This site is part of the Amazon Associates program, and as such, this article contains links that give us a small compensation for any purchases you make, at no additional cost to you. Please read the disclaimer policy for full details.If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to read the entire article, then the best pen tablet for Photoshop is the Wacom Intuos Pro.
When I first started editing photos in Photoshop, I used a mouse on my desktop and laptop for everything, from drawing complex masks to painting contrast into the sky. It worked, but it was difficult to do accurately and caused a whole load of hassle. It took me some time to make the leap and go from using a mouse to using a graphics tablet for photo editing, but once I switched to a Photoshop tablet, I have never looked back.
If you are wanting to know, are drawing tablets good for photo editing, the answer is definitely yes.
It took me a long time to research and decide on the best tablet for Photoshop and photography before I bought one. So you don’t have to waste your time, I have compiled my list of the best drawing tablets 2021 below.
This list includes the best Wacom tablet for editing, which are drawing tablets without screens, and the best graphics tablet with screen, which are much closer to photo editing tablets like iPads. You may also know both of these as pen tablets for Photoshop, or as Photoshop drawing pads.
I. What to Consider When Looking for the Best Drawing Tablets for Photoshop
There are a handful of important things you must consider when looking to get a drawing tablet for Photoshop, which are listed below in order of importance. If none of the models reviewed here are for you, or you want to do any further research into your ideal editing pad for Photoshop, then you can use this checklist to guide you.
- Drawing Accuracy. The best tablet for Photoshop drawing will respond as if you are using pen and paper. Some cheaper tablets will not accurately move the cursor on screen as you move the pen across them. The degree of accuracy for each graphics tablet is hard to tell from manufacturer’s specifications, but can usually be inferred from reading multiple user reviews, or by using the reviews further down this article. Related to this is pen tilt recognition. Some cheaper tablets lose accuracy as you naturally tilt the pen during a stroke. This is covered in the reviews below.
- Pressure Sensitivity. This refers to how closely the drawing tablet can capture how hard you are pressing the pen. This is not a deal-breaker when using the drawing tablet for photo editing in Photoshop, Lightroom or After Effects, but for more subtle masking, Photoshop can interpret the pressure you exert on your graphics tablet to dynamically increase or decrease the size of your on-screen brush. Bear in mind that manufacturers use this number as a selling point, but from a real-world perspective this doesn’t matter much once it gets above a few thousand. Nonetheless, it’s useful as a general gauge of build quality. As an example, the best drawing pads for Photoshop tend to have pressure sensitivity measured at around 8000 levels.
- 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 in Lightroom and Photoshop. The usability of these buttons and scroll wheels is highest in the Wacom tablets for Photoshop, which come with excellent software to map the buttons, as well as high build quality physical switches.
- Size. Many graphics tablets are actually much bigger than you would expect, but only have a relatively small area that is active. You can look at manufacturer’s specifications to check this. 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. My recommendation for the best tablet for drawing and photo editing, the Wacom Intuos Pro S has a small active area when compared to size, but I see this as an advantage, as it means you can move the cursor with smaller strokes of the pen. You can always zoom into a photo for higher drawing accuracy.
- Connectivity. Most graphics tablets for photo editing connect via USB cable, but a number are able to connect via bluetooth. The best wireless drawing tablets can be found in the reviews further down this article.
- Screen. When looking for the best pen pad for Photoshop, you need to make a personal decision on whether you want a drawing tablet with a screen or not. You definitely don’t need a graphics tablet with a screen, but they can improve the accuracy of your Photoshop work, depending on your technique. If you do want one, you will be looking at a significantly increased cost, although it is possible to get a relatively cheap drawing tablet with screen, such as the Huion Kamvas Pro 12, if you are more budget limited.
If you’re not sure whether a drawing tablet makes sense for you, then I recommend taking a look at this video, which gives a good rundown of the extra photo editing abilities that using a pen tablet gives you.
II. The Best Drawing Tablet for Photoshop 2021
If you don’t have time to read the rest of the article, then undoubtedly the best drawing tablet for Photoshop, and the best Wacom tablet 2021, has to be the Wacom Intuos Pro, due to its accuracy, functionality and ease of use. Personally, I prefer the small version for its portability, although it also comes in both medium and large. A comparison between the three sizes is further down this article.
