Whether you’re a photographer, illustrator, architect, architectural visualizer, or simply a hobbyist in a related field, we all know how important and useful the likes of Photoshop and Lightroom are …these applications are priceless when it comes to image editing and creation.
But like many artists experience, usability can become severely compromised and often frustrating when working with a mouse for sustained periods of time, and you therefore quickly find yourself searching for an alterative that’s a little more intuitive and suitable to Photoshop’s processes.
However you don’t have to look too far before realizing just how many options there are available, and become completely overwhelmed when trying to source the most suitable product for your workflow.
Not only are there many differing models, but also many brand options …and for some further reading, we have discussed and compared the big players of the tablet industry below:
So in order to help make this search a little easier and to provide a selection of unbiased recommendations, we have sourced and reviewed what we consider to be the most suitable drawing tablets (from several differing price points) for Photoshop users and artists.
If you’re in a hurry, here are our top picks:
The Wacom Intuos line of tablets is a perfect started line from a solid brand. These are graphics tablets with minimal features. They may take a while to get used to, but aren’t too expensive, and are guaranteed to last. They also work perfectly with Photoshop. Once you’re used to them, upgrading should be easier.
The Wacom Intuos Pro line is a step above the Intuos line. The pens come with double the pressure sensitivity, a much larger drawing area, and several more shortcut keys …artists will appreciate the enhancement this adds to your workflow. This is again a graphics tablets, and so will take a little getting used to. However, once you get the hang of it, it’s all smooth sailing.
Looking for an upgrade?
If you would like a pen display, but don’t want to splash on a Wacom Cintiq (reviewed here), then the Huion Kamvas Pro 24 is the best you can do for under $1000. This excellent pen display has a very large drawing area, 1440p HD display, excellent color gamut, high brightness, and a ton of features and extras that will help you add a professional touch to all of your work.
Our 7 best drawing tablets for Photoshop are…
Wacom Intuos Draw Graphics Tablet (overall winner)
Dimensions: 7.87 x 6.3 x 0.35 in | Display Area (Active Area): 6.0 x 3.7 in | Item Weight: 8.1 oz | Multi-Touch: No | Pen Pressure Level: 4096 Levels | Customizable Express Keys: 4 | Supported Software: Windows, Mac, Android | Battery Power: Yes | Connectivity Type: USB | Multi-touch – No
Who is this for:
Wacom Intuos is a great line of graphics tablets for those who want something a little professional without necessarily taking the deep dive. They come in small, and medium and have a great line of features that will help you take your digital art career or hobby to the next level. While they are graphics tablets and need to be used with a computer, they are easy to use and compatible with major operating systems.
Why we like it:
There is a lot to love about this line of tablets. They all come with standard 4096 levels of pressure, and work areas that range from 7 inches to 10 inches. The small option comes without Bluetooth, but you can opt to have Bluetooth for extra. The medium version comes with Bluetooth as a standard inclusion.
Most of the tablet is actually the active drawing area, which is 8.5 inches by 5.3 inches on the medium one and 6 inches by 3.7 inches on the smaller one. That means you get plenty of space to draw.
On top of the work surface are the Express Keys, which are beautifully recessed into the surface of the tablet. You can use these as shortcut buttons for common tasks, like erasing and changing brushes. The middle button is for helping to set up Bluetooth and to switch the tablet on and off while the other buttons can be used for pretty much whatever you like.
The pen feels very good in the hand. It’s like any writing pen, though it has two side buttons which you can customize further to add shortcuts.
As a budget-friendly option, the Intuos is great for photographers, as its customization options include Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. You can use the Express Keys to control brush size and customize others to handle the local adjustment brush and the healing tool.
Even more importantly, the Intuos isn’t especially difficult to learn to use. The greatest learning curve is in getting used to not looking at the tablet as you work, but at the computer instead.
Flaws but not deal breakers:
For the main part, some users might feel like the working surfaces on the Intuos tablets are still too small, especially considering the price. There are competing brands that offer the same or greater size at a much cheaper price. Many of them even have a screen to work on. Another issue is the 4096 levels of pressure.
This is perfectly fine for most people, but some might want 8192 levels of pressure, which other brands offer for a cheaper price.
- Great feel
- Well designed
- Works well with Photoshop and Lightroom
- Very durable
- Only 4096 levels of pressure
Wacom Intuos Pro (runner up)
Dimensions: 13.2 x 8.5 x 0.3 inches (Medium) | Display Area (Active Area): 8.7 x 5.8 inches | Item Weight: 1.54 lb | Multi-Touch: Yes | Pen Pressure Level: 8192 Levels | Customizable Express Keys: 8 | Supported Software: Windows, Mac, Android | Battery Power: Yes | Connectivity Type: USB
Who is this for?
