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If you’re in a hurry, then from my experience the best cheap drawing tablet under $100 is the Wacom Intuos S.
Finding the best budget drawing tablet in the current market can be tough, with a glut of cheap graphics tablets from a wide variety of generic manufacturers.
Of all the makers of cheap tablets for artists, Wacom have the best reputation and longest track record, but recently XP-Pen and Huion have started to make much higher quality products and threaten Wacom’s crown in some situations.
Outside of these manufacturers, most graphics tablets tend to be re-branded versions of the same hardware, so I have focused on Huion vs Wacom vs XP-Pen as these are the highest quality, independent drawing tablet makers.
I have compared all of the good, cheap drawing tablets available in 2021 against my exacting criteria (which are detailed below), for this quick article to determine which are the best drawing tablets under $100.
The Contenders for Best Drawing Tablet Under $100 are …
I don’t want to stuff this article full of very similar products, and as most cheap drawing tablets fall into one of the below categories, I’ve limited this to the top five models.
- Overall best cheap drawing tablet: Wacom Intuos S
- Best drawing tablet for beginners: One by Wacom
- Best drawing tablet under $50: Huion Inspiroy H640P
- Best for a large working area: Huion H610 Pro V2
- Most compact pen pad: XP-Pen Star G640
Note: All drawing tablets in this article must be connected to a computer to work – they will not work as standalone devices.
What is the Best Cheap Drawing Tablet?
The Intuos is the best drawing tablet under $100 (in small size), but if your budget can stretch to it, consider an upgrade if you are serious about your art or photography to the Wacom Intuos Pro. Compare the Intuos and Intuos Pro in this article.
The Tablet That I Use
What if you want a Cheap Drawing Tablet with Screen?
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For a full rundown of the best digital drawing tablets, read this article.
Compare the Drawing Tablets Under $100
You can quickly compare the key characteristics of the cheap art tablets and the tablets for drawing, in the table below.
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Best accuracy and reliability;
Can have high pen nib wear;
One by Wacom
Cheapest Wacom tablet;
No express keys or buttons;
Price is very low for the features;
Some pen lag;
Huion H610 Pro v2
10 x 6.25" drawing area;
Poor software & drivers;
Smallest & lightest pen tablet here;
Lower build quality;
1. Wacom Intuos – Best Overall Tablet Under $100
- The battery-free pen offers 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity
- 6 x 3.7″ active area extends over nearly the entire tablet, so tablet itself is very small
- Bluetooth connection so no wires needed
- Designed for both right and left handed people, with the four customizable buttons at the top
- Wacom have a strong brand reputation among professional artists
- No pen tilt sensitivity – this is only on Intuos Pro models
- Can have high pen nib wear depending on your drawing technique
- Top buttons can be obstructed by your drawing hand
As the best budget drawing tablet, the Wacom Intuos is ideal for artists and photographers looking for a quality tablet at an affordable price.
This is right at the top end of the $100 price range, and on paper doesn’t seem to match some of the cheaper Huion’s. So why is it the overall best?
Build quality, durability and reliability of Wacom’s are second-to-none, unlike some of the more budget manufacturers, and a tablet like the Intuos will last for years without needing to be replaced or fixed – this can take knocks and scratches.
The Wacom Pro Pen 4K has near-perfect accuracy, with only professionals able to notice the lower pen pressure sensitivity levels – for most people the 4K level is easily sufficient.
The four customizable express keys on the tablet, plus two buttons on the pen are very useful to speed up your workflows, by assigning keyboard shortcuts. Although the tablet is designed for right or left handed people, with the buttons at the top, this does sometimes make it harder to use the buttons and draw at the same time, as your drawing hand gets in the way.
But for my money, the Wacom Intuos is the best drawing tablet under $100, offering many of the features of the Intuos Pro, but without the price tag.