III. The Best Drawing Tablet for Beginners
The best drawing tablet for beginners is the Wacom Intuos CTL4100. This is also the best drawing tablet under $100, and its cheap price means that even those on a strict budget should find this affordable. It is lacking in features when compared with the Intuos Pro above, but like the pro, also comes in small and medium sizes. I would recommend the small size as sufficient for most users, although a fuller comparison of all sizes follows later in the article.
IV. The Best Drawing Tablet with Screen
The best drawing tablet with screen is the Wacom Cintiq 16. This is essentially the same as the Intuos Pro in terms of specs, but with the addition of a live screen that can mirror your computer display, or act as a secondary screen, that you can draw on. There is also a larger version of this model, the Wacom Cintiq 22 at a slightly higher price, which is also a contender for the best graphics tablet with screen. If you don’t mind the increased size and weight, this would be an excellent option.
V. The Best Drawing Tablet with Screen for Beginners
The best drawing tablet with screen for beginners is the Wacom One. This is a premium product available for a relatively low price, with a pen that feels much more like a real pen than other models of drawing tablets. The Wacom One is specifically designed for those new to drawing tablets and connects easily to PCs or Macs, as well as some Android models with an adapter, making it the best drawing tablet for Android.
VI. Best Drawing Tablet with Screen Under $200
From my research, I was only able to find one drawing tablet with screen under $200, the Parblo 10.1 Inches Coast10 Graphics Drawing Tablet. This has generally good reviews, and if you are desperate for a graphics tablet with screen and are very price-limited, this may be a good option. If you are willing to spend slightly over $200 though, a range of options becomes available, including the Huion Kamvas Pro 12, the best drawing tablet with screen for beginners. There are currently no cheap drawing tablets with screens for under $100.
VII. Drawing Tablet Reviews – Quick Comparison Chart
The top seven best graphics tablets for Photoshop and for photo editing are shown below in this comparison chart along with basic pros and cons, so you can quickly compare the best drawing tablets. The best drawing tablet for photo editing is the Wacom Intuos Pro. Keep reading for a more detailed review on what led to the position of each one.
|Drawing Tablet||Average User Rating||Pros / Cons|
|Wacom Intuos Pro – The best graphics tablet for photo editing||4.3 / 5|| |
|Wacom Cintiq 16||4.6 / 5|| |
|Huion Kamvas Pro 16||4.5 / 5|| |
|Wacom One||4.0 / 5|| |
|Wacom Intuos CTL4100||4.4 / 5|| |
|Huion H610 Pro V2||4.4 / 5|| |
|VEIKK A30 Graphics Drawing Tablet||4.5 / 5|| |
|XP-Pen StarG640||4.2 / 5|| |
VIII. Best Drawing Tablet Reviews 2021
Read the complete reviews of the seven best drawing tablets for Photoshop below. This includes reviews of graphics tablets for photo editing, such as the Wacom Intuos series, and reviews of drawing tablets with screens such as Huions.
Best Photoshop Drawing Pad, Without ScreenBest Wacom Tablet for Photoshop
- 8192 Levels of Pressure Sensitivity and pen tilt recognition
- The Best Drawing Accuracy of any tablet
- User Programmable Express Keys and radial menu
- Bluetooth for wireless connection, or use USB
- Best Drawing Tablet under $300
- Optionally, zoom, navigate and scroll with your fingers, like on a phone
- The pen nibs can wear down quickly, depending on how you use them – mine have lasted for years without replacement
- Not the cheapest tablet
- Tablet is large, even at Small size
The Wacom Intuos Pro S is the best Wacom tablet for Photoshop and the best tablet for photo editing in Lightroom. It is also the model I have used for all of my photo editing in Lightroom and Photoshop for the last six years. I have found it highly accurate and responsive, with no cursor lag and excellent software that lets you easily configure the buttons on the tablet and on the pen to different uses depending on the program you are using. This drawing tablet has traveled around the world with me, as the small model is slightly smaller than a 15″ laptop, making this the best tablet for travel photography, in my opinion.
