Best Standalone Drawing Tablet in 2022: Artist’s Guide

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: May 24, 2022 •  Guides

Whether you are a digital artist, a graphic designer, or you work with traditional media, a true standalone drawing tablet might be one of the very best investments you have ever made. So let’s have a look at which standalone tablet is the best for you.

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If you are in a hurry, here are my top three recommendations for the best standalone drawing tablet on the market today:

Best Apple Standalone Drawing Tablet and My Pick

  1. NEW Apple iPad Pro (12.9", WiFi, 512GB)
  2. NEW Apple iPad Pro (12.9", WiFi, 512GB)

    The best iPad for drawing and Procreate

    Apple M1 Processor for Next-Level Performance :: 12.9-inch Liquid Retina Display for Superior Color, Contrast, Brightness :: Light and Extremely Strong :: Premium Fit and Finish :: Up to 10 Hours Battery Life


    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Apple Pencil (2nd generation)
  4. Apple Pencil (2nd generation)

    Second Generation Apple Pencil :: Best Drawing and Painting Experience :: Compatible with: iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th, 4th and 3rd generation), iPad Pro 11-inch (3rd, 2nd and 1st generation), iPad Air (5th and 4th generation) and iPad mini (6th generation)

    Buy Now on Amazon

Best Windows Standalone Drawing Tablet

  1. Microsoft Surface Pro 8 13" Tablet
  2. Microsoft Surface Pro 8 13" Tablet

    Best Windows Standalone Drawing Tablet

    13 Inch PixelSense Flow Touchscreen with 2880x1920 Resolution :: Intel Core I9 Processor :: 16GB RAM :: 512GB SSD Storage :: Premium Fit and Finish :: Great Work Surface for Drawing


    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Microsoft Surface Pen
  4. Microsoft Surface Pen

    Pressure Sensitivity (4,096 Levels) and Tilt Recognition :: Perfect Weight and Balance for Drawing :: Digital Eraser :: Barrel Button :: Compatible with a Wide Range of Surface Products


    Buy Now on Amazon

Best Android Standalone Drawing Tablet

Best for Android
Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+

Best Android Standalone Drawing Tablet

12.4 Inch AMOLED WQXGA+ Touchscreen :: 8GB RAM :: 256GB SSD Drive :: Super Fast Qualcomm SM8450 Processor :: Includes Incredible Samsung S Pen


Buy Now on Amazon

Table of Contents

Is a Standalone Drawing Tablet Good For Any Type of Artist?

Yes, even more traditional artists, used to working with pen and ink, pastels, pencils or paint, find that good quality true standalone drawing tablets, with screen you can work directly on, can offer such a natural and intuitive work process that it becomes their go-to tool – or at least a perfectly satisfying alternative to paper or canvas, one they use without feeling they are missing anything at all.

This may be surprising to hear, and it certainly surprises many artists who have been highly resistant to the idea of making art on a screen, but that is just how good these amazing little gadgets can be.

Especially with the newest models of art tablets, the beauty of the display screen, the speed and flawless flow of the processors and the feeling of the digital stylus on the drawing surface are all phenomenal, and the right tablet can take your work to the next level!

Believe me – I have seen that look in an artist’s eye more than once: a friend or colleague, venturing into a computer shop with me, idly picks up a sensitive high-tech stylus, starts dabbing at a remarkably bright and accurate hi-res screen, and is instantly converted.

Within minutes they are making beautiful images which are amazingly close to the artist’s own style – even if the person has never before ventured into computers much more deeply than checking email or putting a red seven on a black eight.

And, speaking of “any type of artist,” it should be said that great drawing tablets don’t need to be expensive, and there are great choices for even the most budget-conscious artist. My picks for the best digital art tablets will include all levels, from super-affordable to super-premium.

Do Drawing Tablets Need a Computer?

You’ll notice that I keep saying “true standalone drawing tablet,” and there is a very good reason for this. 

In this article, listing the 7 best true standalone drawing tablets available on the market today, I am going to concentrate on drawing tablets that don’t need a computer in order to work.

Lots of really fine drawing tablets out there – some with display screens and some without – are not standalone devices. 

They do not come with, and cannot run, art software, but act instead like a keyboard or a mouse, but with a nice work surface and a special stylus.

The computer runs the drawing, painting or other art software, and you use the tablet – which may or may not have its own display screen – to draw on.

