6 best drawing tablets for 3d modeling

6 Best Drawing Tablets for 3D Modeling & Sculpting in Blender and Zbrush

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XPPen 2024-01-22 16:20:39 14 min read

If you love 3D sculpting or modeling in Blender, Zbrush, Sculptris, SketchUP, Mudbox, Maya..... you need a drawing tablet.

Drawing tablets and pens have always been the popular choice by animators and visual effects artists.

Working with tablets makes your work easier and allow you to create perfect models through various tools.

What is a drawing tablet?

Drawing tablet is basically a computer input device which is used used for digital drawing. It is also called pen tablet, graphic tablet, or digital art pad.

You require a Stylus (Pen) to use it, it utilizes pressure sensitivity, and the tablet itself usually comes with a lot more function buttons (hotkeys).

The pen also acts like a computer mouse, giving you the ability to left and right click by using a button on the side of the pen.

It can be a tablet with screen or without screen. The screen drawing tablets still needs to be connected to a computer to function, whether its a PC or Mac.

Are drawing tablets and pens good for 3D modeling?

tablet vs no tablet for 3d modeling

In the past, most modeling work was done with a simple mouse, a keyboard. As technology evolves, 3D modeling has taken a different shape and modelers are asked to be more resourceful than their counterparts were back in the day.

You'll be very hard-pressed to find mice useful in 3D sculpting. Sculpting essentially requires a stylus, for best (most natural) results. 3D modeling is close to drawing so you are basically using a pen to sculpt.

If you are a 3D designer or digital artist working with a tablet is more efficient and comfortable than a mouse, especially when you use it for longer period of time. You can use it for making 3D sculpted models in softwares like zbrush, Sculptris, SketchUP, Maya, and blender�

The digital pens have a natural feel that can give you better control in drawing objects or characters. The tablet lets you work as if you are drawing on paper which allows the modeler to freely move their hand in a more natural way.

The pressure sensitivity of digital pen can be mapped to such functions as the strength or size of your stroke (The harder you push the bigger the effect). This enables you to naturally control the extent of your influence on your model while engaging in activities like shaping or texturing.

And you can even customize the buttons on the tablet with your favorite shortcuts conformed to individual software. Hence, with the drawing tablet, you can unleash your creativity in a whole new level. And that too, with such an extent of convenience and efficiency you never knew could be possible!

Tasks such as sculpting and texturing are probably the most suited to tasks for a Drawing Tablet and you can really benefit from using one. Pressure sensitivity aids in fine-tuning brush intensity, while precision assists in achieving the desired appearance for each stroke.

If the tasks you are performing in 3D program only rely on clicking buttons or dragging items it really isn't necessary. Such tasks include animation, composition and rendering.

Screen tablet vs Screenless tablet

The screenless pen tablet get connected to a computer through a USB cable or through wireless (2.4GHz wifi or bluetooth). Adapting to looking at the screen while drawing may require some adjustment. Nevertheless, it remains a more space-efficient, cost-effective, and ergonomically advantageous option.

Usually the disconnect between drawing on a non-screen tablet and seeing the results on your computer monitor goes away with very little practice. Some people even prefer it as neither your hand or your pen will ever cover what you are drawing.

A display tablet is a tablet that allows users to draw directly on the screen of that tablet. It involves higher expenses, occupies a larger workspace, demands ergonomic configuration (including keyboard and screen placement and adhering to good posture practices), and encounters the challenge of hand obstruction.

However, the benefits include a direct 1:1 interaction with the digital clay during sculpting, a larger work area (even though the central part is predominantly used), and typically, pen displays offer superior color quality compared to regular computers.

While there are numerous excellent tablets available for 3D modeling that lack display features, display tablets possess an edge due to the convenience of directly drawing on the tablet's screen, which enhances the 3D modeling experience.

I am not saying you cannot do 3D animation with a drawing tablet, many do, but if you get a chance compare working on both types. Not everyone prefers a heavier, larger, more fragile tablet however.

What should I look for in a drawing tablet for 3D modeling?

Before you go and purchase a graphic tablet for 3D modeling, you need to know that there are certain features that a tablet for 3D modeling should have. These features can differentiate what tablet is good for 3D modeling and what tablet isn't.

