Choosing and building the best drawing tablet set up depends entirely on your needs and preferences. For this reason, we have researched and handpicked the most effective setups for digital artists.
On the flip side, beginners usually start with a combination of a graphics tablet (without a screen) and a laptop. This is a very affordable setup to explore digital drawing for the first time.
So your knowledge and budget can help you decide which of the following setups to choose.
Let us take a closer look at the pros and cons for each graphics tablet setup. These setups are focused on artists, designers, and photographers who want a digital drawing set up or workstation.
- Drawing Tablet setup for digital artists and graphic designers
- How to setup a drawing tablet
Drawing Tablet setup for digital artists and graphic designers
Although there are more setups out there, we have found that the most popular drawing tablet setups for beginners and professionals are the following 7 options:
- Laptop and Tablet Setup for digital artists: On this particular setup you will need any laptop that can handle graphic design and illustration software like Photoshop, Illustrator or Krita. Apart from that you should choose a powerful tablet like a Microsoft Surface combined with an active pen.
- Graphic Tablet + Laptop – No screen setup: For this setup you will need a laptop that can handle graphic design and illustration software (e.g. Photoshop and Illustrator) in a breeze. Except for that you will also need a graphic tablet which doesn’t have an integrated screen, like the latest Wacom Intuos.
- Pen Tablet + Laptop – Built-in screen setup: This setup doesn’t have many differences from the previous one. However, pen tablets generally allow for a more precise drawing experience than graphic tablets and have a built-in screen.
- Touch screen Laptop (2-in-1): Many people have the impression that this is simply an affordable setup for beginners. However, there are many standalone 2-in-1 devices like the Wacom Cintiq or the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 that are perfect for creating professional artwork.
- iPad (Procreate): iPads are the perfect drawing setup for those who love working on Procreate. Apart from the iPad, the only accessory you need is an Apple Pencil 1 or 2 and you’re good to go.
- iPad + Laptop with AstroPad: Astropad allows you to turn your iPad into a wireless drawing tablet and use it to draw wirelessly on your laptop. You can even use the Apple Pencil 2 and touch gestures as you normally would on your iPad.
What does a Digital artist desk setup look like at a studio?
Although this usually comes down to the personal needs and preferences of a professional, a digital artists desk setup at a studio always includes:
- A comfortable desk and a chair
- A laptop or desktop with a good mouse for drawing or post processing
- A standalone drawing tablet or a powerful tablet with an active pen
- Other drawing accessories (drawing glove, extra nibs, etc)
- An external SSD for storing previous projects
- A high quality monitor
It also helps to have one designated area your studio where you are mindful where all your accessories are stored and how they are wired together.
Drawing Tablet Workstation Types
Below, you’ll find different ways to set up a workstation set up for drawing.
These vary for professional setups, but iPads and Wacom devices are the most popular according to the industry experts I’ve spoken with over the years.
To be clear, there’s quite a few different setups.
Laptop and Tablet Setup for digital artists
This setup includes a powerful laptop and a tablet with a pen. When it comes to choosing a laptop for drawing, make sure the device you choose can handle graphic design and illustration software like Photoshop and Illustrator.
Although a dedicated GPU can help with rendering graphics, most graphic design software doesn’t require you to have one. So, you’ll usually need a reliable CPU and (at least) 8 GB RAM.
So the laptop will be your primary device, which you will use to edit all your drawings and do the post-processing. But the choice of tablet is also very important.
Of course, high-end tablets like the Microsoft Surface Pro and iPad Pro offer a precise and accurate drawing experience.
In a few words, this setup is very flexible in terms of pricing. For this reason, it is a perfect choice for both beginner and professional artists.
Graphic Tablet + Laptop – No screen setup
For this setup, you will need a graphics tablet and a laptop. Even though this setup looks similar to the previous one, there is a big difference.
For this setup, you will need a graphics tablet like the Wacom Intuos, which has no screen. These graphics tablets are specifically designed to be used as an active canva for drawing.
The laptop you choose should include a good CPU, 8 GB RAM (or more) and a large SSD. For instance, Macbooks work well for apps like photoshop.
Once you have chosen your devices, all you need to do is connect your graphics tablet to your laptop and you are ready to draw.
This combination of devices is probably the most affordable. Most of us already own a laptop and graphics tablets like the Wacom Intuos are inexpensive.
For this reason, we consider this setup to be ideal for beginners who want to take their first steps in digital drawing.
Pen Tablet + Laptop – Built-in screen setup
As with most drawing tablet setups you can create, this one requires a laptop and a tablet. The main difference in this setup is that pen tablets like the Wacom One have a built-in, high-resolution screen.
But even though pen tablets have a screen, you need to connect them to your laptop to start drawing.
To be precise, these tablets are not standalone devices like the Wacom Cintiq. In our experience, this is a more professional solution, as you can produce top-notch digital art with the integrated screen.