These are amazing and useful tools, but they are not standalone tablets, and really need a computer, and lots and lots of people have purchased such a drawing tablet and been surprised and disappointed that they can’t sit on the bus or train, in a park or a cafe, and just paint.

But standalone drawing tablets are different. 

They themselves are computers, and so they run all of your art software – drawing and painting programs, drafting and CAD software, 3-d modeling, anything you need to create an image. 

They have bright, beautiful screens, and the way the stylus, or pen, works on the screen tends to be very sensitive and subtle, so that your own style can easily come through.

And they work by themselves, with no computer needed – so if you’re on a park bench or a bus bench – or anywhere else – you can create to your art’s content.

Do I Need to Get a Separate Stylus, Pencil, or Pen?

I have noticed that a lot of people shopping for a standalone art tablet want it all in one package – including the tablet and the pen – so they know they have everything they need.

And this is a great approach, which several of my choices below have taken – the Wacom MobileStudio Pro, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+, and others – but it isn’t the only way.

Some of the very best art tablets you can get don’t come pre-packaged with a digital stylus, pencil, or pen, which you have to purchase separately. This includes some of the biggies – like all of the Apple iPad and Microsoft Surface tablets.

Almost always I recommend just getting the pen from the same company – that is, the Microsoft or Apple pen made for their tablets – and in each case here I will include links for the correct pen.

So yeah, it is nice and convenient to get everything in one package, but please don’t disregard some of the best choices just because you have to click a second time!

Two Basic Types of Standalone Drawing Tablets

There are two general types of drawing tablets, App-based and Full-software:

App-based standalone drawing tablets include Apple iPad models and Android tablets 

What makes these slightly less desirable, to some people at least, is that they do not run such a wide range of software, and the software they can run tends to be less powerful.

Apple iPads, for example, cannot run the same range of software as Apple desktop or laptop computers. 

While many of the same programs are available, they are simplified and less powerful versions.

And Androids have less powerful processors than normal computers, and while they have tons and tons of software available – so much of it free – these programs also tend to be less powerful.

So why are they so popular still among serious professional artists, amateurs and beginners alike?

An app-based tablet can still be a very powerful tool for artists, and a great portable computer on all levels! Apple iPads especially, are incredibly powerful for art and creativity, with top-level software available like ProCreate and the Adobe Creative Cloud apps, and Androids are getting more and more powerful all the time – like the phenomenal brand new Samsung S8 series.

Full-software standalone drawing tablets are essentially full-fledged, full-power computers 

These are Windows 10 based standalone drawing tablets, which can run the entire range of Windows software – including the very best art programs from the likes of Corel, Adobe and more.

Although many artists work with and love Apple products, there are many reasons why more and more artists are turning to Windows based machines.

If you get the best full-software drawing tablet, like a Wacom MobileStudio Pro or a Microsoft Surface, you have a fully professional art tool that is absolutely optimal for drawing and painting – and a joy to use – and a normal, full-function portable personal computer as well.

Overview: Best Standalone Drawing Tablets for Artists in 2022

  1. NEW Apple iPad Pro (12.9", WiFi, 512GB)
  2. NEW Apple iPad Pro (12.9", WiFi, 512GB)

    The best iPad for drawing and Procreate

    Apple M1 Processor for Next-Level Performance :: 12.9-inch Liquid Retina Display for Superior Color, Contrast, Brightness :: Light and Extremely Strong :: Premium Fit and Finish :: Up to 10 Hours Battery Life


    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Microsoft Surface Pro 8 13" Tablet
  4. Microsoft Surface Pro 8 13" Tablet

    Best Windows Standalone Drawing Tablet

    13 Inch PixelSense Flow Touchscreen with 2880x1920 Resolution :: Intel Core I9 Processor :: 16GB RAM :: 512GB SSD Storage :: Premium Fit and Finish :: Great Work Surface for Drawing


    Buy Now on Amazon
  5. Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+
  6. Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+

    Best Android Standalone Drawing Tablet

    12.4 Inch AMOLED WQXGA+ Touchscreen :: 8GB RAM :: 256GB SSD Drive :: Super Fast Qualcomm SM8450 Processor :: Includes Incredible Samsung S Pen


    Buy Now on Amazon
  7. Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 with Wacom Pro Pen 2
  8. Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 with Wacom Pro Pen 2

