I recently wrote an article about finding the best laptops for animation, and since then people have been asking about the best animation drawing tablets, and if you can even do animation on a tablet. Let’s have a look!
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If you are in a hurry, here is my recommendation for the best animation tablet in 2021. If you have more time, then keep on reading …
Table of Contents
As more and more people are getting into digital animation these days, they have been coming to a couple of basic realizations about doing animation on a computer: One, it’s a great art form, demanding and rewarding and loads of fun, and two, It’s almost as demanding on your computer as it is on you.
If you’ve already read the article about best laptops for doing animation, and you have come here for advice on finding a good drawing tablet on which to produce animations, this is going to be a snap for you, because the things we would want and need in a PC for either 2D or 3D animation are pretty much the same things we would want and need to be able to create beautiful animation sequences on a drawing tablet.
Unless you’re doing the simplest seconds-long animations, you need a pretty serious computer to do the work. Even the less intensive 2D animations, if you want them to be anywhere near a professional or fully polished level, require a fair amount of power, and for 3D animation you’ll need pretty much the best and latest generation processors and lots of memory.
And, if you have been wondering if you can even do animation on a drawing tablet – either the less processor-intensive and memory-intensive 2D variety or the hungrier 3D animation, the answer is Yes! In fact, a few of the best drawing tablets on the market today – and not even necessarily the most expensive – are great for animation, and even professional level animators are using them more and more.
We’ll get into a fairly in-depth discussion of animation, and the best animation tablets and software, but if you’ve come here just for my recommendations for the best drawing tablets for animation here’s my list …
Overview: Best Drawing Tablet for 2D and 3D Animation
- NEW Apple 11-inch iPad Pro (2021)
- Microsoft Surface Book 3
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite
- NEW Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, Wi‑Fi, 512GB)
- Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13"
Apple M1 chip for next-level performance
11 inch Liquid Retina Display – ProMotion; True Tone; P3 Wide Color Gamut; 600 Nits Brightness
128 GB - 1 TB Internal SSD Memory
13.5" Touch-Screen - 10th Gen Intel Core i7 - 32GB Memory - 512GB SSD
Samsung S-Pen Included
Display size: 10.4-Inch
Display resolution: 2000 x 1200 (WUXGA+)
Internal memory: 4GB(RAM) + 64/128GB
Exceptional battery life
Apple M1 chip for next-level performance
Brilliant 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display with ProMotion, True Tone, and P3 wide color
13.3 Inch WQHD Touchscreen Display, Windows 10, Intel Core i7, 512GB SSD
What Should an Animator Look For in the Best Drawing Tablet for Animation
The most important things, when selecting the best drawing tablet for animation, are enough memory, sufficient power and speed in your processor and graphic processor, a display with accurate and beautiful colors and high resolution, and a good creative design and interface – especially pen-to-screen feeling.
Whether you are doing 2D or 3D animation you will need a pretty powerful drawing tablet, but with 3D especially, for predictable and glitch-free work, smooth viewports and fast rendering, you are going to need a high-power, latest generation central processor and graphic processor and plenty of main and graphics memory.
What’s the Difference Between 2D Animation and 3D Animation?
2D, or two dimensional, animation is the flat type of animation you see in so many movies, TV shows, cartoons, videos and commercials – like the original The Lion King, The Simpsons, stuff like that.
2D animation is, again, much less demanding on your computer, and you can get by with a less powerful, less expensive drawing tablets – you still need more memory and processing power than with almost any other apps, however, and especially for really smooth, natural and beautiful sequences.
3D, or three dimensional, animation has not just height and width, but depth also, and allows you to really see a character, object or scene from all angles – Abominable and Mortal Kombat as two popular examples.
3D animation is so advanced at this point that it is sometimes difficult to tell if a character is animated or a real human – of course some say the same thing about Tom Cruise – and, as you might expect, to do even basic 3D animation requires lots and lots of power.
What are the Minimum Hardware Requirements for an Animation Tablet?
We will look at animation tablets answer this question for all three platforms – Windows 10 (Wacom & Microsoft), Apple iPad and Android.
