Last updated: August 10, 2021

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A graphics tablet, also called a pen tablet or digitizer, has become indispensable for artists in this day and age. With this input device, illustrators can digitally transfer their manual drawings to a computer. A pen, also known as a stylus, is usually required for use.

In our graphics tablet test 2021, we will provide you with all the important information so that you have enough expertise to buy your own graphics tablet. We have compiled buying and evaluation criteria for you to look out for, as well as answering the most relevant questions.




Summary

  • A graphics tablet is an input device that is suitable for all people who work in the creative field. A distinction is made between graphics tablets with and without a display, whereby the former is in the higher price range.
  • When creating digital products, other resources such as paper or paint are not consumed.
  • Alternatively, there are regular tablets or PCs that offer more features than graphics tablets. However, they are also more expensive.

The Best Graphics Tablet: Our Picks

Buying and evaluation criteria for graphics tablets

Before you simply buy a graphics tablet, you should know what points are important for this pointing device.

The criteria you can use to compare graphics tablets include:

Scope

To find the right graphics tablet, you should first clarify the tasks you want to use it for. Are you in the creative industry, i.e. do you work as a designer, photographer, illustrator or architect? Then you definitely need a high-quality model that is suitable for professional graphics production.

Or are you simply looking for a mouse replacement that offers you better comfort and makes it easier for you to sign documents?

No matter which scale you are on, you should be aware of the range of use of the graphics tablet.

Size and format

The size criterion is also very important when choosing your graphics tablet and is also very much related to the previous aspect of use.

Architects or designers need a larger tablet, an A4 or A3 format is recommended, which allows users to pay attention to precise details as well as to transfer the sketch from paper to the display.

There is often a slide-in option for this.

However, in order for the large device to fit on the desk, you consequently also need space.

Of course, small formats, such as A5, also do their job, but for many it is usually more uncomfortable. People who don't need the graphics tablet for their career can then settle for a smaller model. The main task should be typing notes or signatures.

Resolution

The unit for resolution is given in "lpi", and stands for "lines per inch" (1 inch = 2.54 cm). The higher the lip value, the higher the resolution. As we explained earlier, artists need a high quality graphics tablet. Therefore, a good resolution is important.

To visualise it better: The lines are like a grid on the device.

Through this grid, the tablet and the software can determine where the input pen is. Likewise the colour gradient.

If the lip value is high, it means that the pressure points of the screen are close together. This equates to a fine grid and thus high quality. A standard value for graphics tablets is, for example, 2,540 lpi.

Pressure sensitivity

As the title suggests, pressure sensitivity describes the sensitivity of the reaction between the graphics tablet and the stylus. When more pressure is applied, the stylus should draw more readily and vice versa. This feature makes the experience a lot more authentic.

Unlike regular tablets, you don't have to constantly change the brush strength.

Professional tablets should have high-quality graphics software so that this is possible.

Pressure levels indicate the different pressure sensitivities. The minimum pressure levels should be 256 levels. However, graphics tablets with 2,000 different levels are recommended.

Each product description should always state the exact number so that you can make your decision based on this.

Stylus pen

Stylus pens are available with battery or induction. The former are a little heavier, but fit well in the hand, so cramping is prevented. With induction, the stylus picks up data via the tablet, which is called passive input.

Nowadays, people rely on cordless pens because they are not as cumbersome.

Some graphics tablet pens can transmit the tilt angle of the tip to the software, which can be very helpful in areas such as calligraphy, as it allows the user to work much more precisely.

Decision: What types of graphics tablets are there and which is the right one for you?

There are mainly only two clearly defined product variations: the graphics tablet with display and the one without. You might not have much of an idea of what a graphics tablet without a display is, but basically it's just a surface on which you can draw.

Type Description
Graphics tablet with display The screen makes it possible to work directly on the tablet or otherwise connect to the computer for better colour quality.
Graphics tablet without display The lower price is easy on the wallet. However, since the tablet is connected to the PC, the eye must be constantly on the screen.

Graphics tablet with display

Graphics tablets with a display are often the most frequently purchased input devices. Because of their display, images can be viewed and edited directly, so you don't have to look at the computer all the time. This saves you having to look back and forth.

However, the resolution and colour quality of the computer or laptop is usually better than that of a tablet. For example, colour differences are unfortunately unavoidable even with cheaper devices.

In addition, it is likely that you will not be able to start working immediately after buying a tablet, but will first have to practise digital drawing. It should also be cleaned regularly.

Since the device does not have to be connected to a computer, you can take it anywhere and use it. This flexible use is practical for those who, for example, want to do their work while on holiday.

Of course, it is possible to connect the graphics tablet to the computer and use it like a tablet without a display.
Many also have a detachable stand that can change the orientation as desired.

Advantages
  • Work directly on the graphics tablet
  • portable, so the tablet can be used anywhere
  • by connecting it to the computer, work can be shifted to the PC screen
Disadvantages
  • No faithful reproduction of colours
  • Operation of the device must first be practised

Graphics tablet without display

The classic graphics tablet has no display, but only a surface on which to draw. It must be connected to a computer so that you can see what is being drawn. In contrast to the previous variant, the reproduction of the work on the screen is very true to colour, as computer systems have a better resolution than tablets.