2. One by Wacom – Best Drawing Tablet for Beginners
- The cheapest Wacom drawing tablet, and so ideal for those wanting to test a tablet
- Wacom pen has 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity
- 6 x 3.7″ active area covers pretty much the entire tablet, so this is very small and portable
- Bluetooth connection in the medium model
- Very well suited for those looking for a quality product on a budget
- Compatible with Chromebooks
- Lowest pressure sensitivity of any model here, and so pen not as accurate as Intuos models
- No express keys or buttons on the tablet
- No wireless connection
The One by Wacom is one of the most popular drawing tablets among beginners to graphics tablets, thanks to its low price along with Wacom’s famously high build quality.
The 6 x 3.7 inch active area covers nearly the entire tablet, as it does not have any buttons. This is a negative for those who like to use a lot of keyboard shortcuts, but a positive for size and portability, and those who simply want an affordable and simple drawing tablet.
This is the only Wacom tablet currently compatible with Chromebooks – other tablets work as mice, but do not show pressure sensitivity.
There is no wireless option, and the cable is a relatively short 1 metre, so make sure that you have an available USB port close to your desk.
Although the pen pressure sensitivity is low on the paper specs, Wacom’s design means that you will not notice this unless you are trying to use it for professional drawing use. For most home uses, the 2K levels of sensitivity are more than enough.
In my opinion, the One by Wacom is the best affordable drawing tablet, with a near perfect ratio of quality to price, provided you can live with the short cable and lack of buttons.
3. Huion Inspiroy H640P – Best Drawing Tablet Under $50
- Price is very low for the feature set
- Very small and light, so easily portable
- 8192 levels of pen pressure sensitivity
- 6.3 x 3.9″ active area, plus 6 customizable buttons on the pad
- Can be used with Android (excluding Samsung)
- Potential software issues
- Lower accuracy and pen lag
- Only responds to pen input, not your fingers
I would consider the H640P to be the cheapest Huion tablet that still offers everything you need when starting out in drawing or photo editing, and that will last you a decent period of time. Cheaper tablets tend to be very low quality and / or break easily.
The battery-free pen gives over 8K levels of pen pressure sensitivity, but doesn’t have tilt support, matching other tablets in this price range.
If you wanted to use a tablet with your Android device, then the H640P is your best option, as it is able to connect with an additional OTG cable, unlike the Wacom’s.
The smooth edges on the tablet help it to feel natural under the wrist, and the six customizable buttons, plus a pen holder with additional nibs, mean that the H640P is a solid device for its price.
It might not match the Wacom Intuos in build quality or software drivers, but if you are willing to work a bit harder, you can do exactly the same art with this.
4. Huion H610 Pro V2 – Best for a Large Drawing Area
- 10 x 6.25″ active area for easy drawing on a large surface
- 8 programmable keys, plus 16 soft keys
- Easy setup for right or left handed users
- Battery-free pen with 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt support
- Very reasonable price for the features
- Can be used with Android (excluding Samsung) and most recent Chromebooks
- Software & drivers not as sophisticated or easy to use as Wacom
- The tablet’s large bezel and tapered edges make drawing less confortable
- Poor pen tilt recognition
There are a few advantages that the Huion H610 Pro V2 has over the Wacom Intuos: the lack of pen nib wear; more customizable buttons; and a larger 10 x 6.25 inch drawing area.
This means that you can go longer without having to replace the nibs, which is useful if you are on a very strict budget, and the larger size means that it can be easier to paint or draw if you have a larger monitor. The size of a tablet is less relevant for photo editing, where you tend to only make small strokes.
On paper, the pressure sensitivity is higher than the cheapest Wacom Intuos model, although this is mitigated by the lower accuracy between the pen and on-screen cursor.
The surface of the tablet is very good for a budget pad for drawing, and is very similar to using pen and paper.
Ultimately, the Huion H610 Pro v2 is a cheap but good drawing tablet, and in my opinion the best Huion drawing tablet. This is particularly ideal for those looking for a large drawing tablet.
