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Best Digital Art Tablets for Beginners

How to Choose a Drawing Tablet With the Best Value

An image of Jessie Chang's avatar in front of 3 different digital art tablets. White question marks are in each upper corner.

New to Digital Art and need a drawing tablet? Try these recommendations that won't break the bank.

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Digital art is a far cheaper investment when it comes to art; with traditional materials, all of them are finite. Buying replacement pencil crayons and new bottles of paint over and over stack up over time. Not to mention all the leftover plastic wrap, plastic bottles and the toxins that come along with all of it.

With the power of a digital alternative, you can simply buy a tablet, download a free program like MediBang, and you’re all set! You could always decide to upgrade later, but your first choices will certainly last longer than any bottle of paint or pencil crayon.

However, digital art materials at the moment still aren’t cheap. Your highest end products can run you thousands, so it’s only natural to want to lower the amount of zeros on the digital art price tag. When just starting out with digital art, it isn’t the smartest idea to immediately start with the biggest and the best, especially if you’re not certain that it’s for you. Tech also seems to change every five minutes -- there’s always someone who’s upgrading, and digital hand-me-downs are a great deal!

Here at Winged Canvas, we have tons of digital artists who were in the exact same position, so here are some of our suggestions and reviews when it comes to the best digital art tablets for beginners. We've also included some options for advanced artists looking to upgrade their hardware.

How Much Does a Digital Art Tablet Cost, Exactly?

Truthfully, tablets can range from as low as $50 to as high as $2400, depending on what you decide to buy. Not to mention if you decide to use an iPad or a Surface Pro as tablets -- both operate as fantastic drawing tools, however they do cost thousands because being art tablets aren’t their main function. Thus, tablet pens and additional hardware tends to cost extra. Tablets that have screens (also known as display tablets) will cost more than tablets without screens. Good news is that starter tablets are usually within the $50-$200 range, and if you buy used, then that cost goes down even further!

Where Do I Buy Digital Art Tablets?

If you're buying new, you can start at XPPen's official store as they have a wide selection of digital art tablets for beginners (and they are often on sale). Buying new may be the safest option, especially since most brands have a 1 year warranty (XPPen offers an 18 month warranty and a 30-cay money back guarantee).

Buying used is also good option for beginners because you have less of a risk of spending far too much on your first one, just in case you find that you don’t like digital artwork. Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace are good places to find digital artists who are upgrading to newer and better things, so that means that there are constantly good deals and great quality tech that’s up for grabs. Keep in mind that there is always a risk when buying used, so always ask to test the tablet first and go with someone tech-savvy (if you are not).

Things to Consider When Buying a Tablet

When purchasing a tablet for the first time, tablets with a screen and/or touch sensitivity should be something to invest in farther down the line, not immediately. Tablets where you draw directly on the screen tend to cost far more than tablets without a screen, and it’s definitely not ideal to spend an arm and a leg on your very first tablet.

It’s also better to get used to using a tablet without a screen first, just in case you don’t have access to a screen one day. That way, if that day does come, you’ll be able to switch to an alternative in the meantime. Smaller tablets also tend to be more affordable and portable -- some can even be compatible with your phone!

Your starter tablet also doesn’t need to be a brand new tablet. If you’re looking to move the decimal farther to the left of the price tag, buying a used tablet will certainly be your best bet. Technology is constantly changing, so artists are constantly upgrading tablets and switching the hardware that they use. Especially when getting started, you don’t need the newest hardware out there. Instead, learn the fundamentals of digital art with a previously loved tablet, and once you have those down, work your way up to something shiny and new.

Note: The affiliate links in this article help us earn a small commission if you make a purchase. There is no additional cost to you, but you’ll be supporting us to keep making free art resources!

