In or considering art school? You need the gear the pros use.
Summer is officially coming to a close, and it’s back to school season. Whether you’re a creative teen thinking about which colleges to apply to, or a seasoned art student approaching graduation, you’re going to want a drawing tablet to create your masterpieces. Wacom tablets are ideal for art students: they’re what professional film-makers, animators, industrial and fashion designers, illustrators, and professional creatives of all kinds around the globe use, they have an array of exciting features, they’re versatile when it comes to software, and they are available in different price points making them accessible to all.
If you’re getting in the the art world now, having traditional skills is important — but being able to work digitally is incredibly important as well. One of the most important decisions made by art students is which graphics tablet to work on, which is why we put together this list of the best graphics tablets for art students. You shouldn’t have to worry about whether your tablet will be able to do what you need it to — your focus should be on your creativity, your imagination, and your hopes and dreams. Here’s what you need to know.
Intuos and Intuos Pro
The Intuos tablet comes in small and medium sizes, is easy to set up and use, and comes bundled with the software you need: two years of Clip Studio Paint Pro and one year of Boris FX Optics, as well as three months of Aftershot and Painter Essentials 8, and Luminar Neo.
Part of the reason Wacom tablets are the best on the market is the pressure-sensitive, battery-free, cordless pens. The Intuos comes with the Wacom Pen 4K, which has 4096 pressure levels — and comes with three extra standard nibs. The pen never needs to be charged and is always ready to go when your inspiration strikes.
The small Intuos weighs just over 8oz and the medium Intuos weighs 14.5oz, and they’re incredibly sturdy, making them easy to carry around campus and to travel with. Both sizes come with wireless options, which we strongly recommend for ease of connection! Art students who use the Intuos tablet speak highly of how natural it feels: the 4K pen is designed for both left- and right-handed artists, and the tablet itself has an ergonomic design and a realistic pen-on-paper feel.
If you’re new to creating digitally, the Intuos is the perfect design for you. But if you’ve got a bit more experience and would like to use the model that professionals themselves use, the Intuos Pro might be the right choice for you.
The Intuos Pro comes in small, medium, and large, and while maintaining all the features of the Intuos it also boasts the new Wacom Pro Pen 2. This pen has impressive pressure sensitivity — 8192 levels! — as well as tilt response and virtually lag free tracking. Other benefits include a touch ring and more customizable express keys, and the option to use different texture sheets (sold separately) so you can personalize the feel of your tablet.
The pro model is a bit more expensive, so if price is important to you, stick with the original. Both are excellent options for all art students.
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While some creatives prefer the feel and ergonomics of using a pen tablet like the Intuos, others want to draw directly on the screen. The Wacom One is the perfect choice for the art student who wants to try out a pen display. Considered the “entry level” Wacom pen display, it is just as reliable and adaptable as the Cintiq, but it is a much more affordable choice.
Available in small and medium sizes, and compatible with virtually all your favorite creative software programs, Wacom One is a beginner’s best friend. The pressure sensitive, battery-free pen is easy to control and makes the transition of moving from drawing on paper to a pen display smooth and comfortable.
Though the Wacom One doesn’t have as many features as the Cintiq, at under $400 its price simply cannot be beat. And you won’t be disappointed with this option.
Its durable construction, 1920 x 1080 screen resolution, and natural drawing feel make it an integral part of the Wacom family of devices. And as you hone your skills at art school with this tablet, you can work your way up to purchasing a fancier and more expensive one — or perhaps, the studio you end up joining after graduation will have Cintiqs and you’ll be ready to jump up to the next level, given your experience on the Wacom One!
Cintiq and Cintiq Pro
The Wacom Cintiq is the ultimate pen display for art students — if you’re ready to get started on your professional path, this device that was built for you. The Cintiq comes in two sizes, and both include the Wacom Pro Pen 2. They have Full HD resolution, and a plastic film protective layer. Significantly heavier than the other tablets listed here, these weigh in at 4.1 pounds and 12.3 pounds. Don’t plan to schlep these tablets around campus — they work best for the drawing you want to do in your room or studio.
The Cintiq Pro is utilized in design, animation, illustration, and photography studios around the world — because of its precision, feel, resolution, and color accuracy. The Pro comes in multiple sizes, has Ultra HD-4K resolution at 3840 x 2160, and has incredible 96%-99% RGB color accuracy.
The Cintiq Pro also has an etched glass protective layer, multitouch capabilities, and significantly quicker response times. Though it’s absolutely the most expensive of the group, it earns its price point as the tablet that professional artists swear by and that you will almost certainly be using in your future career.
At the end of the day, there’s no wrong choice — just the exact right one for you and your needs. Which Wacom device will you get to elevate your creativity this school year?
The best graphics tablets for art students:
Intuos pen tablet
Wacom Intuos is designed to for creativity. With its Bluetooth connectivity option, you’re free to take it wherever inspiration strikes. ExpressKeys can be easily programmed on Mac or PC as your favorite keyboard shortcuts, so your process can be your own.
Wacom One pen display
The perfect entry point for beginning creatives interested in a pen display, the Wacom One has all the features you need in an affordable, durable device.
Cintiq Pen Display
This professional-level pen display is the world-class high-quality device Wacom is known for. With unparalleled precision and color accuracy, get a Wacom Cintiq or Cintiq Pro to use what the pros use.
About the author
Pamela Greene is a writer, editor, and educator based in Portland, OR. When she’s not working she enjoys hiking, watercolor painting, and DIY home renovation projects.