Windows 10 Drawing Tablets
Windows drawing tablets are the best choice for professional or advanced beginner animator, both 2D and 3D. The latest generation of Windows 10 processors and graphics cards fully allow for the fastest and most problem-free creative process, especially in 3D work, but even for 2D animation you will find that older computers, slower processors and insufficient memory can cause all kinds of glitches, lags and other problems, and can hold you back from what you actually want to accomplish.
For 2D animation I would recommend a minimum of:
- Type: Wacom Graphics Tablet
- RAM: At least 8 GB RAM
- CPU: At least Intel I5
- GPU: Most latest generation GPUs are usually fine, even integrated ones
For 3D animation would recommend a minimum of:
- Type: Wacom Graphics Tablet
- RAM: At least 16 GB RAM
- CPU: At least Intel I7, with preferably at least 4 cores
- GPU: Latest generation Nvidia GTX, RTX, Quadro or Intel Iris Graphics 550, with at least 4 GB VRAM
Apple iPad Drawing Tablets
Before I can answer this one, I have to get the bad news out of the way. The iPad Pro, which is an incredibly advanced and powerful tablet and the top of Apple’s line, is just not as powerful as a top-level Windows 10 tablet and, as much as we may hate to admit this, this means that an iPad, even a Pro, is not suitable for real 3D animation.
You can find fantastic asset creation software (that is, 3D graphics apps which will allow you to create stunning 3D images – characters, objects and scenery – for animation), but actually animating, viewing and rendering them is not possible on any kind of professional or advanced level.
The good news is that you can easily do beautiful, smooth and professional 2D animation on an iPad, and especially the iPad Pro – indeed, the Pro’s Liquid Retina display and powerful 2Z Bionic processor are what I would consider the minimum hardware requirements for doing animation on an iPad.
So, Bottom Line, Should You Get an iPad for Animation? Short answer, uhm, maybe, maybe not. If you want to do the highest level of 3D animation, you are better off with a Windows 10 tablet, or an Apple laptop – specifically the MacBook Pro, and you can read an in-depth discussion about this in my other article – Best Laptop for Animation (2D and 3D).
But if you are doing 3D animation, and fully decided on Apple, a brilliant setup is to have an iPad Pro for 3D asset creation – painting scenes, creating characters and objects – and then use a MacBook Pro for animating, viewport and rendering. This is a more expensive option, but opens up so many possibilities and works so well that many top-level animators are doing exactly this.
On the other hand, if you want to do only 2D animation, and especially if you are already well into the Apple platform, an iPad Pro by itself would serve you very well.
Android Drawing Tablets
More bad news, especially for Android lovers – even the most powerful Android processors won’t come close to the kind of power, speed and multi-tasking capabilities you need for any level of real quality in either 2D or 3D animation work, so we aren’t even going to offer specific Android tablet recommendations here.
That said, you can have great fun doing really basic, short animations on almost any Android, and if you want to take those to the highest level you would do really well with something like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite – a great Android tablet overall that can handle any and all software beautifully. And its incredibly rich, sharp touchscreen and included S Pen, are really ideal for any artist.
How can You Find the Best Animation Tablet for You as an Animator?
If you are getting a new iPad – and you’ll absolutely love it; we all do! – your choice is really easy. You can use any iPad on the market today, and they will all work well enough, but I can’t recommend strongly enough that you just get an Apple iPad Pro and be done with it. Whether you are doing 3D modeling and asset creation or 2D animation, whether fun, simple work, professional digital art projects or fine art, you will have a brilliant, fully capable machine for that and for anything else you need or want to do, one of the best and most useful of all art tools, and an animation drawing tablet that’s a pure joy to use.
But more on that below…
If you are getting a new Windows drawing tablet for animation, you need to be very careful to get a machine that will handle the demands of animation software and processes – and, especially in 3D work, very few display tablets actually will in a fully flowing, productive and problem-free way. But if you get the best drawing tablet range for the job it will make all the difference, and so I will offer below recommendations for the following:
- The Best Windows Tablet for 3D Animation
- The Best Budget Windows Tablet for 3D Animation
- The Best Windows Tablet for 2D Animation
- The Best Budget Windows Tablet for 2D Animation
And you’re in luck. It turns out that the best drawing tablets for animation are also the best graphicstablets for any artists, animators and any kind of digital art.
