Finding the Best Cheap Drawing Tablet with Screen in 2021

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If you don’t have time to read this article, then the best cheap drawing tablet with screen is the XP-Pen Artist12.

It used to be the case that cheap graphics tablets with screens were tough to use and missed many crucial features, but nowadays, there are many drawing tablets with screens under $200 that include more premium tech like tilt support and laminated displays.

Cheap drawing tablets are actually excellent value for money when you consider what they offer, and how close they are to more premium models like the Wacom Cintiq line.

This article covers the best budget drawing tablets with screen, which are defined as those around the $200 – 250 mark. Look at my article on the overall best drawing tablets with screens for more premium models.


The Best Cheap Drawing Tablet with Screen

The Best Cheap Drawing Tablet with Screen in 2021

If you are on a very strict budget, then a 12-inch tablet with screen is sufficient for most uses (and even preferable if you think that you will be travelling with your tablet regularly), but for those who intend to use their drawing tablet everyday from home, then a 15-inch model is generally considered worth the slight extra cost by most.

12-Inch Tablet

My Top Pick

Excellent value for money

  • 11.6-inch Full HD screen with 100% of sRGB colors
  • 6 programmable keys and a touch bar on the tablet
  • Responsive, lag-free pen with an eraser on the opposite end
  • Pressure sensitivity, report rate and viewing angle of much more expensive tablets
  • Available for under $200
At an ideal 11.6-inch screen size for those travelling or intending to use the tablet with a laptop, the XP Pen Artist12 is the current best cheap drawing tablet with screen, on offer for below $200.
The anti-reflective coating gives bright and clear colors and you get a viewing angle and pen pressure sensitivity of premium models like the Cintiq line.
With the potential to power this entirely through USB, without the use of a wall socket, the Artist 12 is fantastic value for money, and an ideal first graphics tablet.

15-Inch Tablet

For beginners who want a larger screen

  • Large 15.6-inch Full HD screen with 100% of sRGB colors
  • 6 customizable buttons on the tablet
  • Accurate pen that has minimal lag
  • Matches the much more expensive Wacom Cintiq 16 in most respects – compare the XP Pen and Cintiq
  • Available for around $250
If you are wanting to use your drawing tablet regularly, and will be sat at your desk at home, then an upgrade to the 15.6-inch XP Pen Artist15.6 will really pay off.
This size of tablet is in the sweet spot for most, giving you usability plus still remaining portable. Although the extra screen size over the 12-inch version might not seem much, in practice it makes a huge difference to how easy this is to use.
The cost is slightly higher than the smaller Artist 12, and you lose the touch bar, but if you are serious about your drawing or photo editing, then the Artist 15.6 will pay you back in its ease of use.

Comparison of the Top Cheap Drawing Tablets with Screens

Drawing Tablet

Size & Resolution

Pros

Cons

Check Price

13.3"
Full HD
(1920 x 1080)
Laminated Screen

Fully laminated screen reduces parallax;
New, more precise PW517 pen;
Supports Android

Surface is smooth glass, so doesn't feel like drawing on paper

XP-Pen Artist12

[The Best Cheap Drawing Tablet with Screen (Under $200)]

11.6"
Full HD
(1920 x 1080)
Non-Laminated Screen

Excellent value for money;
Responsive with no noticeable lag;
Touch bar

Smaller tilt angle support;
Only handles screen mirroring at full HD resolution

XP-Pen Artist15.6

[The Best Cheap 15-Inch Drawing Tablet]

15.6"
Full HD
(1920 x 1080)
Laminated Screen

Large screen;
Accurate pen;
Good value for money

Smoother screen than with Wacom;
More jitter in the pen, and needs more calibration than Wacom

11.6"
Full HD
(1920 x 1080)
Non-Laminated Screen

Very good value for money;
Same pen pressure, tilt support, and viewing angle of more expensive tablets;
8 buttons

Non-laminated screen;
Some pen lag at times

11.6"

Full HD

(1920 x 1080)

Laminated Screen

Fully Laminated screen to reduce parallax; 120% of the sRGB color space; Spare pen plus 28 nibs

Software and drivers are buggy; Inconsistent pen recognition on screen edges


Should You Choose a 15-Inch or 12-Inch Drawing Tablet?

When you are starting out with drawing tablets with screens, it can be difficult to know whether a 15-inch version is worth the extra cost over the more budget 12-inch versions of the same tablet.

