The best drawing tablets for back to school 2017

back to school drawing tablets

It is the time of year that is approached with equal amounts of excitement and dread. So to help you get the jump on your supplies for back to school 2017, we have prepared a list of the best entry level drawing tablets that are ideal for high school and new college students.

In evaluating drawing tablets for back to school use, we sought out tablets that strike a balance between affordability, ease of use and size, focusing on drawing tablets that are light, portable and suited to working with a laptop.  ​

Parblo Island A609

The Parblo Island A609 is a solid choice for students and entry level artists that are after a reliable drawing tablet. 

​The A609 stylus has 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity which allows for a wide variety of line weights and allows the user a high degree of creative flexibility.

The A609 has a high screen resolution for a tablet of it's size and price, with over 5000 lines per inch. When combined with the pressure sensitivity of the stylus, the A609 allows the user to produce clear illustrations that are packed with intricate details. The A609 also supports tilt, resulting in a drawing experience that feels natural.

The active area is a comfortable 9 x 6 inches and the overall weight of the device is a very back-pack friendly 1.9 lbs. 

The A609 has 4 shortcut buttons, 3 of which can be programmed with custom commands. The stylus also has 2 programmable shortcut buttons providing some opportunity to speed up your workflow.

The A609 is very easy to set up​, however it is important to remove the drivers of any other tablets prior to installing to avoid any conflicts or problems.

Parblo Island A609 Specifications:
Active Area: 9 x 6 inches
Pen Weight : 11.62g (0.4oz)
Pen Size: Aprox. 6.2 inches
Tablet Size: Aprox. 12.6 x 8.3 x 0.4 inches
Tablet Keys : 4 Functional Buttons, 3 are customizable
Pressure Sensitivity : 2048 Levels
Resolution: 5080 LPI
Tilt Angle : ±60 degree
Compatible application software : PS, AI, Flash, AU, AE, etc.
System Requirement : Windows XP/Vista X86/Vista X64/7/8 Mac OS X 10.8 or above

System Requirements:
Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, or above (incl 64-bit editions) / Mac OS X 10.8 or above / Does not support Linux or Chromebook.

What's in the box:
1x Parblo Island A609
1x Battery-free Pen (5 x tips and a removal tool inside)
1x USB Cable
1x User Manual

​Wacom Bamboo Splash CTL 471

Like other drawing tablets by Wacom, the Bamboo Splash CTL 741 offers a beautifully textured drawing surface. The active area is smaller than other entry level tablets at 5.8 x 3.6 inches, which means that the Bamboo Splash is best suited to computers with a lower screen resolution. The screen resolution is over 2500 lines per inch, which still allows for a great deal of detail.

​The stylus is high quality, although some users will undoubtedly miss having an eraser. Similar to other Wacom models, the Bamboo Splash CTL 471 is a passive tablet, so the stylus does not require batteries.

The Bamboo Splash CTL 471 also does not have any shortcut keys which may be a downside for some users. The upside of of the pared back and trimmed down body is that it is very light at only 0.53 lbs. The Bamboo Splash is most useful for quick sketches on the go, alternating between input devices, taking notes or working in areas where desk space is at a premium. 

​Even though the Bamboo Splash CTL 471 is one of Wacom's most affordable and compact tablets it still delivers the excellent level quality that Wacom is known for.

Wacom Bamboo Splash CTL 471 Specifications:
Active Area: 5.8 x 3.6 inches
Physical Size: 8.3 x 5.8 x 0.3 inches
Accuracy: +/- 0.2 inches
Compatibility: Windows 7, Vista SP2, Mac OS X.10.5 or higher
Connection: USB
Max Data rate: 133 PPS
Orientation: Reversible
Pressure Levels: 1024
Resolution: 2054 LPI
Warranty: 6 months
Tilt: No

System Requirements: For Windows 8 or Windows 10 or higher or Mac you must download the corresponding driver from the Wacom official website. This tablet is also compatible with Linux operating systems.

What's in the box:
1 x Bamboo Tablet
1 x Bamboo Stylus
1 x USB cable
3 x Spare nibs
1 x Quickstart Guide
1 x CD Drive

Ugee M708 Drawing Tablet

The M708 is a very sleek and stylish entry level offering from Ugee. The active area is generous at 10 x 6 inches which is comfortable for most drawing projects. 

The Ugee M708 has 8 programmable buttons with an additional 2 on the stylus.

The Ugee M708 is made with a solid and durable build quality. The stylus requires a AAA battery​ to power it and also comes with a holder and 8 replacement nibs.

The M708 is lightweight at 1.3 lbs and can be adapted for left or right hand use.

The M708 has a high screen resolution of over 5080 lines per inch and the stylus is capable of 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, allowing the user to create detailed works with a high degree of design flexibility. 

The drawing surface is smooth and responsive, the 230RPS report rate means that pen strokes are rendered without any lag.

Other reviewers have pointed out that there is some difficulty with installing the driver for the Ugee M708. In order to avoid problems any other tablet drivers that are already installed on your PC should be removed prior to installation. Ugee also have an english website which offers service and support.