In summary, this setup is a great choice for professionals who want to take their projects to the next level.
IPad devices like the current iPad Pro and iPad Air are known as some of the most powerful tablets when it comes to handling graphic design software. In fact, iPads can easily handle Photoshop, Illustrator, and Krita.
But where iPads really shine is when combined with the Procreate app. Procreate is an application that is only available for iPads and iPhones.
Many professional digital artists consider Procreate to be by far the best app for drawing, mainly because of the effective hand gestures and the numerous features it offers.
You should keep in mind that only the latest iPad Pro and Air are compatible with Apple Pencil 2, while the rest of Apple devices work with the Apple Pencil (1st generation).
You can view our post on the best Stylus pens for iPad if you’re curious of alternative options.
In short, whether you are a beginner or a professional graphic designer, this setup is your best choice if you want to draw with Procreate.
iPad + AstroPad
The last drawing tablet setup is used by many beginners and professionals. It is also one of the most innovative setups we have tested for the purposes of this article.
Just a few years ago, there was no way to connect an iPad to a Microsoft Windows or Apple desktop or laptop for drawing. Now, Astropad offers the perfect solution for that.
With AstroPad, you can easily turn your iPad into a drawing tablet and use it with a laptop or desktop. This is by far the best solution if you want to draw on your computer screen and you already have an iPad.
Note: There are also Duet Display alternatives here, which accomplish the same goal AstroPad allows for with iPad.
The installation process is pretty simple and everything happens automatically. All you need to do is:
- Download and install the AstroPad software on your iPad and PC
- Connect the two devices by using either your WiFi network or a USB cable
- You’re all set. You can now use your iPad to draw and see the results on your computer screen in real-time
How to setup a drawing tablet
Below are several different ways you can set up a drawing tablet.
How to connect a drawing tablet to a PC or Laptop?
If you want to connect your drawing tablet to a PC or laptop you will only have to follow a few simple steps:
- The first thing you have to do is to plug a USB cable on both your tablet and your PC or laptop .
- After that the next step you have to make is to download and install the drawing tablet’s drivers on your PC or laptop.
- Now that the drivers are successfully installed on your computer, you have to restart your device.
- You are all set. Your drawing tablet is successfully installed and you can use it to draw on your PC.
Can I connect an iPad to a Windows PC for drawing?
Absolutely. You can connect your iPad to your Windows PC using a third-party application called AstroPad. AstroPad is an app that connects your iPad to your computer. This way you can turn your iPad into a drawing pad for Windows.
This is by far the best solution if you want to draw on your computer screen and already have an iPad. The installation process is pretty simple. All you have to do is follow three simple steps:
- First, download and install the AstroPad app on your tablet and PC
- Then, connect your devices via either a USB cable or your WiFi network
- Congratulations. You can now use your iPad to draw and see the results on your computer screen in real-time
How to setup a Wacom drawing tablet
If you want to connect a Wacom drawing tablet with your computer, you need to follow a few simple steps. First of all, it depends on the model of your Wacom drawing pad. Still, all Wacom devices can be connected either wirelessly or via a USB cable.
If you have already done the first step, you now need to go to Wacom’s official website and download the drivers for your tablet.
Even drawing tablets for Mac require software drivers – this step is essential.
This will only take a couple of minutes. After the download is complete, start the installation process.
In the last step, you need to customisze the keyboard shortcuts and the on-screen functions. These adjustments will make it easier for you to draw. Now you are ready to start creating top-class digital artwork.
The process above will also allow you to set up drawing tablets from brands such as XenceLabs, GAOMON, and XP-PEN. These brands make drawing tablets and graphics tablets that allow you to create art the same way Wacom drawing tablets allow for.
Why is it hard to draw with a Graphics Tablet or Drawing Tablet?
Like most skills, drawing on a graphics tablet is no different. It requires precision and focus in order to get better.
There is a high ceiling potential skill to be learned when using a graphics tablet to draw an animate on a PC or laptop.
Chances are, if you are very good at traditional drawing or sketching, then you may find drawing on a graphics tablet or pen tablet less difficult than a beginner artist. If you’re a beginner artist then it is ideal to choose a digital art pad or drawing tablet that is best for beginners.
If you’re focused on a drawing app like Procreate, you’ll want to see the best iPads for Procreate because Procreate is only available on iOS devices; that is unless you want to run procreate on Windows via an emulator or simulator. This can be a great place to start if you’re having a tough time drawing on a graphics tablet
However, there are solutions if things still seem difficult after consistent efforts are made for drawing digitally. If your graphics tablet doesn’t offer a comfortable drawing experience, consider these solutions:
- Use a screen protector to increase friction.
- Setup the function keys and on-screen controls for accessing your frequently used tools
- Choose the right pen nib thickness for your purpose
- Make sure to directly seat in front of your monitor and drawing tablet (ergonomics)
- Adjust the pen pressure from the drivers or the drawing software