Most people will be fine with either a 12-inch or 15-inch drawing tablet with screen, but there are some distinct advantages to the larger tablets:

Working Area – The active area of the 15.6-inch XP Pen tablet is about 105 square inches, while the active area of the same tablet, but at 11.6-inches in the diagonal, is about 58 square inches. Therefore, the Artist 15.6 has a screen that is nearly twice as big as the Artist 12. The extra on-screen space makes a huge difference to usability, particularly when you are wanting to have lots of menus and adjustment layers open, as some of the icons in Photoshop can be pretty small and difficult to distinguish unless you use a larger screen.

Portability vs Usability – Although the smaller 12-inch tablets are more portable than the 15-inch versions, there is much less difference than you might expect – 12-inch drawing tablets are actually still pretty big and heavy. If you are always using your tablet away from home, then you are still better with the smaller model, but if you only occasionally travel with your graphics tablet, then you are unlikely to have a 15-inch model cause you any problems, and you will appreciate the extra usability when you are working from home.

XP Pen Artist 15.6 drawing tablet with screen

What to Look For in Cheap Drawing Tablets with Screens

There are a handful of good cheap drawing tablets with screens available currently, and they can seem on the surface to be very similar.

For most home users, you can ignore a lot of the technical specifications like ‘report rate’ and ‘lines per inch’ as they are essentially the same among all tablets at this price point, and you are unlikely to notice any difference in practice, in any case.

The differences in graphics tablets with screens that you should pay attention to are listed below, and this is what I have used to separate the models in the full reviews that follow this.

1. Display Brightness, Color & Quality

Because you will be using your drawing tablet at a much closer distance than a traditional monitor, display criteria like brightness, resolution and color accuracy become far more important, as you will be more likely to notice any small flaws.

cheap drawing tablet with screen

Brightness

Brightness itself is pretty comparable across all tablets – even the cheapest display drawing tablet has a brightness of 250 cd/m2, and all are around this level. This is bright enough to comfortably see the screen in normal daylight when indoors, although you might struggle if in direct sunlight.

Anti-Glare

All tablets in this price range also come with an anti-glare screen protector, which is factory applied but can be removed and replaced. This is a step down from the premium anti-glare glass of the Pro lines of graphics tablets. If you think that you will be using your tablet more regularly in very bright light, then you might want to look to more expensive models like the Huion Kamvas Pro or XP Pen Artist Pro lineups.

Color Accuracy

The range of colors that a tablet shows is measured in a percentage of a color space, usually sRGB, although some manufacturers quote other color spaces. sRGB is the gamut of the Internet, and is the most common and most relevant color space for those sharing photos or art online.

Every tablet reviewed here hits at least 100% of the sRGB gamut, which is the minimum that you should consider, with those showing over 100% generally displaying more subtle shades of green and yellow. There is a good article on this at Cambridge in Colour.

2. Drawing Accuracy

Where a number of the most affordable drawing tablets with screen fall down is with drawing accuracy.

The main accuracy measure you should be concerned about is parallax, which can negatively affect your experience of using the tablet. This is where the on-screen cursor can appear to not be directly beneath your pen nib. This is common in non-laminated screens, as these are thicker than laminated displays, and mean that there is a greater distance between the pen nib and the screen.

Fully laminated screens glue the glass to the panel, reducing the overall screen thickness and reducing parallax. Non-fully laminated screens do not have the glue layer, and instead have an air gap.

Pretty much all pens for budget drawing tablets with screens have very similar general accuracy levels, with pen tilt performance hard to distinguish from more premium pens like the market-leading Wacom Pro Pen 2.

All those pens featured here are passive, meaning they don’t have batteries and do not need to be charged, and all feature two programmable buttons. The design is very similar, although some, like the Huion pens, feel a little bit nicer to hold and draw with.

(Top) Gaomon Pen
(Bottom) Huion Pen

Where there is drawing lag and jitter, it is because of the drivers that come with the tablet. This is one area where the budget brands like XP Pen, Huion, Gaomon and Veikk fall behind Wacom, although it is possible to download third-party drivers that can eliminate issues with lag, such as those made by Hawku.

3. Number of Buttons

Programmable buttons are one of those areas that are the most subject to personal preference. Personally, I find them very useful, as it speeds up my workflow significantly by assigning keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop or Illustrator to the tablet buttons.

Even the best budget drawing tablet has several buttons, and these are fortunately very common across all cheap graphics tablets.

As you move on to the more expensive Pro models, you get dials and extra touch bars, which can really enhance the usefulness of the programmable keys, but you don’t have to look beyond the budget XP Pen Artist 12 to get one touch bar, which is unique at this price point.

(Top) XP Pen Artist 12 Buttons & Touch Bar
(Bottom) Huion Kamvas 13 Buttons

4. Portability & Power

Larger drawing tablets can give a more natural drawing experience, as you use your shoulder to push the pen, rather than primarily using your wrist. They also give much more screen real-estate, which really improves usability.

