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 of 2020 which work great with macOS.
You’ll find drawing pads here to suit all budgets from entry-level tablets for beginners to professional drawing tablets for artists and illustrators like our number one choice the excellent value Wacom Intuos Pro.
All the graphic design pads featured here are compatible for use with the best graphic design software on a Mac such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.
They’re also compatible with the latest versions of macOS Mojave and Catalina on MacBook Pros, MacBook Airs and iMacs.
What To Look For In The Best Drawing Tablets
Before we start, here’s a few essential things to consider before getting a graphics tablet for your Mac.
Drawing pads fall into two types – those with a screen and those without. Those without a screen such as the Wacom Intuos Pro require an external monitor to work (i.e. your Mac’s screen) and usually connect via Bluetooth or USB cable. Those with a screen are usually more expensive as they are aimed at professionals such as the amazing Wacom Cintic 22. One added advantage of choosing a graphics tablet with a screen is that the new Sidecar feature in macOS Catalina now allows you to use it as a second external display for your Mac. In these reviews, we’ve featured a combination of drawing pads for Mac users both with and without screens.
If you’re wondering whether Wacom tablets work with Macs then the good news is that they do. 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 such as the incredibly realistic Wacom Intuos Pro Paper Edition and the Wacom range easily 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. The only slight issue we have with Wacom is that they do frequently update their drivers and it doesn’t always go smoothly – both on Mac and Windows.
- 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 configure how much Mac screen estate you want to use 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 of the better drawing pens also have buttons on them which saves valuable time looking for features on the tablet screen and speeds-up your workflow. You’ll find that cheap tablets often don’t include shortcut buttons on the pens.
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 Cintiq 22 cost more but also offer more features and therefore room to grow. Changing tablets later on also requires adapting again to a new feel and often re-configuring your device to work with drawing applications again.
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With these points in mind, here are our reviews of the best drawing pads for Mac of 2020 in order of ranking.
There are many reasons why we rated the Wacom Intuos Pro the best drawing pad for Mac 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 with Macs is very 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 which is one of the reasons we think the Wacom Intuos Pro is also the best drawing pad for the MacBook Pro’s bigger screen.
- 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
- We think it’s the best tablet for drawing with Photoshop on Mac because the Wacom Intuos Pro gives superb accuracy to edit photos and illustrations in Adobe Photoshop.
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 Wacom Intuos Pro has more than you need without being overwhelming and we also consider it the best drawing tablet for beginners on Mac.
You can check the latest availability and pricing of the Intuos Pro here but pricing starts at a very reasonable $325.
If you’re a professional designer or artists looking for the ultimate drawing pad with a screen, we think the Wacom Cintiq 22 is the best drawing pad for pro artists and illustrators on a Mac.
Certainly If you’re looking for the best drawing tablet with a screen to go with your Mac, you can’t do better than the Wacom Cintiq 22.
Here’s what we love about the Cintiq 22 drawing tablet:
- Generous screen estate with a 19.5 x 11.5 inch display and 1920 x 1080 resolution and 16.7 million colors that’s big enough for all canvas size needs.
- It includes the Pro Pen 2 which uses an innovative Electro Magnetic Resonance system to power it so it does not require a battery.
- Anti-glare feature makes a real difference to drawing on a screen, even compared to the iPad Pro.
- Incredibly high pressure sensitivity of 8192 levels with the Pen Pro 2 included which gives unbelievably high precision and realistic drawing experience. There’s also a satisfying level of drag with the Pen Pro 2 that gives it an edge over drawing on glass with the iPad Pro.
- Very reasonably priced considering this is a high end drawing tablet with screen and high specs.
- Can be used as a second external display for your Mac thanks to Sidecar in macOS Catalina.
There are a few things we don’t like:
- Like most Wacoms, the Cintiq 22 has to be connected to your Mac to use it.
- There’s no touch input.
- The screen brightness can be a bit low if the environment you’re using it in is very bright but it’s fine in normal lighting and especially low light.
These are all relatively minor drawbacks though to what is a superb electronic drawing tablet.
For those that want the ultimate drawing tablet experience, we recommend also taking a look at the amazing Cintiq Pro 24 which has an incredible 4K monitor and 17 programmable buttons but it costs in the region of $1,899.
You can check the latest Cintiq 22 availability and pricing here and prices start around $1,199.
The iPad Pro has come a long way when it comes to drawing and is without doubt the best Apple drawing tablet for Mac users.
Because it’s an Apple product, it’s naturally the most Mac compatible drawing pad although that doesn’t mean that it’s the best.
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 comes with the Apple Pencil which has the best battery life of any drawing pad pen on the market and offers incredibly responsive pressure accuracy.
Recently, the iPad Pro became an even more attractive choice with the launch of Adobe Fresco – Adobe’s amazing drawing application which utilizes the Apple Pencil to emulate incredibly accurate oil, watercolor and vector brushes.
- It’s surprisingly nice to draw on even compared to professional drawing tablets.
- It doesn’t need to be connected to your Mac to use it like most 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.
- You can use Apple Procreate on the iPad Pro which is easy than Photoshop and a great way for beginners to get into drawing on a tablet.
- Pressure sensitivity isn’t as good as with dedicated 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.
- Can be used as a second external display for your Mac thanks to Sidecar in macOS Catalina.
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.
If you’re thinking of using an iPad for using Visio, we also recommend checking out these alternatives to Visio on iPad which in some cases, provide a much better diagramming experience.
If you’re looking for something that integrates seamlessly with your Mac, then you can’t do better than the Apple iPad Pro although the actual drawing experience isn’t as realistic as the Wacom Intuos Pro.
You can check the latest pricing and availability of the iPad Pro here with prices starting at $399.98 for the 10.2 inch version.
The Huion Pro Painting Drawing Pen Graphics Tablet is a more advanced version of the ultra basic 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.
You can check the latest availability and pricing here with prices starting at $72.99.
If you’re looking for a cheap drawing tablet that’s light enough to go with your MacBook Air, you can’t get much cheaper – or thinner – than the XP-Pen.
The XP-Pen isn’t just a graphics tablet – it’s also a replacement for a traditional mouse or touchpad. If you’re looking for something as light and thin as the MacBook Air, then the XP-Pen is the best drawing tablet for MacBook Air owners.
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 $30
- 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 digital drawing pad for Mac out there but the lack of features makes it very limited.
If you’re on a very tight budget and what an ultra thin tablet for a MacBook Air, it’s a decent graphics tablet for Mac users.
You can check the latest availability and pricing here with prices starting at $49.99.
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.