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Both 2D and 3D animators need a great tablet for drawing storyboards, sketching characters, creating backgrounds, and animating frames right on the screen.
But not all tablets are created equal and some work better for animation than others.
The best drawing tablet digital animators is the Artisul D13 tablet for its clean design and simple features. The price tag is very reasonable considering this is basically a Cintiq alternative.
However this isn’t your only option. In fact there are dozens of other great choices with different builds, styles, and features.
Since most animation requires tight visuals I do recommend getting a display tablet. But you don’t need a 22″ display to animate walk cycles or to plan storyboards.
My goal with this post is to share the best drawing tablets for professional working animators or aspiring animators.
I’ll cover a wide variety of tablets explaining their benefits, drawbacks, and ultimately how they fit into the animation workflow. But first let’s cover some basics about drawing tablets and what they offer digital artists.
Picking A Tablet: What To Look For
Anything you buy should be tailored towards your needs. This means there is no “best” tablet, but rather certain options that are better than others.
Do you have existing skills working in digital art? Or would this be your first tablet? Have you practiced 2D animation traditionally or is this your first foray into the skillset?
A solid animator’s tablet should be responsive and easy to handle. Some animators want a portable tablet that can move with them on the go. Others want a large tablet for home use. There is no right or wrong answer. Just different needs for different artists.
One of the biggest factors to consider is pricing. This may have the largest effect on your decision because good digital tablets aren’t cheap.
Before delving into this list figure out where you stand with your tablet goals.
Do you have any prior tablet experience?
What sort of budget do you have?
Do you want a portable tablet or large desktop tablet?
What’s your current artistic skill level?
Are you OK with a display tablet?
For that last point we need to clear up what a display tablet is and why it’s a better choice for animators.
Graphics Tablet vs. Display Tablet
If you’ve ever looked into animation then you probably at least know what a graphics tablet is & how it works. But there’s a difference between a graphics tablet and a display tablet.
Display tablets are like mini monitors that show your screen on the tablet surface. You draw right on the surface and you can keep your eyes fixed on the tablet, not on the monitor.
Likewise a non-display graphics tablet just has a black box-shaped drawing area. It does not show any display. With these tablets you need to keep your eyes on the computer monitor while drawing on the pad.
Animators need as much precision as possible to make accurate marks, adjust frames, and to move through the animation process quickly.
This is why display tablets really are the best choice. If you’re more of a hobbyist then a simple graphics tablet may suffice. But in the long run artists who work digitally typically move onto display tablets. They’re better quality and just feel easier to use.
Keep this in mind while browsing through our recommendations for tablets. Most smaller display tablets come at a reasonable price and they’ll last for years, possibly even a decade or more.
I think the best tablets for animators have three main traits in common:
Smaller screens for portability
Everyone has different tastes and these features might not be right for you. But consider all of your options before rushing to grab one.
Top Pick: Artisul D13
My recommendation for the best animator’s tablet is the Artisul D13 LCD 13.3″ display tablet.
It’s super thin measuring only half an inch on all sides. It comes with seven hotkey buttons and a battery-free pen, the best type of stylus for modern tablets.
Width: 15.3″(just over 1 foot)
It’s fully powered by USB so it does require a cabled connection to your laptop or desktop. But it only requires one USB cable for both power & data transmission. This feels great and helps you avoid wire clutter.
The battery-free stylus is phenomenal. It comes with a portable carrying case to keep it handy wherever you go.
The screen is crazy bright with a 1080p HD display. It doesn’t run very hot at all, and if anything does happen to the hardware it can be replaced under a 1yr manufacturer’s warranty from Artisul.
And this thing even comes with a stand when you get the bundle. This means you can tilt the tablet upwards of 50° or more to draw/paint at an angle.
The display is fairly small measuring about 1.3 feet wide by 0.8 feet tall. But I think the small screen is better for animators who just need to focus on one panel at a time. This also makes the unit easy to carry with you anywhere.
Bottom Line: The Artisul D13 tablet is the best tablet for the price. It comes with seven express keys, an optional left-hand mode, a battery-free pen, and a stand. In my opinion this is the best affordable high-quality tablet for animators.