Ugee M708 Product Specifications:
Active Area: 10 x 6 Inches
Resolution: 5080 LPI
Pressure Sensitivity: 2048 Levels
Report Rate: 230 RPS (Revolutions Per Second)
Express Buttons: 8 Express keys
Reading Height: 10mm
Interface Support: USB Cable
Tilt: No
Weight: 1.3 pounds

System Requirements:
Windows XP/Vista/7/8/8.1/10 and Mac 10.8.0 or later versions

What's in the box:
1 x Ugee M708 Graphics Tablet
1 x P51 Drawing Pen (One AAA Battery Required)
1 x USB Cable
1 x Pen holder (Including 8 pen nibs and 1 pen clipper)
1 x User manual

Wacom Intuos Draw CTL490DW

The Intuos Draw is the entry level model in Wacom's Intuos range and comes bundled with ArtRage Lite software making it an attractive option for those who are completely new to digital illustration. 

​The Intuos Draw comes in two sizes: the small has a working area of 3.7 x 6 inches and the medium active area is 5.5 x 8.5 inches.​

 The tablet has a sleek design and is lightweight with a minimal frame around the active area. The small Draw is very compact and portable at  8.2 x 6.7 x 0.4 inches overall and weighing only 12.8 ounces.

The stylus supports 1024 levels of pressure and has a light and natural feel. The active area has a crisp texture and is very responsive, pen strokes appear instantly without any shuddering or lag. Some users may miss the tilt function which is not supported by the Draw but is available in other Intuos models.

The underside of the Intuos Draw is also packed with thoughtful features which make it easier to use, such as storage for replacement stylus nibs, a nib extractor and an optional wireless module. The functions on the underside of the tablet are also marked with easy to read instructions.

There are 4 programmable shortcut buttons on the tablet with an additional 2 on the stylus. The user can also choose between left or right handed use.

Installing the Intuos Draw driver and bundled ArtRage software is simple and hassle free and Wacom offer excellent support on their official website.

Wacom Intuos Draw Specifications:
Small active area: 6 x 3.7 inches
Medium active area: 8.5 x 5.5 inches
Express Keys: 4 plus 2 on the stylus.
Stylus: No batteries required
Pressure levels: 1024
Tilt: No
Resolution: 2540 LPI
Reading speed (pen): 133 PPS
Connection: USB
Wireless support: Sold separately
Warranty: 1 year

System requirements:
Windows 7,8,10 or Mac 10.8.5 or later.

What's in the box:
1 x Tablet
1 x Stylus
1 x Manual
1 x USB cable
1 x Drver CD
1 x Software licence passcode

Huion New 1060 Plus

The new Huion 1060 Plus has one of the largest active areas of any entry level tablet at 10 x 6.25 inches making for a very comfortable drawing experience.

​The 1060 Plus active area has a pleasant texture which closely mimics paper, allowing your hand to move effortlessly over the surface. However this texture can result in greater wear on the stylus nibs.

​The 1060 Plus has 12 hotkeys and an optional extra 16 soft express keys within the active area of the tablet that can be programmed with any keyboard combination and an additional two buttons on the stylus.

 The stylus has 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, which when combined with the 5088 LPI screen resolution, provides the user with a high degree of detail and control. The 1060 Plus is also responsive with a report rate of over 233 RPS however it does not support tilt sensitivity. The 1060 Plus also comes with tracing pad transparencies which is a thoughtful inclusion, as well as a stylus holder, carry bag and Huion Cura drawing glove.

An interesting feature of the 1060 Plus is the in-built SD card reader​ which comes with a 8GB card but is capable of expanding into 64 GB. The SD card reader allows a user to save and store their work directly to the tablet. This can come in handy if you are changing between school and home desktops, provided that they have the same illustration programs installed.

At 3.2 lbs the 1060 Plus is one of the heavier entry level drawing tablets, this is partly owing to the size of the active area.

Huion 1060 Plus Specifications:
Built-in Card Reader
Active Area: 10 x 6.25 inches
Pen Pressure: 2048 Levels
Resolution: 5080 LPI
Report Rate: 233 RPS
12 Express Keys and 16 Soft Keys

System Requirements:
Windows XP/Vista/7/8/8.1/10 and Mac 10.8.0 or later versions

What's in the Box:
1 x Huion NEW 1060PLUS tablet (an 8GB MicroSD Card included)
1 x Rechargeable Stylus Pen
1 x Pen Stand
1 x USB cable for the tablet
1 x USB cable for the rechargeable pen
1 x User manual
1 x Huion Cura Glove CR-01 Huion Carrying Bag

Bonus - Animation Software for Beginners

Smith Micro Moho Debut 12 2D Animation Software

Smith Micro Moho Debut 12 is a complete program for creating 2D cartoons and animations. It has a dedicated beginners mode and uses vector based draw, paint and fill tools. 

Smith Micro Moho Debut 12 is packed with features that make animation quicker and easier such as bone rigging, lip synching and integrated audio recording. 

Compatible with Windows 7, 8.1 or 10 and Mac OS X 10.9 or higher. 

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