I have been getting a lot of questions from the artists, students, and friends about the best cheap drawing tablet alternatives.
The cheap drawing tablets are moderately priced but still excellent, and serious art tools. And the great news is that there are actually a ton of them!
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I have written several reviews and buyer’s guides recently for the best drawing tablet for artists, focusing mostly on the more expensive premium drawing tablets on the market. These pricey tablets, like the Apple iPad and the Wacom range of professional products, really are wonderful and fully capable tools for even the most serious artist.
This buyer’s guide and review will look at several cheap drawing tablets with screen for artists on a budget, art students, new and aspiring artists, parents looking for the best drawing tablet to buy for their talented child or anybody else who wants to get into the wonderful world of great tablets for not a lot of money.
What are Drawing Tablets with Screens called?
There are three basic types of artist tablets available today:
- A Drawing Tablet
The most simple and best cheap drawing tablet which connects to your computer and has a large drawing area, but no display – simply blank space on which you can draw
- A Drawing Tablet with Screen, also known as Graphics Tablet or a Pen Display Tablet
The subject of this article, the best cheap drawing tablet which connects to your computer and has a large drawing area, and that drawing area is an active screen – like the one already on your computer – which will display your art program, allowing you to work directly on your art
- A Standalone Drawing Tablet, also known as a Pen Computer
Usually, the most expensive option, a standalone drawing tablet with a screen, optimized for artwork, which doesn’t need to be connected to another computer
Again, the second category, Drawing Tablets with Screen, is what we’re looking at here today, and they are also the most popular and widely used type.
Any drawing tablet is a wonderful tool for an artist, with the convenience, control and even inspiration they can provide – and that cool combination of old-school process and seemingly unlimited high-tech capabilities.
The Pen Display Drawing Tablet in particular, though, seems to offer an ideal balance of very high performance, wonderful working process and affordability, and artists absolutely love using them.
Is a Cheap Drawing Tablet with Screen any Good?
Even a few years ago, brands like Huion and XP Pen were clearly lower quality products than the more expensive options – especially Wacom, the serious choice for professional and fine artists. But now we don’t need to be so serious! In fact, the quality of these brands, in particular, has increased so much, especially recently, that you can be absolutely certain that performance, artist experience, material quality, and reliability are top-notch.
In this buyer’s guide of the best cheap drawing tablets with screen in 2021, I am not going to look at the super-cheap tablets – there are a lot of fairly decent tablets for, say, under $200 dollars, but in my honest opinion, if you spend a little more you will get a few things that the cheapest tablets won’t provide:
- A nicer feeling pen-to-screen, drawing experience
- A more beautiful and higher resolution display
- Superior color range and accuracy
- Better pen pressure sensitivity and control
- A more reliable, better-built product
I have always found it to be true that a poor quality tool – whether a drawing tablet or a simple pencil – will be discouraging to you and your process, and the best tools will make you a better artist, will make your art better, will make you feel more encouraged and have more fun, and as a result, you’ll be much more likely to stay committed and engaged and stick with it.
But the best tools don’t have to be expensive, and here we’ll look at the best cheap drawing tablets with screen for artists between $200 and $500 dollars.
What is a Good Cheap Drawing Tablet? Are Specifications Important?
Well, yes, of course. And no, not really. Did that help?
We need specifications, like
- pen pressure sensitivity,
- RGB spectrum,
- Full HD Display resolution,
- response time
and the like, to give us a general idea of how well a display drawing tablet will perform, and I will include all of those data for each tablet on my list of best drawing tablet for artists.
But at the same time I see over and over how two drawing tablets with exactly the same specs and apparently the same performance look, feel, and act very different, and one clearly just works and feels better.
So this list will consider both – I will only include drawing tablets with good enough performance to satisfy even a serious commercial or fine artist, and more importantly I will only recommend the best tablets I myself would be happy to use on my own work.
What is the Best and Cheapest Drawing Tablet for You?
Lots of different people may be reading this article, so we need to answer lots of different questions:
- What’s the Best Affordable Drawing Tablet with Screen for an Art Student?
- What’s the Best Drawing Tablet for a Beginner or Aspiring Artist?
- What’s the Best Budget Drawing Tablet for a Professional or Fine Artist?
- What’s the Best Starter Drawing Tablet?
- What’s the Best Drawing Tablet to Buy for my Child?
I think what I just said is really important – I will only include here, in this list of best budget display drawing tablets available today, ones which I could see myself happily using, and which would serve me and my own process well. And, since all of these graphics tablets are both inexpensive and very high quality, any one of them would be a great answer to any of the above questions, and a great choice for nearly anybody.
Your main considerations might then be how large of a screen you want, and how much you want to spend. Yes, a bigger screen is generally better, allowing you to see and work in more detail and offering better visibility overall, but there is also the question of portability, and larger tablets are, well, larger. See, that’s the kind of insight only an experienced professional artist can provide! Larger tablets are larger.
