Personal Picks: Top 5 Drawing Tablets
Whether you’re a professional graphic designer, a college student taking Liberal Arts course, or just some dude who runs a webcomic, you will want the best graphic tablet out there. A better graphic tablet can improve your work productivity, the quality of your work and generally your work experience.
If you’re looking for a new graphic tablet, or want to buy one as a Christmas gift or a birthday gift, check out these top five reviews of the best graphic tablet you could get your hands on.
Things to consider when buying a graphic tablet.
Pick well so you won’t regret it!
When looking for a graphic tablet, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
What will you be using it for? Are you making an ad for a company? Is it for college works? Maybe you have a webcomic? Or are you simply going to use it for some casual drawing or doodling whenever you have free time?
Some professional will want the high-ended ones, but for amateur artists a cheap (Okay, cheap for a graphic tablet standard.) one will do.
The dimension of the active area is also important. ‘Active area’ of a tablet refers to the part of the tablet that actually responds to the stylus’ touch. The part where you move the pen-thing around and the cursor moves with it, you know what I mean. Most graphic tablets today comes in 4″x5″, 6″x8″, and 9″x12″.
Professionals might go for a bigger size but most of the time smaller ones works just as well.
You should also consider the stylus/pen-thing and accessories that comes with the graphic tablet. Make sure the stylus feels comfortable and fits with your grip style. It should feel as natural and as intuitive as holding a pen or a pencil.
Are there customizable buttons that you can utilize on the pens? Or do you find them to be hindering? Some companies offer customizable stylus to fit the user’s taste and comfort.
Pressure sensitivity is another thing to consider when buying a graphic tablet. Basically it is the responsiveness of the tablet. Higher pressure level means that the tablet is very sensitive to pressures and will respond to the slightest of touch, making it feel quite like drawing using traditional methods. For me, I draw a lot of flat icons, so this feature is pretty handy.
With pressure sensitivity you can control the thickness of a line drawn, the transparency or the color intensity. These days graphic tablets comes at either 1024 or 2048 pressure levels.
And last but not least, affordability. Some high-end tablets may be too expensive for amateurs or casual artists but they would certainly be the ones professionals would want to have a look at.
But for those with limited budgets, there are some decent tablets at low price.
Anyhow, let’s get started. Begin the review!
#1. Wacom Intuos4
The best for professionals in terms of reliability and affordability.
Since it’s release the Intuos4 has been regarded as the best all-around graphic tablet for typical professional use. The pen provides a whopping 2048 layers of pen tip and eraser sensitivity, tilt-sensitivity, is batterly-free and cordless, and features a programmable DuoSwitch and soft grip. It also comes with a wireless, programmable 5-button optical scroll mouse.
The tablet itself features 8 ExpressKeys that can be programmed to fit the user’s need, a nifty little device called the Touch Ring with 4 different, user-definable functions such as zooming, cycling through layers, changing brush size, and rotating the canvas.
The Intuos4 comes in 4 sizes, Small (12.2″x8.2″x0.5″ with an active area of 6.2″ x 3.9″), Medium (14.6″ x 10.0″ x 0.5″ with an active area of 8.8″x5.5″), Large (18.7″x12.6″x0.6″ with an active area of 12.8″ x 8.0″), and Extra Large (24.5″ x 18.2″ x 1.1″ with an active area of 18.2″ x 12.0″).
An incredible graphic tablet under $100
Let’s be honest, it’s hard to find a really decent graphic tablet under $100. Yet MonoPrice has proven otherwise with their #6251 that rivals its Wacom counterpart, pricing at only $60 on Amazon.
It sports 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity, a large active surface area, 16 programmable hot keys, 4000 LPI resolution, low response rate and a sturdy build.
The only few drawbacks this tablet has is that the pen requires a battery to function, and the cord length is only 5 feet long. Don’t forget to take the battery off when you’re not using the tablet, as it drains the battery. Overall a great pick for beginners and professionals alike.
For the casual artist with a little money to spare.
Bamboo has always been the favorite brand for amateur and intermediate Wacom users. This time they have rolled out the Bamboo Create as an upgrade to the popular Bamboo Fun (Which I am a proud owner of one :D).
Flat metallic finish with sleek black button on the side, at first sight the tablet is sure to capture the heart of Wacom fans. The Bamboo Create features 4 programmable ExpressKeys and MultiTouch input that supports a numerous amount of gestures for clicking, zooming, flicking, switching, rotating and so on.