You can use phone-like touch gestures directly on the pen tablet in Photoshop, or in any other program, to zoom and scroll, and the tablet even automatically disregards any touch input when it senses the pen near the pad, meaning that the edge of your palm can rest on the tablet while drawing, without interference. This is not a standard feature in the cheaper drawing boards.
The small model is the ideal size for Photoshop, and it comes with Bluetooth connection as standard, making this the best wireless drawing tablet – or you can use the included USB cable. The Small size is not much smaller than a 15″ laptop, although is very thin and light. The Medium and Large sizes are unlikely to be good value for you unless you have a lot of desk space and very large monitors. I use a Small model with a 27″ monitor, and find it the perfect size.
Bear in mind that several users have reported the pen nibs wearing out quickly. My experience is that the nibs initially show signs of wear very quickly, but the wearing then slows, and you never lose enough of the nib for it to need to be replaced – I have nibs still working fine after six years. Also, you get a variety of different sizes and types of nib, all hidden within the included pen stand, which all give a different drawing experience and cover you in the event that you do see a lot of nib wear.
Best Drawing Tablet for Beginners
- 4096 Levels of Pressure Sensitivity
- Active area extends over nearly the entire tablet
- Bluetooth connection in the medium model
- Best Drawing Tablet Under $100
- Best Drawing Tablet for Beginners
- Lower pressure sensitivity
- Can have high pen nib wear
- Bluetooth not standard in the S model
The Wacom Intuos CTL4100 (also known as the Wacom Intuos S or M) superseded the old Wacom Bamboo tablet and Wacom Intuos Draw as the top beginner Wacom drawing tablet.
The Wacom Intuos CTL4100 is by far the best cheap drawing tablet for beginners as it has the build quality, high-end software and high accuracy of the more expensive Wacom models, at only about a third of the price. It’s possible to buy drawing tablets that have higher specs on paper, for a few tens of dollars less than the Intuos, but these are lacking in real-world performance, particularly when it comes to accuracy and lag of the pen.
One of the main selling points of the Wacom Intuos, other than price, is that the active area extends over nearly the entire tablet. For most tablets, the active area is actually only a small part of the total tablet, with large borders that do not recognize pen input. The Wacom Intuos has only a small active area, like most drawing tablets, but as the total tablet size is also small, it means the tablet is compact and small enough to carry around with a laptop, or leave on your work desk full-time, without losing too much desk space.
Cheap Drawing Tablet for Beginners
- 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity
- Cheap drawing tablet for beginners
- Can be used with Android (excluding Samsung)
- Potential software issues
- Lower accuracy and pen lag
- Poor pen tilt recognition
The Huion H610 Pro V2 is marketed as a cheap drawing tablet for beginners, and from that perspective fits the bill. It is one of the cheapest drawing tablets on the market, but the poor pen tilt recognition and occasional lag detract from its qualities.
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. Wacom models always lead in this area. The only real advantage that the Huion H610 Pro V2 has over the Wacom Intuos is the lack of pen nib wear, meaning that you can go longer without having to replace the nibs. This will only matter to you if you are on a very strict budget, otherwise the Wacom models are recommended.
Best Cheap Graphics Tablet
- Very thin and light
- Includes touch keys and trackpad rather than physical buttons
- 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity
- Pen tile recognition is poor
- No pen stand
- Lower build quality
The VEIKK A30 graphics drawing tablet is essentially a generic drawing tablet with generally good levels of accuracy and lag, but with poor pen tilt recognition. There are a number of very similar tablets that fall into this category, like the UGEE M708 graphics tablet, and the XP-Pen Deco 01 V2 which offers 8 customizable buttons, compared to the VEIKK’s four.
You get what you pay for in drawing tablets, and this one has a generally lower quality feel to it, and does not come with a pen stand. If you are on a strict budget, this still makes a good choice, but you will not get the premium experience that you would get with a Wacom.
Nonetheless, there is nothing inherently wrong with the VEIKK and UGEE models, and although they are not going to challenge for the crown of the best Photoshop drawing tablet that the Wacom Intuos Pro holds, you won’t have a bad experience if you choose to buy one.