Anyway, even the smallest tablets on this list have wonderful displays – high resolution, great contrast and brightness – and so any of them will let you work with great precision. As such, it might just come down to price. And, dare I say it, the more expensive tablets here are, well, more expensive.
Every recommendation on this buyer’s guide to the best display tablets in 2021 is a real value, though – an excellent graphics tablet, a reliable and high quality product and a useful and valuable artist tool for a great price, and I’m sure you would be happy to have and work on any one of them.
Overview: The Best Cheap Drawing Tablets with Screen for Artists in 2021
- XP-PEN Artist 12
- XP-PEN Artist12 Pro
- Huion KAMVAS 13
- Huion KAMVAS Pro 13
- Wacom One Digital Drawing Tablet with Screen
- XP-PEN Artist 15.6 Pro
- Huion KAMVAS Pro 16
11.6 Inch FHD Drawing Monitor Pen Display Graphic Monitor with PN06 Battery Free Pen Multi-Function Pen Holder and Glove 8192 Pressure Sensitivity
11.6 Inch Drawing Monitor Pen Display Full-Laminated Graphics Drawing Tablet with Tilt Function Battery-Free Stylus and 8 Shortcut Keys(8192 Levels Pen Pressure and 72% NTSC)
Android Support Graphics Drawing Tablet Monitor with Full Laminated Screen Battery-Free Stylus 8192 Pressure Sensitivity Tilt 8 Express Keys Adjustable Stand -13.3 inch
Graphics Drawing Monitor Pen Display with Stand Tilt Function Battery-Free Stylus 8192 Pen Pressure - 13.3 in, Compatible with Chromebook, Windows, and Mac
13.3 Inch Graphics Display for Art and Animation Beginners
15.6 Inch Drawing Pen Display Graphics Monitor Full-Laminated Technology Drawing Monitor with Tilt Function and Red Dial (8192 Levels Pen Pressure, 120% sRGB)
Graphics Drawing Tablet with Full-Laminated Screen Tilt Battery-Free Stylus Touch Bar Adjustable Stand, Compatible with Windows, Mac and Chromebook, 15.6inch Pen Display
XP Pen Artist 12 and XP Pen Artist Pro 12 Drawing Tablets
Here we consider and compare two XP Pen graphics display tablets with 12-inch screens – the standard and professional models. These 12” tablets are about the ideal size for many people – light, compact and won’t take up much desk space, and yet with plenty of room to work and to see what you’re doing.
The standard XP Pen drawing display tablet has a nice screen, with plenty of color coverage, but the contrast, color accuracy, responsiveness and control of its bigger brother – the XP Pen Pro 12 – is markedly better, as is the pen-to-screen experience. For one thing the Pro will give tilt control, allowing you to change the angle of the pen to control stroke thickness. You can do this also with software controls, even on the standard XP Pen, but that’s an extra step, and not having to think about it makes a big difference.
Either is a great tablet for the money, and the standard XP Pen is a well-built and high-quality unit, designed for artists and their needs – a really fine choice for a first artist tablet – but for around 50 bucks more the XP Pen Artist 12 Pro is a better value and a real step up.
Huion Kamvas 13 and Huion Kamvas Pro 13 Drawing Tablets
Slightly larger tablets than the XP Pen models just above, these Huion Kamvas artist display tablets definitely do feel bigger and more substantial, and both of these Huion Kamvas 13s are really nice to work on.
But while the Huion Kamvas Pro model of the XP Pen tablets, reviewed just above, offers a pretty important improvement over its less expensive sibling, here I would rather have the standard Huion Kamvas over the Huion Kamvas Pro. And while every unit on this list of best artist display tablet in 2021 is a great buy, and I’m sure you’d be happy with any of them, I think this standard Huion Kamvas 13 is one of the best values on the list – and on the market today.
It does not have an included adjustable stand like the Huion Kamvas Pro option does, but the standard Huion Kamvas 13 has a fully laminated screen, full tilt control, a better command bar built in and a more useful USB connector cable. As far as the overall performance, the two are essentially identical, and they both have wonderful pen-to-screen drawing experience.
If you want a nice adjustable stand (and they really do make a big difference) you can get either the Huion ST300 Adjustable Drawing Tablet Stand or a very nice Max Smart Adjustable Tablet Stand for the standard Huion Kamvas 13, and still come in substantially below the price of the Pro.
One final note: the standard Huion Kamvas 13 is officially compatible with Android, and the Huion Kamvas Pro 13, according to the company’s literature, is not (I did not test this, and while it seems unlikely that the Pro won’t work on an Android machine it may be true, and is at least worth mentioning).
Either way you go, though, these are fine tablets, and really approach the best on the market in terms of drawing and painting experience, performance and overall quality – you can’t go wrong with either!
Wacom One 13.3 Inch Graphics Display Tablet
Yes, brands like Huion and XP Pen Artist have dramatically improved their artist tablets recently, and the quality of the displays, the pens, the overall performance, the brilliance and accuracy of the screen and the overall fit, finish and reliability – as well as many other factors – is as good now as any artist could ever want.
