Best Wacom Artist Pen Tablets and Alternatives 2020/2021

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Table of Contents

Who Makes the Best Pen Tablets for Artists?

Wacom has long been considered the king of the hill in the tablet market, making clearly the very best pen tablets for artists.

And while there is little doubt that Wacom is still the best, and that their products are the highest quality, the top performing and the best built artist tablets currently available, there is strong competition out there, and the competition is getting better and better.

Are Wacom Tablets Worth the Money?

At the same time, it must be said that Wacom products are quite expensive – worth it, no doubt, as these levels of control, speed, versatility, display resolution and color fidelity (among many other qualities) don’t come cheap. 

The competition, though, is usually much, much cheaper, and, on second thought, they seem to often prove that such performance and quality can come cheap – or, at least, cheaper.

What are the Best Alternatives to Wacom Tablets?

So I thought it might be helpful to run down some of the best and most popular tablets all the way down the extensive Wacom line, and offer some high quality alternatives from other companies.

In each case the alternative tablets will be substantially less expensive than the similarly equipped Wacom tablet, and they will often be very close in specifications, memory, features and other factors.

And in each case the Wacom is, with little doubt, a better built machine, with better display, better feel and better, more accurate control. 

Often, though, the difference is so small, and the price difference is so big, that the alternatives – like XP-Pen or Huion – may be much better choices.

What are the Different Types of Pen Tablets for Artists?

There are three basic types of pen tablets for artists:

  • Pen Computer Tablet (stand-alone – with display, doesn’t need a computer to plug into)
  • Pen Display Tablet (connected to a computer but with its own display)
  • Pen Tablet (connected to a computer with no display of its own)

In this 2020 Buyer’s Guide to the best pen tablets for artists, we will look at Wacom tablets from all three categories, and then consider alternatives from Huion and XPen.

How do I Find the Best Artist Pen Tablet for Me?

Once you have decided what type of pen tablet you want, from the list just above, you can simply go to the corresponding section below and you will find the best choices currently available for that type, including the best selling and highest rated products in a range of prices.

Each section below will offer a more expensive Wacom artist pen tablet and a few lower priced alternatives, as well as the information you need to decide between them.

Or, if you are still undecided between a Pen Computer, a Pen Display Tablet or a Pen Tablet, just read through the whole article – I bet that by the end you’ll know not only just what type of artist tablet you want, but exactly which model you should buy.

How do I Find the Best Artist Pen Tablet for Me?

Once you have decided what type of pen tablet you want, from the list just above, you can simply go to the corresponding section below and you will find the best choices currently available for that type, including the best selling and highest rated products in a range of prices.

Each section below will offer a more expensive Wacom artist pen tablet and a few lower priced alternatives, as well as the information you need to decide between them.

Or, if you are still undecided between a Pen Computer, a Pen Display Tablet or a Pen Tablet, just read through the whole article – I bet that by the end you’ll know not only just what type of artist tablet you want, but exactly which model you should buy.

List of the Best Alternatives to Wacom Tablets

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Best Wacom Standalone Tablet Alternatives

Best Wacom Cintiq Pro Pen Display Tablet Alternatives

Best Wacom Intuos Pro Pen Tablet Alternatives

Best Alternatives to the Wacom Mobile Studio Pro 13” Pen Computer Tablet

The first type of artist tablet we’ll consider is the standalone tablet – or, as Wacom calls it, the Pen Computer.

This type of tablet does not require a separate computer to plug into. It has the same type of computer processor built in that Windows 10 computers have, plenty of memory and SSD storage, and can usually run even the most advanced art software. You can use these tablets and their pens to make art directly on the screen, and the quality will be fabulous.

We can break this down further in our comparison here. The Wacom and Huion tablets we’re looking at are dedicated tablets – you can use them as computers, but such usage is often quite awkward compared to a normal computer, like a laptop or desktop, and pen computers are first and foremost designed to be art tablets.

The Apple and Microsoft tablets we’re considering are both first and foremost designed to be personal computers, but both are capable of running the same kinds of art software. Even the iPad, which already runs my beloved Procreate, is starting to have available the very top-notch professional programs like Photoshop and Illustrator.

As you might imagine, the first group – Wacom and Huion – are a bit better as art tablets. The feeling of the pen to the screen, the physical set-up, the display, the shortcut buttons are all designed with an artist in mind, and the experience is really nice – one can totally get lost in creating art and forget everything else.

The second group is great for making art – again, I use my iPad with ProCreate all the time – but they won’t give you quite the same ideal experience when you’re drawing, painting, re-touching etc. They are, on the other hand, much better for emails, writing, videos and all the normal personal computer stuff.