And since all of my recommendations have superior performance, build quality and reliability, and are chosen also for their overall value, they also turn out to be the best graphics tablets overall, and you will end up with a powerful and brilliantly useful portable computer for not just animating, but for everything else.
Best iPad Tablet for Animation in 2021
Again, it might not be fair to say that this is the best iPad for animation, especially 3D animation, since the otherwise wonderful Apple tablets are not really up to the extremely power-hungry requirements of the highest levels of 3D animation work. For the best 2D animation process, though, and superb top-level 3D asset creation and modeling, the iPad Pro is a perfect choice.
The fast and powerful 2Z Bionic chip with Neural Engine will run any and all iPadOS graphics and animations programs flawlessly, the big Liquid Retina display may be the most beautiful and useful screen available on any tablet at any level, with a perfect texture for a tablet pen and amazing control and expressive flow, and the excellent camera can be a great tool for 3D modeling.
The Apple iPad Pro inch tablet, in its most advanced configuration, is the best Apple iPad for animation on the market today, and the larger 12.9 inch touchscreen, with its absolutely ideal pen-to-screen interaction, makes the work an absolute joy, and allows for the highest levels of detail, precision and accuracy.
The Pro is also the best iPad for 3D modeling and asset creation, and again, in concert with a MacBook Pro 16 Inch Laptop (Intel i9, 16GB Ram, 1TB SSD) for the actual animation, review and rendering, is a perfect setup for even the highest level 3D animation work.
Best Budget iPad Tablet for Animation in 2021
The only really sensible choice for a budget iPad for animation is the smaller version of the above-mentioned iPad Pro. The 11 inch iPad Pro still has a good-sized screen (which is still of the incredible Liquid Retina variety), the same processor, camera and overall specs, but with 512GB of onboard storage it is 500 dollars less than the 12.9 with 1TB storage.
Coupled with a less expensive MacBook Pro 13 Inch Laptop (Intel i5, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD), this also becomes a brilliant, highly capable 3D creation and animation package, offering the flexibility of a tablet for at least 3D asset modeling and 2D animation, and the full power of the MacBook for 3D animation and rendering, and for less money than some Windows 10 tablets alone.
With or without a MacBook Pro, though, the iPad Pro 11 inch tablet is the best budget iPad for animation in 2021, and even with the smaller screen still ranks as the best overall personal tablet I have ever used.
Best Windows 10 Tablet for 3D Animation
The Wacom MobileStudio Pro is the best Windows drawing tablet for any type of artwork and animation on any level, and is the first choice for professional artists, animators, illustrators, videographers and photographers and many other creative artists all around the world.
And for 3D modeling and asset creation, the Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 is really far superior to anything else we might consider. The big touchscreen’s color range and accuracy, extreme brightness, contrast and resolution are all unsurpassed, and the overall design, including the brilliant express keys and unparalleled Wacom Pro Pen 2, makes artistic creation and animation an amazing experience – flowing and expressive, accurate and precise, wholly undistracted and productive.
The super-fast i7 quad core processor is way more than enough for perfectly smooth viewport motion and trouble free asset creation, animation and rendering, especially working with the powerful NVIDIA Quadro P1000 graphic card and 16GB of speedy RAM. 512GB of onboard storage is also included, which should be plenty for even larger working projects, and the superb Intel RealSense 3D scanning camera and software make this perhaps the best overall tool for 3D modeling on the market today.
But while all of the features and specifications are in place, and sufficient alone to make the Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 the best Windows 10 tablet for 3D animation – or any art, video, photography or other creative work – the real reason this is my top recommendation is the way it feels, and the way you feel when using it. Designed by artists for artists and animators, this is easily one of the finest art tools of any kind I’ve ever used.
Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 Specifications:
- Type: Standalone Graphics Tablet
- Screen size: 13.3 Inch Touchscreen
- Resolution: WQHD (2560 x 1440)
- 8,192 Levels of pressure sensitivity
- Processor: Intel Intel i7- 8559U 4 Core processor
- Graphics Processor: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655
- System RAM: 16GB DDR3
- Video Ram: 4GB GDDR5
- Intel RealSense 3D Camera and Scanning Software
- Thunderbolt 3 Connectivity
- Includes 3-Way Adjustable Stand and Pro Pen 2
Best Budget Windows 10 Tablet for 3D Animation
This is going to be an easy one – you see, there really aren’t any other legitimate choices, that offer the kind of processing power, quality and precision of touchscreen display, ability to handle any and all 3D software, ruggedness and reliability, that you can get with the Wacom.
So if we are going to go ahead with a recommendation for the best budget standalone tablet for 3D animation, it has to be the same as above – the superb Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13. Not that much of a budget choice, I know, seeing as it costs, well, exactly the same as our main recommendation – being, after all, the same tablet – but I always feel that quality, usability, creative control and freedom are always the best value, and a machine that lets me do what I want and need to do, as reliably, effortlessly and flawlessly as possible, is always a great investment.
Yes, you can also consider the Microsoft Surface Book 3, which is another superb and costly machine, and it will handle all that you throw at it, but to just fall into the work, without worrying about anything at all, and for just a tiny bit more money, just get a Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13, and you’ll never ever regret it.
Best Windows 10 Tablet for 2D Animation
For the best 2D animation workstation in a Windows 10 tablet, we take a different approach, with the brilliant new Microsoft Surface Book 3. While all of Microsoft’s tablets are truly excellent – in terms of performance, quality and reliability – the Surface Book 3 is really special, the top-performing tablet in the lineup and the best Windows convertible PC available today.
With its 10th generation Intel i7 processor and 16GB of RAM, the Surface Book 3 is more than powerful enough for even the most complex and power-hungry 2D animation work (and can even easily handle 3D animation if you’d like), as is the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics processor, which comes with an impressive 6GB of GDDR6 VRAM. The 15 inch screen, big and bold, with accurate and deeply saturated colors and super high resolution, and has an ideal surface for interaction with the excellent Surface Pen, allowing for the utmost in creative flow as well as precise control and accuracy – truly an artist’s and animator’s dream!
Again, if you think you might want to try your hand at 3D animation, or even start with modeling and asset creation, this Microsoft Surface Book 3 is more than up for the job, and it will work flawlessly in absolutely any 2D animation processes, no matter the size, resolution, complexity or other factors. The included Microsoft Keyboard makes this not just the best Windows 10 tablet for 2D animation in 2021, but quite possibly the best overall Windows 10 tablet ever made.
- Microsoft Surface Pen – not included, so make sure to get one!
Microsoft Surface Book 3 Specifications:
- Type: Graphics Tablet
- Screen size: 15 Inch Touchscreen
- Resolution: 3240 x 2160
- 1,024 Levels of pressure sensitivity
- Processor: Quad-core 10th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 Processor
- Graphics Processor: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
- System RAM: 16GB 3733Mhz LPDDR4x
- Video Ram: 6GB GDDR6
- Convertible Design Includes Book 3 Detachable Keyboard
Best Budget Windows 10 Tablet for 2D Animation
We will stay with the stunning line of Microsoft Surface products for our best budget Windows tablets for animation, this time the much less expensive Surface Pro 7. Make no mistake, though – even though the Pro 7 is significantly less expensive than the Book 3 listed above, and represents such an incredible bargain, it is nonetheless a truly premium Windows tablet in every way, with the material quality, durability and reliability, and the beautiful look and feel, that sets the entire Microsoft Surface line apart.
The Surface Pro 7 is also a powerful computer, more than enough for any level of 2D animation work, with its 10th generation Intel i5 processor and Iris Plus graphics card and 16GB of super-fast RAM. And even though the display is smaller than the Surface Book 3 – 12.3 inches vs 15 – it is so clear and bright, with astounding detail, dynamic range, color accuracy and saturation, that it is much easier and better to work on than many tablets’ larger screens, especially given how great the pen-to-screen feeling is with the Microsoft Surface Pen (which must be purchased separately).