Starting Small and Simple: Low Budget Digital Art Tablets ($)

Overall: Great size and handling, though the pen feels a little flimsy

+ Mobile connectivity

+ Large drawing area

+ Simple setup and customizability

+ Left and right handed compatibility

+ Great precision

+ Cute and customizable design

- Pen feels a little flimsy

- USB-C wired connection

The XPPen Deco Fun L is a fun little powerhouse of a tablet, sporting a 10" x 6" drawing surface that's slightly thicker, sturdier design comes in four different colours on the XPPen store -- red, mint green, black, and navy blue. If you're not a fan of larger tablets, this one also comes in a couple of other sizes; XS (4.8"× 3") and S (6.3”× 4). The tablet is also multi-functional, being designed for working, learning, and gaming when a desktop mouse isn't fast enough. When purchased new, this tablet goes for around $49.99, which is an incredible price for the features and quality you get.

I was able to use one of these tablets on a livestream, so I can tell you from firsthand experience that this tablet packed more than I thought it would. The surface is smooth and feels good to draw on, and the setup was incredibly easy -- it took under 5 minutes to do. While the tablet has a wired USB-C connection, that didn't bother me much since it was a fairly innocuous wire anyway.

However I will say that the pen, while light, does feel somewhat cheap and flimsy; sometimes I was afraid of pressing too hard or else it would break. A lack of grip also means it's not as ergonomically sound as it could be. But overall, with this tablet, you're definitely getting your money's worth even if you buy it new. XPPen has a wide variety of starter tablets ranging from $30 - 100 that you can buy directly from their online store.

Overall: Somewhat expensive, but a reliable brand

An image of the Wacom Bamboo

+ Slim, lightweight and portable (9mm thick, 250g)

+ Good pressure sensitivity (4096 levels)

+ 6 programmable express keys

+ Quite sturdy and reliable

- Small drawing surface (6 x 3.7”)

- USB wired connection (bluetooth model available, but additional cost)

Another great starter tablet is the Wacom Intuos CTL4100, which starts at around $105. From artist Alyssa Wongso, her very first tablet was a USB connected Wacom Bamboo tablet, which is a much earlier model. When initially purchased, this tablet cost around $200 new back in 2008/2009, but Wacom discontinued their bamboo tablets, so in order to buy the exact one she had, you would most likely have to buy it used.

The newer model is still readily available to buy new or used. However, buying a used tablet is definitely a better option for those who’re just starting with digital work anyway. Wacom has always been “old reliable” when it comes to digital artwork, and this tablet is no exception.

This tablet in particular also comes with programmable express keys, which means that with Wacom’s driver software, you can change what the buttons on the side of the tablet can do. For instance, my current tablet has multiple express keys that can automatically save my work, flip my canvas horizontally and undo. While of course it doesn’t operate as strongly as some of the higher end tablets, it still works incredibly well as a starter tablet.

Overall: Dual function; great value for size and style

An image of the Huion Inspiroy Ink H320M

+ Sketchpad on the back (dual purpose)

+ Unique design and style

+ Slim and portable (9mm thick, 450g)

+ 11 programmable express keys

+ Comes with desk pen holder

+ Comes with adaptors for Android devices

+ Larger drawing surface (9 x 5.6”)

- USB-C wired connection

If you’re looking for something that’s a smidge newer, Huion’s Inspiroy Ink H320M is a fantastic starter that runs you around $105 new. Of course, buying used is the ideal for starters, but for a new tablet price that’s fairly low.

The inspiroy ink has 11 programmable keys on its side and a pen that doesn’t need to be charged. However, the most fun part about it is its dual sided functions; while one side of the tablet can be used to illustrate with your digital program of choice, the other can be used as a jot note pad that can be erased with the click of a button.

This tablet also has a left handed and right handed usb port function, allowing the user to flip the entire workspace over depending on their dominant writing hand. The tablet comes in red or black, and is a great starter when it comes to finding a good entry level tablet.

When It’s Time For The Next Step: Mid Range Tablets ($$)

Overall: a great value screen tablet for entry-level digital artists!

An image of the XP-PEN G64OS

+ Slim and lightweight (0.47 inches thick)

+ High pressure sensitivity (8192 levels)

+ 8 programmable shortcut keys

+ 11.9 inch drawing screen

+ Portable size (13.6" wide x 8.2” high)

+ Dimmable screen

- USB-C port wired connection

- Small screen compared with overall size

An on-screen drawing tablet that’s a great value for beginners is the XPPen Artist 12 (Gen 2), starting at around $250 new. This tablet is a fairly new model, so finding a used version may be a little trickier, however the price for a new tablet is already quite close to what you’d pay for a used art tablet anyway.

