Do Drawing Tablets Need A Computer?

Last Updated on July 6, 2023 by Ernests Embutnieks

Whether you are simply painting, drawing, designing, or even notetaking, utilizing a drawing or graphics tablet might be the most convenient method to get your work done through a digital medium. Drawing and graphics tablets are two different types of input devices that translate your artwork into digital form using a stylus or pen.

Drawing tablets, also knowns as standalone tablets, DO NOT need a computer. Graphics tablets, on the contrary, are ones without screens and require a computer in order to function. Although they appear to serve the same purpose, the two tablets have their fair share of differences.

At first, it may be difficult to determine which one is a better fit for you since each of them caters to a slightly different audience. Hence, this article offers a comparison between the two as well as some recommendations for each category to help you make the best possible decision. 

Key Differences: Drawing Tablet vs. Graphics Tablet

If you’ve been doing a deep dive into graphic designing tools, I’m sure you must’ve come across two terms— drawing tablets and graphic tablets. Let’s clear one thing up, these two tablets are very different from each other. Without proper research, you can end up wasting a few hundred dollars on a product that does not fit your needs or skill set. 

Related: Best Drawing Tablets

Features and aspectsDrawing TabletsGraphic Tablet
PortabilityEasy and lightweightHeavy and not portable
Detail orientationCan not add too many details. Great for beginners.Extremely efficient in adding details
Battery lifeRequires charging for hoursNo charging required
ConnectivityIt can be connected using a USB-C portEasily connects to most devices and computers
Software supportIt supports a few common softwareIt supports every drawing software and 3D renderer
User-FriendlyBeginner-friendly and easy to useHas a small learning curve

Why Do Drawing Tablets Need a Computer?

explained why do drawing/graphic tablets need a computer in order to work

Drawing/Graphic tablets need to be connected to a computer because they rely on the computer’s processing power to interpret and transmit the user’s input to the screen. When the user moves the stylus on the tablet’s surface, the tablet captures the movements and sends them to the computer, which then displays the corresponding lines and strokes on the screen.

In addition to processing the input, the computer also provides the necessary software and tools for the user to create and edit their digital artwork. Many drawing tablets come with their own software, such as Wacom’s Bamboo Paper or Autodesk’s SketchBook, but users can also use other graphics software, such as Adobe Photoshop or GIMP, to create and edit their artwork.

To some drawing tablets connection to a computer is essential to function because it enables the tablet to capture and transmit the user’s input and provides the necessary software and tools for creating and editing digital artwork.

Are There Drawing Tablets That Don’t Need Computers?

Are There Drawing Tablets That Don't Need Computers? explained

Yes, there are drawing tablets that do not require a computer to function. These tablets are often referred to as standalone drawing tablets or standalone graphics tablets.

Standalone drawing tablets typically have their own built-in display, processor, and memory, which allows them to function independently of a computer. Users can draw, paint, or write directly on the tablet’s display using a stylus or a pen-like device, and their input is processed and displayed in real-time on the tablet’s screen.

Some standalone drawing tablets also have the capability to connect to a computer via USB or Bluetooth, which allows users to transfer their artwork to a computer.

One example of a standalone drawing tablet is the Wacom Cintiq Pro 16. This tablet has a 16-inch screen and comes with its own stylus and software for creating and editing digital artwork. It can be used independently of a computer or connected to a computer via USB for transferring artwork.

Drawing Tablet

Drawing tablets or standalone screen tablets are self-sufficient devices. This means that they can function independently without connecting to an external PC since they already come with everything, including both the hardware and software. 


  • Built-In Display:

Drawing tablets function as both an input device and a monitor since users do not need to connect them to a computer or monitor to work. As a result, the hands-on visibility of the user’s work on the same device can speed up the process. Users also get the opportunity to examine the work from the main display if need be.

  • Paper-Like Experience:

The unique selling point of a drawing tablet or pen display is the hands-on approach. The experience of sketching on the tablet surface feels similar to drawing on paper, as you can see your work on the same surface as the one you are drawing on. The tablet’s screen showcases each change as your design or artwork is converted into a digital format.

  • Portability:

Drawing tablets are portable in the sense that you will be able to draw on the go without needing a computer or a larger screen since the hardware (processor, ROM, RAM, etc.) is built-in and the tablets come with their own operating system, making their usable on their own. 


  • Low Durability:

Since a drawing tablet comes with many parts, it is a sensitive object. Therefore, a major disadvantage is that drawing tablets must be handled with more care than graphics tablets. The touchscreen is far more sensitive and, therefore, less durable than a graphics tablet. Hence, it is not resistant to too much pressure. Rough motions or excessively strong pressure should be avoided to prevent screen degradation and color sparks.

  • High Cost:

Since drawing tablets are practically like mini PCs, they are far more expensive than graphics tablets. Of course, factors such as the device’s model and manufacturer may impact the final cost. 

We can recommend these standalone drawing tablets:

Graphics Tablet

A graphics tablet does not function as a motion, making it strictly an input device. You are required to connect the tablet to a PC or laptop to view your work on the primary screen. Hence, you would not be able to see the output immediately in your work area.


  • Low Cost:

Graphics tablets are less expensive than drawing tablets or pen displays. Hence, they are popular amongst beginners or digital artists with a tight budget.

  • High Durability and Resistance:

Graphics tablets do not have as many components as drawing tablets. Hence, fewer parts mean higher durability. They also lack a touch screen so high-pressure resistance is offered to the users. These tablets are perfect for artists who require something robust.

  • Pressure Sensitivity:

The pressure sensitivity offered by graphics tablets offer allows greater control and precision. Such sensitivity mimics a real-life experience making users feel as if they are drawing on paper.


  • Low Portability:

This can be a major con for artists who like working on the go. In order to utilize a graphics tablet, it MUST always be connected to a PC. Although the tablet itself may be small, its need for a separate device makes it less travel-friendly. It’s not as portable as a drawing tablet since you won’t be able to use it when you don’t have access to a primary monitor.

  • Less Hands-On Experience:

When using graphics tablets, you will only see your work in real-time on another screen. Hence, you are required to divide your focus between the tablet surface and the monitor. Consequently, the experience feels less hands-on as you need excellent hand-eye coordination.

  • Less Beginner-Friendly:

As mentioned earlier, the need for excellent hand-eye coordination can make graphics tablets hard to use as the learning curve is steep. It may take a long time to simply become familiar with the device which can put off many beginner artists.

We can recommend these graphics tablets:

  • Huion H420
  • Wacom Intuos Pro
  • XP Pen Artist 12
  • XP Pen Deco 01 V2
  • Wacom Cintiq 16

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it hard to adjust to a drawing tablet?

It takes everybody some time to adjust to a new setting. If you’ve never drawn digitally, it’s expected that you will find some hiccups and will need time to adjust to a drawing tablet. But if you think it will be impossible to get used to a digital drawing device, that’s not true.

So no, it’s not too hard to adjust to a drawing tablet.

Can I connect my standalone drawing tablet to a computer?

Yes, many standalone drawing tablets come with other connectivity options to ensure that the user has a variety to choose from.

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What Is Tilt Sensitivity, Rotation: How Does It Work


  • Laiba Tariq

    Laiba is a freelance content writer. She loves writing everything about tech and drawing tablets. Letting readers know her opinion about the latest gadgets. In her spare time, you can find her letting her creative side out by drawing cats and friends.