Arts tablet: The best drawing tablets in July 2023

Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium review

Our Verdict

This is an ideal pen tablet for illustrators, digital painters and photographers who want a reliable, solidly built piece of equipment. It’s easily portable, wireless and pretty much flawless in performance.

For
  • Wireless
  • Great build quality
  • Fantastic drawing experience
Against
  • Nothing of note

Why you can trust Creative Bloq
Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

TODAY’S BEST DEALS

Xencelabs are the new kids on the block in the graphics tablet world. The team includes ex-Wacom employees, and they’ve put all their design and industry know-how into the Pen Display Medium – it’s as user- and artist-friendly as you’d hope. We tried the Pen Display Medium Bundle, which comes with the Xencelabs Pen Tablet, two pens (the 3 button and Thin Pen) and a case, a Quick Key remote, and other bits like a drawing glove and a very nice soft tablet carrying case, all for just $359. 99 / £319.99. 

So far, so good, but how does it measure up compared to the other tablets in our best graphics tablet guide? Read on to find out more. 

The pen tablet has been designed with the user in mind (Image credit: Ben Brady)

Xencelabs Pen Display Medium sits just under a 13-inch MacBook in size, neither too big nor too small, and at only 8mm thick it looks and feels like a very nice piece of design. It has an ergonomic curved front edge, which feels like the user’s comfort has been taken into account. This is especially welcome considering those long hours spent drawing.

  • Xencelabs Medium Pen Tablet Bundle (Black) at Amazon for £329.99
  • Prime Day 2023: our pick of the best Apple deals

The tablet seems super sleek and well made – from the texture, or ‘tooth’, of the active drawing zone, to the metal alloy underside with six rubber non-slip pads, it all adds to a build quality you might expect from a more premium piece of kit by someone like Wacom – an Intuos Pro medium would be a fair comparison.

Xencelabs tablet specs

Product Dimensions: 12.61 x 9.16 x 0.3 in / 320.5 x 232.85 x 8mm
Active area size: 10.3×5.8 in / 262.4×147.4 mm
Active area aspect ratio: 16:9
Pen: Battery-free
Pressure levels: 8192 levels
Weight: 710.5 g
Ports: USB-C to USB-A

The active area is delineated by four corner LEDs you can customise in eight different colours. It’s a nice addition. You can set different colours for different programmes, for example, when they light up blue, you know you set for Photoshop, pink for Affinity, yellow for Corel, etc, or whatever you like. 

Three small buttons sit at the top of the tablet, fully customisable of course. They seem perfect for accessing the tablet or pen settings, for example, or for switching programmes. You may well ask – where are the rest of the shortcut buttons, so common on graphics tablets? And that’s where the Quick Key Remote comes in. ..

Xencelabs pen tablet: Quick Key Remote

Customise with ease with the Quick Key Remote (Image credit: Ben Brady)

Because Xencelabs seems to be all about the refinement and attention to detail on a single product (meaning the bundle as a whole), those quick key shortcuts have been lifted off the tablet, save the three primary buttons, and configured, if you will, into this very cool, separate, OLED display and nine-button remote with physical wheel dial.

The remote itself is as nice a build as the tablet and is customisable with up to 40 shortcuts. The best thing about it is its ability to configure by colour too, just like the tablet itself. A bit of time spent in the settings means a relatively easy configuration of dial sequences, which is perfect for scrolling, zooming, rotating, and changing brush sizes. Just assign a colour to each job. 

You can configure the eight buttons into different sets for different art jobs, so to speak – Set A for sketching, B for editing, C for colouring etc. The OLED display makes it easier to remember which button is set to what, when in each configuration. If that all sounds a bit like too much trouble – it really isn’t. Compared to other drawing tablets, this, as well as the initial set up and driver installation, is pretty easy and stress free. Xencelabs has got the user’s experience from beginning to end in mind, and it shows. 

Xencelabs pen tablet: stylus/pen

Ooh la la (Image credit: Ben Brady)

Opening up and unboxing the Xencelabs pen tablet medium bundle is pretty satisfying, even surprising, especially considering the cost. It’s when you uncover the pen case that it really gets a bit ‘ooh la la’. The pens also have a nice weight –reminiscent of an old fountain pen. 