This is an excellent graphics tablet for more serious photographers and digital artists. It comes with double the pressure sensitivity of the Intuos and uses the Pro Pen 2. If you’re looking for a serious Wacom graphics tablet to work with, It’s hard to beat this one, the price notwithstanding.
Why we like it
This line of Intuos tablets is quite well-designed, with a beautiful and durable build. The tablet has a nice black finish, and the design is consistent. There are six Express Keys this time, rather than 5, so you get one extra. There’s also a touch ring, which spits the 6 keys into groups of 3. The touch ring is an excellent addition that enables you to set shortcuts for finer control, such as zooming in and out.
In both groups, the middle button has a raised line, which lets you know which button you are on without having to look down. The touch ring itself has a center button that can be used to select options as well as to set up Bluetooth.
We love the feel of the tablet, as well as the resistance it provides when one is drawing on it. The pen is also great. These tablets use the Wacom Pro Pen 2, which is quite balanced and powerful, thanks to its 8192 levels of pressure. It’s neither too light nor too heavy. There is a pen stand that comes as part of the package with a bottom you can screw in and out. When you unscrew it you’ll notice a few pen tips on the inside, which you can use as spares for the pen’s tip.
The pen itself also has two customizable buttons if you need even more shortcuts. You also get a USB-C to USB-A converter. It’s of very good quality and even includes a strap you can wrap around the cable when you want to store it neatly.
This tablet is perfect for use with Photoshop, just like the Intuos line. You can edit masks, make fine selections, and use the healing brush combined with various techniques. If you’re tired of using the mouse or trackpad, then you’re really going to appreciate the precision and comfort that this pen offers. The pen includes an eraser tip at the end, so undoing your work is very easy. You can combine the shortcut keys on the pen with the touch ring and Express Keys on the tablet itself to do quite a lot of stuff, from editing to zooming and panning. Besides, as it’s all Wacom, it’s perfectly compatible with Photoshop and Lightroom, among others.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
For starters, it’s a graphics tablet, and as usual with a graphics tablet, it does take a bit of getting used to. However, once you learn to look at the screen and not at the tablet you’ll be okay. Another thing to take note of is that this tablet is much more expensive than the Intuos line, so it’s going to set you back a pretty penny.
Another issue, just like with the regular Intuos line, is that some users might not feel like the active drawing area is too small. It’s large enough for most users, but some might prefer something larger, especially for that price range.
- Uses the powerful Pro Pen 2
- Durable build
- Beautiful Design
- 8192 levels of pressure
- Works seamlessly with Photoshop and Lightroom
- Quite expensive
- Might be too small for some users
- Graphics tablets take a bit of getting used to
Huion Kamvas Pro 24 (…looking for an upgrade?
Dimensions: 659 x 391 x 25 mm | Display Area (Active Area): 526 x 296.35 mm | Item Weight: 6 kg | Multi-Touch: dual | Pen Pressure Level: 8192 Levels | Customizable Express Keys: 20 | Supported Software: Windows, Mac, Android | Battery Power: No | Connectivity Type: USB
Who is this for?
So far we’ve been looking at graphics tablets. The Intuos and Intuos Pro lines are great tablets with beautiful designs and professional features. However, they are graphics tablets. You have to look at the screen as you work, and that can be a bit of a learning curve.
That’s where the Huion Kamvas Pro 24 comes in. If you’re looking for an upgrade that won’t require you to sell a kidney, then you can go for the Huion Kamvas Pro 24. This is the largest tablet from Huion, and it also has the highest resolution. For artists who would like to upgrade from a graphics tablet, it’s hard to think of a significantly better choice than this.
Why we like it
As mentioned above, this is the largest pen display from Huion and also comes with the highest resolution. It has 120% sRGB and 2560 x 1440 resolution. That’s a 1440p display, which is a great deal considering the price. Something similar from Wacom would cost the equivalent of a decent used car.
The pen display is pretty large, and the box comes with a power cable and adaptor, pen, pen stand, display stand, artist glove, microfiber cleaning cloth, quick start guide, driver links for updating the drivers, HDMI, and VGA cables. That is a lot of extras, which is always appreciated by artists.
The pen itself is of very high quality. It has a nice design and is ergonomic in the hand. It has a rubber grip and two shortcut buttons on the side. With 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt support, there’s hardly anything this pen cannot handle. It also comes with a pen stand which allows it to rest vertically when stored. If you unscrew the stand you will find 10 replacement nibs on the inside, which is more than enough to last you a very long time.
As for the pen display itself, you should be prepared to set aside some space for it. It has a laminated matte display for drawing, which means no distance between the glass and the drawing surface underneath. Along the top right are menu, power, plus, minus, and auto buttons for various settings. At the back there are plenty of vents and holes for the stand. There are also ports for HDMI, USB, VGA, and power.