    Best Professional Standalone Drawing Tablet

    13.3 Inch WQHD Touchscreen Display :: :: Intel Core i7 :: 16GB RAM :: 512GB SSD :: The Professional Artist Choice :: Top-Tier Performance and Quality


    Buy Now on Amazon
  9. NEW Apple iPad Air (10.9", WiFi, 256GB)
  10. NEW Apple iPad Air (10.9", WiFi, 256GB)

    Best iPad for drawing and Procreate if you are on a budget or you are a student / beginner

    Latest M1 Processor :: 10.9-inch Liquid Retina Display for Superior Color, Contrast, Brightness :: Light & Extremely Strong :: Premium Fit & Finish :: Up to 10 Hours Battery Life


    Buy Now on Amazon
  11. Microsoft Surface Go 3 Digital Tablet
  12. Microsoft Surface Go 3 Digital Tablet

    Best Budget Windows Tablet for Artists

    10.5 Inch PixelSense Touchscreen :: Intel Pentium Gold Processor :: 4GB RAM :: 64GB SSD Storage :: Premium Fit and Finish :: Great Work Surface for Drawing


    Buy Now on Amazon
  13. Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite
  14. Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite

    Best Budget Android Tablet for Artists

    Beautiful 10.4 Inch TFT Touchscreen :: Includes S-Pen :: 4GB RAM :: 64GB Storage :: Exynos 9611 processor & Mali-G72 Graphics :: Great Work Surface for Drawing


    Buy Now on Amazon

How This Guide to Standalone Art Tablets Works

I’m not going to try to resolve the endless Apple-Windows debate – I myself am an Apple iPad and MacBook gal, but I can see both sides. 

I also know artists who are using Android drawing tablets, and their somewhat less powerful art software, with pretty amazing results.

So instead, I am going to look, as impartially as possible, at six different categories:

I will call upon my own experience, as well as feedback from other artists, from my friends, colleagues and students, in order to find the very best choice in each category. 

But mostly I will choose based on what happened, and how I felt, when I made art on this or that particular standalone drawing tablet.

If you already know you want an Apple iPad, if you’ve already settled on a Windows graphics tablet or if you’re sure an Android machine is best for you, you can be confident that the featured product on this buyer’s guide will be a perfect choice. 

And even if you are on a pretty serious budget, you will still find, in the picks below, an amazing art tool that you will be thrilled to have and to use. 

Each of our selections will work wonderfully for you as an artist, and will offer the best value, quality and reliability, and you can be sure that any one of them will be a wonderful and valuable art tool and a constant and trusted companion.

So let’s get into it!

Best Standalone Art Tablets in 2022 – An Artist’s Guide

Best Apple Standalone Drawing Tablet and My Personal Pick

My Pick
NEW Apple iPad Pro (12.9", WiFi, 512GB)

The best iPad for drawing and Procreate

Apple M1 Processor for Next-Level Performance :: 12.9-inch Liquid Retina Display for Superior Color, Contrast, Brightness :: Light and Extremely Strong :: Premium Fit and Finish :: Up to 10 Hours Battery Life


Buy Now on Amazon
My Pick
Apple Pencil (2nd generation)

Second Generation Apple Pencil :: Best Drawing and Painting Experience :: Compatible with: iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th, 4th and 3rd generation), iPad Pro 11-inch (3rd, 2nd and 1st generation), iPad Air (5th and 4th generation) and iPad mini (6th generation)

Buy Now on Amazon

We will begin this survey of the best standalone drawing tablets for artists with my obvious choice – the Apple iPad Pro – perhaps the most popular, widely used and most recommended standalone drawing tablet among artists.

It is also the drawing tablet I use, and I am constantly amazed at how well it works for me and my process.

Photo: Iva with her iPad Pro 12.9" and Apple Pencil 2nd Generation - © Art Side of Life
Photo: Iva with her iPad Pro 12.9″ and Apple Pencil 2nd Generation – © Art Side of Life

The Liquid Retina display has superb color representation, detail, resolution and depth, and such subtle gradation between shades and values.

But it’s something more than just this – the images are so beautiful, so alive and so attractive. They pop from the screen with such vivid color and such depth that I constantly feel inspired by what I’m seeing.