Wacom sells its slim pen separately, but Xencelabs includes one with the Pen Tablet medium. So, you get a regular three-button pen and a slim two-button pen, both with ‘erasers’ on the opposite ends (or whatever you want to configure them as). I spent most of my time using the slim pen and not even bothering with the regular, but it is nice to have a choice. 

Being able to customise both pens to different settings is a nice touch –  you can grab one for shading or light pencil work, and use the other for inking or painting in, for example. It saves a great deal of time having to go back into the settings and reconfigure each time you want something different.  Both pens have the standard (and very high) levels of pressure sensitivity, and 60 degree tilt functions, as standard. The drawing experience with the pens is really very good – no lag, smooth lines, and no marks missing when sketching at speed.

Ten extra nibs are included in the case, four of them felt (as in the material) for extra ‘tooth’, plus a nib extracting ring.  

Xencelabs pen tablet: power

The Xencelabs medium pen tablet bundle comes with a USB-A to USB-C connector (Image credit: Ben Brady)

The pen tablet and Quick Key Remote both link up with to your computer via USB (USB-A to USB-C connector included) and once charged, are both connected to the tablet wirelessly via bluetooth – with a dongle included in pen case. The battery of both the tablet and remote lasted a fair few hours. The pen takes less than an hour to fully recharge (whilst using it), and the remote about half an hour. The pens are of course completely battery free.

Xencelabs tablet: price

All this (except the Apple keyboard) for $359.99 / £319.99 (Image credit: Xencelabs)

The cost of the bundle is very reasonable: $359.99 / £319.99. This includes the Xencelabs Pen Tablet, two pens (the 3 button and Thin Pen) and case, the Quick Key remote, a drawing glove and a very nice soft tablet carrying case. 

The Tablet alone is $279.99 / £259.99, the remote $89.99 / £79.99, and the regular and thin pens $49.99 / £35.99 and $46.99 / £33.99 respectively. The bundle is clearly a bargain. It is significantly more than an XP-Pen Deco Pro at $129.99 / £129.99, but worth the hike in price due to the design build, quality and expertise that has gone into it. 

It sits around the same price as a Wacom Intuos Pro Medium $379. 95 / £329. Both the XP-PEN Deco Pro and the Wacom Intuous Pro Medium are comparable to the Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium in terms of their technical prowess.

Xencelabs tablet: should you buy it?

Between the Deco Pro and the Intuous Medium and this tablet, Xencelabs comes out on top. The Xencelabs Pen Display Medium bundle is a clear signal that the Xencelabs team are serious competitors in this market, offering a capable tablet and accessories set that is understated yet very cool, for a sensible price. Whether you’re a professional or are just starting out, we recommend Xencelabs Pen Display Medium Bundle.

Xencelabs Medium Pen Tablet Bundle: Price Comparison

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10

out of 10

Xencelabs Medium Pen Tablet Bundle

This is an ideal pen tablet for illustrators, digital painters and photographers who want a reliable, solidly built piece of equipment. It’s easily portable, wireless and pretty much flawless in performance.

Ben is an artist and illustrator based in Bristol. He works in traditional woodcut, drawing and digital mediums. For Creative Bloq, he reviews drawing tablets and styluses, as well as the latest and greatest digital software for artists. His artwork has been exhibited across Bristol, and his words have also appeared in ImagineFX magazine. 

Wacom Cintiq 22 review | Creative Bloq

Our Verdict

The Cintiq 22 has the lowest price Wacom has ever offered for a drawing display of this size, with a well-judged feature set that enhances your drawing comfort. You can still get similar products for less, but Wacom’s emphasis on quality makes this a compelling option.

For
  • Keen price point
  • Very good drawing experience
  • Built-in adjustable stand
Against
  • Costs more than its direct rivals
  • Relatively low screen resolution
  • No built-in shortcut keys

Why you can trust Creative Bloq
Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

TODAY’S BEST DEALS

The Wacom Cintiq 22 is the latest model in the company’s drive to make this famous digital art brand a whole lot more affordable. Within Wacom’s overall product line of electronic drawing aides, many of which can be found in our round up of the best drawing tablets, the Cintiq is a flat-screen display for your computer, which you can draw on with the provided stylus. 

