So you want to get into digital art, photo manipulation, matte painting, and all of that creative awesomeness, and you’re not exactly sure of which graphics tablet you want to pick as your first one for getting started with digital design.
Picking a proper tablet can mean you continuing with digital design for a long time, or quit early because it’s not as smooth and enjoyable to use. As we can discuss hours on end about tablets and their properties, I’ve decided to focus on the important parts and condensed it for beginners.
At any rate, getting your very own graphics tablet for the first time is a very exciting and fun experience because now you can paint on your computer using a pen!
So let’s get into which tablet is a great one to get to start out with.
We have to pick the tablet that averages the best in regards to four major aspects:
- Surface feel
The size is quite an important aspect when choosing your first tablet (or any tablet purchase for that matter). It matters a lot because of how you would like to use it. A big tablet is nice because it allows for a more natural feel when drawing on the computer; move a few centimeters on the tablet, and you move a similar distance on the screen. If you use a smaller tablet, moving a little bit on the tablet can still make quite the distance on the screen, which means less movement is required to paint, but also a bit less accurate. I found that something in between is absolutely golden – something like a medium size Intuos from Wacom.
This one is a very important for me personally, as it’s the bridge between your pen and the program. Painting on it must feel good and natural, so the surface must please the user. The best way to know if the tablet you’re looking at is for you is, obviously, to just try it out in the store. You don’t want something that’s too smooth with an almost oily gliding feel – you want a more papery feel.
This property is sort of the least important one because as a beginner, you don’t necessarily have the quickest and most efficient workflow – you simply want to get going with painting and drawing cool stuff. If your tablet has 2 buttons, that’s good enough. You can set those buttons to any two functionalities that you use in for example Photoshop (I used Increased Brush Size on one button, and Decrease Brush Size on the other one).
There is quite a large range of tablets, and they don’t only vary in size, but also a lot in price! There is no need, as a beginner, to buy an expensive tablet as there are wonderful entry level tablets – I’m even reluctant to call them entry level as they can be used in pretty much any professional application with great result. Get a tablet for something between $60-$100 and you’ll be laughing.
Straight out of the bat, I would suggest getting something like the Wacom Intuos, small or medium size, pen & touch model if you’re a beginner. You want something that has a slightly rough feel to it when drawing – something that kind of emulates the feel of a pencil on paper, and I think the Wacom tablets are really good with that. Plus, they are renowned for good quality tablets (I am actually NOT affiliated with Wacom, unfortunately, even though I praise their products devoutly).
When I first started out painting digitally and designing on the computer instead of on paper, I bought myself a Bamboo Pen & Touch, small version, which looked like this:
It was a great tablet for me as a beginner with digital design, the price was only about $70, has a great feel – and it’s been with me for 7 years. It’s considered a beginner’s tablet, but I’ve used it for many years on countless professional projects including concept art for games, matte paintings for films, album cover artworks, and a lot more. Only the recent years I started feeling limited by the size and functionality of the Bamboo Pen & Touch so I upgraded to the Wacom Intuos Pro Medium, which has totally opened up more functionality for me and it just kicks ass.
As a beginner, you don’t need to buy the bigger, stronger, cooler Intuos Pro until later on when you feel you need something more (takes years!). You also don’t need to worry too much about the levels of sensitivity.
So summing it all up: pretty much any tablet will do to get you quickly started jotting down some lines and designs on your computer, but having a tablet that is of high quality, has a great pen and surface feel for when you’re painting and designing, some functionality for quick shortcut buttons, and doesn’t cost your shirt off, will really be a better buy. Put some thought into it and get yourself a proper tablet and you and your designs will be much better off!
Until next time – stay awesome and creative!