Here are a list of features you should consider when picking which tablet to buy:

Size options

Drawing tablet works in absolute mode, each point on the tablet maps to a point on the screen. for optimal experience and precision, buy a tablet that matches (roughly) your monitor dimensions.

Generally, with drawing tablets, the bigger the device, the larger the drawing area. Nonetheless, with the expansion of the tablet's surface area, the cost also escalates.

The choice of the ideal working area is contingent on your comfort, personal preference, mobility, available desk space, and the scale of the artworks or sculptures you intend to produce.

You'd require larger models for producing bigger artwork as it'll require wider hand movements and vice versa. But smaller ones can be ideal for portable use or when you are short on space.

Stylus Pen

The Pen is one of the biggest factors to consider when purchasing a tablet. It has to be comfortable to hold for extended periods of time. It needs to feel natural and fit in with your workflow.

The pens come in 2 types. Battery-free electromagnetic resonance pens, as implied by their name, do not need charging, while pens with batteries necessitate recharging.

Opting for battery-free ones would be a smarter move as it would eliminate the hassle of recharging. It relies on the electromagnetic signal being sent from the pen to the tablet.

Additional factors to take into account include the pen's pressure sensitivity, resolution (lines per inch), responsiveness (report rate speed), as well as support for tilt functionality, among others.

Pressure Senstivity

High levels of pressure indicate a more sensitive stylus which can detect even the faintest difference between the pressures exerted.

It can provide the most detailed outputs as you'd be able to produce lines of a more versatile range of thicknesses and opacities.

When buying a drawing tablet, it's commonly expected to come with 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity, which essentially quantifies how a brush responds to varying levels of pressure. Some cheaper ones with will have half of that with 4096 levels.

8192 levels is preferred for 3D Program however 4096 is adequate. This guarantees that in case you need to modify the pressure curve (indicating the force required for the desired outcome), you have a substantial number of levels at your disposal to make those adjustments.

Responsiveness

Report Rate Speed measures how many times per second the tablet sends information about the stylus position & pressure back to the computer. Usually, above 200+ RPS is ideal for drawing.

The tablet for 3D modeling should also be highly responsive to your pen strokes or other inputs. This is essential for achieving the most authentic sculpting and drawing experience, as a device with noticeable lag not only proves frustrating and time-intensive but also leads to imprecise results.

Lines Per Inch

Lines per inch (LPI) refers to the resolution of a drawing tablet. The LPI (lines per inch) establishes the tablet's ability to capture precise strokes and intricate details.

For 3D modeling, you need a tablet with at least 2540 LPI. This LPI is sufficient to provide enough detail for your sculptures and illustrations. Depending on what you want, you can go for tablets with higher LPI, even reaching 5080 LPI.

Tilt Function

You will also note that a lot of the pens have tilt senstivity support. In a 3D program, this function is inconsequential since it lacks support, so there's no need to be apprehensive about it.

Tilt support on a drawing tablet just means that when the pen is tilted, it will result in a different size of the brush. It's definitely not necessary, but can sometimes make drawing with a tablet feel more “organic� or similar to traditional art tools.

Hotkeys

Hotkey and shortcut keys is where having a tablet for 3D modeling can really come in useful. The need for keys to navigate, masking, smoothing and even undoing soon add up. the more the better.

Wireless Connectivity

this is one of the things that can make a noticeable difference in terms of comfort while using the graphics tablet. A wireless drawing tablet is always a good thing as it reduces the amount of cables over your desk and allows you to work more comfortably.

The wireless tablet can connect to your computer wirelessly via 2.4GHz Wifi technology or Bluetooth technology, with a wireless range of up to 10 meters.

Your non-screen pen tablet can operate wirelessly or in USB cable mode, but not both at the same time.

Pen display monitors generally use 3 cables to connect: an HDMI cable for video, a USB cable for data transfer, and a distinct power supply cable.

Certain screen tablets, on the other hand, feature a practical 3-in-1 cable that integrates all three functions into a single cable, reducing the cable clutter on your desk and assisting you in maintaining a more organized workspace.

Several of the latest pen display models now offer USB-C connectivity, which is lauded as a universal solution. It was designed to manage power, data, and video, and it boasts a straightforward user experience—you only require a single cable to link it to your laptop.

Compatibility

The drawing tablets on the market are compatible with almost all operating systems, including the Windows, Linux and Mac OS.