The range is neatly divided into two: Cintiq offers relatively basic displays at lower prices, while Cintiq Pro provides a premium experience – particularly a 4K display in larger models – with prices to match. The Cintiq 22 joins the Cintiq 16 in the more affordable sector.

  • Wacom Cintiq 22 at Amazon for £899.99

The Cintiq 22 offers a full HD screen (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) – the same screen resolution as the smaller Cintiq 16. That immediately means there’s an important trade-off between the two: the Cintiq 22 gives you a physically larger drawing area for more comfortable, expressive arm movement while drawing, but the screen image is less sharp than on the Cintiq 16.

While the picture on the Cintiq 22 is a little soft compared with other Cintiq models, it’s comfortable to work from – and in all other respects, the drawing experience is excellent. The larger size compared with the Cintiq 16 really matters when you’re in an extended drawing session: it frees you up to make more extensive pen strokes.

The Cintiq 22 gives you a physically larger drawing area, but the image is less sharp than on the Cintiq 16 (Image credit: Wacom)

Apart from resolution, the other potential drawback of this display compared with the Cintiq Pro line is the colour gamut – how many colours the screen is capable of displaying. The quoted gamut for the Cintiq 22 is 72% NTSC, which puts it in the same league as a budget monitor. Cintiq Pro displays have a colour gamut of 94% NTSC. While that technical difference sounds damning, bear in mind that the Cintiq 22 is able to present 96% of the range of colours supported by the sRGB colour profile, which many designers and illustrators apply to their images by default.

The Cintiq 22’s screen surface is well-considered. The anti-glare glass surface is laminated to give it a slight texture, which gives a pleasing sense of bite as you move the stylus across it. 

The technology that enables the Cintiq 22 and similar drawing displays to work means there are two planes you interact with: the glass you draw on, and the actual screen presenting the image you’re drawing. Too great a gap between the two leads to a disconcerting disconnect between the point of your stylus and where your pen mark appears on-screen. The Cintiq 22’s gap is perfectly acceptable, although you don’t get the almost supernatural sense of connection the advanced optical bonding technology of a Cintiq Pro gives you.

The Pro Pen 2 is very comfortable to draw with (Image credit: Wacom)

The provided stylus, the Pro Pen 2, is easily capable of capturing your creative gestures: it offers 8,192 levels of pressure-sensitivity, as well as tilt sensitivity, where the angle at which you hold the pen affects the stroke. The stylus doesn’t need a battery either: it takes the power it needs from the electromagnetic properties of the screen. The same is true of the pen that comes with the rival Huion Kamvas Pro 22, but the cheaper XP-Pen Artist Display 22E Pro’s pen requires periodic recharging.

While there are other Wacom pens available, few artists should have any complaints with the functionality of the Pro Pen 2, and it has a satisfying heft that makes it comfortable with draw with. The Cintiq Pro line comes with the same pen, although the Pro’s advanced drawing surface allows the use of soft felt nibs.

A stand built into the Cintiq 22 enables you to tilt the display to your preferred drawing angle. It’s a better solution than in the Cintiq 16, which uses foldable legs that tilt the display to a fixed angle.

While conventional drawing tablets without a display, like Wacom’s Intuos line, are capable of working over a wireless Bluetooth link, that isn’t yet realistic for a combined tablet and display. The Cintiq 22 uses USB-A for its drawing tablet connection, so you need an adaptor if your computer only has USB-C ports; and HDMI for its display connection.

Perhaps the most notable feature of the Cintiq 22 becomes apparent when you compare it with the model it replaces in Wacom’s lineup, the Cintiq 22HD. It’s a fair bit cheaper, at around $1,200 / £860 / €990 versus its predecessor’s $1,400 / £1,300 / €1,200. (The difference is most pronounced in the UK.) That still doesn’t put it in the same price bracket as the Huion Kamvas Pro 22’s $900 / £680 / $775 or the XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro’s $400 / £500 / €550, but it’s still clear that Wacom is responding to the threat posed to its market-leader status.