But, larger drawing tablets with screens are both big and heavy, and require a separate power source – you are unlikely to be able to power this entirely from your computer or laptop.

Smaller tablets on the other hand, like the cheapest pen display tablet, are much more portable, and can be powered entirely by USB from your laptop, making them much more portable, and more suitable for those who use their tablets away from home regularly.


Reviews of the Best Budget Drawing Tablets with Screen

1. XP-PEN Artist12

My Top Pick
Specifications:
  • Screen Size: 11.6 inches
  • Panel Type: IPS
  • Resolution: Full HD (1920 x 1080)
  • Laminated Screen? No
  • sRGB Color Space: 100%
  • Max Viewing Angle: 178 degrees
  • Pen Pressure Levels: 8192
  • No. of Programmable Keys: 6 + touch bar
  • Tilt Support: +/- 45 degrees
  • Compatible with: Windows; Mac; Linux
  • Can Be Used as a Standalone Device? No

At a standard price of under $200, and regularly on sale for less, the XP Pen Artist 12 is not only the cheapest display drawing tablet, but an excellent candidate for the best budget drawing tablet with screen, suitable for those who want a decent tablet without breaking the bank.

The 11.6-inch screen is pretty small, but this is more than made up for by the low price, and the addition of a touch bar alongside six programmable buttons is very welcome, and not otherwise seem at this price point.

You get a 15 degree lower tilt support than rival tablets like the Gaomon PD1161, but you would be unlikely to notice this in practice, and would instead be one of the many thousands who are very happy with their XP Pen device.

It can often be a close call between the XP Pen Artist 12 and the Gaomon PD1161, as they are usually a similar price when all offers are taken into account. Look at the Artist 12 vs PD1161 comparison article to see the key differences between them.

  • Pros:

  • Very good value for money with its low price
  • Full HD 11.6-inch screen which is well suited to a laptop
  • Anti-reflective coating on the screen and changeable scratch-resistant layer
  • Touch bar is useful and works well
  • Pen comes with eraser on opposite end and is battery-free
  • Can theoretically be powered by USB (though this is not supported by XP-Pen)
  • Includes anti-fouling glove to help your hand glide over the screen and various extras such as travel power adapters and replacement nibs
  • Responsive with no noticeable lag when drawing
  • Cons:

  • You can only duplicate your primary monitor if it is set to the same resolution as the tablet (1920 x 1080)
  • Smaller tilt angle support than tablets from other manufacturers
  • Tablet is quite large despite the small screen size (but is still portable)

Note: If you wanted a larger screen, then the 15.6-inch XP-Pen Artist15.6 is available for a small increase in price, but is otherwise the same as the excellent 11.6-inch model.


2. GAOMON PD1161

Specifications:
  • Screen Size: 11.6 inches
  • Panel Type: IPS
  • Resolution: Full HD (1920 x 1080)
  • Laminated Screen? No
  • sRGB Color Space: 100%
  • Max Viewing Angle: 178 degrees
  • Pen Pressure Levels: 8192
  • No. of Programmable Keys: 8
  • Tilt Support: +/- 60 degrees
  • Compatible with: Windows; Mac
  • Can Be Used as a Standalone Device? No

The Gaomon PD1161 is a very similar tablet to the XP Pen Artist 12, and it can be hard to tease out the differences between them.

You get a slightly higher +/- 60 degrees of tilt support with the Gaomon, plus two extra buttons, but you lose the touch bar.

In terms of drawing accuracy, you see very similar results, with the Gaomon software perhaps being a little more buggy and prone to causing issues, but this is totally dependent on how it interacts with your computer, and can be a problem for all budget manufacturers.

If this was cheaper than the XP Pen Artist 12, then I would have no problem in buying this for myself – I personally see the main difference between the two models to be price. But you can see all of the differences between the PD1161 and the Artist 12 in the linked article.

  • Pros:

  • 11.6 inch 1080p IPS Drawing Monitor
  • 100% sRGB Color Gamut for vibrant colors
  • Same pen pressure, tilt support and viewing angle of more expensive tablets with a battery-free pen
  • Anti-glare film that is also scratch-resistant
  • 8 customizable buttons which are very useful to replace keyboard shortcuts
  • Left hand support
  • Comes with two finger glove for a smoother drawing experience
  • Cheapest tablet with screen currently available
  • Cons:

  • Non-laminated screen, so parallax, the distance from pen nib to cursor, will be greater
  • The pen can be seen to lag when compared to pricier tablets
  • No finger touch support on the screen itself (only pen support)

3. HUION KAMVAS 13

Best 13-Inch Tablet
Specifications:
  • Screen Size: 13.3 inches
  • Panel Type: IPS
  • Laminated Screen? Yes
  • Resolution: Full HD (1920 x 1080)
  • sRGB Color Space: 120%
  • Max Viewing Angle: 178 degrees
  • Pen Pressure Levels: 8192
  • No. of Programmable Keys: 8
  • Tilt Support: +/- 60 degrees
  • Compatible with: Windows; Mac; Android
  • Can Be Used as a Standalone Device? No

At only a little over $200, the Huion Kamvas 13 offers a serious step-up in quality if you have the budget for it.

