What Size Drawing Tablet should you Buy?

Knowing what brand of drawing tablet to buy is great, but what about knowing what size to buy? Tablet size can have a significant impact on your workflow, as getting the wrong size can make work very uncomfortable.

In this article, we’re going to look at some of the most important size considerations you should make when purchasing a tablet. By the end, you should know whether size matters for you, and by how much. 

Tablet size considerations

Tablet size and resolution vs. screen size

Tablet sizes should be considered in relation to the size of your monitor, as well as its resolution. A small tablet surface will mean you need less hand movement to move the cursor across the screen. This might sound like a good thing, but consider that having a tablet that is too small might lead to an overly jumpy and sensitive cursor. Trying to make a very fine selection can be frustratingly difficult.

On the other end of the spectrum, having a tablet that is too large can make the cursor feel awfully slow, and you will need larger hand movements to move the cursor significant distances. Your muscles may tire quicker that way.

Another factor to consider is the resolution of the tablet. For example, when it comes to Wacom, the regular Intuos has about half of the resolution of the Intuos Pro, which is their flagship tablet. This difference can be easily noticed, depending on the size of your monitor screen. Assuming the tablet size remains equal, the higher the resolution, the larger the screen you can comfortably use with it.

Another thing to consider is that larger tablets tend to be difficult to use with a keyboard. They make more sense for work where you’re unlikely to type, such as drawing or video editing work. Also, if you’re the kind of person that like to apply long strokes while drawing, you may want to get a tablet that offers a larger drawing area. For most artists, a medium sized tablet meets the vast majority of their needs.

In case you’re using a dual display, remember that the screen is in default landscape mode, and it is far longer along the horizontal axis than the tablet. You may need to get into the configuration panel for system preferences to set appropriate screen mappings for your tablet. You may also want to set up one of your tablet’s hotkeys to enable switching between screens, or switching between single and dual screen modes.

The most natural thing to do, in our opinion, is to make sure the screen proportions are the same as those of the tablet’s drawing surface. If you opt to use a dual display, you might be better off rendering some of the vertical area of the tablet inactive and expanding the horizontal area to a much larger pixel mapping.

Navigating around the screen

As mentioned above, this greatly depends on the size of your monitor, as well as the resolution of the tablet you intend to purchase. The right tablet size is the one that allows you to navigate your monitor smoothly, without the cursor getting jumpy due to oversensitivity or moving awfully slowly because your tablet is too large.

Controlling a big monitor with a small tablet

This can be a serious pain. A small tablet means the entire screen and all its pixels are mapped onto a the very small drawing surface on the tablet. A small movement on the drawing surface makes for a very large movement on the screen.

As a result, the cursor feels jumpy. It can be very difficult to make fine selections, or draw fine details with such a setup. It is important to get a medium to large tablet if your screen is especially large.

Working with a large tablet

Working with a large tablet is heavily dependent on the size of the monitor, as well as whether you’re working with a dual setup or not. A large tablet works excellently with a large screen, as the mapping is more natural and one can easily make fine movements, not to mention the cursor doesn’t move very slowly.

If you’re working with a dual display setup, you might want to set the tablet to match the ratio of the screen. This will make the horizontal axis of the tablet map to more pixels, while part of the vertical axis will be inactive. Alternatively, you can set the tablet up to switch between one screen and another using a hotkey. Note, however, that this can be confusing and takes a while to get used to.

How to adapt to any size

If you’re buying a Wacom tablet, the good news is that the software that ships with the tablet allows you to assign the active area of the tablet to your display. If you need the large active area of a large tablet to do artwork, but don’t want the same when you’re performing general office tasks or browsing the web, you can set the tablet to map only a small part of the active area to your display.

If you have multiple displays, such as a dual display, you can have the tablet take control of just one display. This makes it easier to perform more precise edits. If you would ever like to use the stylus as a trackpad or traditional mouse, you can have the tablet positioning be relative, rather than absolute.

Another major feature of graphics tablets that helps you deal with this is the fact that they have shortcut buttons known as ExpressKeys. They also have pop-up menus and some of them have rings or dials you can use to scroll, control finer features like opacity and zoom, or just navigate through menus.

You can customize what these ExpressKeys and other similar features do with your tablet’s software. If you like using them, you can adapt a tablet of any size to work with your specific setup, especially when you don’t have the budget to buy the ideal tablet size for your monitor setup. You can also take advantage of the fact that larger tablets tend to have more ExpressKeys, which translates to even more control over how you can adapt your tablet to your needs.

FAQs

Is a bigger drawing tablet better?

There is no hard and fast answer here. The truth is that it depends on a few things, such as the size of your screen, whether you’re working with multiple displays, and the resolution of the tablet.

Generally speaking, larger tablets work well with large screens. They are also better suited to work that requires longer strokes, such as drawing and illustration, or work that can be done entirely on a drawing tablet, such as video editing.

What is a good size for a drawing tablet?

The best size for a drawing tablet depends on your specific needs. If you have a very large screen, a good size for you is a large tablet. On the other hand, if you only need the tablet for simple tasks, such as signing digital documents or browsing the web, then a small tablet should be okay, no matter what size screen you need. For most artists and other graphic design professionals, a medium sized tablet occupies the sweet spot.

Is a small drawing tablet usable?

Yes, if you set it right. You can change the settings to have the active area of the tablet map differently to the pixels on the screen. This can help you work easier. Also, if your work with a tablet isn’t especially demanding, or doesn’t require you to work with the entire screen, a small tablet is usable.

On the other hand, if you use long strokes in your work, or have a very large screen, the active area on a small tablet will naturally map to a larger area, which means the cursor will have a tendency to be jumpy. This can be frustrating when you’re trying to draw details or make fine selections.

What are the benefits of a larger tablet?

The greatest benefit of larger tablets is that they are more adaptable to both small and large screens. If you have a very large screen, or a multiple display setup, a large tablet can easily be configured to work well with it.

On the other hand, if you have a small screen, or need to work in a small area of the screen, you can also configure the large tablet to work with that. Larger tablets also tend to have more programmable features, including ExpressKeys and rotating dials. You can program these to map to specific functions, such as switching between screens, that help you work with complicated setups more easily.

Larger tablet screens are also more useful for video editors, illustrators, and other kinds of artists that draw or do work that needs more hand movement. They are more comfortable and give more room for the work you might need to do.

Conclusion

As you can see, the right tablet size for you is heavily dependent on your particular needs and what kind of screen you’re working with. In most cases, however, you will be better off with a medium to large drawing tablet if you’re looking to do some serious art.

If for no other reason, such tablets are preferable because they are easier to adapt to different situations. Our advice is to get at least a medium sized tablet when you’re starting out, then to upgrade to a larger one later on. This will be a good way to ensure your journey to being a great digital artist is less painful on account of your tools. Until next time, happy drawing!

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