This makes it a fantastic starter if you’re hesitant about buying a pre-loved tablet as it comes with an 18 month warranty and a 30 day money-back guarantee. It comes with 8 programmable keys and the ability with left and right handed compatibility. The XP-PEN is also compatible with Android devices, so you have the ability to hook this tablet up to your phone or other Android device.

The nice thing about XPPen screen tablets is that they double as an additional monitor, which extends your digital work space and comes in handy for both gaming and working online. It comes in four colours (black, green, blue, pink) and is the smallest device in its series. For about $50 more, you can get the Artist 13 (Gen 2) which boasts a larger 13" screen with 9 programmable keys.

Overall: Great value for its size and functions

An image of the Huion Inspiroy WH1409 V2

+ Narrow bezel and extra large working area

+ High pressure sensitivity (8192 levels)

+ 12 programmable express keys

+ Wireless mode (with USB receiver) and wired options (micro USB)

+ Indicator lights provide device info

+ Comes with desk pen holder

- Larger size makes it less portable (10.5” x 17.9” outer size)

A tablet that’s slightly more advanced and higher end than those mentioned previously is the Huion Inspiroy WH1409 V2. When purchased new, this tablet goes for around $200, but as always, buying used should be what you aim for. This tablet has 12 keys that you can program, and a pen that doesn’t need a separate charge,

Just like past models, this tablet includes left and right handed compatibility, but this tablet also offers both wired and wireless function, coming with a wired cable and a small USB receiver to plug into your computer. As history serves, while wireless technology is convenient in terms of less cords to worry about, sometimes the connectivity can be shaky. Including a wired connection as an alternative is a great way to combat those possible issues.

Overall: Expensive for its size, but superior precision and sensitivity.

An image of the Wacom Intuos Pro PTH660 (Small)

+ Two ports for left and right handed compatibility

+ Portable and sleek 8mm thin design

+ Pen has a back eraser

+ Exceptional precision and sensitivity with no lag

+ Comes with a desk pen holder

+ Also responsive to touch and can be used as a touchpad

+ Connect via USB or Bluetooth

- Small drawing area (6. 3” x 3. 9”)

Another tablet from the Wacom collection is the Wacom Intuos Pro PTH460K0A, which goes for around $330 new. This is the newer model of a tablet that I owned, which was an Intuos Pro 4. Another tablet that’s discontinued from Wacom, but is still available to find new and used around the internet. When bought new, the Intuos pro 4 ran for around $500 when it was first announced, however my tablet was bought secondhand for around $100.

The newer model Has a highly portable and slim 8mm design, with 7 programmable keys and a rocker ring, which is a ring around a button that has touch sensitivity. Rotating left or right around the ring can be programmed to do different things, though most commonly it’s used as a zoom in/out function. This tablet also has touch sensitivity, so you can work with the pen or the touch of your finger.

While the older model that I had didn’t have touch sensitivity, it was still a tank that lasted through 2+ artists and my terrible handling of technology. To this day, it still operates as my backup tablet.

For the Serious Digital Artist ($$$)

Overall: Very practical, and great value for its size and functions.

An image of the XP-PEN Artist 15.6 Pro

+ Draw directly on screen

+ 8 Programmable keys + zoom wheel

+ Doubles as another monitor

+ Detachable and adjustable tilt stand

+ Large drawing space (13.5 x 7.6”)

+ Comes with desktop pen holder and drawing glove

- Large bevel averages 2” on the sides

- HDMI wired connection

Winged Canvas founder Fei Lu currently uses an XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro. Another screen tablet that runs for around $299 when purchased new. For a tablet with a screen, this is incredibly cheap. This tablet comes with 8 programmable keys and a red dial, plus brightness adjustment directly on the side of the tablet.

