There’s now hundreds of drawing tablets out there but which ones work best with Macs? We’ve reviewed the best drawing tablets for Mac in 2018 which work great with macOS.
You’ll find drawing tablets here to suit all budgets from entry-level tablets for beginners to professional drawing tablets for artists and illustrators.
All the drawing devices reviewed here work with all types of Mac including MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and iMacs.
They’re also an ideal complement for anyone that wants to create a paperless office using a Mac as they allow you to digitally e-sign too.
What To Look For In Drawing Tablets
Before we start, here’s a few essential things to consider before getting a graphics tablet for your Mac.
Wacom are still the industry leaders in drawing tablets. Wacom was the first company to come up with tablets that accurately represented drawing on paper and its tablets still remain the best drawing tablets on the market. In recent years, it has faced competition from Chinese brand Huion which offer many of the same features for half the price, although with more technical headaches and quality issues. Wacom tend to be some of the most expensive graphics tablets on the market but in our experience, they’re worth it.
- Pressure Sensitivity
The best tablets can detect how hard or soft you press with a stylus and even if you tilt the pen. Sensitivity is measured in pressure levels and the higher it is, the greater the sensitivity. The best tablets currently offer pressure levels of up to 8192 which is incredibly sensitive and gives you full control over how thick or thin lines are depending how hard you press. In general, you should go for the drawing tablet with the maximum pressure level you can afford.
The bigger the better but just because a tablet is bigger doesn’t mean it’s better. That’s because what’s important is the active drawing area – the space on the tablet you can actually draw on. More screen estate means more space to draw. Bigger tablets also usually have more features and keyboard shortcuts to help speed-up your workflow. Some tablets like the Wacom Intuos Pro allow you to map your MacBook or iMac screen to your tablet so you can use your Mac screen estate as an extension of your tablet.
Most graphics tablets connect to your Mac via Bluetooth but we’ve found that some definitely work better than others with Macs. Most require drivers to setup and we’ve found that Wacom tablets are the most reliable and easy to connect to bluetooth on Mac. We’ve found that Huion’s can be more troublesome to setup with drivers sometimes not working or failing to reconnect to your tablet after your Mac has been asleep. Note that some tablets will only work via USB cable which eliminates connectivity problems but can get in the way of your drawing.
- Keyboard Shortcuts
The top graphics tablets allow you to set keyboard shortcuts to make it quicker and easier to perform certain functions. Most drawing pens also have buttons on them which saves valuable time looking for features on the tablet screen and speeds-up your workflow.
If you’re serious about drawing, we recommend paying more for a better tablet than starting with a cheap one and then upgrading later. Tablets like the Wacom Intuos Pro cost more but also offer more features and therefore room to grow. Changing tablets later on requires adapting again to a new feel and often re-configuring your device to work with applications again.
With these points in mind, here is our look at the best drawing pads for Mac of 2018 in order of ranking.
We’re big Wacom fans mainly because it was the original drawing tablet creator but also because they always work very well with Macs. There are a many reasons that the Wacom Intuos Pro is our top pick but here’s a summary of what we really like about it.
- It supports 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt response. That means it’s extremely responsive and the closest thing you’ll find to putting pen to paper. This makes stippling work much easier and enables you to draw light and heavy strokes.
- It allows you to rest your palm on the tablet for a more natural experience. This is known as Touch Rejection and means your resting hand won’t be picked-up or smear your drawings.
- It’s a native wireless device which means the pen connects to your Mac via Bluetooth and there’s no noticeable lag when you draw. You can also use it connected by wire to a USB port too. Setup is easy and connectivity is reliable.
- You can map an area of the tablet to correspond with an area of your Mac’s display. This allows you to take full advantage of your Mac’s screen estate.
- There’s also the Wacom Intuos Pro paper edition (around $50 extra) which is incredibly realistic allowing you to place a sheet of paper over the tablet to draw on with a real pen. It comes with with a detachable Paper Clip and a Finetip (gel) Pen for sketching on paper. Although the results are not exactly like what you get on paper (the line quality is comparable with any regular tablet) it’s about as close as it gets. You can see the paper edition in action below.
- You can choose from Small, Medium or Large. We particularly like the Medium screen which is extremely compact at 13.2” x 8.5” but offers a decent 8.7” x 5.8” workspace.
- There are useful added features such as multi-touch gestures, customizable Express Keys, Radial Menus and pen side switches
What we don’t like:
- It takes some time to get used to the sensitivity of the pen. If you had a tablet before and used applications such as Adobe Illustrator or Lightroom with it, you’ll also need to re calibrate things like pressure curve settings to use the new pen. In fact, any pressure levels or setting you’ve ever setup with any program will have to be reset to use with the Wacom Intuos Pro but it’s worth it in the long run.
- You may experience quite a bit of rough drag depending on what kind of nib you use. The standard and felt nibs can feel particularly rough. This can slow down your production time especially when it comes to light strokes. Nibs also tend to run out quite quickly so make sure you’ve got plenty spare ones. One way to make nibs last longer is to get the smooth surface sheet although this can also feel a bit slippy for our liking. Note that there are no rubber tipped, flex or spring nibs available.
- The Touch features can be quite hit and miss depending on the program. For example, many programs can’t detect the difference between a rotate and zoom using the Wacom Intuos Pro but this is usually down to the applications than the tablet itself.
- The side buttons definitely speed up efficiency but also take time to get used to and to begin with, you’ll definitely find yourself spending time hunting for the right shortcut rather than drawing.