The older Cintiq 22HD has a stand that rotates as well as tilts, plus ExpressKey shortcut keys to help you access favourite commands in your chosen software. However, the newer Cintiq 22 has a superior pen and a matt rather than smooth screen surface. As well as the price drop, you get a materially better drawing experience. If you miss the 22HD’s shortcut keys, you can buy Wacom’s ExpressKey Remote for $100 / £100 / €130 for the Cintiq 22.

The benefits of the Cintiq 22 compared with the Huion Kamvas Pro 22 and the XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro are more intangible. They’re a pretty close match for key features, although both rivals offer built-in shortcut keys. The Cintiq 22 still has a better overall feel, however, with superior build quality in both the display and the pen. You have to weigh up the immediate gain of lower prices against the longer-term benefits of the Cintiq 22 just feeling a little more satisfying to work with. It’s a distinction that may not wash with the Cintiq 22’s target audience of students, keen non-professionals and jobbing artists.

Wacom Cintiq 22: Price Comparison

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8

out of 10

Wacom Cintiq 22

The Cintiq 22 has the lowest price Wacom has ever offered for a drawing display of this size, with a well-judged feature set that enhances your drawing comfort. You can still get similar products for less, but Wacom’s emphasis on quality makes this a compelling option.

Richard is an editor and journalist covering technology, photography, design and illustration. He was previously editor at the magazines 3D World, Mobile Computer User and Practical Web Design, as well as deputy editor at Mac Format and commissioning editor at Imagine FX. He is the author of Simply Mac OS X.

Tablet instead of canvas, stylus instead of pencil

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Digital images: a fashion fad or a new word in the visual arts?

Author:

Anna Ermakova

Technology has significantly changed our lives and affected completely different areas. What awaits in the future for those who love canvases and paints, paper and colored pencils with all their hearts? Digital or classic: what and why is more relevant now? The correspondent of “Journalist Online” talked to those for whom drawing is a profession.

©Anna Ermakova / Journalist Online

Artists no longer need to mix paints and use brushes, now a graphic tablet and a stylus are enough for drawing. Today, a very popular offer has appeared on the market – a computer portrait. Is it really possible that, walking along the Arbat, we will no longer be able to observe the work of freelance artists who are ready to depict the face and figure of a passerby in ten minutes? Will our favorite cartoons be re-shot with hyper-realistic graphics? And in the apartments, instead of paintings, there will be photographs disguised as them?

Digital art in Russian sounds like “digital art”. Artists use a variety of graphics programs, including the well-known Photoshop and lesser-known visual editors. The directions of this movement are varied: someone concentrates on drawing bloggers and celebrities in a cartoon style, someone writes a futuristic picture of the world, and someone creates vintage posters. There is also a lot of room for creativity for those who deal with cartoons and comics. Everything depends only on the imagination and vision of the artist himself, and the computer provides almost limitless possibilities.

Daria Bogankova, 5th year student of the Faculty of Architecture of the Moscow State Academic Art Institute. IN AND. Surikova, teacher of painting and drawing at the art school

©Anna Ermakova / Journalist Online

– Is the technique of drawing in traditional style and digital style very different?

Of course there are some differences. Firstly, on a tablet you can always zoom in on an image, which you can’t do on paper. Secondly, traditional instruments are replaced by a special pensil. But there are similarities too! As in classical painting, the artist must first sketch, build, and then draw. This is very similar to our usual work, only a transparent brush is used instead of a pencil on a computer or tablet.

– Do computer tools repeat the texture of real ones? Like oil or coal?

Yes. By the way, the use of textured papers is very common: watercolor, craft. They are uploaded to the program separately. They draw with tools that imitate oil, pencil, and other real-life things. However, completely virtual analogues cannot repeat the texture and convey the material with which we write in life.

– Is it possible to learn how to draw on a graphics tablet if you have never done it on paper before?

I think this is possible because the same teaching methods are used. There is not much difference on paper to learn to draw, canvas or tablet. Just in any case, you need to study the laws of construction, perspective, light, form. But all this is possible to learn with the help of new technologies.