Some new models even support Android and chrome OS devices. Hence, there's no need to worry about it, as you can connect to virtually any device and continue your work seamlessly.

Basically, any tablet that is compliant with a stylus is good enough for using 3D modeling programs.

Other features to Consider When Buying pen display monitor

For a quality tablet (22" or smaller), it should have a screen resolution of 1920 x 1080 or higher to ensure vibrant and clear colors.

When comparing two screens, both featuring a 1080p Full HD resolution, the smaller monitor will exhibit a higher pixel density, leading to crisper lines and sharper images.

The color gamut defines a spectrum of colors within a color space, representing the range of colors that an output device can replicate.

For graphic design monitors, in-plane switching (IPS) panels are the preferred technology. They offer enhanced brightness, superior color accuracy, and deliver vivid, lifelike color imagery.

In contrast to non-laminated screens, full-laminated screens significantly decrease parallax, bringing the pen tip closer to the cursor, thereby enhancing precision in positioning.

A matte display comes with an anti-glare coating that helps minimize reflections on your screen. but the image quality in displays with matte finish is not as sharp or bright as a glossy screen.

8 Best Drawing Tablets for 3D Modeling & Sculpting

Choose between Pen tablets without a screen, an screen drawing tablet, whichever you choose, there is definitely something for you.

If money is not the problem and you need the best drawing tablet, get a XPPen. XPPen is the industry standard and they make fine products.

If you are a beginner then XPPen is the best option. XPPen is a nice option for the drawing purpose with reasonable price. which might give you a bit more for the same price.

As a leading graphic tablet manufacturer, XPPen tablets allows you to draw, paint, and create amazing artworks. you really can’t go wrong with either one.

1. XPPen Deco 03

XPPen Deco 03 pen tablet for 3d design

The XPPen Deco 03 is one of the best tablets for 3D sculpting. This tablet is equipped with a multitude of features that render it superb for professional 3D modeling tasks. Best of all, it is quite affordable.

It features a 10 x 5.62 inches active area with papery texture surface, so you have plenty of space to create and get work done.

The Deco 03 tablet can be used wirelessly or wired. For a wired connection, all you need to do is plug in the USB cable to your PC. In the case of wireless usage, the tablet is equipped with a 2.4g ISM USB receiver.

The Deco 03 tablet boasts a rapid battery charging time. With just 2 hours of charging, you can enjoy up to 16 hours of usage.

Additionally, the tablet includes 6 programmable shortcut keys and a prominent red roller wheel, enhancing the ease of your sculpting work.

The P05 stylus is devoid of any need for charging as it operates without batteries. It boasts an impressive 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity, ensuring that your strokes have a natural feel, resulting in lifelike drawings and 3D models.

2. XPPen Deco Pro

XPPen Deco Pro display tablet for 3d design

The XPPen Deco Pro tablet features a very sleek and unique design with silver aluminum alloy casing, which gives this tablet a much more beautiful and durable feel.

It offers 8 programmable keys for added functionality, but what's particularly impressive is the dual-wheel design. For instance, you can assign one wheel to control brush size and the other for zooming, providing a convenient feature.

The Deco Pro comes in two size options: small with a 9" x 5" drawing surface and medium with an 11" x 6" drawing surface. It's important to note that XPPEN's small and medium sizes are considerably larger than Wacom's small and medium sizes.

The Deco Pro MW & Deco Pro SW version features Bluetooth connection option. You have the option to work without wires by connecting your tablet to a computer through Bluetooth.

It includes the PA1 battery-free stylus, offering an impressive 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, minimal lag, and a natural tilt response, resulting in more natural and organic strokes.

Compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome OS. It is even compatible with Android OS, so you can connect it to your Phone or tablet.

3. XPPen Artist 13 (2nd Gen)

XPPen Artist 13 (2nd Gen) display tablet for 3d design

The XPPen Artist 13 (2nd Generation) is a well-positioned entry into the budget drawing tablet market that costs only $300.

The 13.3-inch display size with 1920 X 1080 pixels of resolution is ideal to carry around.

The tablet's color gamut is incredibly high with 96% Adobe RGB. The screen shows 16.7 million colors. Therefore, you can be as creative as you want when it comes to coloring your models.

The fully laminated technology and anti-glare screen coating reduces parallax to create a pen-to-paper feel.

It comes with 9 fully customizable express keys on the left side. You can configure distinct key setups for various programs.