The detail, fidelity and clarity lets me know exactly what I have so far and exactly what I need to do, and I don’t miss small mistakes, unfinished details or problems with color, shading or balance.

Everything is visible, for better or for worse, and so the Apple iPad Pro helps me make my work better and better.

Photo: Iva drawing on her iPad Pro 12.9" - © Art Side of Life
Photo: Iva drawing on her iPad Pro 12.9″ – © Art Side of Life

The Apple Pencil 2 (must be purchased separately – available here) feels totally natural in my hand – smooth, light and solid – and is so fast, accurate, fluid and responsive that I completely stop thinking about it and just draw.

It attaches to the Apple iPad with a cool magnetic click for charging and portability (and so I don’t lose it!), and it pairs with the tablet automatically, so again I don’t really have to think about anything.

Another super-slick accessory is the Magic Keyboard – not necessary for artwork, but it protects the Apple iPad, acts as a perfect stand and a really nice keyboard. If you are using your Apple iPad Pro for other things as well as art, it’s almost a must-have.

The Apple iPad Pro 12.9 inch standalone drawing tablet is thin and light, allowing me to hand-hold it as long as I need to for a superb drawing experience. It is very well made, and feels super solid and durable – I can throw it in my bag or backpack and forget it’s even there.

If there is one issue – and for me it’s not so important – it’s that I don’t always finish my work on the iPad.

The art software works wonderfully, but it is not as complete and full-featured as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator which I use on my MacBook Pro, so sometimes I need to bring an image to the computer for some final adjustments or effects.

On the other hand, the abbreviated versions of Adobe Creative Cloud I run on the iPad are simpler and easier, and let me think less and work more.

With the possible exception of the Wacom MobileStudio Pro below, I have no doubt the Apple iPad Pro has the best screen I’ve ever used – both as a display and a touch interface for my hand or my Apple Pencil.

I love the intuitive interface of Apple operating system and the iOS Art programs I use. The Apple Pencil is incredibly expressive and natural. The physical tablet itself is solid, light and unobtrusive, and feels like it will never break.

But finally, all of that disappears – the tablet, pen, software and operating system, worries about configuration, operation or reliability, these things all vanish, and all that is left is me making art and the art itself, alive in front of me.

My choice for the best Apple standalone drawing tablet for artists is the wonderful Apple iPad Pro with the 12.9 inch Liquid Retina screen.

Pros & Cons of Apple iPad Pro 12.9″ as a standalone drawing tablet

Pros
Cons

Tech Features of Apple iPad Pro 12.9″

Best Windows Standalone Drawing Tablet

Best for Windows
Microsoft Surface Pro 8 13" Tablet

Best Windows Standalone Drawing Tablet

13 Inch PixelSense Flow Touchscreen with 2880x1920 Resolution :: Intel Core I9 Processor :: 16GB RAM :: 512GB SSD Storage :: Premium Fit and Finish :: Great Work Surface for Drawing


Buy Now on Amazon
For Surface Tablets
Microsoft Surface Pen

Pressure Sensitivity (4,096 Levels) and Tilt Recognition :: Perfect Weight and Balance for Drawing :: Digital Eraser :: Barrel Button :: Compatible with a Wide Range of Surface Products


Buy Now on Amazon

For Windows users there are two basic choices – a super high quality tablet designed specifically for artwork, like the Wacom MobileStudio Pro below, or a standard Windows tablet which still offers the kind of display and creative control, screen sensitivity and accuracy an artist needs.

The next choice in our survey of 5 best standalone drawing tablets comes from the second category, although I think few people would call the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 “standard.”

As an Apple person, I might at best have a grudging admiration for a lot of Windows based systems, but this one, I must admit, is drop-dead gorgeous. The Surface Pro 8 is solid and substantial yet quite light for its size and performance, it works flawlessly, it feels good in my hands and it has a very high cool factor.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 has an absolutely beautiful screen, with such great resolution, color fidelity, brightness and depth that it – like the iPad Pro – really helps an artist completely and honestly see and assess a work in progress.

The Microsoft Surface Pen (must be purchased separately – available here) feels as good in my hand as any I’ve used. It only offers half of the extraordinarily high level of screen sensitivity of the Wacom MobileStudio Pro below, but the subtlety of darker and lighter shades, thicker and thinner lines I get with more or less pressure sensitivity is so amazing that I can’t imagine noticing much of a difference, and the tilt sensitivity also feels quite similar.