Wacom Cintiq 13HD
Everything about the Wacom Cintiq 13HD just feels right for professional animation. It’s from a trusted brand with quality hardware, full 1080p display, a custom Wacom stand along with a 3-in-1 display cable.
So why isn’t the Cintiq my top choice? Price.
This alone is tough to justify because not all animators(especially beginners) will be able to shell out for this. But if you can it’s worth it.
One of the biggest reasons to get the Cintiq is the weight. It’s literally 75% lighter than the Artisul D13 so it’s much easier to carry and stow away.
The display measurements are very close to the point where you won’t notice a big difference. But the physical design of the Cintiq is clearly superior, and it shows why so many artists prefer Wacom.
However the Cintiq 13HD only has 5 hot keys so the Artisul wins in that department. The difference between 5 and 7 keys really isn’t huge, so it’s not a major factor. But still worth noting.
This tablet comes with Wacom’s Pro Pen which can support a 60° tilt in all directions while still being recognized on the drawing area.
The stylus is completely battery-free and it comes with a handful of replacement nibs. You can even flip the pen over to work as an eraser. Wacom knows digital tablets and their hardware is tops.
It’s important to know the Cintiq does require AC power from an outlet. This does not work solely through USB so yes it is portable, but you’ll still need to work near an outlet.
Bottom Line: If the price doesn’t scare you away then no question the Cintiq 13HD is the best tablet for animators. It’s super lightweight, built to last, and comes with the trust of Wacom’s many years as a graphics tablet manufacturer.
We did a full review of this tablet and it’s more than great for animation. The Parblo Coast10 display tablet isn’t much smaller than others yet it comes with most of the same features.
It is certainly a smaller tablet width-wise and it’s built thicker too. But it feels sturdy under your hand while drawing which makes the Coast10 a wonderful choice for animating on your couch, in bed, or on the go.
You can power this tablet solely through USB so it does work well as a portable companion. The display size is big enough for animation and the drawing surface is shaped more like a box than a rectangle. Some artists like this, others don’t.
This resolution comes out to a 1280×800 display so make sure your computer can match that. It is possible to calibrate differently but you may have a tough time with display ratios outside the 16:10 window.
The default Parblo pen is battery-free and easy to use. It includes a small right-click button built in so you don’t need a mouse at all. And the Coast10 unit has a small storage space to keep the pen clipped when not in use.
While drawing you’ll notice that taps & curves are registered almost instantly. There’s basically no delay in the process and most marks are super clean.
One negative point is the installation process. It can be tough getting the software setup & getting the tablet calibrated properly. But once you get through that part the Coast10 is a breeze.
Bottom Line: Incredible budget display tablet for anyone from animators to illustrators. Easy to carry, lightweight, and powered solely by USB. It does have a smaller screen but if you can adjust then you’ll love the Coast10.
XP-Pen Artist 10S
Another great display tablet for animators on a budget is the XP-Pen Artist10S. We also did a detailed review of this tablet and the design quality is solid.
It’s super lightweight and comes with a bright screen display using 1280×800 resolution. The battery-free stylus is very light and comes with programmable buttons.
Width: 12″(1 foot)
The first thing you’ll notice is the smaller design of this tablet. In total it measures a foot long by ¾ of a foot tall. This is super small and it’s weird that the Artist 10S weighs more than others in this guide.
But it does come with a bright display and six programmable hotkeys. This tablet can be used by lefties or righties and runs everything through USB cables.
The screen is designed to be bright but it can catch a lot of glare with the brightness dimmed. The drawing surface was designed to reduce glare but you’ll still catch a bit in the right lighting. Still the pixel quality is superb and it offers a smooth drawing experience.
One other thing I’ll bitch about is the clunkiness of all the cables. You need to get a charge from a wall outlet while also connecting data to the computer via USB. Both of these cables are pretty thick so they can feel limiting unless you’re working on a spacious desk.
But the size and design of this unit make it perfect for portability. If you’re an animator or artist looking for a smaller display tablet then this is a nice choice.