It can establish a connection to your computer using either a single USB-C cable or a 3-in-1 cable, though the single USB-C cable is available as a separate purchase.

When paired with the X3 Elite stylus, the Artist 13 (2nd gen) tablet delivers precise control for sketching, sculpting, and drawing.

The stylus is driven by the X3 smart chip, eliminating the need for a spring mechanism, resulting in a lowered initial activation force of only 3g. This leads to improved stability, sensitivity, and accuracy.

The Artist 13 (2nd Gen) tablet is available in four colors: Black, Pink, Green, and Blue. Additionally, it works well with Chromebook, Android, Ubuntu, Windows and Mac OS devices.

The device offers three other display size variants �10.1-inch, 11.9-inch and 15.4-inch. which has almost same technical specifications.

4. XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro

XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro tablet for Sculpting in Zbrush

The XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro is a 15.6-Inch creative graphic display with 1920x1080 FHD resolution.

The color gamut is also incredibly high with 120% sRGB. Displaying a palette of 16.7 million colors on the screen, this feature is highly appreciated by 3D animation professionals who frequently work with a wide range of colors and shades.

On the Artist 15.6 Pro tablet, the glass and LCD panel are laminated into one piece, which reduces or eliminates parallax. the parallax will not bother you.

The pre-applied, and replaceable film cover's anti-glare properties reduce reflections considerably.

The tablet is equipped with 8 entirely customizable shortcut keys, in addition to the distinctive red dial, which can be personalized for functions like zooming, adjusting brush sizes, and more.

The stylus is battery-free and boasts 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity, as well as 60 degrees of tilt functionality. It is easy to maneuver, and you can change the angle at which you work.

The Artist 15.6 Pro is unquestionably an excellent product and value for money for all the 3D artists and designers out there.

It also offers two other display size variants �11.6-inch and 13.3-inch. which has almost same tech specs.

5. XPPen Artist 22R Pro

XPPen Artist 22R Pro

With a 21.5-inch IPS screen, you get a lot of space to let your creative juices flow.

The resolution of XPPen Artist 22R Pro tablet is 1920 x 1080 pixels. and will display sharp images and provide a good drawing experience.

The tablet performs great in terms of vibrancy and color accuracy. Its display is capable of producing rich colors that cover 88% NTSC �120% sRGB color space.

This tablet includes an adjustable stand that allows you to adjust your work level. It is compatible with popular 3D software packages.

It includes 20 customizable hotkeys and 2 red-ringed rotary wheels that can be customized in the tablet's driver settings.

The pen is devoid of batteries and incorporates all the attributes found in pricier tablets, including 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity, 60-degree tilt functionality, and a 200rps report rate.

The buttons on the side of the pen can be assigned to things like mouse clicks etc. It comes with an artist glove included for less resistance while working.

This model is ideal for those who want a big screen to work on. The larger the work area, the more control you have over your final outcome.

If you don't need the hotkeys, you can get the XPPen Artist 22 (2nd generation) in the same size at a much lower price than the Artist 22R Pro.

6. XPPen Artist 24 Pro

XPPen Artist 24 Pro

This is a huge, heavy, well-built monitor. Boasting a 23.8-inch workspace with the attached adjustable stand. the monitor can adjust from 16 degrees up to 90.

The tablet's screen resolution is 2560 x 1440. This high resolution allows you to create models with superior color quality. Your modes will be both vibrant and detailed.

The XPPen Artist 24 Pro boasts an impressive 90% Adobe RGB color coverage, delivering vibrant visuals that can reveal subtle distinctions in color tones often imperceptible on standard computer monitors.

Furthermore, it includes a textured film overlay, recreating the tactile sensation of drawing on paper. This feature contributes to an authentic pen-on-paper experience, enhancing the overall natural quality of the results.

It has 20 customizable keys on the two side of the tablet as well as 2 red dial wheels for changing brush size, etc.

The PA2 battery-free stylus offers an exceptional 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt response, guaranteeing precise definition, even for the most delicate lines.

XPPen provide a same non shortcut key version and you can save $100.

