12 Best Drawing Pen Tablets for Photo Editing in 2023
August 8, 2023
Do you use a graphics tablet for editing photos? Are you considering using one but don’t know where to start?
Graphics tablets and stylus pens are not just for artists and illustrators! It is also a great way to edit photos in Photoshop, Gimp, Affinity Photo or whatever photo editing package.
Graphics tablets are an amazing tool for your photo editing, but how much better is a tablet compared to a mouse? Here you’ll learn the advantages of working with an editing tablet and which situations they’re most useful in.
Furthermore, With so many different types, models, and brands out there, finding the right drawing tablet for you can be confusing and overwhelming.
If you want to know about the best tablet for photo editing in 2023, this guide has got you covered.
Whether you’re an amateur looking for a basic graphic tablet for photo editing, or a pro needing a more powerful standalone drawing tablet, you’ll discover all the best tablets right here.
What’s a drawing tablet and what types are there?
A graphic tablet, also known as a drawing tablet or pen tablet, is an input device for computers that allows users to draw, sketch, or write on a flat surface using a stylus. The stylus or pen sends the digital signal to the computer.
Graphic tablets come in a variety of sizes and styles, and can be used for a wide range of applications, including digital art, graphic design, animation, online teaching, and photo editing.
There’s three types of drawing tables:
Drawing Tablet without Screen
This is the most basic graphics tablet type that comes with a flat, plastic surface and without display. Once you connect it with your compatible device via cable or wireless, the work you do on the drawing pad gets reflected on the device screen.
They do take getting used to, because you need to get used to looking at your computer monitor and not where you’re drawing. But once you get over that hurdle there’ll be little to no difference in the quality of your work.
Pen tablets are cheaper and perfect for beginners but even professionals can use them.
Drawing Tablet with Screen
The screen tablets typically connect to your computer via USB and HDMI cable, they work as a second monitor.
Users can directly write and paint on the display with the attached pressure sensitive pen. It feels really near to drawing on a paper.
Pen Displays are a bit expensive than non-screen tablets, it’s not recommended for the beginners. They come in size ranging from 10-inch to 32-inch.
Standalone Drawing Tablet
Standalone drawing tablet, also called as Pen Computer are the graphics tablets that come with a display, stylus and computer hardware too.
They don’t need to be connected with the external device to get started. the benefit is they’re portable, easy to carry out, and you can use them for other things.
Standalone drawing tablets are expensive and are recommended for professionals and the ones with higher budget.
What are the Benefits of having a drawing tablet for photo editing?
Using a stylus is much more natural than using a mouse or a touchpad. Even if you’re a beginner photo editor, using a pen tablet can prove to be very useful over working with a standard computer mouse.
Physically, the drawing tablet and pens are incredibly comfortable to use; you can work away for hours without discomfort.
It’s a level of accuracy way above what a mouse can do. For fine detail work, drawing and retouching (dodge and burning) they’re far better than if you’re doing things that require less accuracy.
The most significant is pressure sensitivity, with which you will notice the benefits in making selection masks and in the use of pen pressure to paint and blend finely controlled adjustments to light and color.
Adjusting the amount of pressure you apply to the pen tip, you can apply more or less of an “effect” or blend layers to provide a natural look.
Certain tablets also include programmable buttons set up as shortcuts for menu items that will speed up your workflow, making it easy to change brush sizes, switch tools or dial back opacity a breeze.
Once you get used to using all the shortcuts and customize the tablet to your preferences, you can considerably speed up the entire editing process.
What software do photographers use to edit photos?
There are so many photo editing apps like Adobe Photoshop CC, Affinity Photo, Gimp, Luminar NEO, Photoscape X, Snapseed, Pixlr, Photopea, PhotoDirector, PaintShop Pro, Paint.Net, PhotoFiltre, and more.
There are also a number of raw editors available: Adobe Lightroom CC, DxO PhotoLab, Capture One Pro, On1 Photo Raw, RawTherapee, Darktable and etc.
Some are free and some are paid. It’s totally up to you. Free does have some limitations As you start to discover your own editing style, you can start looking for more specialized apps that compliment that style.
What size of graphic tablet for photo editing?
Non-screen Pen tablets can come in a wide range of sizes. Bigger isn’t always better, however.
Tablets use absolute position. If you want to edit the upper left corner of your pic, you lower the stylus to the upper left corner of the tablet live area and the cursor jumps from wherever it is to the top left corner of the screen.
Large tablets are more useful for artists who are making large movements from the elbow or shoulder. Photo editing is by small pencil-like movements, and a smaller tablet is more practical. You can also just zoom into the area being retouched.
Another factor to consider is the size of the primary screen you’re using. a larger desktop monitor pairs better with a larger pen tablet, whereas a smaller laptop monitor is best with a smaller pen tablet.
As for portability, the small (A6) and medium (A5) size is perfect that you can travel with it in a laptop bag.
