How to choose a drawing tablet? What aspects to consider? How to understand if a tablet is good, mediocre, or bad? How to judge independently without being influenced by ratings on Amazon?
Choosing a drawing tablet may seem simple but in reality, it requires much more attention than you might think. You need to understand which aspects are most important, decide which brand to rely on, and decide which features are necessary for you and much more.
This article is intended to be a guide to help you understand how to choose a drawing tablet and buy the right one for you.
Drawing Tablet Buyer Guide
Basically, a drawing tablet is an input tool (that is, that enters data in the computer) that allows you thanks to the pen to draw, illustrate, blend, make sketches, model in 3D, and much more, all directly from the tablet. What you draw will obviously appear on a computer screen without the need for a mouse.
With a graphics tablet and its stylus (the pen), you can do things that, with a mouse, are practically impossible. Having a graphics tablet, therefore, allows you to increase your potential range of action in the workplace, allowing you to work faster and better.
The Physical Characteristics of A Drawing Tablet
Understanding well what are the main features of a graphics tablet and what its elements will help you understand which parameters are the most important and what are the aspects that you will have to evaluate when choosing your tablet.
Let’s start with the “screen” or active area of the tablet.
The Active Area (Pressure Sensitive)
The active area is the part of the tablet on which you draw and is therefore sensitive to the pressure of the nib and, in the most advanced tablets (now almost all of them), also to the multi-touch of the fingers.
The active area is certainly the most important and essential part of the tool. In fact, one of the aspects to be observed as carefully as possible are the specifications of this display, such as the pressure sensitivity level.
The higher the sensitivity level, the higher the quality of what you will reproduce on the screen because it will simulate the drawing on paper more precisely.
Obviously it is also the part that you will have to take care of and protect from bumps. Once the active area of a tablet is damaged, it loses practically all functionality. Fortunately, most of them are quite solid and resistant!
Usually, the active area is surrounded by a border that performs the function in part of hand rests and in part serves as an area in which to place the other control buttons.
The Specifics of The Active Area
Being the most important part of your tablet is the one to which you must pay more attention to all its basic characteristics.
The resolution of a graphics tablet is measured in lines per inch (LPI, Lines per inch ). This resolution measurement system is similar to the screening system used for printing, where dots per inch (DPI) are used.
In the case of the LPI resolution, these points are arranged in a line and these lines, based on how close they are to each other in the screening grid, give the resolution.
Obviously, the higher the resolution in terms of LPI, the better the graphics tablet will be. For example, the Wacom Intuos Pro has a very good 5080 dpi resolution.
The Reading Speed (Rps / Pps)
Reading speed is also very important. You can find it defined as Reports Per Second (RPS) or, as for Wacom tablets, as Points Per Second (PPS). This data simply represents the frequency with which data is transmitted from the device to the computer.
The higher the frequency, the better the direct correspondence between tablet and screen. A slow reading speed indicates a probable effect of “dragging” the line or the pen on the active area moves faster than it appears on the screen.
The Pressure Levels
This is the appearance of a tablet that you need to look at first. The sensitivity to pressure in fact determines the thickness that the lines that you will draw on the screen will have. In practice, the more you press the pen on the screen the thicker the line and vice versa.
Just think about when you use brushes to create shades, to touch up photos, or to 3D model details. The higher the pressure sensitivity, the better the effect you will be able to generate on the screen.
On average, we start from tablets with about 256 pressure levels up to 3000. 1024 pressure levels are the most common value and all software can manage this value. If you go further you have to resort to professional software or at least to the most updated versions of the same. For example at least Photoshop CC 2015.
The Recognized Tilt Levels (if Recognized)
Some of the highest quality graphics tablets are capable of not only recognizing many pressure levels but also the inclination of the pen and, consequently, generating more or less thick or angled lines on the screen based on how you are holding the pen at that moment.
It is an additional quality factor that allows you to further improve the quality of your projects.
The pen, or nib, or stylus, is the tool used to draw or write on your tablet. And here we are! There are different types and with slightly different functions.
Some are designed to be ergonomic, that is, with particular attention to the comfort of the handle to make its use as comfortable as possible. New articles will soon arrive on how to choose an additional pen for your graphics tablet.
However, the stylus is usually divided into two categories:
- Pens with Battery: use an AAA battery. These pens are usually thicker to hold the pen but some are designed to taper in the grip area. Many nibs of tablet devices such as the Apple Pencil or the Surface Pen are also battery operated.
- Pens without Battery: these pens are recharged through the graphic tablet using EMR (electro-magnetic resonance) technology. This way you can do without batteries and no need to recharge your pen.
A good pen, however, obviously needs a good screen to work on that can withstand tilt levels and sensitivity to the right pressure. These are two characteristics to be evaluated together.
Buttons and Other Features of A Tablet
The graphic tablets have, in the border around the active area, a series of buttons that are used to set some very useful shortcuts during the design phase.
These keys can save you an infinite amount of time. For example: are you drawing a cartoon and are you wrong? Instead of wasting time and going to select the eraser tool, with one of those keys you have set, you immediately select it.
Just as you can select other tools or commands that you use often. Many tablets also have areas that allow you to move around your workspace. For example, in the Wacom Intuos Pro graphics tablets, this tool is called the Touch Ring. They are all characteristics that give added value to the tablet and that can allow you to do a faster and more effective job.
So What Do You Have to Consider?
After reading all this information on graphic tablets, you just have to go to see the products, read the reviews, compare the products and decide, based on your needs, what your tablet will be.
However, in summary, what are the aspects to consider when purchasing or evaluating product quality? In the purchase phase, but even more, in the research phase, however, you must take into account some very important parameters:
And this is obvious! But it will affect a lot the type of device you are going to choose if it will be under 100 euros or between 100 and 200 or even more! For each price range, there are products that are more or less suitable.
The level of use of the product, your professionalism, and your experience in using graphic tablets or interactive screens also count a lot.
The Size of The Tablet.
It is important to understand what are the ideal dimensions of the tablet you are going to buy. It must first be proportionate to your workspace and screen. In fact, if you are used to working in large spaces, with a very large screen and a desk that guarantees a certain amount of space.
You can afford to buy a larger tablet. An example is the Wacom Intuos Pro Medium. If, on the other hand, your needs are for a tablet that is easy to transport or that is used in small spaces, then you will have to focus on smaller dimensions.
The Quality of The Display.
If you are looking for something just to make sketches or something to make more professional drawings or advanced photo retouching, obviously the needs of the device change. And the reference prices also change considerably.
The Type of Nib.
As said there are different types and each one has different characteristics. Here too, inquiring properly will save you money and rip-offs!
The Overall Quality of The Device.
Aspects such as the usability of the tablet, the quality of its design, the ease of installation (some Huion tablets, for example, are a bit scabby with the drivers), the quality of the materials used, etc.
The overall quality of the device is one of the reasons why we often end up choosing a Wacom product, the undisputed leader in the sector (although lately it has been being challenged a lot).