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Choosing a Drawing Tablet for Storyboarding


Picking out a drawing tablet to create your storyboards can be overwhelming. There are a lot of options, and even the lower-cost ones can still be pretty darned expensive. This isn’t something you want to make the wrong decision on.

Let’s Look At Budget and Pro Options for Drawing Tablets

Whether it’s your first or fifth machine, let’s take a look at the different options and their pros and cons, and maybe when we’re done you’ll feel a little more confident about the direction you want to go in:

Wacom

Probably the best-known and most commonly used drawing tablet brand is, was, and will for the foreseeable future be Wacom.

Wacom's range is wide, from relatively affordable options that are more than enough to get started with, to higher-end options that cover off every function a working professional is likely to need and then some. Keep in mind, though, that doesn't mean the more wallet-friendly models are only for beginners and the pricier ones are only for pros-- the machine that works for you is the machine that is right for you, and there are plenty of pros who bought a mid-range machine and never saw a reason to upgrade.

At the top of the Wacom line are the Cintiq and Cintiq Pro models. These are basically secondary computer monitors you can draw on, and they come in all sorts of sizes with all sorts of options. Every extra, whether it be a bigger screen or touch-screen functionality, will drive up the price point.

Image credit: Wacom

For example, a Cintiq Pro 24 with just pen functionality is roughly $2,000 USD new, but a Cintiq Pro 24 with pen and touch-screen functionality is somewhere around $2,400 USD new.

Go bigger with the Cintiq Pro 32 with pen and touch-screen functionality and the price jumps to about $3,400 USD new.

If you can work with a smaller screen, the Cintiq Pro 16, still with pen and touch-screen functionality, is significantly cheaper, with a $1,400 USD price tag new. If you go with a non-pro Cintiq 16 model, the price drops to less than half that of its fancier sibling. That one is roughly $600 USD new. It comes with fewer options, but still serves the core function you need it for: a secondary monitor you can draw on.

Image credit: Wacom

Wacom has other, more wallet-friendly options as well. The budget-friendly Wacom One 13.3 is less than $400 USD new and it will do what you need it to do.

Image credit: Wacom

And if you're one of those people who can adapt to a drawing tablet that doesn't double as a screen, you can go even cheaper. These options are just input devices-- you look at your computer monitor separately as you draw on the tablet-- and so using them can take a lot of getting used to, but they will also all do the job. Wacom's Intuos Pro comes in large, medium, and small, which cost somewhere around $400 USD new, $300 USD new, and $200 USD new, respectively.

Wacom machines are generally able to be used with computers running Windows or Mac operating systems.

Wacom Alternatives

The reason why Wacom has become so well-known and so commonly used is that for the longest time, nobody could touch them, as far as the quality of their products. This isn't necessarily as true today as it was even just a couple of years ago, however. Today, the alternative brands are quite high in quality themselves, and still cost far less.

Image Credit: Huion

Huion's Kamvas and Kamvas Pro models work as secondary computer monitors you can draw on, just like Wacom's Cintiq and Cintiq Pro models, and have a variety of size and feature options, just like the Cintiqs do, yet they can be purchased new for hundreds of dollars less.

Image credit: XP-Pen

Likewise, XP-Pen's Artist and Artist Pro models.

Are they as good as Wacom? Some people will say the difference is negligible and others will say they still have miles to go. But a better question might be: Do they need to be as good as Wacom? The answer is no. If you're just looking for a more affordable option to launch your storyboarding career with, and one of these machines is compatible with the rest of your setup, then it will be more than enough to get you started.

Huion and XP-Pen machines are generally able to be used with computers running Windows or Mac operating systems.

The Apple Option

The computer-and-drawing-tablet setup is pretty much industry standard, but some storyboard artists prefer-- and get away with-- using an iPad.

Image credit: Apple

Image credit: Apple

Image credit: Apple

These machines are for more than just drawing, but they have great functionality for it, and all the other stuff they do makes them very convenient. You can basically bring your entire studio with you-- drawing tools, research tools, email, music to work to, etc., all on one device.

There aren't as many software options for iPads, but the programs that are available are all solid choices.

And iPads also come in a variety of models covering off different price points, but those prices can climb quickly. An iPad Pro starts at $800 USD new, an iPad Air starts at $600 USD new, an iPad Mini starts at $500 USD new, and a no-frills, basic iPad starts at $330 USD new, but you will probably want to go up from the base-model price on any of these, as it's going to be a standalone machine and things like space and memory matter.

The Apple Pencil, which you will need to draw on your iPad, is an additional $130 USD new.

Apple machines all run on Mac operating systems.

Microsoft Surface

Like Apple, Microsoft also makes hybrid machines-- machines that function very well as drawing tablets, but are also far more.

The Surface line consists of Pro and non-Pro models, “light” versions, and full-on laptops.

Image credit: Microsoft

Also like Apple, Microsoft’s machines aren’t cheap. With current deals, a Surface Pro 8 starts at $900 USD new. Going with a Surface Pro 7+ or Surface Pro X will drop the price to $700 USD new to start, the Surface Go 3 starts at $400 USD new, and-- if you want to go big-- the Surface Laptop starts at $800 USD new and the Surface Laptop Studio starts at $1,400 USD new.

 Being that these machines are by Microsoft, they all run on Windows operating systems.

Consider Going Second-hand

Even the lowest prices listed above could be painful to a person's wallet, but keep in mind all of those dollar amounts are for current models, purchased new. While a shiny new machine might be nice, it is far from necessary.

Consider buying your hardware a generation behind whatever the current one is. You might end up with a slightly less fancy machine, but it'll do the job (whether you’re buying new or used, always, always, always check the device's specifications, to make sure it does in fact meet your needs), and you'll save some money.

Even if you decide you need the latest and greatest, consider buying your hardware second-hand in that case, too. As long as a device was properly cared for by its previous owner, it'll serve you just as well as if it was brand new, and again, you'll save some money.

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