Bottom Line: Very small screen but it performs well. Battery-free stylus, six hot keys, and a free cleaning cloth+drawing glove make the Artist 10S a fantastic buy for animators who can work on the smaller screen.
Huion KAMVAS GT-156HD
One of the best Wacom alternative brands is Huion. They create impeccable products and their Huion KAMVAS GT-156HD is perfect for digital animation.
The screen is pretty large pushing close to 2 feet wide. It comes with a full HD 1920×1080 resolution with a thin design and a sweet adjustable stand for drawing at an angle.
Width: 19″(almost 2 feet)
Length: 12.3″(about 1 foot)
This is undeniably one of the best mid-sized display tablets on the market. The screen takes up a majority of the tablet so you’re getting at least 1.5 feet in length and close to a foot in height of drawing area.
On the side you’ll notice a handful of hot keys and quick buttons. These include six express keys, two D-pad style buttons, and a touch pad. This is more than you get even with higher-end Cintiqs!
The input cable is really cool since it splits into an AC adapter, USB port, and an HDMI port. This 3-in-1 cable makes your desk cleaner with hassle-free wire management.
One thing you might not like is the stylus design. This pen uses a battery so it is heavier than others. But it’s also rechargeable so you don’t need to keep buying replacements. This really shouldn’t be a problem considering how long the charge lasts(at least a month of daily use).
Huion’s GT-156HD feels like a professional animator’s tablet. It’s definitely on the larger side which also makes this universally valable to all artists.
The built-in stand is one of the sturdiest you can find with a tablet. And I like Huion’s style of shipping with the unit, rather than selling the stand separately. It tilts upwards to about a 50° angle and it should fit well on any desk.
I do not recommend grabbing this tablet for portable use. Can it work? Yes of course. But it’s heavier and larger than other tablets so it’s best used at home for digital art/animation.
Bottom Line: The GT-156HD is glorious. Huge display, brilliant specs, and plenty of express keys for a professional workflow. If you’re OK with using a wall outlet for power & if you like the larger display then this tablet is every animator’s dream.
Ugee 19″ Display Tablet
Another tablet brand I greatly respect is Ugee. I’ve had a lot of success using their smaller tablets, although the Ugee 19″ display tablet is a much better choice for animators.
It’s crazy affordable and for the size there’s no reason to go smaller. Ugee’s parts aren’t as good as Wacom but they’re definitely in the upper tier for tablets. And this one comes with a smooth hi-def LCD screen running a 1440×900 resolution.
Width: 20″(almost 2 feet)
Length: 18.7″(1.5 feet)
When you look into larger tablets you’ll notice they’re a lot bulkier and heavier. This Ugee display is made for desktops and doesn’t fit well as a mobile tablet.
If you’re someone who prefers working at home then this Ugee display tablet can be a great choice. The display pushes almost 2 feet wide so it’s plenty large enough for animation. And it comes with a stand for tiling upwards close to 75° straight.
Since this is a large unit you do need AC wall power. But since it’ll mostly remain on your desk this shouldn’t be a problem. The stylus pen is well-designed but also a bit heavy.
It uses a battery so you’ll have to remember to charge the stylus after a few weeks(used sparingly it can last 1-2 months). But considering the price and all the extra goodies you get with this tablet I certainly don’t mind the battery-powered stylus.
Along with the 19″ tablet and the stylus you get 8 replacement nibs, a stylus holder, a screen protector, a screen cleaning kit, and a free artist glove. Talk about a grab bag of goodies!
Ugee went above and beyond creating a tablet that’s affordable and works well for digital artists.
I could even recommend this tablet for concept artists who want a larger screen with a tilt. It can even be a great choice for beginners who have never used a display before.
Bottom Line: If you want a large display tablet on a budget then the Ugee 19″ display is a must buy. It has a smooth HD screen that feels like drawing on paper, and it comes with a built-in stand for working at an incline. When you add all the extras(artist glove, cleaning kit) this is more than worth the price and it’s a powerful tool for all forms of digital art.
