Five pen tablets for frugal photographers

Up your photo editing game without breaking the bank.

photo editing tablet
You don’t have to drop a bundle to trade your mouse for a great photo editing tablet.Josefa nDiaz via Unsplash

It’s never been more affordable to pick up a good quality pen tablet for photo editing. Features that once cost hundreds can be had for 60 or 70 bucks if you know where to look. Stop struggling with that pesky mouse and step up your photo editing game with one of these affordable pen tablets.

Wacom Intuos (Medium)

Wacom Intuos
Wacom’s entry-level tablet costs a bit more than the competition, but you’re buying into a trusted brand.Wacom

Wacom is the brand to beat when it comes to pen tablets, but that also means you'll pay more for fewer features. The Intuos line is Wacom's entry-level, and we suggest you pick up the Intuos Medium. It features an 8.5 x 5.3-inch drawing area, a battery-free EMR pen with 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity, four customizable express keys, and the ability to connect to your computer wirelessly over Bluetooth.

XP-Pen Deco 02

XP-Pen Deco 02
The XP-Pen Deco 02 is a pen tablet that punches well above its price tag.XP-Pen

Once you break out of the Wacom bubble, prices go down and feature set goes up. The XP-Pen Deco 02 gives you a large 10 x 5.63-inch drawing area, battery-free pen with 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, six customizable shortcut keys, and a convenient roller wheel that can be programmed to zoom, opacity, brush size and more. No wireless connectivity here, but you can step up to the Deco 03 if that's a must-have.

Huion HS610

Huion HS610
The Huion HS610 doesn’t just support Mac and Windows, it works with Android devices too.Huion

The Huion HS610 trades drawing space for features. You only get a 6.25 x 3.91-inch drawing surface, but the battery-free pen supports 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, there are 12 customizable express keys, and you still get a touch-wheel that can be programmed to multiple functions. Most notably, the HS610 isn't just a computer tablet: it's also compatible with Android devices, so you can use it to edit on your smartphone or tablet in a pinch.

Ugee M708

Ugee M708
The Ugee M708 is one of the most affordable 10 x 6-inch editing tablets on the market.Ugee

The Ugee M708 isn't as well-known as the options from Wacom, Huion or XP-Pen, but it promises the same level of performance. The M708 features a 10 x 6-inch drawing surface, battery-free pen with 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, and 8 programmable express keys. There's no scroll wheel or wireless connectivity, but it's also the most affordable option on our list.

Apple iPad (6th Generation)

Apple iPad
The ‘Sidecar’ feature coming to macOS this Fall will turn the iPad into a powerful photo editing tablet.Apple

When Apple debuts the "Sidecar" feature in macOS Catalina this Fall, the latest iPad and 1st gen Apple Pencil will become an incredibly compelling option for photo editors who want a "display tablet" experience. There are no published specs for the Apple pencil, but it seems to offer the same 8,000+ levels of pressure sensitivity as the competition, with virtually no lag and all of the benefits of the Apple ecosystem thrown in.

Sure, it costs way more than any of the pen tablets listed above, but it's a steal compared to other display tablets like Wacom's Cintiq Pro 13.