There are other optional accessories you can get, but the one which adds most to the cool factor of the Microsoft Surface Pro is the Type Cover, a magnetic keyboard which works beautifully, has backlit keys and a big trackpad, and protects the Microsoft Surface Pro’s surface.

Technically the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is pretty much as good as it gets. With incredibly fast processing and a full 16 gigabytes of RAM, the creative process will never lag or be interrupted.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 provides a 512 GB internal SSD (solid state drive) with plenty of space for even the highest quality images, and super-fast WiFi for your many cloud storage options.

I’m intentionally staying away from getting into describing or judging any of these tablets as computers, preferring to focus on their artistic talent, but I will say that the Microsoft Surface Pro is absolutely one of the very best PC laptop computers available at any price.

At the same time, it is important to remember that because this is a full computer it runs full versions of all PC art programs – Adobe, Corel and others – not abbreviated versions like on the iPad or Android tablets. As such, it allows you to work anywhere and any time, and take your work  to a fully realized and fully professional final version, providing a truly awesome, top-level drawing experience.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 really is an absolutely superb creative tool, and an easy choice for the best Windows based standalone drawing tablet for artists.

Pros & Cons of Microsoft Surface Pro 8 as a standalone drawing tablet

Pros
Cons

Tech Features of Microsoft Surface Pro 8

Best Android Standalone Tablet for Drawing

Best for Android
Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+

Best Android Standalone Drawing Tablet

12.4 Inch AMOLED WQXGA+ Touchscreen :: 8GB RAM :: 256GB SSD Drive :: Super Fast Qualcomm SM8450 Processor :: Includes Incredible Samsung S Pen


Buy Now on Amazon

When trying to select the best portable tablets for artists, it’s easy to dismiss the Android operating system and Android tablets.

Certainly, nice programs like Adobe Illustrator Draw notwithstanding, there just aren’t the same professional, full-featured art applications available in the Android environment.

And still, I know a lot of artists who use tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ as their go-to standalone drawing tablet and painting tool.

Maybe it’s because they are affordable, maybe because people are already used to Android because of their smartphones, maybe because there is just so much free software available, but in fact Android tablets remain popular choices and enjoy a fairly large percentage of the art market.

But their popularity and market share are not reason enough to include them on our list of best standalone drawing tablets for artists, or to recommend one particular model.

What is reason enough, however, is how our choice for best Android drawing tablet works, looks and feels.

The all new Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ really supports and even improves the creative process – and ultimately that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

I guess I did have some established prejudices against Android, but the pressure sensitivity of the pen, the brilliant and beautiful AMOLED display and the solid feel, light weight and ergonomics of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8* tablet made drawing and painting a joy.

I guess I would have to say that for my own work I would ultimately want more power and more advanced capabilities from the available software, but for lots of different work, from simple sketches to relatively complex drawings, full color painting with a wide palette, accurate colors and subtle gradation, even basic 3D renderings, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ does a really nice job.

And it feels really nice to use. Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ has a very simple interface – both the OS and the various art programs – and feels good in my hands. And the pen – the wonderful Samsung S-Pen, which is included with the tablet, is as good as it gets – really, I like it even as much as the Apple, Microsoft or Wacom styluses (or is it styli?).

The Samsung S-Pen flows smoothly and lightly across the S8+ display, with just the right tactile feedback for control and detail, and feels amazing in my hand. And the touch sensitivity and tilt control are accurate, reliable and natural – a nearly perfect pen for art!

This is also, it should be remembered, a fairly high-end Android machine, which means that even the most powerful and advanced graphic, video and animation programs will run on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ with no problem, as will any other Android app. And with the optional Bookcover Keyboard it becomes an even more powerful all-around tool.

So please don’t disregard the Android operating system when choosing your art tablet!

Windows offers more powerful software, the iPads are maybe a bit more intuitive for artists, and also offer superior software, but an Android drawing tablet has its own charms – they’re affordable, easy to use, surprisingly sensitive and precise and have a wide, wide range of often totally free software.

And especially this wonderful Samsung Galaxy S8+, which is easily the Best Standalone Android Tablet, and a premium, powerful and high quality product in every way.

Pros & Cons of Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ as a standalone drawing tablet?

