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The best drawing tablets: best graphics tablets for photo editing with a stylus

best drawing tablets and best graphics tablets for photo editing in 2021
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you've been wondering whether you need one of the best drawing tablets for photo editing, we're here to help. While using a mouse is more than adequate for most post-processing fare, a pen and drawing tablet can actually make your editing much more ergonomic, tactile – and, dare we say it, enjoyable. 

While you might be a little apprehensive at first about using a stylus and graphics tablet to do your photo-editing, the best drawing tablets for photo editing can actually make your life much, much easier. Many of graphics tablets are highly sensitive, with the ability to register up to 8,192 distinct levels of pressure. This means that users can be incredibly precise with their editing – meaning that you can get a much better edit with a stylus and tablet than you'd be able to get with an ordinary mouse.

No matter whether your main editing program is Photoshop, Lightroom, or something else, being able to use a stylus to daw in your edits is not only a much more intuitive experience, but far more enjoyable as well.

Professional retouchers tend to do their photo-editing on drawing tablets – and with good reason. Once you try it yourself and get used to the different workflow, you might find that you're surprised by how much you enjoy this way of editing. 

So, which is the best graphics tablet for photo editing? There are a few factors to think about – and plenty of manufacturers vying for your attention. At the moment, Wacom is the industry favorite – and for good reason too. You'll find a selection of their best tablets below, but Wacom isn't the only manufacturer to consider. XP-Pen offers some fantastically affordable products, while Apple iPads and Samsung Galaxy Tabs are not some of the best tablets generally, but they also have surprisingly sophisticated drawing capabilities. 

Whether you're looking for a drawing tablet with a large drawing area, or one that's a little more lightweight and compact, we've included a wide range of tablets on this list to help you find the perfect one for you.

The best drawing tablets for photo editing in 2021

(Image credit: Wacom)

1. Wacom One (2020)

The best balance between performance and price

Dimensions: 225 x 357 x 14.6mm (8.9 x 14.1 x 0.6in) | Built-in screen resolution: n/a | Pen pressure sensitivity: 4,096 levels | Connections: USB-C, HDMI | OS: Windows, macOS or Android

Portable design
Display area is almost A4/Letter sized
Small surface area

The Wacom One was launched right at the start of 2020, and is  the best all-round entry-level graphics tablet that Wacom has ever produced. With a 13-inch surface area, it is a long way for being the biggest graphics tablet you can get – but that does mean that this is an peripheral you can take along with your laptop when away from the home or office (and you can even link it up with some Android devices). The supplied pen if battery-free, and it has a surface that is said to feel more like paper than glass – making it great for those who want to use this for digital art, as well as an alternative to their computer mouse. Built-in feet allow you to place the surface at a slight angle, if you don't want it flat on your desk.

(Image credit: Wacom)

2. Wacom Intuos Pro Large

Best-priced large graphics tablet for photo editing

Dimensions: 430 x 287 x 8mm | Built-in screen resolution: n/a | Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels | Connections: USB, Bluetooth | OS: Windows or macOS

Ergonomic controls
Large A3-sized working area
Wireless connectivity
No screen
Not particularly portable

There are more advanced tablets and cheaper tablets available, but we reckon if you want great value for money from a tablet for photographers then you should look at the Wacom Intuos Pro Large. Its rough, tactile surface and highly sensitive stylus make it an enjoyable experience to use the Intuous for editing, and the combination of Bluetooth and USB connectivity make it easy to boot the device up and start editing your images, whether you’re a Windows or Mac user. The tablet supports multi-touch gestures (pinching, swiping, etc), and its shortcut keys are fully customisable, allowing you to assign them the functions of your choosing. Also useful is the Touch Ring, which gives you quick access to your favored commands and tools.  There are smaller Intuos Pro models (Medium and Small), but the Large near-A3 sized-version is perfect if you have the space. 

best drawing tablets and best graphics tablets for photo editing in 2021

3. Huion H430P

Astoundingly cheap, this is a fantastic entry point for tablet editing

Dimensions: 218 x 168 x 42 mm | Built-in screen resolution: n/a | Pen pressure sensitivity: 4,096 levels | Connections: USB | OS: Windows or macOS

Great price
Useful shortcut keys
No screen

Many photographers might assume that an editing tablet simply isn’t worth the cost, but when the Huion H430p can be picked up for less than £30/$40 you’d be foolish not to at least consider it! Though it can’t compare to the professional-geared models made by Wacom and others in terms of functionality, the H430p is a well-made little unit that does everything a tablet-editing beginner would need it to. It has a small but well-functioning drawing area, an impressively sensitive stylus for the price, and four customisable shortcut keys to streamline your workflow.