Best Small Graphics Tablet
- Smallest and lightest pen tablet reviewed here
- Customizable buttons on the pen
- Comes with 20 replacement nibs
- 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity
- Cheapest quality drawing tablet available
- No customizable buttons on the tablet
- No pen stand
- Lower build quality
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.
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.
If you want an even smaller and cheaper drawing tablet, then the XP-Pen StarG430 is identical, but with a 4×3″ drawing area.
Best Graphic Tablet for Photoshop, With ScreenBest Drawing Tablet with Screen
- 8192 Levels of Pressure Sensitivity
- 15.6″ Full HD Display
- 72% of all NTSC Colors
- Fantastic Accuracy and tilt recognition in the pen
- Also available up to 24″
- Very Expensive
- Screen can be dim
- Screen resolution and colors are not comparable to a dedicated monitor
If you want a drawing tablet with screen and price is not an issue, the Wacom Cintiq series are your best option. They make an excellent choice of best Wacom for photo editing, and come in sizes from 16″, as seen here, up to 24″. The smaller options are the preferred sizes for Photoshop, as the larger tablets take up too much space on your desktop, and are too heavy and large to easily carry around with a laptop. Also, they require much larger movements of your hand to re-position the cursor. This may not seem like a problem, but actually you can deliver a much more accurate result by keeping your hand anchored in one place and making small movements with the pen.
The biggest minus point of the Wacom Cintiq 16 is the cost. These are more than twice as expensive as comparable drawing tablets with screens that you can see below, but do offer unparalleled performance and build quality.
The drawing experience of these tablets is very similar to that of the Wacom Intuous Pro, so is universally excellent. If you are looking for a graphics tablet with screen and are not price-limited, there is very little to not recommend a Wacom Cintiq as one of the best graphics tablets for Photoshop.
Best Huion Tablet with Screen
- 8192 Levels of Pen Pressure
- 15.6″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) Display
- 120% of the sRGB Color Gamut
- One of the Cheapest Drawing Tablets with Screens
- Best Drawing Tablet with Screen for Beginners
- Some reports of driver issues
- Express keys and touchbar not as good as comparable Wacom buttons
Firmly among the best tablets for drawing in Photoshop, Huion are a relatively new brand of drawing tablets that are seeking to unseat Wacom as top of the field. The specs of the Huion Kamvas Pro 16 are comparable to similarly sized Wacom devices, such as the Wacom Cintiq 16, in terms of pressure sensitivity, accuracy and screen resolution, but the Kamvas Pro is significantly cheaper, making the Huion Kamvas Pro 16 the ideal Huion for photo editing.
The main technical difference between the Huion Kamvas and the Wacom Cintiqs is in color accuracy and display. The Kamvas has a color gamut of 120% sRGB which is sufficient for most hobbyist and web usage, which typically works on the sRGB color space. The Cintiqs, by contrast, have 72% of the NTSC color gamut, which may sound worse, but as the NTSC color space is much larger and contains more gradations of color, this is actually preferable for professional usage. If you are not involved in photography professionally, the Huion Kamvas Pro will be more than good enough for you.
The only negatives of the Huion Kamvas Pro 16 is that the tablet buttons, drivers and included software are not quite up to Wacom’s high standard. But for most people, the much lower price of this model will be an acceptable trade-off.
Best Drawing Tablet with Screen for Beginners
- Real-feel Pen, feels like using a real pen
- 13.3″ HD Display
- Integrated Stand to raise the display to 19 degrees
- 2 Months Free of Lightroom & Photoshop
- PC / MAC / Android compatible
- Requires proprietary cables
- More expensive than larger Huion Kamvas models
The Wacom One comes in as the best drawing tablet with screen for beginners due to the premium construction, a pen that feels like using a real pen, and intuitive software. It does work out a little more expensive than comparable models by Huion or other brands, but is half the price of the Wacom Cintiq line, and with Wacom you know that you are getting top-of-the-line accuracy and no lag in the pen. I particularly like the built in stand of the Wacom One, as the small amount of tilt really makes a difference when drawing on the tablet.
The screen is relatively small for a drawing tablet, but is in the ideal size range for photo editing in Lightroom and Photoshop – if it’s too big it becomes unwieldy.