Pros
Cons

Tech Features of Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+ 12.4″

Best Professional Standalone Drawing Tablet Designed for Artists

Professional Pick
Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 with Wacom Pro Pen 2

Best Professional Standalone Drawing Tablet

13.3 Inch WQHD Touchscreen Display :: :: Intel Core i7 :: 16GB RAM :: 512GB SSD :: The Professional Artist Choice :: Top-Tier Performance and Quality


Buy Now on Amazon

Arguably the finest art tablet in the world, and inarguably the most expensive tablet on our list of best standalone graphics tablets for artists, the Mobile Studio Pro comes from Wacom, the industry leader and the number one choice of professionals.

This pricey beauty is a full Windows 10 computer, like the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 above, but is even more sensitive, with a better and more precise display, a higher quality, more accurate and natural pen and lots of features designed specifically for professional artists and illustrators, fine artists, animators and designers.

And Wacom really does know artists and their needs, and has done for more than thirty-five years.

One feature that makes a really big difference is the way this MobileStudio Pro has the glass as close to the surface as possible, meaning that there is much less gap between where I draw and where the image actually appears.

A fast, ultra-high resolution display that is the most uniform I have ever seen – completely consistent color depth, illumination and geometry from edge to edge – actually made the work I was doing on the Wacom better.

Not only did it show me my work immediately and perfectly, it let me know of things I myself did not consider, about color balance, composition and detail, flow and feeling and a lot more.

The pen is incredible. Not only does the image appear right where I want it, it appears immediately, with absolutely no delay whatsoever. And the tilt and pressure sensitivity control are truly on a new level. Plus, it feels good and natural in the hand.

There’s all kinds of technical stuff I could mention, about graphics processors, processing speed, upgrade options, Adobe RGB coverage and the like, but in evaluating the best art graphics tablets, it always, for me, comes back to how they work and feel. And in the time I had with the Wacom Mobile Studio Pro 13 I kept forgetting about it. That’s kind of the best compliment I could give it. In a very short time, I fell completely into the work, and the tablet simply disappeared.

The best build quality, the finest display, pen and interfaces, incredible fidelity on many different levels, and an artist-centered intuitive look and feel – all of this allows you to reach the very highest levels and drawing experience possible. I can fully understand why this is the real choice for so many professional artists and studios around the world. Really, nothing I have ever seen or used compares.

The Wacom Mobile Studio Pro 13 is the best tablet for artists. I know, I should be careful or my iPad will hear me! It’s ok, though – I will not give up my Apple for this Wacom – remarkable tool that it is – because the iPad is also an extremely high quality and high precision tool that works even more intuitively with me and my own process.

But I have no doubt that the Wacom is the best choice for any professional who needs to work on the very highest levels, any artist who wants to see and feel more when creating digital art, any independently wealthy beginner who wants to grow as an artist without the chance that their tablet may eventually hold them back.

And so the Wacom Mobile Studio Pro 13” Drawing Tablet is my choice for Best Standalone Drawing Tablet Designed for Artists on the market today.

Pros & Cons of Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13″ as a standalone drawing tablet

Pros
Con

Tech Features of Wacom Mobile Studio Pro 13″

Best Affordable Art Tablets for Beginners on Budget

Affordable
NEW Apple iPad Air (10.9", WiFi, 256GB)

Best iPad for drawing and Procreate if you are on a budget or you are a student / beginner

Latest M1 Processor :: 10.9-inch Liquid Retina Display for Superior Color, Contrast, Brightness :: Light & Extremely Strong :: Premium Fit & Finish :: Up to 10 Hours Battery Life


Buy Now on Amazon
My Pick
Apple Pencil (2nd generation)

Second Generation Apple Pencil :: Best Drawing and Painting Experience :: Compatible with: iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th, 4th and 3rd generation), iPad Pro 11-inch (3rd, 2nd and 1st generation), iPad Air (5th and 4th generation) and iPad mini (6th generation)

Buy Now on Amazon

The choice for the best budget Apple tablet for artists is really quite simple: the New Apple iPad Air (4th / fourth generation).

The iPad Air has a smaller screen than the iPad pro, that doesn’t reach all the way to the edges or have quite the same “pop” factor (but then nothing else does either), but it is still brilliant, accurate and highly attractive, with amazing detail, great brightness and contrast and excellent color accuracy, range and depth.