Along the front of the stand are 20 shortcut keys and two touch strips, that is a lot of customizability! The 20 buttons are divided into two groups of 10, one on the left and one on the right. The groups of 10 are, in turn, divided into two groups of 5 with a touch strip between them. The buttons are indented into the surface, making them easy to use without looking. They also have a nice click distance so it’s hard to press them by mistake.
The touch strips in turn can be programmed to handle finer tasks, like zooming in and out or panning.
The color gamut is excellent at 81% AdobeRGB and 120% sRGB. It has 158 nits of brightness as well, so you’ll be able to use it in a well-lit room. The drivers work well with both Windows and Mac and particularly well with the Adobe suite of software, such as Photoshop and Lightroom. The pen works well and lines are solid, tapering well when they need to.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
For one, it doesn’t have a USB-C cable. Considering the general trend among smart devices to head in that direction, it’s a bit disappointing. Also, the advertised brightness is at 220 nits, while in practice it is closer to 158 nits. That’s plenty bright for most purposes, but is a little far off the advertised value.
- Beautiful design
- Plenty of shortcut keys
- Lots of extras
- Very durable
- Less brightness than advertised
- No USB-C
Others worth considering…
Huion Inspiroy Dial
The Huion Inspiroy Dial is a beautiful graphics tablet from Huion. It has a large drawing surface, a control dial, and 8 shortcut buttons, all for a very affordable price. What’s even better is that it’s a wireless graphics tablet, so you don’t have to worry about dealing with a mess of wires while you use it.
In the box you get a wireless USB review, microUSB adapters, and USB-A to USB-C converters. These make it possible to use the tablet with an Android phone or tablet. It also includes a USB charging cable for the tablet, which you can use while it’s charging, by the way.
The pen itself is of quite high quality, with a nice weight to it and a rubber grip that makes it comfortable to hold for extended periods. It’s battery-free and comes with 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity. There’s also a pen stand, which allows you to store the pen vertically or horizontally. If you unscrew it you will find a nib remover and 10 replacement nibs on the inside.
The tablet itself has well-rounded corners and a simple but beautiful design. The 8 shortcut buttons are on the left and there is a dial at the top. You can hear audible clicks as you turn the dial, allowing you to be more precise with fine control actions. Driver support is good for Windows and Mac, and it can easily be calibrated to your preferences. It works very well with Photoshop and Adobe CC, and is even compatible with Android 6 and above.
XP-Pen Deco 01 V2 Graphics Tablet
The XP-Pen Deco 01 V2 is an upgrade on the Deco 01 that came out a couple years ago. It’s a significant improvement at the same price, and it just goes to show how much you can get in a drawing tablet these days for a low price.
This tablet has a minimalist design and is very slim. It has a large drawing area on the front with 8 shortcut buttons that you can customize as you wish. There are glowing LED arrows on the four corners to tell you where the limits of the drawing area are. The beauty is that, while the shortcut buttons are on the right, you can simply rotate the tablet and change the mode in the settings in order to work with your left hand if you’re left-handed.
The construction is high quality plastic with sturdy buttons that give a satisfying click when pressed. The active drawing area is scratch-resistant and textured, so drawing on it should be a pleasant experience.
This tablet uses the XP-Pen P05 stylus with 8192 levels of pressure and up to 60 degrees tilt detection. It has a nice ergonomic shape and fits well in the hand. The body is made of plastic with a matte finish, so it should be comfortable to hold for long periods. It’s also batter-free! There’ also a pen stand that comes with the table and 8 replacement nibs.
The tablet has drivers for major operating systems, including Mac, Windows, and even Android. It works well with Photoshop and other software that photographers use, so it should be an absolute joy to work with.
Huion Kamvas 16
Dimensions: 432 x 264 x 14.8 mm | Display Area (Active Area): 344.16 x 193.59 mm | Item Weight: 1.26Kg | Multi-Touch: No | Pen Pressure Level: 8192 Levels | Customizable Express Keys: 10 | Supported Software: Windows, Mac, Android | Battery Power: Yes | Connectivity Type: USB
The Huion Kamvas 16 was launched recently and is the latest to come from the brand. It’s a pen display, which means you can see what you’re drawing on the screen as you do it. You can choose between Twilight Blue and Cosmo Black, both of which are beautiful colors. It’s a large but beautiful pen display and works with Windows, Mac, and some support for Android. It has 120% sRGB, an anti-glare matte surface for drawing, and a laminated 1920 x 1080 IPS screen.