You should also carefully measure the space available on your desk before buying a medium or large (A4, A3) tablet because they can take up more area than you have room for.
This changes a bit for screen-based models, however. a larger size is essential and better, especially for fine control on the value bar sliding (e.g. contrast, exposure, and so on).
The reason is that the larger drawing space gives you higher precision to work on those teeny tiny control, and also sometimes it’s easier to select certain tools with direct looking at the Screen, than by moving on screenless tablet and guess how much pen tip move to reach that tool.
12 Best Drawing Tablets for Photo Editing in 2023
Tablet Brands like Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Wacom, Huion and XP-Pen has a wide product offering targeting different individuals with different needs and interests.
Before you go ahead with buying one, you should read our top 10 drawing tablets for photo editing below to determine which one will be right for you.
1. Gaomon S620
Gaomon S620 is a budget friendly drawing tablet that really good for any beginner who just want to switch from a mouse to a tablet.
The active area is 6.5 x 4 inches, packed with a slim design and only 8mm of thickness. It’s small A6 size so it is portable enough to take to class and home again.
The AP32 battery-free pen is lightweight and comfortable to hold, along with 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity and 2 programmable buttons on the side.
The S620 tablet has 4 programmable buttons, while the pen has 2 programmable buttons on the side. These 6 shortcut buttons will make the whole photo editing process much easier.
The S620 is compatible with Windows, Mac, Chromebook and Android devices. It also works smoothly with Photoshop, Affinity Photo, Gimp, and Lightroom.
Gaomon S620 is small and doesn’t support tilt sensitivity which may restrict users but for basic photo editing and drawing tasks the Gaomon S620 gets the job done.
Huion Inspiroy Dial 2 is more than just your usual graphic tablet but a tool that can boost your efficiency when editing or retouching.
It has a large 10.5 x 6.56-inch workspace, which affords great precision. The drawing surface has enough friction to help with drawing comfortable, but without being too rough.
The tablet comes with 2 customizable dials and 6 Customizable buttons that ensure a better photo editing workflow.
Powered by PenTech 3.0, the battery-free pen has 8,192 pressure levels, 5080 LPI resolution, and can be used tilted down up to 60 degrees on either side.
The Inspiroy Dial packs a 2,300 mAh battery which can last up to 18 hours of continuous use. This operates the Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity that uses significantly minimal power while maintaining very low latency.
This tablet is compatible with windows, macOS, ChromeOS, Linux, as well as Android phones or tablets.
The Wacom Intuos Pro series have long been regarded as the Best Tablet for Photo Processing.
The Intuos Pro is designed to feel as natural as real paper with its superb built quality.
It comes in three sizes: Small (6 x 3.7 inches active area), Medium (8.82 x 5.83 inches), and Large (12.24 x 8.5 inches).
Small is ideal if you’re used to small strokes when editing photos. The medium size is recommended if you’re used to short and long strokes. Large is recommended if your hands are huge and are used to long strokes when drawing.
All the sizes of the Intuos pro come with the bluetooth wireless kit, something you will appreciate if you move around a lot and work for hours at a time.
Along the side are six express keys, separated into two groups of three by the touch ring, which are all customizable using the Wacom driver. The multitouch experience itself is also excellent.
The Pro Pen 2 battery-free stylus is very precise, and its included eraser tip on the top of the pen works great too. It features 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, tilt-response, and virtually lag-free tracking.
Wacom Intuos Pro tablet is compatible with both Mac and Windows PC. Dozens of photo editing applications benefit from it.
If you are using Photoshop and Lightroom and desire the editing on screen experience, but don’t want to spend too much, wacom one pen display would be a great entry.
You can edit directly on your photos, making tasks like blemish removal, dodge and burn, and detailed Pen Tool work a breeze.
Wacom one features a 13.3″ display with a Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution. the screen looks razor sharp and is more than adequate for most people.
Moreover, it covers 72% NTSC or 93% sRGB color space, a max brightness of 200 nits and has wide 170° viewing angles.
The matte textured screen protector reduces glare and gives you a little bit of resistance when drawing, so it feels sort of like a pencil on paper rather than a pen sliding over glass.
The pen is 4096 pressure sensitivity, 60 degree tilt angle, and is reasonably responsive. The EMR stylus doesn’t have a battery and doesn’t require charging.
Wacom one display can slip into most laptop bags with ease and be readily available whenever the creative urge strikes. Users can also prop up the built-in legs for a more comfortable editing or drawing experience.
With excellent stylus, the Wacom Cintiq 16 is an accurate and affordable solution for photo editing on the go.
The screen measures 15.4-inch with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 for full HD viewing at a smidge over 141 pixels per inch.
Colors are vibrant, It covers 72% of NTSC color space and can display over 16.7 million colors, which is well suited to most photo editing applications.