One point that might discourage some people from buying a tablet is that they have to look at the screen all the time, otherwise it is not possible to see the drawing. Here, too, a little time must be invested for practice.

The graphics tablet without a display is also sometimes used only as a mouse substitute, with the pen being the "mouse". If you want, you can of course also operate the device with your fingers.

Advantages
  • Low price
  • Faithful playback on PC screen
Disadvantages
  • Gaze must be constantly directed at the computer screen
  • No other functions, except drawing, available

Guide: Frequently asked questions about graphics tablets answered in detail

With the most important aspects you should consider before buying, you are now well informed to get your own graphics tablet soon.
However, you may still have a few questions. We have answered them in detail in the following section.

What exactly is a graphics tablet?

In order to explain exactly what a graphics tablet is, we have created our own definition for you: A graphics tablet is a type of input device that can be used to manually create illustrations, edit images or perform other digital tasks.

Who are graphics tablets for?

As you can see from the article, graphics tablets are mostly used by people who work in the creative industry.

Be it graphic, industrial, textile or fashion design, all designers need a device with which they can work comfortably. Even though most of them put their ideas on paper first, in the current phase of digitalisation, digital methods are used so that the rest is done technically.

However, more and more people are switching to complete digital work. This means that paper does not need to be scanned. Likewise, new software enables a faster conversion of the sketch to the finished object.

The same applies to architects, 3D graphic artists and people working in the film industry. The latter only produce their "matte paintings", the so-called painted film sets, digitally, as this way of working enables them to work more easily with layers.

Grafiktablett-1

Nowadays, a graphics tablet can be used by anyone, regardless of profession. With increasing digitalisation, technical devices are being used in more areas.
(Image source: 123rf.com / Popov)

However, graphics tablets are also perfect for university students, regardless of their field of study. They can use the tablets to take notes on the side, during lectures. For example, annotations can be added to the digital slide sheet. This way, no sheets can get lost, as all important information is stored on the graphics tablet.

Hobby artists or anyone who works on a computer will also get a lot out of a multi-functional graphics tablet.

How much does a graphics tablet cost?

The price of a graphics tablet can range from 20 euros to several hundred euros. Several factors play a role in setting the price. The first is the size of the device.

Generally, the bigger the tablet, the higher the price.

Of course, this is not always the case. There are also many graphics tablets available that are large, but you don't have to spend a fortune on them. But you have to pay attention to the criteria we explained above. Otherwise, you will have a graphics tablet, but not one that is of high quality.

Here we have created a table with the different prices as an overview:

Type price range
Graphics tablet with display approx. 200 to 400 euros
Graphics tablet without display approx. 30 to 170 euros

What also plays a role is the type. As we mentioned in the decision section, a basic distinction is made between a graphics tablet with and without a display. Those with displays are much more expensive than those without. This makes sense, as one with a screen serves like a typical tablet computer.

What are the alternatives to a graphics tablet?

Are you still not completely convinced? Or would you like to know what other alternatives there are to the graphics tablet? Then read on. It's always a good idea to weigh up all the options.

Alternative 1: Normal tablet

The focus of a graphics tablet is always on the drawing function. This is different with regular tablet computers. Whether from Apple, Microsoft or other brands, they all offer a lot of features besides the creative tasks, which is why a purchase could be extremely worthwhile.

The processor is usually more powerful, as they are usually designed for demanding applications, such as gaming or watching movies. For this reason, it can also be used for everyday things, which is unfortunately not possible with graphics tablets.

You should know, however, that you have to pay extra for drawing, animation or image editing programmes and that, in most cases, they are not preinstalled. You also need a stylus to type things in, as well as some kind of protective film for the display, which makes drawing or writing feel like working on paper.

Also, different pressure sensitivities are not available. This is standard for graphics tablets. The disadvantage of this is the additional cost to the already high tablet price.

Alternative 2: Laptop or computer

For a good image quality, you can directly access a laptop or computer. As we have already mentioned, graphics tablets, or tablets in general, do not have faithful reproduction of the colours used.
The situation is different with PCs. These have such a good graphics card that the work can run smoothly.

Grafiktablett-2

Laptops or computers are at least twice as expensive as graphics tablets, but they offer more than one function. Macbooks in particular are considered a necessity in the design scene.
(Image source: pixabay.com / Free-Photos)

However, you should plan a little time to learn how to use the mouse and cursor. This can be difficult for some people. Nevertheless, you should not be discouraged by this, as a PC is always necessary for professional work.

What accessories are available for graphics tablets?

There are a small number of additional accessories for graphics tablets.

  • Protective film for the display
  • Bag for transport
  • Glasses to protect eyes from LED radiation

To prevent serious damage, protective films for the display help, as do protective covers or bags. The latter are good for transport, so that the device can also be used on the move.

These glasses could increase productivity for light-sensitive people

Have you ever noticed that your eyes get tired quickly while working at the computer? This is often due to the cold light of the computer screen.

For people with sensitive eyes, glasses with i-AMP technology might be a good fit. These are designed to reduce the glare of the display's LED light.

For this purpose, the viewing angle between the eye and the screen has been changed by using a special lens material. The tint of the lenses is also different.

Such glasses are offered by manufacturers such as Gunnar or Duco.

Image source: scyther5/ 123rf.com

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