The iPad Air also has a slightly smaller storage capability, which means you can store less work on the tablet itself, and the processor is not as powerful or fast, and working on very large or complex graphics there can definitely be a difference.

All that said, this is still an Apple iPad, and the Air is a superb art tool and a great digital drawing tablet to use. And it has the same high quality look and feel – thin, light, solid and durable – a portable drawing tablet and art tool that you don’t mind carrying around with you.

With the same wide range of software available, the same famous premium Apple quality, an absolutely ideal pen-to-screen interface – great flow, real control, completely natural and expressive – the iPad air is a beautiful art tablet.

And remember that you have to get the superb Apple Pencil separately – I wouldn’t even consider any off-brand alternatives, and with the genuine article the whole package is still a genuine bargain!

Pros & Cons of the newest iPad Air 10.9″ as a standalone drawing tablet

Pros
Cons

Tech Features of Apple iPad Air 10.9″

Affordable
Microsoft Surface Go 3 Digital Tablet

Best Budget Windows Tablet for Artists

10.5 Inch PixelSense Touchscreen :: Intel Pentium Gold Processor :: 4GB RAM :: 64GB SSD Storage :: Premium Fit and Finish :: Great Work Surface for Drawing


Buy Now on Amazon

In the Windows world the choice for the best budget tablet is also pretty much a no-brainer – the brilliant little Microsoft Surface Go 3 digital tablet.

I say “little,” but in fact the 10.5 inch screen feels quite big, largely because of its great resolution, contrast and brightness, which make everything so easy to see and so easy to work on.

With the Microsoft Pencil (which must be purchased separately) you have a truly top-notch drawing and painting experience – essentially the same as even the most expensive Microsoft Surface tablets, with amazing feeling, flow and control, and a kind of trouble-free creativity that lets you fully fall into the zone.

In fact, given the beautiful material and build quality and superb overall design, the Microsoft Go 3 is so much like the more expensive Microsoft products that it doesn’t feel at all like a “budget” choice, and is only belied by less memory and storage and slightly slower overall performance.

An amazing full function personal computer at a very low price, that also happens to be a highly talented art tablet, the Microsoft Surface Go 3 is an easy choice for best budget Windows tablet for artists!

Pros & Cons of Microsoft Surface Go 3 as a standalone drawing tablet

Pros
Cons

Tech Features of Microsoft Surface Go 3

Affordable
Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite

Best Budget Android Tablet for Artists

Beautiful 10.4 Inch TFT Touchscreen :: Includes S-Pen :: 4GB RAM :: 64GB Storage :: Exynos 9611 processor & Mali-G72 Graphics :: Great Work Surface for Drawing


Buy Now on Amazon

Are you starting to see a pattern here? The best budget alternative to the Apple iPad Pro is the lovely iPad Air, the best alternative to the superlative Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is the Surface Go 3…

And the best budget alternative to the powerful Samsung S8+ is, yes, another Samsung!

I can easily recommend one of several art-focused standalone Android tablets, all very affordable, like the super-cheap and super-portable Simbans Picasso Tab 10, either of which would make a fine choice and a nice art tool.

But while it’s not the cheapest standalone drawing tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite is just as affordable as any of these, even more portable, and for my money higher quality on all fronts.And has the enormous advantage of coming with the amazing Samsung S-Pen digital stylus.

Surprisingly, the work surface of the Galaxy S6 Lite is just as optimal as any of those Android tablets meant specifically for drawing and painting – even though the Samsung is a general purpose Android tablet – and the S-Pen, with its full pressure sensitivity and tilt recognition and its great weight and balance in the hand, is the best of the lot.

Android software isn’t as advanced as Apple or Windows art programs, but it is getting better every day, and there are some pretty powerful apps now – not to mention more and more web-based drawing and painting programs.

If you want the best budget Android tablet for painting and drawing, regardless of other factors, or even if you are simply looking for a great Android tablet for general use, that will also offer the best imaginable creative experience, either way the choice is the same.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 6 Lite is a very high quality product in the Samsung tradition, with superior material quality, fit, finish and overall reliability, and is a wonderful digital tablet for all uses – especially making art!

Pros & Cons of Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite as a standalone drawing tablet

Pros
Cons

Tech Features of Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Standalone Drawing Tablets

Can You Use a Drawing Tablet without a Computer?

