Steven Powers (SMP): Graphics Drawing Tablets

Graphics Drawing Tablets



If you are new to digital drawing/painting and need an inexpensive way to explore your creativity, then a few options of Graphics Drawing Tablets. This is a dilemma that all digital artists have to solve that messes the Computer, Tablet, and Application.

TABLETS:
  • Wacom 
  • Huion
  • XP-PEN
 APPLICATIONS:
  • Photoshop
  • Corel Painter
  • Krita
  • Artrage
  • MyPaint
  • Sketchbook Pro

HARDWARE:

This will vary based on the operating system, desktop, notebook, or tablet.   Having good components are essential. I have listed what I am using as a loose guide Multi-core processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a relatively new Graphics card is a good place to start. In addition, a Solid State drive can improve the performance for an older computer.


The one constant is my PC.  It is Windows 10, AMD 8 Core Processor, 32 GB Ram, Nvidia Graphics Card. My goal and struggle has been to find a tablet with the highest sensitivity, Tilt function, supported by multiple applications, and is glitch-free.  The cost is a concern, as it is always, but nothing is worse for an artist, to be grabbed by inspiration, then to be stopped cold by glitchy software or hardware.  The setup must be dependable.

TABLETS:

Wacom has been the leader of Graphics Tablets for the better part of 2 decades.  They are also the most expensive, but the most reliable, especially of late. I can only talk to the tablets that I have owned or still own with the applications that I have today, as listed above.


Wacom Intuos 4, which surprisingly can still be found (for $279 and up), is one that I bought when it came out approximately 8 years ago.  The tablet works today with Wacom's newest driver, with all the applications listed above.  The drawback is that it does not offer Tilt and only has 2048 of touch sensitivity. A new Intous Pro currently is $349.99 and offers Tilt and an increase of 8192 levels of sensitivity, with a battery-free pen.
  • Intous Pro (not the 4)
  • Tilt / 8192 Sensitivity, Battery-Free Pen
  • Cost $349.99
XP-PEN Dec Pro Medium:
I bought this a few months ago and loved it out of the box.  But with time, it became unreliable. Sometime it would work, other times it didn't.  I updated drivers, tweaked application settings, and it still did not work. It now resides in its box.  I even had to go back to using my 8+-year-old Intuos 4 tablet in the meantime.
  • Tilt / 8192 Sensitivity, Battery-Free Pen
  • Cost $129.99
  • Android Support 
  • Unreliable performance. 
Huion HS610:
In response to the failed XP-PEN Deco Pro, I tried another highly recommend/reviewed option, which was also listed as supported by Krita, and also happened to be considerably less cost. It has performed as expected with all the applications listed above.  The tablet software is highly adjustable so the user can configure the softkeys as needed.
  • Tilt / 8192 Sensitivity, Battery-Free Pen
  • Cost $72.99
  • Android Support
  • Reliable performance.

 APPLICATIONS:

There is quite a few graphics software that is available.  I can only speak to Windows and Linux based applications. Here is a short option for each application.
  • Photoshop - Subscription-based; Requires Internet Access; Industry Standard; Tablet Support
  • Corel Painter - Full Feature; ~$359; Offers Corel Essentials version currently for $49.99 with limited features; Tablet Support; Dependable
  • Artrage - Current cost $79.99; Vast toolset, Smooth interface; Dynamic Brushes, Transform tools, Filters, and more. A free version is offered to try indefinitely, but does not allow you to save your files...it allows one to get used to using the tools before purchasing. It is a great way to see if it will support your tablet.
  • Krita - Free Open Source; Serious Alternative to Photoshop; Cross-Platform support; Tablet Support; Great Community of tutorials; Version 4.2.9 I found the brush strokes not smooth.
  • Sketchbook Pro  - Free; Professional; Limited tools compared to PS; Ideal for sketching, coloring, inking, scan from cell camera into line art, and is supported on Android Tablets and Phones.  This is one of my favorites for ease of use, cross-platform, and price.
  • MyPaint - Free Open Source; Basic features; Useful for sketching, coloring, and inking
Other Options:
  • Artweaver - Cost $39.69; Seems to be similar to Corel Essentials; Been around for a long time with a history of community support.
  • GIMP - Free Open Source; Designed to an alternative to Photoshop; Not as robust and stable as Photoshop, but has a similar layout to ease for users to crossover. Tablet support is questionable but is good for photo manipulation.

CONCLUSION:

What I have found over the years and again more recently, is that for an artist, the tools need to be reliable above all other concerns. There are a few ways to approach this.
  • Option-1 - Wacom, and Photoshop are a good match and work...but are the most expensive combination. In addition, Photoshop is subscription only and requires an active internet service, which can be a game-changer for some.
  • Option-2 - The most cost-effective, is Huion HS610 and Sketchbook Pro for art, and Krita or GIMP for editing.
  • Option-3: - Huion HS610, Artrage, and Krita. This seems to be the most effective combination for illustrators requiring a painterly effect. 
The Huion seems to be a very solid replacement for a Wacom tablet with the same specifications. In addition, I really like using Sketchbook Pro for drawing and painting.  Artrage offers a painterly effect with its brushes.  Krita is a little glitchy with the tablet but is great for color correction, composition, manipulation/editing tasks, and is a solid alternative to Photoshop.

I hope this helps,

-Steve

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