So, if you want to buy a tablet as a personal computer that you can also do art on, you are best off with the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 or the Apple iPad Pro. Either is as good as it gets, and you just need to choose (though you probably already have) your platform – Windows or Apple OS – and you’re good to go. They are both highly recommended tablets.

But if you want to purchase a tablet that you are going to use exclusively, or primarily, for art, and you don’t have any intention of using it also as a personal computer, you will really get a better experience from the Huion or Wacom tablets.

Ok, so Which is a Better Art Tablet: Wacom or Huion?

Huion has been making low-cost alternatives for similarly equipped Wacom tablets for years, and while they have been much less expensive, the general consensus has been that they are also much lower quality – in terms of screen display, drawing experience pen to glass, build, reliability, performance.

In the last couple of years, however, this has been changing quite rapidly. The new Huion tablets are still much less expensive, but they are so close to the Wacom level of quality on all fronts that many people can’t seriously consider spending the extra money just for the Wacom name.

To be fair, though, it’s not just for the name. Wacom tablets are still number one – not just in sales, but in quality. They really are the most excellent products available for artists. Their screens are superb, the drawing experience pen to glass is more precise and offers a more realistic and controlled feel, and they are truly built to last, even with heavy use.

And Wacom tablets are still the default choice of top artists and professional studios around the world.

But really, the Wacom and Huion are so close now that I think that the much less expensive and much bigger Huion tablet is a much better value. If I were getting a dedicated drawing tablet right now, I would definitely opt for the Huion!

Much bigger?

Yeah, there’s one more consideration when choosing between a Wacom and a Huion standalone art tablet, and that’s size.

In the comparison further down in this article – where we’ll be finding alternatives to Wacom Pen Display Tablets and Wacom Pen Tablets – the alternatives will all be about the same size as the Wacom.

But here, in our comparison of standalone Pen Computers, the Wacom Mobile Studio Pro we’re considering is 13 inches, like the Apple iPad Pro and the Microsoft Surface Pro. Huion doesn’t make a 13 inch standalone tablet, though – the only standalone they currently make is 22 inches.

Now if small size is a big plus for you, and you don’t have room in your bag for a 22 inch tablet (or you just don’t want to schlep it around – even though it’s the same weight as the Wacom), then you may have to go with the Wacom – and you will end up with a truly superb tablet.

But to me the Huion is still the way to go. Again, it actually weighs about the same as the smaller Wacom, and the 22 inch screen (9 inches larger) gives a much better experience. If the Wacom is more accurate or higher resolution, this is largely compensated for by the much bigger screen on the Huion.

Either one will satisfy the needs of even the most advanced artist, and either is a great choice.

Which Standalone Tablet should Artists Buy?

Best if budget allows

$ 2,373*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

Best FOR THE MONEY

$ 799*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

Best FOR Apple Fans

Also as personal computer

$ 1,249*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

Best FOR Microsoft Fans

Also as personal computer

$ 1,575*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

Best Alternatives to Wacom Cintiq Pro Pen Display Tablets

The next category in our article on Wacom art tablet alternatives is the pen display tablet.

This type of art tablet looks quite similar to the pen computer tablet above, but it is not standalone. This means you must connect it to a computer (Apple or Windows) for it to operate.

A pen display tablet will have a beautiful screen which you can work directly on, and a high quality, sensitive and accurate pen to use on that screen. As this is not a standalone tablet, you can’t just take it with you and work on it alone – it must be connected to a computer to work. You can, though, take a laptop (or even another tablet) and work on the tablet attached to and in conjunction with that computer.

This also means that you can work right on the tablet’s screen and see exactly what you are doing on that screen – in high resolution, with vibrant and accurate colors and with no delay – and you can also see the artwork on the computer’s screen if you choose.

As you run the art software on the computer, not the tablet, you have the choice of whatever your computer and computer platform (Windows, Apple OS and usually even Android) can handle.

Here we’re going to consider the whole range of Wacom Cintiq Pro pen tablets:

and compare them to the equivalent range of Huion Kamvas Pro pen tablets:

You’ll notice that Huion does not make a 32 inch pen tablet, so if you really want or need big big then your choice is easy – Wacom. You could do worse, though, since it is quite possibly the finest pen tablet available today!

With the 24 inch down to the 13 inch tablets, however, we can compare pretty directly, and here we notice another thing right away – the Huion tablets are way cheaper than the Wacom. I should be careful with my choice of the word “cheaper,” since it might mean quality instead of, or as much as, price.

But here again, as with the above section about the best alternatives to Wacom pen computer tablets, we can see that the quality of Huion pen display tablets has improved drastically in the last couple of years, and they are so close to the Wacom tablets as to make the difference in price seem downright impossible.