© From the personal archive of the heroine

– Is it likely that in the future artists will be taught to draw directly on the computer?

There are many different directions in artistic activity. I think that traditional painting will not disappear, because there is a demand for it, and, of course, there are also lovers of the classics. Perhaps the digital direction will develop separately, and from the very beginning, training will go in two different ways. Because now, in order to work in the field of digital art, you need to graduate from art school, then college, and then decide what to do next, whether computer technology is needed in your work.

– That is, it is possible that digital is not a replacement for the classics, but a separate industry? And training for her will be built in a new way?

Yes, I think it will be possible in the near future. And with the development of technology, such specialists will immediately be taught to draw on a computer.

– And today it is possible for an average artist to somehow make money on traditional art?

Still, the digital art direction is more relevant, because the skills of creating a digital image are used to design websites and pages, bloggers order various pictures and icons, there is also the comics and animation industry. This is all a huge block of well-paid professions. As far as traditional art is concerned, it still exists, of course. He has no less connoisseurs, and interesting, catchy works always attract the attention of potential buyers. Today, the idea of ​​the work and the author’s non-standard thinking are especially important. Earnings depend on the master: he can participate in competitions, sell works here or abroad. Wealthy clients often order paintings for interior decoration. I myself have sold several of my creations, and I know colleagues who have been successful in this. Wealthy buyers do not want to see a digitally painted picture in their luxury home, paintings made in a traditional style are more suitable for this, where brush strokes, the artist’s technique, and the texture of paper or canvas are visible. Classical framed works also look great, but a simply painted and printed portrait does not at all give the impression of grandeur to the viewer.

© From the personal archive of the heroine

– In Russia, there are several organizations that make copies of photographs: they process the image to look like a painting, print it on canvas and sell it. Why do people like it?

This is less elitist, designed for mass art and mass distribution. For most people, it is enough to see that their image is already somehow transformed, looks interesting and interpreted into a “picture”. It does not matter to them how it was drawn, it is only important to see themselves and an interesting presentation. I can say that “portrait-translations” is a good business, but the professional art community is laughing at it.

– And how to define a good artist and not order such a “translation”?

A painting is not a photograph, and in the copied image there is no presentation of the author, the artist’s vision, any special details, emotions. I would say that there is no soul in such work. When a picture is not just a modification of a photograph in Photoshop, the viewer perceives it in a completely different way, he is much more pleasant.

– Still, why, in your opinion, digital art today is of greater interest to the public?

A lot of new image methods and techniques have appeared. Sometimes it really looks bright, fashionable and stylish.

– But if this is such a trend, then it should pass over time?

I think that digital art will just become a completely different direction, separate from classical painting, and these directions will go in different ways. There may even be separate exhibitions for traditional and digital art.

Artists can earn not only by creating paintings. There are other areas where their skills are required. One of the most important is comics and animation. Changes have affected this area as well.

Is the industry changing for better or worse? Anna Golda, art critic and animation historian will help to understand the issue.

© From the personal archive of the heroine

– How can you get into the comics industry today, start creating them?

– There is no universal way, it is different for every artist. Some may be self-taught and just develop their hobbies, while others may come to comics from another profession (such as an illustrator). Understand that comics are an art form. Often people who are engaged in graphics or painting use this one among other options. Winsor McKay himself, who became famous for creating comics in the early 20th century, used his talents for wide application. Therefore, I think that in order to start creating comics, first of all, you need the desire and study of the features of this art form.

– That is, art education is not necessary at all?

I am not inclined to consider this a necessity, although education can give certain advantages, especially if a person chose a specialty himself and knew what he wanted to study. But still, self-education should not be underestimated, the “observation” of a person is especially important: knowledge of art history in general and the history of comics in particular, understanding of the methods of other artists, the ability to work with background, make connections between different art forms and understand them.

– Now all the work is done on a computer, or does something still need (can) be done by hand?

I think that the choice of methods and materials of work depends on whether the artist works for himself or for someone else. In the case of an author’s project, we can talk about an independent choice of a more comfortable option, and compromises are necessary to work with someone.