4. Wacom Cintiq 16

An entry-level Wacom tablet that’s perfect for Lightroom editing

Dimensions: 422 x 285 x 24 mm | Built-in screen resolution: 1920 x 1080 | Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels | Connections: USB, HDMI | OS: Windows or macOS

Large, high-res display
Pro Pen 2 stylus
Still expensive for entry-level
Lower colour gamut

Removing its standard “Pro” designation, Wacom introduced the Cintiq 16 as a more entry-level tablet designed to tempt photo editors who may not have taken the plunge on a tablet before. Though the price is still arguably a little steep, being many orders of magnitude more expensive than something like the Huion H430p, the Wacom Cintiq 16 is still a great entry-level buy and is perfect for a Lightroom workflow. It has Full HD LCD display is a pleasure to work on, allow you to directly work on the area of the image you are looking it – and this synergizes well with the included Pro Pen 2 stylus. Bear in mind that the 72% color gamut is lower than that of higher-end models, and while this shouldn’t be a problem for most straightforward photo edits, you may notice a very slight difference in how the image looks from tablet to computer screen if you’re using a high-end monitor.

(Image credit: Wacom)

5. Wacom Intuos Pro Small

Get that Wacom quality for an amazing price

Dimensions: 269 x 170 x 8mm | Built-in screen resolution: n/a | Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels | Connections: USB, Bluetooth | OS: Windows or macOS

Portable and cheap
Useful, sensitive stylus
Smaller working area
No screen

This is one of the most affordable pro-spec tablets Wacom has ever introduced. The baby brother to the Intuos Pro Large, the Intuos Pro Small makes it easier than ever to take your editing on the go. Packaged with the Wacom Creative Pen for highly-sensitive editing, the Intuos Pro Small provides a working area of 157.48 x 98.43mm (6.3x3.9 inches), which is smaller than most of the others in this guide, but still more than enough to make adjustments to your images. It's also equipped with the useful customizable ExpressKeys and Touch Ring, allowing you to make the editing experience your own and get the tablet working exactly how you want it to.

(Image credit: XP-Pen)

6. XP-Pen Artist 15.6 pen display

A tablet with a great built-in display at an affordable price

Dimensions: 500 x 330 x 80 mm | Built-in screen resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels | Connections: USB-C | OS: Windows or macOS

Good price
Sensitive stylus
Smaller drawing area
No wireless connectivity

A very good “cover-all-bases” tablet, the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 pen display gives you all you really need to start editing your images, at a great price to boot. It doesn’t quite have that tactile Wacom feel when you’re drawing on it, for photo adjustments and edits it does the job admirably. The ultra-sensitive stylus has 8,192 levels of sensitivity, and the eminently portable design of the tablet itself means it’s easy to pack up and take anywhere with you for editing on the go. For a terrific balance between pricing and features, XP-Pen’s tablet is tough to beat.

7. Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13

This comprehensively specced tablet is equipped with Windows 10

Dimensions: 367 x 229 x 16 mm | Built-in screen resolution: 2,560 x 1,440 | Pen pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels | Connections: 3 x USB-C, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | OS: Windows or macOS (Windows 10 built in)

Vivid, high-resolution display
A virtual studio of creative tools
Middling battery life

With the Windows 10 operating system actually built into it, the Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 is a seriously powerful piece of kit. Its ultra-high-resolution 2560x1440 WQHD LED-display boasts 16.7 million colours and a colour gamut of 96% Adobe RGB, allowing you to view and edit your images in crisp, lifelike detail. You can use the included Pro Pen 2 to make your edits with pleasingly tactile precision, and if you want, you can even hook the MobileStudio Pro up to your desktop PC or Mac and use it as a pen display for an even more powerful setup. It’s easy to configure the ExpressKeys and Touch Ring to your preferred workflow setup, and you can also control it via the touchscreen. All this does have an effect on battery life, which could be better, but this is a seriously powerful tool regardless – with a price to match.