Still, we must now pull out that tired old cliché – you get what you pay for.

Well, with the Huion pen display tablets I think you get way more than you pay for, and they are really great tablets for the money. But I do see and feel a fairly substantial difference between the Huion and the Wacom – which, again, can be 3 or 4 times more expensive, so go figure…

How Well do the Wacom Cintiq Pro Display Tablets Perform?

The Wacom is such a well thought out and well designed tablet, with its excellent and highly sensitive pen, the glare-free etched glass screen and how it feels, and the brilliant little ExpressKey remote. It is truly a joy to work with, feeling natural, intuitive and wholly responsive, and displaying what you are doing with superb resolution, colors and geometry.

Wacom tablets were clearly designed for, and by, the top level of working professional and fine artists, illustrators, animators and photographers.

The Wacom Cintiq Pro tablets are more precise, have better apparent color fidelity, higher apparent resolution and better looking screens overall, and their pens are apparently more sensitive, with less lag or snags. I keep saying “apparently” because on paper there doesn’t seem to be so much difference, but I can see and feel that the Wacoms are in a different league.

How Well do the Wacom Cintiq Pro Display Tablets Perform?

That said, the Huion Kamvas Pro pen tablets are also wonderful to use. They have quite bright, high resolution screens with really accurate and well saturated colors, they have extremely sensitive, comfortable and usable pens, and they too have no real lag or other problems. Some people even prefer using Huion Pro pen tablets to Wacom, and pretty much everybody loves them and is very productive using them.

Indeed, if you were to never have used a Wacom Cintiq Pro, I’m quite sure that you would be absolutely over the moon with your Huion Kamvas, and wouldn’t miss a thing. This is an important point, because one of the things I mean here is that the Huion Kamvas Pro display tablets are definitely good enough for even the most advanced users, the most detailed or critical work and the most demanding work load. Any commercial or fine artist would be well served by a Huion.

Huion tablets are also extremely well built, reliable and attractive in design and execution – including the extra high quality laminated glass, the sensitive and comfortable pen and the super-useful customizable shortcut keys. Again, the quality of design and build of Huion Kamvas Pro display tablets, like all Huion tablets, has improved dramatically in the last few years, and they are definitely fully satisfying professional tools.

Which Pen Display Tablet should Artists Buy?

Wacom Cintiq Pro Pen Display Tablets

The Wacom Cintiq Pro pen display tablets, including the:

32-inch

$ 3,299*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

24-inch

$ 1,989*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

16-inch

$ 1,999*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

13-inch

$ 1,599*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

are the best of the best, and worth the money. They are a great tool for a commercial or fine artist who is working at the very highest levels, or who simply wants the finest tablet on the market today.

Huion Kamvas Pro Pen Display Tablets

The Huion Kamvas Pro pen display tablets, including the:

24-inch

$ 899*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

22-inch

$ 549*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

16-inch

$ 399*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

13-inch

$ 299*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

are absolutely wonderful tablets, up to the challenges and critical use of virtually any artist. If your budget precludes a Wacom, you can purchase a Huion Kamvas with absolute confidence that it will fully support you and your work, and even take you to the next level.

And the winner is? Yeah, it’s somewhat of a cop-out, but – BOTH!

If you can afford it, and you want the very best, get a Wacom Cintiq Pro and you’ll never once regret it. If you are on a budget but still want a superb artist display tablet and a great tool for productivity, get a Huion Kamvas Pro and, well, you’ll never once regret it.

XP-Pen Artist Pro Pen Display Tablets

Another pen display tablet you might want to consider is the XP-Pen Artist Pro. I’ve only played around with them for a short time, and found the display, pen and overall feeling to be very satisfying, and I have friends who use one regularly and absolutely love it. Based on the Amazon customer reviews as well, the XP-Pen Artist Pro – which comes with a stand, a full sensitivity pen and pen holder – could be the best choice for bargain pen display tablet in 2020!

22-inch

$ 449*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

16-inch

$ 399*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

13-inch

$ 299*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

12-inch

$ 279*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

Best Alternatives to Wacom Intuos Pro Pen Tablets

Our third category in this 2020 buyer’s guide to the best alternatives to Wacom artist tablets features the most simple and affordable tablet – the humble pen tablet.

Unlike the two types of tablets above, the pen tablet has no display of its own. It is a tablet meant to plug into your computer with a highly sensitive and precise working area and a fine quality pen, and when you draw onto the surface your work appears on the screen of your computer.

The pen tablet is the first and oldest type of artist tablet, and is still quite popular today, mainly because they are much more affordable than artist tablets with screens and because they are much more precise, controllable and intuitive than using a mouse.