5. XP-Pen StarG640 – Most Compact Drawing Pad
- Smallest and lightest pen tablet reviewed here
- Customizable buttons on the pen
- Comes with 20 replacement nibs
- 8192 levels of pen pressure sensitivity
- Easily portable and low price means you can afford to travel with it
- Compatible with Windows / Mac and most recent Chromebooks
- No customizable buttons on the tablet
- No pen stand
- Lower build quality (eg. some people get sent warped tablets)
XP-Pen are well known for making quality products for the budget end of the market, and they don’t disappoint in the G640. This model has a 6×4″ drawing area in a tablet that is little bigger than the active area, and is the cheapest drawing tablet available that still works well for photo editing, and for many people, this is also the best tablet for animation as it can so easily be carried with a laptop.
The pen does have a button that you can customize, but due to the size of the tablet, there are no buttons on it, however this is outweighed by the very small size and low weight of the G640.
You don’t get a tablet to rival the Wacoms in the XP Pen, but it can be a great choice for those just starting out in photo editing, giving you access to a whole world of drawing tablet power for a fraction of the cost of a pro-level Wacom. Take a look at the video on the left to understand who the G640 is likely to be suitable for.
Note: If you want an even smaller and cheaper drawing tablet, then the XP-Pen StarG430 is identical, but with a 4×3″ drawing area.
What are the Key Requirements of a Cheap Drawing Tablet?
All of the cheap drawing tablets in this article have met my key criteria, as detailed below. From personal experience, I believe these points cover everything that you should consider, but how you order them in terms of important is dependent on how you intend to use your budget drawing tablet.
1. What Size Should I Get?
Drawing tablets are often quite large, but with only a relatively small area that is active for drawing.
This matters less if you intend to use the pen tablet at home on a large desk, but becomes crucial when you have to carry it around with a laptop.
When drawing, or looking for the best tablet for animation, it generally pays to go for a larger tablet, as you make larger strokes and want to maintain flow.
But if you are photo editing, then a large tablet is less relevant. In this case, you tend to make a lot of small strokes and are aiming for pin-point accuracy. In this case, smaller tablets tend to be better, and in particular, Wacom’s like the Intuos, which are the most accurate drawing tablets.
2. Should I Get a Drawing Tablet with Screen?
Whether you want a screen or not is a personal decision, and depends on how you intend to use the tablet. If you can, try a drawing tablet with screen out in a store, so that you can see how they work.
Drawing tablets with screens, like the Huion Kamvas Pro 12, are better reserved for drawing rather than any other types of work. This is because creating art with a lot of line art tends to be easier when you most closely replicate pen and paper.
So for photo editing for example, you don’t need a drawing tablet with screen.
3. How Does Drawing Accuracy Differ?
Drawing accuracy is broken down into various measures by the manufacturers, from lines per inch (LPI) resolution, showing how small a movement has to be before being recorded; reports per second (RPS), which effectively measures pen lag; to pen pressure sensitivity, which measures how hard you can press on the tablet.
These numbers are effectively meaningless for most home users, as even the cheapest drawing tablet will do everything that you want. You only want to pay attention to these specs if you make money from your art.
From a real-world perspective, some tablets might be less accurate in terms of tilt-recognition, but this is generally not much of a problem with the modern tablets in this article.
4. Do I Need Customizable Buttons?
Some graphics tablets do not contain any customizable buttons, while others have a number of buttons and scrolling wheels on both the tablet and pen.
Whether this is of any use to you is down to personal preference, but I find these incredibly helpful in my day-to-day photo editing workflow.
The usability of these buttons and scroll wheels is highest in the Wacom tablets, which come with excellent software to map the buttons, as well as high build quality physical switches.
5. Can I Connect the Tablet Wirelessly?
It’s very helpful in an artist drawing tablet to have a wireless, Bluetooth connection, as this eliminates cables and means that you can be more flexible in how you can hold the tablet – you don’t want to be hunched over it as this will cause back ache.
Only the Wacom Intuos tablets have this Bluetooth connection, which is part of the reason that I would consider them to be the best computer drawing pads.
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