There are still people, though, who insist that Wacom offers by far the finest tablets on the market today, with a better artist experience, better performance and better quality and reliability than any other manufacturer. And for sure Wacom has been the best, and the number one choice of fine and professional artists, for decades now.
But I would never include the new Wacom One just because of its brand. I include it because it is a wonderful tablet, and easily the simplest and easiest to use I know of – a really ideal choice for the beginner or younger artist, yet more than sufficient for nearly any artist or level of work.
No, there is not the sophisticated array of shortcut keys or control wheels offered in the similarly priced XP Pen Artist or Huion Kamvas Pro tablets, and they are less expensive for the same sized screen, but for my money the Wacom One just feels better. The screen texture, the resolution, contrast and color saturation and the overall look and feel are superior, and the simplicity is not just an advantage for beginners – I found myself getting completely lost in the creative working process and forgetting about the tablet completely, which for me is the biggest compliment I can give!
The Wacom One does have one at least apparent disadvantage in specifications, and that is that it has only half of the usable levels of pressure sensitivity – 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity, where all the other tablets here have 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity. But I have to say that I didn’t really notice. Still, it may be important to some, and is at least good to mention.
The Wacom One does have that superior drawing experience of a true Wacom product – solid, beautifully built and finished and feeling in every way like a professional quality art tool, and even at one or two hundred dollars more than an XP Pen Artist or Huion Kamvas Pro of about the same size it is a true value.
XP Pen Artist Pro 15.6 inch and Huion Kamvas Pro 16 Drawing Tablets
Here we are comparing the Pro models of the two best 16-inch budget display tablets on the market – the Huion Kamvas Pro 16 and the XP Pen Artist Pro 15.6.
With a nice, large working area, either of these tablets will offer a better experience, and the ability to see and work in even finer detail, than the smaller tablets above. They also have extremely fine screens, fully laminated and textured, bright, contrasty and with excellent color accuracy and saturation.
Either of these tablets would be a brilliant choice for the size, and an incredible value for the money, and would fully serve an artist on any level. Each of these Pro models, in fact, represents a substantial increase in performance and value over their Standard counterpart, yet they are equally great choices even for beginners – they both are simple to use, will grow with you as you learn and improve, and will offer encouragingly beautiful results every step of the way.
Here I would give a slight edge to the Huion Kamvas Pro 16, though. They both have really nice battery-free pens, the same levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt control, both include a nice adjustable stand and in many ways they are equal, but the Huion Kamvas Pro has a nicer and more controllable pen-to-screen drawing experience, a slightly more bright and vivid display, and also seems to have more substantial construction, and overall a better, higher quality look and feel.
XP Pen Artist Pro 22 Drawing Tablet
For a 22-inch graphics tablet with screen, I am only making a single recommendation – the XP Pen Artist Pro 22 graphics tablet, which is a stunning product in every way, and an almost unbelievable value for the money.
With a brilliant Full HD display and incredibly fast and accurate interaction between pen and screen, the XP Pen Pro 22 offers an absolutely first-rate working experience and allows for the finest levels of detail and precision, the most accurate color work, the most natural interaction and the most overall control of any graphic pen display tablet on this buyer’s guide.
The Huion Kamvas Pro 22 is also an amazing tablet, and in some ways better than this XP Pen – slightly nicer feel to the screen, quicker response, maybe a wee bit more color accuracy and saturation – but at around 350 dollars more it doesn’t really compete (and anyway it’s too expensive for our list). That said, it is a professional-grade product, and its owners are pretty much unanimous in their praise and their satisfaction.
But the XP Pen Artist Pro 22, for much, much less money, is a true bargain and an awesome graphics pen display tablet, and one that you can grow with for many years.
Final Thoughts: What is the Best Drawing Tablet for You?
It’s funny, but every time I wrote that one particular tablet was better, even slightly better, than another, I kept thinking yeah, but that other tablet is pretty good too, and maybe even better in other ways. It was enough to drive me a little crazy, but it also demonstrates an important point – our list of best drawing tablets for artists in 2021 has some pretty special products on it, and Huion, XP Pen and Wacom all make great mid-priced tablets, great tools for the artists and often pretty amazing values.
Ok, maybe that’s two or three important points, but what I mean is that any of these would be a wonderful choice for the money, and I would be glad to have and work on any of them. If one has the slight edge in some particular category, you can bet that another is still quite good in that way, and all of them will support your creative process really well – whether you paint, draw, illustrate or animate, retouch photographs or whatever your thing is.
And they are all really easy to set up and use, and come with everything you need, so when it arrives in the mail you can be up and running with your new toy – sorry, I mean your new serious artist tool – in no time at all. No, I should not call them toys, and any of the tablets in our buyer’s guide will support the most serious work, but they will also make art even more fun than it already is.
Thanks so much for reading my latest article – Best Cheap Tablet with Screen for Artists in 2021 –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.