How To Choose What Size Wacom Tablet You Should Get

Purchasing the right size Wacom Pen Tablet is an important decision for an artist. It’s common for beginners to be intimidated by larger drawing tablets, so they choose one that is far too small.  Hopefully, I can provide some good information to help you find the right tablet size.

So how can you tell what size Wacom Pen tablet is right for you? Ignore the size of the tablet & focus on the Active Area. Active Area is the section of your tablet that you can draw on. Most artists prefer a medium Active Area (8″x6″). 

Best Active Area For Different Screen Sizes

Screen Size Active Area
≈ 6" x 4"
19"- 26"
≈ 8" x 6"
≈ 10" x 8"

Great so now you know what sized Active Area you need! BUT how do you know what models fit those size requirements? Don’t worry Bellow I provide a chart of different Wacom models for each Active Area size, as well as pricing.

List Of Tablets For Each Active Area Size

Below is a list of tablets for each Active Area size. Most of the tablets listed below are currently on sale. If you want to learn more about that sale I cover more about that here. 

Tablets w/ A Small Active Area 6″ x 4″

Intuos Small

Price: $69.95

Intuos Small w/ Bluetooth

Price: $79.95

One by Wacom Small

Price: $59.99

Intuos Pro Small New Version

Price: $249.95

Intuos Pro Small Old Version

Price: $144.95

Tablets w/ A Medium Active Area 8″ x 6″

Intuos Medium W/ Bluetooth

Price: $169.95

Intuos Medium Paper

Price: $399.95

Intuos Medium Pro

Price: $379.95

Tablets w/ A Large Active Area 10″ x 8″

Intuos Pro Large

Price: $499.95

Intuos Pro Large Paper

Price: $599.95

Wacom tablets can be expensive so if you’re on a budget it’s ok to go a little smaller than what’s suggested, because even if it is a little awkward at first you’ll inevitably get used to using your tablet.

If you’d like to learn about student discounts & reduced pricing for the tablets on this list I cover that topic here.

2. Why You Should Ignore Tablet Size

A lot of bloggers will tell you to buy a tablet that’s close in size to your computer screen. I find this to be some of the worst advice ever. This is because some large tablets have a surprisingly small Active Area.   

For example, the Intuos Pro Small is 12.6″ x 8.2 ” yet it’s Active Area is 6.2″ x 3.9″ which is half the size of the tablet. 

Funny enough the Intuos Small (Non-Pro Version) is a drastically smaller tablet, yet it has almost the same exact Active Area as the Pro version(see photo below).

Intuos Small Pro

Intuos Small

I hope this clearly illustrates why focusing only on the size of the tablet is a waste of time. 

That said there are some situations that do require you to consider the size of the tablet. I listed a few below. 

  • An example of this is desk real estate. If you don’t have much room on your desk you should consider buying a small tablet. You’ll get used to drawing with it in 1-2 weeks & it saves you the hassle of having to buy a new desk. 
  • They’re usually cheaper, so if you are on a budget get the small version of whatever tablet model you’re interested in. 
  • If you want a tablet that will fit in a medium-sized backpack so you can travel with it. You’re probably going to look for something the same size as whatever small laptop you’re carrying around.  

9 Additional Facts For Choosing The Right Active Area 

  1. The Larger the Active Area the more accuracy you’ll have. A larger Active Area will also force you to move your hand more making your hand fatigue quicker. 
  2. The Active Area on your tablet can be decreased. 
  3. Tablets w/ a small Active Area are better for replacing your mouse & retouching photos but terrible for digital art. 
  4. Tablets w/ small Active Area have far less accuracy than tablets w/ a larger Active Area.
  5. The only time Tablet size counts is if you have a small desk, in that case, I’d say buy a small tablet so it takes up less desk real estate. 
  6. An Active Area of about 8″ x 6″ will work well 99% of the time. This is about the size of Wacom’s Medium Intuos. If you’re interested in the Medium Intuos I cover where to find it on sale here 
  7. Wacom tablet’s Active Area have high resolution, so even if the tablet is significantly smaller than your computer you’ll have the same if not more accuracy then if you were using your mouse.
  8. The Active Area of your tablet mirrors your computer screen. So if your computer screen is dramatically bigger than your tablet’s Active Area every move you make with your pen will be drastically larger on-screen. See photo below for an illustration of this.

Because the computer screen is about 4 times the size of the white tablet’s Active Area, the curved line on the screen is 4 times the size of the curved line drawn on the tablet.

To give you a better idea of this I provided a photo below demonstrating how the Active Area maps to your computer screen.

4. Choosing The Right Size Screen Tablet

Choosing the right screen tablet is nothing like choosing a pen tablet, this is because you’re drawing directly onto the screen w/ a screen tablet.

When choosing a screen tablet you might want to consider your personal size preference when drawing or creating art. For example, if you’re a hobiest that draws simple small illustrations a 13″ screen will work well.

For most artist who use a lot detail or lots of color the 16″ or 24″ is best. I personally own the 16″ Cintiq Pro & find it’s the perfect size to draw detailed art without taking up too much desk space. 

If you’re interested in professional animation or working on huge works of art you might want to go for the 32″. I personally find it to be overkill for 90% of digital artists but the pros like Disney animators prefer it. 

If you’d like to learn more about what drawing tablets the Professionals artist like Disney, Murakami, & James Jean are using I have a great post on that topic here. 

5. Related Questions

What are the cheapest Wacom Tablets?

  • One by Wacom Small $59.95
  • Wacom Intuos  $69.9

What is the best drawing tablet for beginners?

  • Wacom Intuos Pro M & L $379 – $499.95
  • The Wacom Intuos $79.99-$99
  • Huion Inspiroy H950P $81.48
  • Huion H610 PRO $59.99
  • Parblo A610 $51.99
  • Huion 420 $19.99

To learn more about the tablets listed here read my review where I go into the pros & cons of each of them here.

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