How do Wacom, Huion and XP-Pen Pen Tablets Compare?

Here we have maybe a little easier time finding a clear alternative to Wacom pen tablets. You see, these are all great tablets. And while we can pretty easily see in the two categories above that the Wacom products are actually better, here it is less obvious.

When I use an XP-Pen, a Huion or a Wacom drawing tablet, in every case the experience is really first class – smooth, responsive and precise. The pen responds to my angles, my pressure and my speed with apparently perfect performance, and without any issues whatsoever.

So while I am a big advocate for getting the best artist tools you can afford, I also strongly advocate saving money whenever and wherever possible – especially if the extra money doesn’t buy you an appreciably better tool.

For my money, the XP-Pen Pro pen tablet is as well thought out and engineered, and as nice to use, as any Wacom tablet, and less expensive. And the Huion pen tablets are perhaps not quite as ingenious in terms of layout, but just as good of an experience, and just as high performance, and are even less expensive, offering easily the best value.

Are Wacom Pen Display Tablets Really the Best?

Some will argue with this, saying Wacom is still the best, the choice of professionals and serious artists, the most accurate, the most precise, the best built and providing the best overall creative experience. And yes, that is true with their much more expensive Pen Computer Tablets and their much more expensive Pen Display Tablets, and is probably true here as well.

But when the quality, performance and experience are so close, and the prices are so far apart, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the clear bargains you will find in Huion and XP-Pen.

Don’t get me wrong. If you purchase a Wacom Intuos Pro pen tablet, like the:

Which Pen Tablets Should Artists Buy?

Wacom Intuos Pro Pen Tablets

If you purchase a Wacom Intuos Pro pen tablet, like the:

12-inch

$ 399*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

9-inch

$ 329*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

6-inch

$ 249*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

you won’t be wasting your money. It is a superb tool with perfect performance, and it is definitely built with the working professional in mind.

But, again, if budget is a main concern, Wacom and Huion also offer amazingly good, precise and responsive pen tablets, great quality and reliability and a wonderful overall experience, and at a fraction of the price.

Huion Inspiroy Artist Pen Tablets

Huion Artist pen tablets are the best value on the market today, and a great alternative to the Wacom Intuos Pro. They are more than enough to serve any artist at any level well. As such, they get my top recommendation!

7-inch

$ 89*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

5.4-inch

$ 69*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

4-inch

$ 39*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

XP-Pen Deco Pro Pen Tablets

XP-Pen Pro pen tablets are superbly engineered and offer a brilliant user experience. They offer as good of performance as any artist will ever need at a price higher than Huion, but still much lower than the equivalent Wacom.

6-inch

$ 129*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

5-inch

$ 99*

*This was the price at the time of publishing

Final Thoughts: Do You Really Need a Drawing Tablet?

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That is a question that only you can probably answer, but I will say that if you haven’t ever used one of the latest generation of super-precise, intuitive drawing tablets you really may be missing something.

If you’ve never used a pen tablet at all, a whole new world of productivity, control and even creative possibilities can open up with the right tablet – whether stand-alone, like a Pen Computer Tablet, connected to a computer but with its own screen, like a Pen Display Tablet, or a super-simple Pen Tablet, which connects to the computer and has no display of its own.

And if you have had your artist tablet for years, and haven’t tried a new model, you will be absolutely amazed at how much better especially the latest generation of pen tablets perform – with incredible pens and pen-to-screen feeling, superb responsiveness, resolution and precision, no lag or glitches and – with the display tablets – really incredible colors and detail.

Wacom makes some of the finest artist tools available today, and there is no doubt that their tablets really are the best. But the quality of other companies’ products – Huion and XP-Pen in particular – have increased so dramatically in the last year or two that their tablets are pretty close to the best anyway, and offer substantially better values.

And, if you want to combine your working art tablet with your personal computer, you can get a unit that will do both – and the Microsoft Surface Pro and Apple iPad Pro are the best of the best in this category. I personally like to have a dedicated machine just for drawing, painting and re-touching, and the Apple and Microsoft tablets won’t offer the fine level of experience, nor the control, precision or responsiveness, that a dedicated pen tablet will, but nonetheless a combo tablet may work great for you.

Whichever way you go, if you are a dedicated amateur digital artist, a working professional or a serious fine artist, today’s artist pen tablets offer amazing new levels of quality, sophistication and performance, and can really bring your work and your productivity to a whole new level.

Thanks for reading my latest article – Best Wacom Artist Pen Tablets and Alternatives 2020: An In-Depth Review and Buyer’s Guide – and please check my blog – for more buyer’s guides, articles, online courses and many other resources – the perfect site for any artist!

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