Updated: 16 April 2013. Cheap word processors have transformed how we write, but digital tools for visual artists are still not truly mass-market. However, as technology advances, more and more cartoonists, illustrators and painters are choosing to use digital tablets and computers to draw and create with. Here’s our round-up of the popular tablets and tools for digital artists with different needs and budgets.
The options: Popular digital tools for artists
There are five main types of tools:
1) Graphics tablets, without integrated screens, but require a separate computer
2) Graphics tablets with integrated screens, but require a separate computer
3) Tablet / slate computers that can be used for drawing
4) Convertible notebook computers that turn into drawing tablets
5) Mobile smart phones that can be used for drawing
Wacom produce graphics tablets that connect to a computer
The Intuos range
Marketed to professional graphic artists (2048 levels of pen pressure).
The Wacom Bamboo
For: Relatively cheap, high sensitivity
Against: Requires a separate computer, requires good hand to eye co-ordination
The Cintiq is a Wacom graphics tablet, widely used by professionals, that incorporates an LCD screen into the digitising tablet.
For: The professional choice, high sensitivity, allows you to draw directly onto a screen, Cintiq 24HD is large
Against: Very expensive, requires a separate computer, less mobile
Hints and tips for potential purchasers
Tablet computers are an increasingly popular choice. When considering a tablet computer for drawing with, there are many options, including…
Capacitive screen: Designed for the human finger, can also use a capacitive stylus. Broadly considered to be too insensitive for fine drawing work. Examples include: the iPad’s screen and the Asus Transformer’s screen.
Wacom screen: The Wacom active digitizer is a popular component in many of the more expensive tablet screens. Allows the use of a fine stylus. Examples include: Cintiq and Galaxy Note.
N-trig screen: Similar to Wacom technology, but not as popular with artists.
Operating system: A tablet that operates on Windows will probably be able to run Photoshop directly. A tablet that uses Android can only run the apps that are available. A full version of Photoshop is currently not available for Android tablets.
Screen size: An A4 piece of paper is 29 cm height x 21 cm width. For example, the Asus Eee Slate (EP121) has a 12.1 inch screen, measured diagonally. An 11.6 screen, measured diagonally, with a 16:9 aspect ratio = 26cm wide x 14cm height.
Screen display resolution: The high resolution Apple iPad 3rd generation has a screen resolution of 2048 × 1536. More common is 1280 × 800.
Tablets / slates
iPad – Popular tablet computer
For: Allows you to draw directly onto a screen, relatively cheap, drawing apps, mobility
Against: Capacitive screen means that it may be less accurate, for “finger drawing”. However new pens are under development, e.g. jaja, “Worlds First Pressure Sensitive Stylus for iPad”. Update, April 2013: The Ten1 Pogo Connect Bluetooth 4.0 Stylus for iPad is now available. The popular blog http://boingboing.net has pronounced it the “Best iPad stylus”, “Because of its touch-sensitive capabilities, this is the first stylus that allows me to think of the iPad as tool for serious illustration.” Ten1 Pogo Connect Bluetooth 4.0 Stylus for iPad 3/iPad 4
Samsung Series 7 Slate
Recommended: 11.6″ slate, Windows, released October 2, 2011. This is our choice of drawing tablet – it’s a Windows 7 PC that can run Photoshop, but also has a Wacom enabled screen so drawing onto its screen is pretty precise. As it’s not a new model – prices are often reduced. Samsung 700T 11.6 inch 3-in-1 Slate PC (Intel Core i5 2467M 1.6GHz, RAM 4GB, Storage 64GB SSD, WLAN, BT, Webcam, Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit)
See the Samsung Slate 7 used for drawing:
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
Release date: approx May 2012
Operating system: Android
Screen type: Wacom-based, pressure-sensitive S Pen
Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 inch Tablet – Silver (16GB, WiFi, Android 4.0)
For: Wacom screen
Against: Perhaps too small for serious illustration?
Video: See the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 used for drawing:
Asus EeePad Slate B121
For: Wacom digitizer, powerful model
Against: Only 256 levels of sensitivity, newer model – more expensive
ASUS Eee Pad Slate EP121
For: Wacom digitizer, older model – so cheaper
Against: Only 256 levels of sensitivity
Convertible notebook computers are, for our purposes, drawing tablets with keyboards attached.
Popular models used by artists, include:
13.3″ screen, Wacom, 2010.
Fujitsu Lifebook T730, 12.1″ screen, Wacom. Released 2010. Positive reviews from artists. With i chips.
13.3-inch screen, Wacom, 2009
Released 2008/9. 12.1-inch dual digitiser display, Wacom.
HP Elitebook 2730
Good reviews from artists. From 2009.
HP Elitebook 2740
Good reviews from artists. From 2010.
HP Touchsmart TM2
Less positive reviews – but supposedly fine for doodling.
Lenovo ThinkPad X230t Tablet
Released August 2012.
Lenovo ThinkPad X220t Tablet
Released April 2011
The x201t (2010) is the successor to the x200t, a widescreen version of the x61 tablet (older: x60 tablet, x41 tablet).
Wacom Penabled. 2010. Less popular for drawing.
Lenovo X200 tablet
ASUS Eee Pad Transformer
Capacitive screen: Broadly considered to be too insensitive for fine drawing work.
Samsung Galaxy Note
Released October 2011. Android. 5.3-inch screen size is great for taking written notes, but a little too small for serious drawing.