Adobe Photoshop, a pioneer in designing and architecture fields, has been responsible for almost all of the most coveted designs we see around us today.
But it was Illustrator that laid the stepping stones for vector designs and icons upon which Photoshop has built its international status.
Launched way back in 1985, Adobe Illustrator has since become one of the most widely used design applications on the planet, much like Photoshop.
But then, that's not what we are here for, are we?
We are here for the best tool with which we can make designs on them. We are here for the best drawing tablets that can substitute paper and pencil, which has been the standard since time immemorial.
And it was not easy rounding up all these devices from all the different options out there. No sir, it was tough indeed, but I have done it nonetheless for the designer in you.
The best drawing tablets for using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator are Wacom Cintiq 22, XP-PEN Artist 15.6 Pro, HUION H610 Pro V2, and iPad Pro. These tablets have proven their worth with their attractive designs and the genre-defining features they offer. Other tablets made by these manufacturers also fare pretty well in comparison.
Now, let's discuss in detail about these tablets.
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Wacom Cintiq 22- The Best Overall Tablet
Wacom has been the market leader in drawing tablets ever since its inception in the '80s, and that predominance is pretty evident with the Cintiq 22.
It features a 21.5" Full HD LCD screen that has a wide active area, meaning you can get the most out of the screen.
The thin bezels and the built-in stand are all welcome features that aid you in your projects.
The 72% gamut accuracy ensures high color accuracy, which is paramount in designing. The screen is also an anti-glare display, meaning better viewing angles.
The Pro Pen 2, which comes standard with the Cintiq, supports 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity along with superior tilt detection mechanisms.
Wacom's EMR (Electromagnetic Resonance) technology enables a battery-free operation. The pen automatically receives its power from the screen, therefore, allowing you to use it for a long time.
The Cintiq comes bundled with three extra tips and a tip removal tool.
Compatibility wise, Cintiq can be used with Windows and macOS devices.
And that's where the gripes start coming in.
Let's start with the USB 2.0 and HDMI ports. It might be useful for some but, with most modern laptops and PCs, a USB C port has become a necessity.
The screen with its anti-glare coating might make the colors seem a bit dull at times.
The complete absence of express buttons can be a dealbreaker for some. But the two programmable buttons on the pen can be a relief.
The Cintiq can seem a bit under-equipped with the Full HD screen when considering the price.
Try its younger sibling, the Cintiq 16, if the price is a constraint. The Cintiq Pro 24, on the other hand, is the beefier version of the 22 with a much better 4K display.
A newer version, the DASH 4, takes a giant leap by transforming the form factor into an active stylus. The updated model now has support for Bluetooth connectivity and a native palm rejection feature.
XP-PEN Artist 15.6 Pro- Runner Up
An affordable alternative to the Wacom is the Artist 15.6 PRO by XP-PEN. The features the tablet offers for the price are unheard of in this price category.
The Full HD fully laminated display offers 120% sRGB spectrum support, making the colors pop out of the screen.
The accuracy and the parallax reduction technology of this screen are much-loved features of the product.
The Artist 15.6 Pro screen comes installed with a layer of protective film, which helps prevent scratches and smudges to the screen.
With a report rate of 200 RPS, you won't feel even the slightest bit of latency while drawing or designing.
Talking about accuracy, the supplied PA2 Pen is one of the best styluses in the business.
8K levels of pressure sensitivity coupled with 60 degrees of tilt detection help render razor-sharp strokes and lines.
Also, the stylus is battery-free so you don't have to worry about depleted batteries and a dead stylus.
The AC-41, yes, the AC-41 stand provides a sturdy grip for the tablet.
The presence of 8 programmable express buttons is appreciated.
Additionally, the RED dial interface that comes with the device can be programmed to function as a quick zoom wheel or any other function of your choice.
The tablet comes standard with an HDMI port and 2 USB ports for connectivity.
Talking about connectivity, the Artist 15.6 PRO is compatible with macOS and Windows platforms.
Coming to the drawbacks, the offset between the screen and the stylus does require some getting used to.
The absence of a VESA mount for mounting on the wall or a platform can be considered nitpicking.
But none of these problems is as malignant as the driver issue with this device. There have been reports of blocked/removed drivers in macOS devices, hence making the Tablet unusable.
An upgrade to this model is the 21" Artist 22E PRO.
HUION H610 Pro V2- Best Entry-Level Tablet
Another giant in the drawing tablet world, HUION, has pretty much changed the game with its ultra-cheap(at least for a drawing tablet), display-less H610 PRO V2.
With an effective active area of about 10 x 6.25", the screen is wide enough for designing vectors and executing photoshop edits.
A protective coating, along with the support for 16 programmable soft keys, further increases the appeal of the screen.
With a respectable 5080 LPI resolution paired with 233 RPS, the H610 can proudly hold ground even with those tablets priced 10x times this tablet.
With such high-end specifications, you don't have to worry about latency and lack of accuracy.
The battery-free stylus, the PW-100, supports 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity along with 60 degrees of tilt detection, another testament to the uncompromising stand HUION has adopted with this device.
A stylus holder, which also houses 8 additional tips for the stylus, comes standard with the tablet.
The tablet is provided with eight express keys for shortcut mapping. If that's not enough, the two programmable buttons on the stylus will suffice.
The device is compatible with Chromebooks, Windows, macOS PCs, and also certain Android devices. A whopping list of supported devices, which is pretty rare in this category.