The screen has an anti-glare film, preventing any distracting reflections. The texture of the screen is almost like paper, which offers a more natural feel.
The included wacom Pro Pen 2 is a solid, precise, comfortable pen and really helps you feel the 8192 levels of pressure and tilt recognition.
Being able to draw using my entire arm because of a larger surface space along with drawing in details while having more of the image visible is incredible.
If 15.6 inches is still too small for you, then 22-inch Wacom Cintiq 22 with the same specs is a better choice. you will able to edit using your entire arm because of a larger surface space along with editing in more details.
Apple iPad Pro 2022 is pricey, but it could be perfect for editing your nature snaps and astrophotography on the go.
If you doesn’t work with massive libraries or need the full power of Photoshop. It does the job of editing in Lightroom Mobile, Photoshop Express, and Affinity Photo very well.
The iPad Pro has a gigantic 12.9-inch mini-LED display with a resolution of 2,732 x 2,048 pixels, 1,600 nits of peak brightness, 100% DCI-P3 wide color gamut and up to a 120Hz refresh rate.
The screen is crisp, bright, vibrant and smooth. It’s fully laminated too, has wide viewing angles, but the glass surface is glossy, so you may want a matte screen protector when you drawing or editing.
The M2 chip is very fast, powerful and there’s up to 16GB RAM too. The storage ranges from 128GB, ideal for people with minimal storage needs, to 2TB for more demanding users.
While you need to spend more on accessories, the Apple Pencil 2nd Gen would be a great addition, which gives you ultra-responsive strokes and a smooth editing experience.
The iPad Pro has a large 10,307mAh battery capacity that Apple claims will lasts 10 hours for simple tasks, like video and web browsing. It actually lasts about 6 hours of photo editing.
Editing with Apple Pencil is excellent. The screen is excellent too. It has more limitations for sure. But the culling and quick edits are blazingly fast and smooth.
If you prefer a more portable work machine, the smaller 11-inch iPad pro is much easier to hold than the 12.9-inch model. There is also a 10.9-inch iPad Air 5 comes with M1 chip but with only 60Hz refresh rate.
The Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra is the best Android tablet for multitasking and photo editing, but it comes with a high price tag.
Incredibly slim, sleek design, a brilliant, punchy screen that’s expansive – perfect for watching, photo editing, or sketching on.
The stunning 14.6-inch Super AMOLED display comes with a 2,960×1,848-pixel resolution, 99.4% of DCI-P3 color gamut, 420 nits of maximum brightness and 120 Hz refresh rate. All visuals look Sharp, vibrant, and accurate.
With the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip, up to 16GB of RAM, Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra works extremely quickly and without jerks. There are a number of storage options including 128GB, 256GB and 512GB.
The Tab S8 Ultra supports Samsung’s S-Pen stylus, and it is included in the package. The S Pen supports palm rejection, 2.8ms low latency, tilt response and 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity.
With a big 11,200mAh power pack, the battery life is not something you need to think or worry about, no matter how hard you push the Tab S8 Ultra tablet.
There is also a good set of photo editing apps available for Android, like Snapseed, although iOS and Windows still has a slight advantage in this regard.
The 12.4-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Plus has almost all of the features of its Ultra linemate but at a size that’s better for work and play. The most affordable Galaxy Tab S8 features a 11-inch IPS Display, which can’t match the screen quality of OLED.
If you are looking for a Windows mobile and flexible photo editing solution, the Microsoft Surface Pro 9 makes for a powerful, handy, on-the-go photo editing workstation.
One of the key benefits of having Windows 11 on the Surface Pro 9 is the ability to utilize Windows-exclusive programs, such as Photoshop, Lightroom, Gimp, Paint.NET and etc.
The tablet is fitted with a 13-inch multi-touch PixelSense screen With 2880 X 1920-pixel resolution, 443 nits of brightness, 106.1% of the sRGB color gamut, and a 120Hz refresh rate.
It’s a fantastic display that gives you an incredible viewing experience. You can expect your photos to look sharp, bright, and vibrant, which is always a good thing.
You can purchase the Surface Pro 9 in a few different configurations, but the best processor option is the 12th Gen Intel Core i7, which gives you multitasking capabilities so you can use editing and organization software simultaneously.
You do have the option to upgrade to 32 GB of RAM and 1 TB of storage; The base model also gives you 8 GB of memory and a 256 GB SSD for fast live editing and plenty of room to store your photo collections.
The Surface Slim Pen 2 is the ideal pen for Surface Pro 9. It has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, tilt support, and tactile signals. Great control, smooth editing, the Slim Pen 2’s precision and ease of use are commendable.
Surface Slim Pen 2 is sold separately, but you can save by purchasing it as a part of a bundle that also includes a keyboard with built-in storage for the pen.
Though its 47.7Wh battery is smaller than its predecessor – the Surface Pro 8, it lasts longer, squeezing an estimated 15.5 hours out of a single charge.