Wacom Intuos Pro
Not every animator wants to use a display tablet. I think the displays are best for animation, but you can get by fine with a simple graphics tablet.
And the best one of the bunch is the Wacom Intuos Pro, either medium or large size. There isn’t a huge difference between these sizes but I personally recommend the large. It’s a stellar tablet with a great build and it’s perfect for beginners moving into digital art for the first time.
Physical specs(for large):
Width: 17″(about 1.5 feet)
Length: 11.2″(about 1 foot)
I have no idea how Wacom got this tablet so thin. The tablet measures about 1.5 feet wide and the actual drawing surface is at least 1ft. Yet it’s less than half an inch thick and weighs only two pounds!
The Intuos Pro is a brilliant choice for travel. It comes with the Wacom Pro pen stylus and it can transmit data over bluetooth. The stylus also uses bluetooth to connect with the tablet so your movements can be registered with tremendous accuracy.
Both the medium and large model come with eight express keys plus a small radial wheel. You can personally customize what each of these buttons does so you’ll have a lot of control over the workflow.
Wacom recently published a newer updated version of the Intuos line so you’ll be getting their latest & greatest internal technology along with an updated interface and smooth drawing surface.
If you want a bit of texture to your tablet then the Intuos Pro is perfect. Certainly won’t be as nice as working on a display, but if you prefer the traditional non-display tablets then the Intuos Pro offers everything you need.
Bottom Line: There’s no denying that the Intuos Pro is a reliable non-display tablet. This model is super thin, lightweight, and well suited for portability. Any animator who prefers the non-display design should consider this model.
Huion Giano WH1409
One other comparable non-display tablet is the Huion Giano. It’s a bit wider than the Intuos Pro but also quite a bit cheaper.
This is probably the single best non-display tablet for artists on a budget. It comes with a built-in battery so you can go completely wireless for up to 5-7 hours. Very cool for drawing on your bed or even out in the world if you bring your laptop.
Length: 11.1″(about 1 foot)
The actual drawing area measures almost 14″ wide so it’s well over a foot of clear drawing space. The tablet surface is smooth but not too smooth. It offers some texture to feel more like paper.
But the coolest feature about the Giano is that it’s totally wireless. You can charge this thing and go cordless for a few hours of pristine drawing time. The Huion pen also uses a battery and that charge can last for up to a couple months.
And the Giano comes with a built-in MircoSD card with 8GB of storage space. You can save your artwork to the tablet and bring it with you anywhere. It’s like a graphics tablet, a storage drive, and a wireless pen mouse all rolled into one.
For the price you will not find anything better in the wireless graphics tablet arena. I specifically recommend this for animators who don’t want a display tablet, but still want a pro-level device. The twelve hotkeys allow for maximum customization and this unit even comes with goodies like a pen holder & cleaning cloth.
Bottom Line: The Giano is a beast. For the price you get a huge foot-long drawing area that can go completely wireless. Not to mention the 8GB storage capacity. This is perfect for artists/animators who want an affordable wireless tablet that still works like a professional’s tablet.
Monoprice 22″ 1080p Display
It’s nice to start doing animation on smaller tablets but you might prefer a larger screen for more versatility. That’s where the Monoprice MP22 display tablet really shines.
We did a detailed review of the MP22 covering all its pros & cons. For the most part this display tablet is phenomenal in build, work quality, and style. It’s tricky to get the drivers working on older OS’ but once it’s up & running you’ll never look back.
This tablet is versatile and very easy to customize for changing the tilt, calibration, and pressure sensitivity. The display features a clean 1080p HD resolution which can mirror your desktop or work as a secondary monitor.
Because of the size this tablet generally works best on a desktop. It’s fine to use this with a laptop as well, but I think it’s easier to work using another monitor.
You’ll get a battery-free pen stylus along with the pull-down stand for tilting. The marks are extremely precise and you can get a good angle from the pen with support for drawing up to a 40° tilt.
If you have trouble installing tablets then this one might be a challenge. It’s probably not the best choice for a beginner since the drivers are not straightforward. If you’re fairly knowledgeable with computers then you won’t have much trouble.