8. Wacom Cintiq 22

A professional tablet with a large, versatile screen

Dimensions: 375 x 248 x 14 mm | Built-in screen resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 | Pen pressure sensitivity: 2,048 levels | Connections: DVI, USB 2.0 | OS: Windows or macOS

Highly sensitive screen
Extra-wide viewing angle
Unexceptional screen resolution

For artists and designers, this is one of the most desirable tablets on the market right now, and it’s a fantastic choice for photographers too. The large 22-inch screen can display more than 16.7million colours, providing fantastic depth and richness of detail (even if the 1920 x 1080 resolution isn’t as high as we’d like), and it’s a terrific experience to draw on it with the Pro Pen 2. Like many other Wacom tablets on this list, the Cintiq 22HD features customisable ExpressKeys that you can assign preferred functions to, allowing you to streamline your workflow just the way you want it. It’s not cheap of course, but it’s an astounding piece of technology that’s great for pro-level editing.

9. Microsoft Surface Book 2

A fantastic, high-resolution choice for Windows users

Dimensions: 360 x 275 x 74 mm | Built-in screen resolution: 3,000 x 2,000 | Pen pressure sensitivity: 4,096 levels (with optional Surface Pen) | Connections: 2 x USB 3.0, USB-C, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | OS: Windows

Powerful Dual Core processor
Doubles as a laptop
Surface Pen costs extra

One of the best things about the Microsoft Surface Book 2 is that it’s not only a tablet but a laptop too, meaning you can tablet-editing to your skillset without necessarily having to up the number of devices you lug around. Its powerful Intel Core processors provide smooth and fast operation, while drawing on the large, high-resolution display with the Surface Pen is an intuitive and enjoyable experience (though be aware that this’ll cost you extra). If you can afford the steep initial asking price, you’ll find the 13.5in Surface Book 2 a fantastic device for editing, processing and everything else besides (and it is more affordable than the more recent Surface Book 3).
• See also Best tablet for photo editing

(Image credit: Apple)

10. iPad Pro 12.9 (2020)

The very best iPad for photographers

Weight: 639g | Dimensions: 280.4 x 214.8 x 5.8 mm | OS: iPadOS 14 | Screen size: 12.9-inch | Resolution: 2048 x 2732 pixels | CPU: A12Z Bionic | Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB | microSD slot: No | Battery: 9,720mAh | Rear cameras: 12MP wide (f/1.8), 10-MP ultra-wide (f/2.4) | Front camera: 7MP

Faster performance than ever
Improved battery life
Full mouse/keyboard support
Apps still need to catch up
Magic keyboard costs extra

If you’re already into the Apple ecosystem, it makes sense to consider Apple’s iPad Pro as your drawing tablet of choice. If you’re willing to pick up the Apple Pencil 2 as well, it works magnificently as a graphics tablet for photo editing, no matter which program you prefer to use, and the pencil can be magnetically docked when not in use. This 12.9-inch version (there’s also an 10.2-inch) is magnificent for working on, its large Liquid Retina display providing class-leading color accuracy, and powering operations is the A12X Bionic processor, which Apple says makes the iPad Pro faster than most laptops. 
See also: Best iPads for photo editing

(Image credit: Samsung)

11. Samsung Galaxy Tab S7

The best Android tablet on the market right now

Dimensions: 253.8 x 165.3 x 6.34mm | Built-in screen resolution: 2,560 x 1,600 | Pen pressure sensitivity: 4,096 levels | Connections: USB-C, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | OS: Android

Comes with drawing pen
Range of Android apps
Smaller display

Great for viewing and editing your images, the 2020 Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 is a fantastic tablet for Android users, and the fact that it comes with a stylus in the box means you have everything you need to get started right away. It’s a fairly pricey tablet, but having access to the range of editing apps for Android is an excellent advantage, and the crystal-clear11-inch screen displays your images in crisp, perfect detail. Samsung also promises up to 15 hours of battery life with the Tab S7, meaning you can keep on editing on the go for longer, and it of course has a range of wireless and wired connectivity options. 

 Read more: 

The best mouse for photo editing and video editing

The best monitors for photographers 

The best USB-C monitors for photo editing 

• The best photo-editing laptops

The best Chromebooks for photo editing

The best desktop computers for photo editing

The best camera accessories 

The best photo-editing software