The device doesn't come with a stand, which is a huge minus. The drivers can also get a bit fussy with macOS devices, but not always.
Frequent cutouts while using Adobe products can make things a bit infuriating.
Apple 12.9-inch iPad Pro- The Best All-rounder
The latest and greatest iPad from Apple, the iPad Pro, has been nothing short of brilliant. It houses the best hardware and software the Cupertino doyens has to offer.
To start with, this is the most powerful tablet on this list, thanks to Apple's very own M1/M2 chip.
Blazing fast speed with minimal thermal throttling makes this tab an ideal workhorse, minus the need for peripherals.
The screen, the liquid Retina XDR display, with the wide P3 gamut ensures vivid colors and needle-sharp details. This is also, obviously, a multi-touch display making it a standalone device.
The Apple Pencil is one of the best stylus pens available for the iPad Pro on the market, with its pixel sharp accuracy and a host of other features.
The wireless charging and pairing capabilities of this device make it an even sweeter deal.
If you want a standalone device for your design needs, look no further, the iPad Pro is the one for you.
But, the tablet does come with a price tag to match its best-in-class specs.
The Apple Pencil is also an ancillary device that you have to purchase otherwise.
Even though Apple has not yet disclosed the pressure sensitivity of the Apple Pencil, it is believed to be lower than the others mentioned in this list.
You can also choose the 11" model, which has similar specs to the 12.9" model if the price is a constraint.
Buyers' Guide: Things to Consider While Shopping for a New Tablet
If, god forbid, you are not satisfied with the choices mentioned above, make sure to follow this part of the article for selecting your ideal drawing tablet for your Illustrator and Photoshop needs.
Here are some basic requirements to look out for, while shopping for a new drawing tablet.
1. Screen Size and Resolution
You can't make any compromises here. The screen, arguably, is the most important part of a drawing tablet.
Drawing tablets can be classified into two categories, based on the display- with a screen and without one.
Tablets with a screen cost significantly higher than a tablet without a display. And as with any other display, the higher the resolution, the better the experience.
Generally, a Full HD screen or above may be ideal for designing purposes.
A screen without a display doesn't mean it does not have an active area. You'll have to depend on the monitor for all your interactions and design feedback.
The Active Area of a display indicates the maximum usable area for drawing/designing on the tablet.
Make sure you have enough Active Area on your tablet. Buttons and bezels can limit the Active Area of the tablet.
Another spec associated with displays and screens is the lines per inch(LPI).
LPI will determine the precision of the pen inputs. Again, the higher, the more precise. An LPI of 5080 or above is an acceptable range for design purposes.
Reports per second(RPS) is another important specification of the display. A minimum of 200 RPS is recommended for design applications.
2. Stylus Specifications
The stylus is the only tool that matters while using a drawing tablet. Most drawing tablets come bundled with a stylus.
The specification to look out for on a stylus is pressure sensitivity, tilt detection, and power options.
The pressure sensitivity determines the width and nature of the lines and curves you draw on the tablet. A minimum of at least 4k levels of pressure sensitivity is recommended.
The tilt detection feature determines the density of the strokes you have made. Most pens that support tilt detection allow at least 60 degrees of freedom.
Pens that come battery-free may be recommended because you can use them for a long time without needing to recharge.
3. Accessories and Ease of Use
Most tablets come bundled with additional accessories other than the stylus. Additional stylus tips and Stylus holders are some examples.
A stand to provide proper grip is also expected, provided it doesn't come built-in with the Tablet.
The availability of express buttons, which can be mapped to perform custom functions, maximizes the ease of use.
Some tablets also support soft buttons on the display, further increasing the ease-of-use factor.
4. Connectivity and Compatibility
Since almost all drawing tablets require an active connection with a computer, make sure it houses the necessary ports for this purpose.
Support for USB type C and thunderbolt connections is an added bonus.
Compatibility-wise, make sure the tablets have support for both Windows and macOS systems. Some tablets also provide support for Android and Chrome OS devices.
Some tablets, like the iPad Pro, can be used as a standalone device, hence negating the need for an active connection.
And there you have, a comprehensive guide on how to choose your ideal drawing tablet for Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator applications.
Four great products- the Wacom Cintiq 22, the ultimate tablet; the XP-PEN Artist 15.6 PRO, also equally great; HUION H610 Pro V2; an affordable alternative; and finally the iPad Pro, the much-loved all-rounder.
If that's not enough, a definitive Buyers' guide to help to choose the right tablet.
Make sure to compare and analyze all these devices carefully before coming to a conclusion.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to install the drivers of a tablet on the computer?
Before you can start using a drawing tablet, you will have to install the proper drivers on your computer. To do this, simply connect the tablet to the computer using the supplied USB/HDMI cable. The computer will automatically detect the device and install the drivers. If it couldn't do so, head on to the website of the tablet manufacturer, and search for the drivers on the website.
Do Android tablets support Adobe Illustrator?
Adobe Illustrator is not available on the Play store, hence not supported by Android tablets. On the other hand, a watered-down version of Photoshop is available on the Play store. But the app is not well-optimized to be used on tablets, so beware.
What type of tip is the best for drawing tablets?
The type of tip suitable for drawing tables varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. A plastic tip is pretty hard, hence more durable, and offers a better slide across the screen. A soft rubber tip sticks aggressively to the display, limiting movement. It also wears out faster than the plastic tip.
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