What Is the Best Drawing Tablet?

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With digital drawing tablets, multiple art mediums are at your disposal: A variety of applications and tools allow you to simulate everything from smooth graphite shading to the hatched lines of pen and ink, and a full palette of colors is available without the need to mix paint or clean brushes. Professional tablets come in multiple sizes, ranging from portable 4-by-5-inch devices that fit into a purse to weightier, larger devices. Some tablets include advanced features, such as multitouch screens and pressure-sensitive pens.

Professional-Grade Tablets

  • Premium tablets include precise, pressure-sensitive pens for professional graphic rendering. Top-quality tablets, such as those in Wacom's line, provide pens with 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, enabling artists to vary line width by exerting more or less pressure on the pen. The costlier versions let you draw on a screen with a multitouch interface that accommodates fluid, gestural strokes. Multiple levels of tilt support help to create an intuitive drawing experience, and high-grade tablets feature lightly textured surfaces, like the tooth of fine drawing paper.

Detached Tablets

  • Tablets that are detached from the monitor provide a less expensive alternative. Detached tablets also have a textured drawing surface, but they rest on the table. Instead of drawing directly on the screen, you draw on the tablet while looking at your computer or laptop monitor to see your lines and tones. Like professional tablets that allow you to draw directly on the screen, these tablets include a precise stylus with a tip that resembles a ballpoint pen. The small pen nib makes drawing detail easy, while wider, rubber-tipped styluses produce brushstroke effects.

Multipurpose Tablets

  • Some multipurpose tablets, such as Surface and Android, include pens with high levels of pressure sensitivity -- ranging from 1,024 to 2,048 -- but unlike higher end professional tablets, most lack the textured drawing surface. With compatible apps, the pens work via sensors that are embedded in the screen. You draw on smooth glass or amoled surfaces, maximizing the effect of pressure sensitivity by choosing tools with different sizes. Sliders in the apps enable you to adjust the width and opacity of individual drawing tools such as pens, brushes, pencils, blur tools and erasers.

Other Tablet Features

  • Tablets such as the iPad come with capacitive as opposed to resistive screens, which allows you to choose a stylus either with or without pressure sensitivity. Palm rejection, a feature that keeps resting hands from making unwanted marks, sometimes activates through bluetooth. The slider tools in apps provide an option for varying line width, and tablets with user-friendly interfaces extend the apps' usefulness, making it easy to export drawings or photos to other apps for further refinement.

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  • Photo Credit Mihai Simonia/iStock/Getty Images
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