple gadgets (Mac, iPad and iPhone) come with Wacom drivers already installed. Users will have to install Windows drivers manually. For example, Wacom Intuos M Bluetooth supports Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Mac OS X 10.10 or higher, Mac OS X 10.5.8 or higher.
Additionally, pay attention to the compatibility of the tablet with popular graphics programs (for example, Photoshop).