An easy choice, then, for the best budget Windows tablets for animation, the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is a brilliant computer in every way, a great tool for any creative process and an exceptionally high quality product, with premium look and feel, intelligent design and real ruggedness and reliability – top recommendation!
Microsoft Surface Book 3 Specifications:
- Type: Graphics Tablet
- Screen size: 15 Inch Touchscreen
- Resolution: 2736 x 1824
- Processor: Quad-core 10th Gen Intel® Core™ i5-1035G4
- Levels of pressure sensitivity
- Graphics Processor: Intel Iris Plus Graphics
- System RAM: 16GB 3733Mhz LPDDR4x
- Video Ram: 6GB GDDR6
What’s the Best Animation Software for Tablets?
We’ve established that Android tablets are not the best choice for high level animation of any kind, but you can still make really nice, basic and fun animations on your Android with some cool, and often free, apps:
Windows 10 Tablets
For Windows 10 tablets, you will use the same software you would use for any Windows 10 PC, so there’s lots and lots of software available, and even high-level professional animators use these PCs and tablets for their work. The most popular 3D animation software includes:
And the most popular 2D animation software includes:
There still aren’t a whole lot of great animation programs available for iPad – either 2D or 3D – but there are at least a few popular 2D animation apps, and the first two on our list, in particular, will give really great results and have fabulous interfaces and features:
And while there are no really good 3D animation software programs for the iPads, we can at least list a lot of amazing 3D modeling programs:
Thanks so much for reading my latest article – The Best Animation Tablet: Animator’s Guide to Windows 10, Apple and Android Tablets for 2D and 3D Animation – and I encourage you to visit my blog – Art Side of Life – for other buyer’s guides, online courses, articles and lots of other resources.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Animation Tablets
Which Tablet is Best for Animation?
3D animation requires lots and lots of memory and processing power, and so you will need the most powerful display tablet available – like the iPad Pro on the Apple side or the Wacom MobileStudio Pro if you are using Windows. 2D animation is still pretty power-hungry, and the iPad Pro is still the best choice, but on the Windows platform you can also consider the less expensive but excellent Microsoft Surface Go 2.
Do Animation Tablets Need a Computer?
There are both standalone art tablets that can be used for animation, as well as tablets that need to be plugged into a computer. Professional level animation is very power-hungry, and so you will need a very powerful standalone tablet, like the Apple iPad Pro or the Windows compatible Wacom MobileStudio Pro, and for a plug-in tablet you will still want high levels of performance, control and flow, like the Wacom Cintiq 24 offers.
What is an Animation Tablet?
An animation tablet is simply a graphics tablet, also known as a display tablet or drawing tablet, that you use to make animations. If you are doing professional level work, or 3D animation, you will need a very powerful display tablet, like an Apple iPad Pro, or a Wacom MobileStudio Pro, but for simple animations or just having fun pretty much any graphics tablet will work wonderfully.
Which Software is Best for Animation?
The best and most widely used software for 2D animation includes Adobe Animate and Adobe After Effects, Pencil2D, Blender 2D, CrazyTalk, Toon Boom Harmony and Synfig Studios. For 3D animation, Pixar RenderMan, Autodesk Maya and Autodesk 3ds Max, Blender, Cinema 4D, Seamless 3D, Massive and Art of Illusion are all considered excellent.
What Software does Pixar use?
Disney Pixar uses a combination of very powerful animation software programs in their productions, including Pixar RenderMan and Autodesk Maya, as well as exclusive in-house software called Presto (formerly called, and still popularly known as, MenV). Little is known outside of Pixar studios about the capabilities of Presto, but it has been used there in one form or another for at least three and a half decades.
Other articles in the Drawing Tablets series:
- Best iPad for Drawing in 2021
- Best iPad for Procreate in 2021
- Best Standalone Drawing Tablet in 2021
- Best Tablet for Photoshop in 2021
- Best Android Tablet for Drawing in 2021
- Best Cheap Drawing Tablet with Screen in 2021
- Best Drawing Tablet for Kids in 2021
- Best Note Taking Tablet in 2021
- Wacom Tablet vs iPad Pro
- Huion vs Wacom – Which Tablet is Better?