You can use a standalone tablet – like the Apple iPad Pro, the Wacom MobileStudio Pro or any other recommended in this article – without a computer.

Most drawing tablets, though, need to be plugged into a computer. These include tablets that have their own display screen so you can work more directly on your art, like the brilliant Huion Kamvas Pro 13, or tablets with no display screen, like the very affordable and surprisingly excellent Huion Pro Graphics Tablet V2.

Does Huion have a Standalone Tablet?

Huion only makes one standalone art tablet at this point, the Kamvas Studio 22. The vast majority of professional artists, however, greatly prefer the superb Wacom MobileStudio Pro, even with it’s smaller screen, which is the best Windows art tablet on the market today, or the Microsoft Surface Go, which is a fantastic art tablet and a better all-around computer for general use.

Are Wacom Tablets Standalone?

Yes, in fact Wacom makes probably the best standalone tablet for artists working on the Windows platform, the superb Wacom MobileStudio Pro (see above). Most Wacom tablets, however, are not standalone, but need to be plugged into a computer (either Windows, Apple or even Android). The Wacom Cintiq 24, for example, has a beautiful display screen, while the Wacom Intuos Pro has no screen, but both are truly superb professional quality tablets.

Which Wacom Does Not Need a Computer?

The Wacom MobileStudio Pro is a standalone art tablet, which does not need to plug into another machine, and is an excellent full-function computer as well as perhaps the finest art tablet overall on the market today. The MobileStudio Pro can also, however, be plugged into another computer and used as an input device – either way, it is a superb art tablet, and the default choice of most professional and fine artists.

Can Wacom One be Used without a Computer?

No, the Wacom One is not a standalone art tablet, and it needs to be plugged into a computer to be used. The Wacom One will work with Apple, Windows or Android, and offers a beautiful display screen, allowing you to work directly on your art pieces, and a highly precise and flowing interface between screen and pen.

Are There Any Portable Drawing Tablets?

There are lots of highly recommendable portable drawing tablets on the market today, like any of the Apple iPad models, the excellent Microsoft Surface Pro 8 (Windows) or the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+, which is the best Android tablet available for artists. These are all standalone computers or tablets, but you can also get an art tablet with its own screen, which needs to be plugged into a laptop but is still considered portable, like the wonderful Wacom One.

What is the Best Touch Screen Drawing Tablet?

In the Apple world, the Liquid Retina screen (standard on the iPad Pro and the iPad Air) is an incredibly beautiful and accurate display which works flawlessly with the Apple Pencil, and for my money is the very best touch screen for artists. For the Windows operating system, by far the best touch screens are on the Wacom art tablets, like the superb standalone Wacom MobileStudio Pro or the likewise professional-level plug-in Wacom Cintiq 24.

Final Thoughts: What makes the Best Standalone Drawing Tablet

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I was a little worried about putting together a buyer’s guide for best drawing tablets, since I am just not that fussed about specifications, technical innovations and performance numbers. 

Looking over so many other websites, it seems like that’s all I saw – technical jargon and numbers.

Then I realized that’s exactly why I should put together this guide for best standalone drawing tablets for artists on the market today – and should make more buyers guides in the future.

I mean, you can get tech specs anywhere – other guides, reviews, magazines, Amazon, manufacturers’ websites. 

But in my mind, those numbers are only important in how they serve me as an artist.

Knowing a screen’s resolution is interesting, but knowing how my work in progress looks on that screen is important. 

Knowing processing speed may be valuable, but knowing if the drawing tablet is ever going to interrupt me when I’m in the zone is crucial.

That’s why I have ultimately based my seven choices on how these tablets felt in my hands, how they registered my actions and showed me the results, and how I felt using them. 

Did they support and enhance my creative process, or interrupt me and bring me back into my head? 

Did they at any point disappear, leaving just me and my work?

As an artist, I know that any one of these choices would be great for other artists. 

If money is really no object, if you are an Apple or Windows person, if you prefer Android, if you are just starting out or have a limited budget, any one of my choices will become a trusted and beloved tool that will support you, and maybe even bring you to new levels of inspiration, creativity and craft.

Other articles in the Drawing Tablets series:

Lis cet article en français 🇫🇷 La meilleure tablette graphique nomade en 2022

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help wake up your creative genius. Learn more about me.

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