– Tell us more about what concept art is?

I would characterize the concept art as an image of the hero of the planned work. It should contain all the key features of the character’s design, show the color scheme and give the most complete picture of it. It can also be the development of background images or locations. The name itself in the Russian-speaking environment appeared recently, but the phenomenon is quite old. Even in the materials of Soviet cartoons of the 40s and 50s, we can find a huge amount of concept art. Images like this are essential in the early stages of both comics and animation to keep stories complex and complete.

– What is the demand for artists who have mastered computer technology? Is it possible to do without it in your profession today?

On the one hand, nowadays knowledge of computer technologies most often increases the chances of an artist to find a job. Having mastered the programs, you can go into mass production, for example, children’s animated series. On the other hand, there are always projects that do not use digital methods. And I’m not even talking about academic painting, but about the same comics and cartoons.

©Anna Ermakova / Journalist Online

– Do you think that traditional visual arts are fading into the background, giving way to digital technologies?

I don’t think so. A similar question arose very sharply at the turn of the century, when the first part of Toy Story came out. But at some point, the fear of the “death” of traditional animation strongly influenced many masters, and in recent decades we can observe the desire to synthesize traditional animation and computer graphics. This is done by both recognized classics of animation (Hayao Miyazaki) and fairly young directors (Tom Moore). Recently released and nominated for an Oscar is Klaus, which also uses traditional animation. If at 9In the 0s it seemed that there should be some choice between one or the other, today there is an understanding that traditional technologies with computer technologies can coexist very well.

– Are there any shortcomings of modern computer graphics?

There are many problems. For example, we think a lot about the over-realism in modern cartoons. Do we need such believable textures, what artistic value is hidden behind them? Some researchers are categorically against computer technology, but it is worth understanding that art uses different methods, and computer graphics is one of them. This method is new, requiring observation. I think that you should not take it with hostility, but you need to carefully and impartially study it.

02/07/2023

Synthesis of classical values ​​and realities of journalism

An international scientific and practical conference was held at the Faculty of Journalism of Moscow State University

26.01.2023

Festive Dean Tea

In honor of Tatyana’s Day, an informal meeting of students and teachers with the dean and graduates of the faculty was held at the Faculty of Journalism of Moscow State University

07/12/2023

Neural networks around us

On July 10, VDNKh hosted a lecture on artificial intelligence

04/28/2023

“I want to start working!”

The annual Career Day was held at the Faculty of Journalism of Moscow State University

Tablets for drawing on a computer

Tablets

Tablets for drawing on a computer allow you to create drawings in digital form. These devices help you draw with methods similar to traditional art.

Although there are many programs designed to draw on computer screens, it is quite inconvenient and very different from the process of drawing lines with a pencil or brush. On the flat screen of the tablet, so similar to a regular sheet of paper, you can draw in the same way as usual. Only instead of a pencil, use a special pen or stylus.

Graphic tablets come in a variety of screen sizes and are usually supplied with drawing software. It is much easier to learn how to draw on them than on a computer, although there are certain features here:

  • line thickness is determined by the angle of the pen;
  • darker color is obtained by pressing the stylus more;
  • you can draw a line without touching the tablet screen;
  • line color is selected from the palette.

However, the hand quickly gets used to this style of drawing and soon the artist does not notice the difference between creating drawings on paper and on the screen.

How to choose a drawing tablet

Before buying a graphics tablet, it is worth learning more about the important characteristics that affect the quality of your drawings. These characteristics include:

  • resolution parameters;
  • size of screen working space;
  • pen parameters – sensitivity, hardness, actuation height and angle, power supply4
  • response speed;
  • possibility of drawing with fingers.

For drawing, it is better to choose tablets with a screen that is not too small, not smaller than A5. For children, of course, smaller ones are also suitable, but in the future they will still have to be changed to larger ones.

The resolution settings of your pen tablet determine how your drawing will look on your computer screen. If your tablet resolution is less than 2000 dpi, drawing on your tablet may become too rough on a large screen. After all, as a rule, computer graphics should look decent not only on mobile devices, but also on computer monitors.