Choosing the Best Graphics Tablet

How do I choose a pen tablet?

Choosing a graphic tablet can be easy, then again it could be hard. Pen tablets are user input devices that allow users to draw and write by hand (instead of using a mouse or keys for example.) Different tablets have difference features and are intended for different workloads. The workload isn't the only way of judging a tablet, there are others such as space limitations, cost, and user ability. While all these are important almost all tablets can achieve the same end result except on-screen editing (these are often very expensive and can be hard for someone not used to using a tablets tools.) Understanding how a tablet works and reviewing the most common is a good way to choosing a graphics tablet.

Using a Cintiq Tablet

How does a Graphic Pen Tablet work?

If you never used one before it will take a little playing around to get used to. A pen tablet consists of a plastic mat that holds the active area, programmable buttons, software, and a USB interface port to connect to a computer.

Active Area: The active area is the part of the tablet you draw/write on. This is a pressure sensitive area that allows for dynamic results (a line starting think then going thin for example.) Basically, depending on the size of your tablet it will scale your computer screen to the size of the pad. (So if you put the pen to the center of the tablet, it will put the mouse curser to the center of your screen if it is calibrated correctly.) It is important to keep this area from being hit, as it might lose sensitivity.

Programable Buttons: On all tablets there is a control center that does tasks like opening up a program and scrolling up/down or zooming in/out. Also more advanced graphic tablets have more specialized buttons for use of switch tools quickly without using keyboard shortcuts or clicking.

Software: All pen tablets come with a software bundle to use them (unless you buy used). The most important part of this bundle is the cd that comes with the tablet, you will need this for the drivers. If you lose the driver CD the best thing you can do is check the manufacture website to download the drivers.

USB Port: This simply is the cable that runs from the tablet to the computer allowing what you do to appear on screen (it also supplies *MOST* tablets with power).

Wacom Bamboo Graphics Tablet

A fun starting pen tablet that you will really enjoy. Get used to using this to make the switch to an Intos4 easier!
A fun starting pen tablet that you will really enjoy. Get used to using this to make the switch to an Intos4 easier!

Most Common Graphics Tablet: Wacom Bamboo

This little black tablet is basically the starting point of most people. The price is cheap, the size is compact so it can be moved easily or used with laptops, and it achieves everything that needs to be done easily. It has a wide sensitivity and is in general a durable tablet. I personally have one of these and it works great for anything, drawing, painting, graphic design, and illustration. I even used to use this table for first person shooter videogames, it allows you to click where u want to shoot without scrolling the crosshairs. This tablet is what I recommend for light uses and small tasks of design firms in the graphics industry. While you can do masterful illustrations on this, it would take a bit more time and patience.

Wacom Cintiq 21UX

The best graphic pen tablet on the market, artists/illustrators/graphic designers will swear by it and casual users cant help but have a blast with it.
The best graphic pen tablet on the market, artists/illustrators/graphic designers will swear by it and casual users cant help but have a blast with it.

Cintiq 21UX Graphic Tablet Trailer

Cintiq 12WX

Even this smaller tablet is amazing to create on.
Even this smaller tablet is amazing to create on.

The Most Advanced Tablet: Cintiq 21UX

This graphic pen tablet is the Ferrari of tablets. The Cintiq 21UX allows you to draw directly on the screen. This is for the top designers, animated movie makers, and illustrators. Sure, anyone can use it and love it, but you need a large wallet or need to save up for a long time. Most people who arent in the graphics field and want one of these shouldn't expect to make the money back with it (which is the main reason only top pro's use it.) Of course if you will settle for a smaller screen with almost as many features it has a little brother, the Cintiq 12WX.

Other Tablets

There are other options from Wacom, the Bamboo series consists of 6 different tablets allowing hand touch, pen/mouse only, and a combo of the two. From experience I suggest getting the Bamboo that has a pen, if you want the touch get the pen and touch combo.

The Intos4 series tablets are what most agency and small operations do. The size and abilities allow them to get the task done and give extra features to illustrators the bamboo doesn't. Mostly its tablet size, allowing more detail with less zooming.

All the information for the Intos4 can be found here: Intos Pro Graphic Pen Tablet

Lastly, why are only Wacom Tablets Reviewed here?

There is an answer for this that isn't just a hate of other tablets or market competition. After talking to many graphic designers, testing myself, and seeing the lifespan of the tablets only Wacom is a trusting name. While some designers swear by there other brands, most had bad experiences and switched to Wacom tablets. If you want true value for what you buy, want it to last a long time, and want it to work accurately then I strongly recommend a Wacom.

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Comments 6 comments

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AlienWednesday 5 years ago

I have been eyeing a tablet for a long time but could not really decide. Thanks for the information.

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TajSingh 5 years ago from United Kingdom

I've been looking around the net and Wacom graphics tablets always comes in top. I have my eye on Wacom Bamboo.

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thranax 5 years ago from Rep Boston MA Author

@TajSingh- I have the older version of the wacom bamboo (the one with the blue circle on top). It works great, its durable tested because I used to carry it around next to my laptop in my laptop bag to school and work at the time for about a year if not more and it still works perfectly. The active area on it is kind of shiny from natural hand oil though (and probably chips etc) so it is recommended to at least wipe it or use a hand cover/glove.


Thompson Namukaba 5 years ago

Am a book illustrator and have huge workloads in given times. currently i draw on paper, scan and then do my finishing in photoshope. The process is long and tiring.Then i came across wacom graphic tablets on the net. my heart leaped at the sight of Cintiq 21UX, but the bride price is a bit too high for me right now. I think i can still make a good start with a Wacom Cintiq 12WX 12

am making plans of getting one for myself.

I've been skeptical about purchasing via Internet, but've not much choice now cause i need the the graphic tablet and they are not available in my country,Zambia.

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thranax 5 years ago from Rep Boston MA Author

@Thompson Namukaka - Ordering your tablet online from Amazon here is like the same thing as buying it in a store. I haven't ordered much online myself but I bought the computer im on (assembled it myself), the gaming mouse and keyboard I use, and a few other electronic products. These tablets are pretty well protected and actually withstand quite some abuse (I dropped my bag a few times on my Wacom) and it resulted in no loss of sensitivity. If it doesn't work, mail it back and try again - any computer type component can come dead on arrival, theres nothing to really worry about!


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Vector design 3 years ago from California

I am also a graphic designer and want a right graphic table and this hub is little bit helpful for me.

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