The main negative with this tablet is the essentially proprietary cables. Although it technically connects via USB-C, you must actually use the included cable block to connect to your computer. It’s a tough choice between this and the comparable Huions, but this is the best option for you if you are looking for top-of-the-line build quality in an easy to use package, and aren’t too concerned about screen size.
Best Size Wacom Tablet for Photo Editing
Most Wacom tablets come in a variety of sizes, and it pays to look at each of these to decide which is the best Wacom for Photoshop, for you. The Wacom Intuos Pro comes in S(mall), M(edium) and L(arge), while the Wacom Intuos CTL4100 comes in S(mall) and M(edium). It can be difficult to know which is the best size Wacom tablet for photo editing, but you can use the below table to see which Wacom drawing tablet is best for Lightroom, Photoshop and After Effects for your style of editing, by comparing the size of the tablet with the size of the active area. Note that most tablets are very large, with a relatively small active area for the pen.
|Product||Total Tablet Size||Active Area Size||Active Area Percentage of Total Area|
|Wacom Intuos Pro S||12.5″ x 8.1″ (31.75cm x 20.57cm)||6.2″ x 3.9″ (15.75cm x 9.91cm)||23.9%|
|Wacom Intuos Pro M||13.2” x 8.5” (33.51cm x 21.59cm)||8.7” x 5.8” (22.10cm x 14.73cm)||45.0%|
|Wacom Intuos Pro L||16.8” x 11.2” (42.67cm x 28.45cm)||12.1” x 8.4” (30.73cm x 21.34cm)||54.0%|
|Wacom Intuos CTL4100 S||7.9″ x 6.9″ (20.01cm x 17.53cm)||6.0″ x 3.7″ (15.24cm x 9.40cm)||40.7%|
|Wacom Intuos CTL4100 M||10.4″ x 7.8″ (26.42cm x 19.81cm)||8.3″ x 5.3″ (21.08cm x 13.46cm)||54.2%|
Should I get the Wacom Intuos Pro Small or Medium for photo editing?
Which Wacom tablet is best for Photoshop?
My personal preference of the Wacom Intuos Pro Small or Medium for photo editing is that the Small model is ideal and the best tablet for Photoshop editing for most users. The Pro models beat the standard CTL4100 Wacom models, as the customizable dial enables you to easily scroll through pictures in your catalogs, making it also the best Wacom tablet for Lightroom. Although the active area might seem small (23.9% of total tablet area), I use it with a 15″ laptop and a 27″ monitor with no problems. The advantage of the Wacom Intuos Pro Small is the smaller footprint that it takes up on your desk, approximately the same as a 15″ laptop.
Best Tablet for Travel Photography
If you are traveling with a laptop and want to find the best tablet for travel photography to take with you, the best option for a portable drawing tablet from the table above would be the Wacom Intuos CTL4100 Small (Wacom Intuos S), due to its very small footprint combined with a relatively large active area that almost matches the Wacom Intuos Pro S for size. If you are a professional, rather than hobbyist user, you may instead want to look at the Wacom Intuos Pro range, but remember that these are all very large and so are less portable as a drawing board for Photoshop.
Wacom vs iPad Pro for Photo Editing
All the drawing tablets that we have seen so far are not standalone models – they must all be plugged into a computer to work. But, there are plenty of standalone touchscreen tablets that you can use for photo editing, that can also be plugged into your computer to function as a drawing tablet, such as iPads.
From a quick comparison of Wacom vs iPad Pro for photo editing 2021, I feel that the Wacom Intuos Pro series of tablets has the edge over the iPad Pro. The pressure sensitivity, accuracy of the pen and the drawing surface feel of the Wacom range surpasses that of the iPad. The only area where the iPad outshines the Wacom is in standalone functionality and screen. It’s possible to install Photoshop on iPads now, meaning they can be used as standalone photo editors, whereas the Wacom Intuos Pros must be plugged into a computer and do not have a screen. They are essentially very different products and so are not really comparable.
Comparing the Wacom One vs iPad is slightly different, as the Wacom One has a screen. Still the Wacom One is not a standalone tablet, and has a much better pen response than an iPad, meaning that ultimately, the specialization of the Wacom drawing tablets means that these are the recommended way to edit your photos in Photoshop.