Just beware that the Monoprice drivers can conflict with any other tablets you run. So you’ll have to uninstall other drivers just to get this one working. The drawing experience more than makes up for any annoyances during setup.
And for animators the display is brilliant, the stylus is super light, and the stand lets you draw at any angle from completely flat up to about 80°.
Bottom Line: Incredible tablet considering its size, specs, and price. The battery-free stylus is easy to use and the tilting stand works well for animation. Installation is not simple but if you can get through that step you’ll really like this tablet.
One other comparable large screen display tablet is the XP-Pen Artist22. This one also uses a 1080p resolution with a diagonal measurement of 21.5″ across the screen.
The nine-point calibration setting ensures an accurate drawing process. Plus the LED display is covered by a thick layer of strengthened glass to reduce scratches and minor damage caused from overuse.
This tablet is designed for professionals. The look, feel, and experience all screams top-notch design.
If you like a smooth LCD surface then you’ll love the Artist22 construction. The glass can feel fragile but it’s thicker than you’d think. And this unit comes with a free anti-fouling artist glove so you can actively reduce smudges while you work.
You get two pens and they’re both battery operated so they need to be charged every so often. I have to say this pen’s battery isn’t great and it doesn’t seem to last as long as others. But even if you have to charge it every week you can leave it charging overnight so it shouldn’t affect your workflow.
The screen is huge and takes up the entire tablet. This leaves no room for express keys. But the stylus does have a couple buttons to operate like a mouse.
And the Artist22 comes with a built-in stand that can be extended to varying degrees. You can work from completely flat up to a 75° angle.
The absolute best thing about this tablet is the screen quality. Beautiful display, adjustable backlighting, and the colors look pristine. This can even function as a secondary monitor if needed.
On the negative side the stylus pens are kinda crappy. I hope XP-Pen goes battery-free soon because it does make a difference. And the lack of express keys is a bummer.
If you don’t like the idea of a glass tablet display then this is not for you. But if you like the design, the price, and the display features then the Artist22 can work well as a professional animator’s tool.
Bottom Line: There are many fullscreen tablets out there but the Artist22 is definitely a good one. Brilliant screen, reinforced scratchproof glass, and a sturdy stand to adjust your drawing angle. I recommend this more for fans of XP-Pen who already like their products and trust the craftsmanship.
Cheapest Tablet For Animators
The best budget animation tablet has to be the XP-Pen Artist10S for its durable display screen and the killer price tag. It comes with a free anti-fouling glove and a cleaning cloth to keep your screen free of smudges.
And the Artist10S supports a crisp video resolution through HDMI. The pen is battery free so you never need to charge it and it’s cheap to replace.
It even has six built-in express keys on the left side that you can press to run programmed tasks like undo, save, or increase/decrease brush sizes while painting. For such a small tablet this really does come with a lot of functionality.
This model is an update on the original XP-Pen Artist10 series so you’ll also find new settings to adjust brightness, change screen display styles(monitor or mirror), and the tablet’s physical design has been updated.
I understand that not all animators want a display tablet. Generally they’re better for animation, but you can still do great work on a cheaper non-display graphics tablet.
If you prefer that route then the Huion Giano is a nice choice for the money. Definitely the cheapest non-display tablet that still comes with incredible features for animators.
But if you’re on the fence between the two I’d recommend the Artist 10S any day. The display feature really does make a difference and it’s the best way to practice art on a digital tablet.
Making The Call
Everyone has their own preferences and requirements. Some artists want tablets powered by USB, others are fine with DC wall power. Some artists want a portable tablet while others only want to animate at home.
For all these cases I generally recommend the Artisul D13 because it’s small enough to be portable yet powerful enough to let you create awesome hand-drawn animation. Plus it’s cheaper than a Cintiq so it might work better for the starving artist who doesn’t have much to invest into new equipment.
Still there are some better options like the Cintiq 13HD if you can afford it.
But if you want a larger tablet, or a tablet with a stand, or a tablet with more express keys, take another look over this list and note your favorites. These tablets are the best for animators so no matter what you get you should be pleased with the experience.