This tablet comes with 10 shortcut keys that you can map to any function you wish. It also includes a battery-free stylus with 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity, 60 degrees of tilt detection, 10mm sensing height, and 178 degrees viewing angle. If you’re a photographer or illustrator, you’re certainly going to love it because it works perfectly well with Photoshop, Lightroom, and other Adobe CC applications.
The box comes with the tablet, pen, pen holder, 10 replacement nibs and a nib remover, stand for the tablet, USB-C cable, USB extension cable, 3-in-1 cable, power cable and adapter, cleaning cloth, and artist’s glove.
Gaomon M10K Pro
The Gaomon M10k Pro is another graphics tablet with a large drawing area and lots of cool features for photographers, artists, and illustrators. The box comes with a pen, pen case, pouch with 8 replacement nibs and a nib remover, artist’s glove, clothed tablet case, USB-C to Micro-USB and USB-C to USB-A adapters, and USB cable, of course besides the tablet itself.
The pen itself has excellent build quality. It is solid and comfortable to hold, and comes with a rubber grip for maximum comfort when working for long periods. It’s also battery-free so you can work with it indefinitely. It also has 2 side buttons for extra customization if you need it. It offers 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity.
The tablet itself has a nice minimalistic design with a slim form factor. It has 10 shortcut buttons along the left hand side. They are split into two groups of 5 divided by a scroll wheel with a center button in the middle. They have very firm feedback and give a satisfying click when you press them.
The drivers work well for Mac and Windows, allowing you to customize everything, and the drawing performance is excellent on Photoshop, Lightroom, and every other app in Adobe CC.
Do I need a drawing tablet or graphics tablet for photo editing?
If you’ve tried to use a mouse to do Photoshop work before, then you know how frustrating it can be before you get the hang of it, and even after. A graphics or drawing significantly improves your motor control, allowing you to make more natural lines with your hands. You can trace better outlines and draw neater circles. Everything feels like you’re working with regular pen and paper.
There’s more to tablets. You also get to control things more naturally. You can’t control such things as the pressure with which you make your lines if you’re using a mouse or a track pad or touch screen. With a drawing or graphics tablet and its stylus, you can control such things as tilt and pressure and determine how thick or thin your lines are. You can even control the angle of your brushes using rotation-sensitive styluses.
But what about the iPad Pro and its pen? Can’t they do this?
Well, another advantage graphics and drawing tablets have is that they go a step further. They have shortcut buttons and control rings, dials, and sliders. You can customize these to whatever shortcuts you want. The styluses often also have shortcut buttons on their side. This makes it possible to dramatically simplify your workflow in a way you wouldn’t be able to do with an iPad Pro.
Besides, an iPad Pro is a tablet that just so happens to have drawing capabilities. Drawing and graphics tablets don’t have any bloatware. They were made for that specific purpose, and have enhanced hardware, software, and features to enable just that. Besides, most of them are significantly cheaper than an iPad or Samsung with a stylus.
Using a graphics tablet for photo editing
Here are a few tips to help you use a graphics tablet for photo editing more effectively:
- Make sure you do the setup properly. While most devices are plug-and-play, you may still have to install and setup some drivers to access the full functionality of your tablet. Besides, if you have specific preferences, you’ll need to set them up first.
- Program the shortcut buttons to your preferences. This is all up to you, so set them in a way that makes your workflow easiest.
- You also have the option to include keyboard shortcuts to increase functionality. This can double your workflow efficiency.
- Don’t forget to set the pressure and brush settings to work better with the stylus. These features become available to you once you start working with a stylus.
- Learn as much as you can, and practice while you’re at it. It takes a while to get used to the motor control required to draw good lines and strokes, whether you’re using a mouse or stylus. Once you get good at this, work gets a lot easier and your Photoshop skills will get to the next level.
Do you need a drawing tablet for Photoshop?
Not strictly. You can still use your mouse or trackpad and keyboard to work with Photoshop. However, a drawing tablet significantly increases your motor control with a stylus and improves your workflow by giving you special features and extra tools to work with.
Can you use a drawing tablet with Photoshop?
Yes you can. Most drawing tablets have drivers for the major operating systems, as well as compatibility with Photoshop and other Adobe CC applications.
Can you use Photoshop on a Wacom tablet?
Yes you can. Photoshop is compatible with all Wacom tablets, and many of them come with extra features to help take advantage of Photoshop’s capabilities.
Do I need a Wacom Intuos Pro small or medium for photo editing?
You can use either. The main difference is that the small has a smaller drawing surface than the medium. If you need more space, then you will be much better off with the medium.
And with that we come to the end of our review. There are plenty of options out there for artists. It all boils down to what your preferences and budget are. If you’ve got a small budget to start with, pick something cheaper from our list and start with that.
As you grow, you can upgrade to something a little more loaded with features. Until next time, happy drawing!