Not only do you get a 13.3-inch screen with 120% of sRGB colors which I really like for its blend of portability and usability, but you have a new, improved pen design in the PW517 which has shorter nibs that noticeably improves drawing precision.

This also includes a fully laminated screen, which reduces parallax when compared to the cheaper tablets.

I would recommend the Kamvas 13 over the even more expensive Pro 13 if you are in the market for a 13-inch tablet – you can see why in the Kamvas 13 vs Pro 13 comparison article.

  • Pros:

  • 13.3inch 1920×1080 HD monitor is an ideal starter drawing tablet size
  • 120% sRGB gamut (16.7 million colors) for very vibrant colors
  • Full laminated screen to reduce glare and replaceable anti-glare film, so you don’t need to worry about screen wear from the pen nib
  • New shorter pen nibs (3.5mm) offer better precision through reducing pen friction and bounce off the screen surface
  • Excellent pen pressure and tilt performance, and very little noticeable lag, along with 8 customizable buttons
  • Supports Android in addition to Windows and Mac
  • Screen can be inverted to use the tablet left-handed
  • Available with a tilt stand
  • Portable, at around 1 kg (2.16 lbs) in weight
  • Cons:

  • Drawing surface is more like glass than paper, and doesn’t feel as natural as the Wacom Cintiq line
  • Noticeably lower build quality (more plastic-y) than Wacom’s Cintiq series
  • Huion’s software to change tablet brightness, contrast, etc is not as good as Wacom’s version
  • Requires more regular calibration than the Wacom Cintiq

4. VEIKK VK1200

Specifications:
  • Screen Size: 11.6 inches
  • Panel Type: IPS
  • Resolution: Full HD (1920 x 1080)
  • Laminated Screen? Yes
  • sRGB Color Space: 120%
  • Max Viewing Angle: 178 degrees
  • Pen Pressure Levels: 8192
  • No. of Programmable Keys: 6
  • Tilt Support: +/- 60 degrees
  • Compatible with: Windows; Mac
  • Can Be Used as a Standalone Device? No

If you want a cheap drawing tablet with screen and pen that comes with a fully laminated screen and 120% of sRGB colors in a very small, portable package, then the Veikk VK1200 is the drawing tablet for you.

Being able to power the tablet entirely through USB makes it both portable, and means that you don’t have unnecessary wires covering your desk.

The fully laminated screen means reduced parallax, although in practice it doesn’t seem that different from the Artist 12, probably because the screens are so small. The small screen also means that you can’t fully take advantage of the extra colors that this can display, but the screen is nonetheless excellent, and one of the best around in this budget category.

The primary reason that the Veikk doesn’t score higher than the XP Pen model is down to the more buggy drivers that can take some technical know-how to properly install and to give you pressure sensitivity in Photoshop.

Also, pen recognition is inconsistent towards the very edges of the screen, and the stylus itself is quite light – most people prefer a more substantial pen.

But these are relatively small points, and for the right price, the Veikk VK1200 is still a fantastic drawing tablet with screen.

  • Pros:

  • 11.6-inch fully laminated screen, which is uncommon at this price point
  • Can be powered entirely through USB
  • 120% of the sRGB color gamut, for excellent color reproduction
  • Includes a spare pen, plus 28 extra nibs!
  • Slightly textured surface that is very nice to draw on
  • Metal case makes the tablet feel much more premium
  • Surprisingly small – narrower bezels than other tablets of this screen size
  • Buttons can be customized to individual applications
  • Lower parallax thanks to the fully laminated screen
  • Cons:

  • It can be a challenge to get the drivers properly installed
  • In common with all Veikk tablets, will likely take some troubleshooting to get pressure sensitivity to register in Photoshop and other Adobe programs
  • Inconsistent pen recognition on the very edges of the screen
  • Light pen which some might not enjoy drawing with

Read More:

What are the best drawing tablets with screens?

What is the best drawing tablet for Photoshop?

What is the best iPad for drawing?

What is the best Android tablet for drawing?

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