- Any older Wacom accessories you have such as grips won’t work with the Intuos Pro.
Overall, if you’re starting out, the Intuos Pro has more than you need but if you’re serious about learning how to use a graphics tablet, it’s the best drawing tablet for Mac you’ll find.
The Huion USB Graphics Drawing Tablet Board Kit is our pick as the best drawing tablet for beginners on Mac. It works with most major drawing software including Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Fireworks, 3D MAX, Autodesk MAYA and more.
- The strokes are smooth especially when drawing curves and it’s surprisingly responsive to pressure changes for such a cheap drawing tablet. You can also adjust sensitivity to your needs.
- You can set the screen size to match your display so you can draw in full screen mode in software such as Photoshop. This is useful because although the tablet screen is small, it doesn’t hold you back.
- It’s not only a drawing tablet but it’s also a way to control your Mac. So for example, you can sync the pen with the cursor on your screen and use it to scroll through documents and Web pages by pressing the middle button of the digital pen over the tablet’s working area. You can also do other things such as close page, save current page etc. The buttons can also be used to change controls in the graphics program you are using.
- It includes a drawing glove which isn’t essential but does make it more comfortable to hold the pen and draw.
- It’s very good value for money for well under $50.
- It’s small – too small for drawing on regularly but the ability to map your Mac display to the tablet compensates for this somewhat.
- There’s no way to fine tune it such as by tweaking the sensitivity or pressure settings.
- It doesn’t allow you to draw wirelessly. You need to have a USB cable connected which can be annoying if it gets in the way of your sketching.
- It’s definitely not for professionals or commercial artists.
If you’re new to drawing on tablets, The Huion USB Drawing Tablet isn’t expensive and allows you to learn the basics without breaking the bank.
The Huion Pro Painting Drawing Pen Graphics Tablet is a more advanced version of the Huion H420 with a larger drawing surface and more sensitivity. It’s more than twice the price but still comes in at under $100.
- Big drawing surface of 10 x 6.25 inches. This makes a big difference compared with the H420.
- The pen is wireless and rechargeable so you don’t need to buy new batteries for it.
- It supports 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity making it easier to draw thick and thin lines with no lag or jitter.
- It feels natural to draw on providing a decent amount of flow for the pen.
- There are 8 express keys and 16 hotkeys to speed-up your workflow and these can be customized for right or left-handed users.
- The tablet is light, thin and the pen feels sturdy.
- Can be very fussy trying to make it work with drawing software especially Adobe products. If you’re a professional designer, you’re much better off going for a Wacom which play much better with drawing software.
- It can also be difficult to get the drivers to work with it on Mac. The installation CD isn’t much use to Mac users nowadays but even those downloaded from the Huion website don’t seem to communicate with the hardware. This results in a variety of problems ranging from your Mac simply being unable to detect the device to an inability to use the tablet after your Mac has gone to sleep.
For what you get, the Huion Pro is very good value with functionality comparable to a Wacom but with a much lower price tag. Just be aware that you may have some headaches getting it to work properly with your Mac.
If you’re looking for a cheap drawing tablet to go with your Mac, you can’t get much cheaper than the XP-Pen. The XP-Pen isn’t just a graphics tablet – it’s also a replacement for a traditional mouse. The pen also doesn’t require a battery or recharging so you never get interrupted when you’re in the flow with something.
- It has 8192 levels of pen pressure sensitivity which is as good as any digital pen out there
- We like the way you can toggle between pen and eraser instantly
- It’s incredibly lightweight at just 2mm thin
- The metallic finish looks good, especially with Macs
- It’s easy to set up with the drivers
- Good value for money at little over $20
- It’s very basic. There are no control buttons on the pen for example and it’s certainly not suitable for professional drawing.
- Since it’s so thin, it’s very easy to break if you drop it or mishandle it in someway.
- Although it’s great you can use it as a replacement for a mouse or trackpad, using a pen to control your Mac doesn’t feel very natural.
The XP-Pen is definitely one of the best looking drawing tablets out there but the lack of features makes it very limited. If you’re on a very tight budget though it’s an excellent graphics tablet for Mac users.
No talk of drawing tablets for Mac would be complete without mentioning the iPad Pro. The iPad Pro is available in 10.5 inch and 12.9 inch displays. The 12.9 inch display is actually bigger than a sheet of A4 paper for drawing and yet it’s just 6.9mm thin.
- It’s surprisingly nice to draw on even compared to professional drawing tablets.
- It gives you control right down to the last pixel.
- It has pressure sensitivity and allows you to shape lines by titling the nib.
- It’s an Apple product so it works seamlessly with your Mac
- There’s almost no lag. Apple claims the latency is below 20ms and it’s incredibly smooth and quick to draw with.
- The Apple Pencil has a long battery life and is rechargeable.
- Pressure sensitivity isn’t as good as with drawing tablets.
- You really need the bigger 12.9 iPad Pro for drawing on – the 10.5 inch version simply feels too small although the 12.9 inch screen isn’t very portable compared to other tablets.
- The screen on an iPad doesn’t give the same feedback as a drawing tablet – it doesn’t feel quite as natural.
- It’s not exactly cheap but you’re not just getting a drawing tablet, you’re getting an iPad.
- The 12.9 inch model certainly feels heavier than the average tablet.
The iPad Pro isn’t a dedicated artist tool but it provides a surprisingly good drawing experience with the peace of mind that it will always work well with Macs.
We hope we’ve helped you choose a drawing tablet for your needs but if you have any questions, problems or suggestions about any of the drawing tabs featured here, let us know in the comments below.