7. XPPen Artist 12 (Gen 2) Le Petit Prince Edition

XPPen Artist 12 (Gen 2) Le Petit Prince Edition

XPPen Artist 12 (Gen 2) Le Petit Prince Edition is a new joint model launched by XPPen and the Little Prince. It is limited to 2,500 sets worldwide. The joint model not only comes with customized packaging, but also comes with customized peripherals, including cleaning cloths with Little Prince patterns, drawing gloves, stickers, etc. Moreover, we also customized the Little Prince startup screen. If you like The Little Prince, buy it now! Now only $220.99.

8. XPPen Artist 22 Plus

XPPen Artist 22 Plus

Artist 22 Plus is a premium digital drawing tablet display offered by XPPen. This cutting-edge device is designed to elevate the creative experience of digital artists, illustrators, and designers. With a generously sized 22-inch display, the Artist 22 Plus provides ample space for creating intricate artwork with precision and detail. It features an impressive 1920x1080 Full HD resolution, ensuring vivid and accurate color representation.

Equipped with X3 Pro Smart Chip Stylus, this tablet offers 16,384 levels of pressure sensitivity, allowing for fine and nuanced brushwork. The foldable stand makes it flexible to go from 15° to 88° in seconds, and any angle in between. Feel free to adjust your working posture any way you like, in complete comfort. Plus, the Artist 22 Plus is more than just a drawing display. Unlock more possibilities by extending or projecting contents to this 22-inch big screen for an expansive, immersive viewing experience, whether for creation, games, videos, or entertainment.

Whether you're a digital artist looking to take your craft to the next level or a designer seeking a high-quality display tablet, the Artist 22 Plus promises an immersive and productive creative experience.

9. XPPen Magic Drawing Pad

XPPen Magic Drawing Pad

The Magic Drawing Pad is a standalone Android drawing tablet produced by XPPen. Unlike other general tablet, this drawing pad features 16,384 levels of pressure sensitivity. It's powered by Android 12 and can be used without being connected to a computer. And it is 6.9mm thick and weighs only 599 gramsso that you can easily take it anywhere.

At a 3:2 ratio, this 12.2 inches X-Paper offers a more expansive space for your ideas to run wild and enhance your creative flow. Effortlessly capture the entirety of your vision without constantly zooming in and out.

In addition to a professional drawing experience, you can also use it to listen to music, take photos, and play games like an ordinary tablet.

Bonus Tips: Blender vs Zbrush

Zbrush vs Blender software for 3D Modeling

Both ZBrush and Blender are amazing 3D design software. They are similar in the aspect of sculpting and modeling but are quite different at the core.

ZBrush is a sculpting program from Pixologic famous for its perfect digital sculpting technique. On the other hand, Blender is an open-source 3D modeling program famous for its modeling, sculpting, animating, rigging, concept arts, and storyboarding.

Blender is free to use, while ZBrush costs money. This can be a major consideration for some people, as free software is always appealing.

ZBrush is a much more robust and feature-rich program than Blender, so it may be worth the investment for serious 3D modelers.

ZBrush is better suited for modeling intricate details, while Blender is better for more general modeling.

If you're looking to create models with a lot of small details, ZBrush is the better option. However, if you need to create simpler models or don't need as much detail, Blender will probably serve you better.

Blender has an integrated game engine, which can be used for creating games or prototypes. ZBrush does not have this capability, so it's not as good of an option for game development.

Both programs have a learning curve and take some time to master. But they have active communities of users who are willing to help beginners get started.

If you need to sketch a quick concept, with simple but efficient tools: choose Sculptris! which is a very feature limited version of Zbrush, but it's free.

Conclusion

The possibilities of drawing tablet are endless! You can engage in drawing, picture retouching, and restoration, as well as create digital paintings with significantly enhanced precision compared to using a mouse. It expedites parts of your design workflow, and it can also serve as a mouse for clicking on elements and scrolling through content.

Pen Tablets are great for 3d art they aren't only used for 2d. Whether you are a professional, a novice, or an enthusiast, I can confidently state that you are likely to appreciate the advantages of having one, provided that you are engaged in tasks that align with its feature set.

They are a really fun tool to use and one I personally couldnt function without one. I have a XPPen Artist 15.6 Pro tablet and use it daily for Blender work. It is most useful for sculpting, texture painting, and grease pencil.

At the end, it will really come down to preference and what you're able to get used to and be comfortable with. Kindly take note that these are just tools and won't be an instant thing that will make you a good sculptor. Good luck with your decision and happy sculpting!

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