The tablet provides 1024 pressure level which is already incredibly sensitive for any casual drawing or photo editing, a particularly large active surface area of 8.5 x 5.4 inches and it comes bundled with Corel Painter Essentials, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Nik Color Efex Pro WE3, Autodesk Sketchbook Express and a wireless compatibility kit.
#4. Wacom Cintiq
For the hardcore and the serious ones.
Some people would call this a monster in terms of pricing, and they’re not kidding. One of Cintiq costs at about $2300 on average. However all this money will be worth it. It’s easy to sum up Cintiq as a fusion of a high-quality color-accurate graphic monitor and a professional graphic tablet.
It has 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, 16 customizable ExpressKey and a touch strip located at the sides behind the tablet that functions the same as the Intuos’s Touch Ring.
The Cintiq comes in three different sizes, 12-inch, 21-inch and the behemoth 24-inch. As expected, the Cintiq weighs a lot and it would be uncomfortable to have it sitting on your lap for a long time. That’s what the stand behind the monitor is used for, with variable degree of inclination to suit the user’s comfort.
Flops like a mouse pad.
Easily one of the more affordable graphic tablets in the market. Pricing at around $30 or so this tablet is easily worth all the basic functions of a typical graphic tablet with 1024 levels of pen pressure sensitivity and a decent active area for a tablet its size.
It lacks any programmable buttons to be used as hot keys though, and the pen requires a AAA battery to function. The bundled programs probably wouldn’t even be used when there’s a much better alternative out there, but it’s better than nothing. And with that price it’s definitely better than anything.
Not recommended for professionals but it’s a quite decent tablet for any beginners. Also it’s very thin and flops like a mouse pad.
What is Anime Stuido Debut 8
Fun animation software, FREE with the Intuos 5 graphics tablet.
The bundled software comes with Anime Studio Debut 8, which is a real eye opener for me. Many of the graphics tablets I have looked at have limited software, but Wacom have pushed the boat out and thrown animation software into the mix. It’s aimed at those new to animation and students, but none the less is an interesting package.
The graphics tablet also comes with other software as listed above but this caught any eye as my son is interested in game art and animation.
Anime Stuido debut 8 is free with your Intuos 5 purchase, but if you like it, there is a pro version. The price does jump up with the pro version, but like many software packages you will be able to do a lot more.
The clue is in the title, as this piece of software is an animation package for creating fun 2D movies, cartoons, Anime and various cut-out animations. If you have seen the south park cartoons, then this software will allow you to create similar characters and animate them.
With this vector based animation software you will be able to produce animations for film, video and streaming over the web, not bad for a piece of animation software in this price range.
It has powerful, vector based drawing tools including a number of brush styles to add variation to your line work. I especially like the ability to import scanned images and drawings, which when coupled with using the Wacom Intuos 5, will be great fun with a lot of potential.
Like most new software, if you are unsure how to use it, there is a character wizard that helps and let’s you gets off to a flying start designing your own characters. It makes it quick, simple to get started and find your feet with the software.
One of the things my son and I like is the ability to bring in existing sketches, drawings and image files. You can convert them to vector drawings at a touch of a button so you can then animate them. You can also do this with sound, by importing your existing sound clips and you can sync them to your animated characters.
Ready made material
If you don’t have any material, drawings or sketches you can draw and create your own directly using the Intios5 or take advantage of the library of ready to use characters, props, scenes, brushes, video clip and audio clips. With this, you can get started right away, learn how to use Anime Studio debut 8 and then get much more creative.
Share you creations
Like most of the web today, you want to share your creativity and Anime Studio has the ability to upload you animations to places like YouTube and Facebook. If you don’t want to upload right away you can output your animated creations in such formats as AVI, .MOV, and SWF.
Don’t panic it’s Mac and Pc compatible
It’s compatible with Mac and Windows and is OS X Lion compatible, which is great as we have that on one of our machines.
Wacom set themselves at the top of the graphics tablet pile with a quality well built graphics tablet, but it’s their attention to detail that is second to none. This is apparent in the free software you get with your Intuos 5 purchase and Anime Stuido debut 8 is an interesting and versatile little package.
It’s aimed at animation newbies like myself and students, but don’t let that put you off. It’s well worth it and FREE with the Wacom Intuos 5, and that’s a definite thumbs up from me and my son.
As I get to grips with this great software package I will upload my animation creations, so check back a see what you think.