Fei says that this tablet is incredibly practical because she can use it as both a drawing tablet and a separate monitor. The adjustable stand is not attached to the tablet, so it’s very convenient and more portable / multi-use than built in stands. However, she finds that it’s not as responsive as the Wacom counterpart and isn’t touchscreen. The tablet comes with a stand, a drawing tablet glove, and a battery free pen, the pen coming with a holder that doubles as storage for extra nibs and a pen stand.

If you want an even bigger screen, you can get the XPPen Artist 22R Pro for a HUGE 21.5 inch screen, 10 programmable shortcut keys and a dial. If you decide to go larger, just make sure you have enough desk space!

Overall: Great value for its huge drawing space if you prefer minimal design

An image of the Huion GT-191 KAMVAS 20

+ Draw directly on screen

+ Extra large working area (17 x 9.5”)

+ Doubles as a large monitor

+ Adjustable tilt stand

+ Comes with desktop pen holder

- No programmable keys

- Small bevel and minimal design

- HDMI wired connection

Once again from instructor Alyssa Wongso, she currently uses a Huion GT-191 KAMVAS 20. Coming with a screen display and a stand, this Huion runs for around $600 when purchased new. Screen tablets are fairly easy to find used however, so finding a used alternative will easily lower that price. However, this screen tablet doesn’t come with programmable keys; 90% of the display is all drawing space.

This is partially why this tablet is quite cheap, considering it comes with a screen. Alyssa says that that doesn’t bother her quite as much, since she mainly sticks to using keyboard shortcuts anyway. She also finds that the nibs of the pen don’t wear as quickly, because she used to burn through around 2-3 per year with her old bamboo tablet. However, Alyssa says that the monitor calibration isn’t the greatest. After trying to recalibrate many times, the point of contact is still a couple millimeters off from her pen. Although, she says that it doesn’t throw off her workflow or bother her much, if at all.

Overall: A powerful, precise tablet, but somewhat expensive without any of the express keys

An image of the Wacom Cintiq 16 Drawing Tablet

+ Draw directly on screen

+ 15.6” 1920x1080 HD display

+ Foldable legs for tilt

+ Very precise and sensitive

+ Doubles as another monitor

- Not very portable

- No express keys

- HDMI wired connection

The final tablet we have to recommend is the Wacom Cintiq 16 DTK1660K0A. It runs for around $870 when purchased new. From yours truly, the current tablet that I use is an older model of the Wacom Cintiq 13HD. While the model that I use has since been discontinued, upon release it cost around $1300. However, the one I own is used, and was purchased for around $400. Finding used Cintiqs can be a challenge sometimes, but older models tend to be sturdy, so finding a used one is a good find more often than not.

The main difference between the newer model and the older model is the lack of express keys on the newer model -- while my older model has 9 of them, the newer tablet has none. My Cintiq is another tank of a tablet that’s lasted through 2+ artists and my own terrible handling of technology. The Cintiq’s pen also has a back eraser just like the Intuos, allowing me to flip the pen around to erase just like a regular pencil.

The main downside of any Cintiq is how clunky it can be, having a proprietary cable that’s incredibly hard to find replacements for and needing to be plugged into a power outlet to work. However, this tablet is still very responsive and operates perfectly after years of use.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, which tablet works best for you is based on personal preference. When getting a tablet to start off, buying a starter tablet or a used one should always be the way to go, just in case you find that digital artwork is not for you. Even when searching for tablets to use as an experienced digital artist, finding and purchasing used tablets can save a no longer needed tablet from the landfill.

Digital Art Resources

If you’re a beginner in the world of digital artwork, check out our free digital art resources or get step by step guidance at your own pace with our kid-friendly beginner digital art course. If you're looking for more guided direction, our virtual digital art classes will teach you all of the basics and art fundamentals on a weekly basis with online feedback.

Are you more of an experienced digital artist? We also have a digital illustration mentorship that can help you hone your skills even further with personalized guidance and coaching from a professional digital artist.

Are you a complete beginner at digital art? Get our Beginner Digital Art Course using the free software MediBang Paint Pro. Start learning today, at your own pace!

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