Do You Need a Computer for a Drawing Tablet?

For those interested in art, creating art digitally instead of by hand on paper or a canvas has become more and more popular in the last few years.

There’s almost no better device to do this with than a drawing tablet, and you can find many relatively inexpensive models. However, there is an important question to consider that can be confusing for many beginners, especially if you are looking to save some money.

That is: Do you need a computer for your drawing tablet?

The short answer: Nope, you don’t need one. But It is a great idea to own a computer and use it together with your drawing tablet! Far more affordable drawing tablets are available to you if you have a computer to pair with your drawing tablet.

But there is more to it than that, which I elaborate on below. So continue reading if you want to learn why it’s a good idea to work with both a drawing tablet and a computer when creating digital art.

Affordability and Price Range

There are essentially three different kinds of drawing tablets.

  1. Drawing tablets without display a.k.a. Pen tablets. They look mostly like a large mouse pad which you draw on, and your input is visible on the computer screen which you have connected to the drawing tablet. These are the cheapest of drawing tablets.
  2. Drawing tablets with a display. These look like a normal tablet and you can see the thing you are drawing directly on the screen of the tablet. They are more expensive than the drawing tablets without display, but still, need to be connected to a computer to function.
  3. Stand-alone drawing tablets. These are equipped with a lot more hardware and are not much different from a computer, which is the reason they don’t need to connect to a separate computer to function and why they are the most expensive.

Note: there are no commonly accepted names for any of these types of drawing tablets.

The drawing tablets that can function without a dedicated computer are usually far more expensive! These can range into multiple thousands of dollars, due to the impressive specs and hardware capabilities of these devices.

While these devices are definitely impressive…

Do you really need that?

Take the Wacom Mobile Studio Pro 13 (stand-alone tablet) as an example, there really isn’t much that the entry-level Wacom One cannot do in terms of creating art. However, it is about 1/8 of the price…

Many people simply wouldn’t be able to afford the former in comparison to the latter, and that’s something important to think about when considering that you can get a decent computer in the range of $800-1000 that should be able to handle all of your art needs, buy the tablet for $400, and you will still be under half of the price of the standalone tablet while creating the same art.

The iPad is somewhat of an exception to this, as that product line is a standalone tablet too, but they are much more affordable. However, using an iPad means you need specific iPad software in most cases, except if you use something like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop (which is expensive).

If you own a computer, you will have available a wide range of powerful software and some are even for free. If you own a laptop,  and you will even still be able to be mobile.

Brand Variability and Flexibility

Furthermore, you will have a lot fewer options to choose from, if you want a stand-alone drawing tablet.

Most of the top brands have standalone tablets, but some of them really aren’t comparable to the others.

In my opinion, the best standalone tablets right now, are probably an iPad Pro or a Mobile Studio Wacom Pro.

You don’t lock yourself into single models if you decide to use a computer with your tablet. There are entire price ranges and whole lines of models that you’re simply cutting out if you decide to go down that path, and for the option-conscious artist, that could be a big mistake.

There are sub-$100 models, models in the $200-400 range, models in the $500-800 range, models in the $1000+ range, and more.

There are many different brands, though a few main ones (Huion, XP-PEN, Wacom) tend to dominate the market.

You would be excluding all these great and cheaper options by choosing a standalone drawing tablet.

Art Software Programs & More

Finally, we’re getting into programs, editing, and some stuff about the art industry.

While I’m certain you can you will have powerful software available to you on your stand-alone drawing tablet, there is a lot more to choose from if you have Windows or MacOS as your operating system.

Furthermore, there are so many things that are just more convenient to do if you have a keyboard available. At least in my opinion.


Whether you’re a hobbyist or a dedicated professional, there are far fewer pros to using a standalone drawing tablet than there are cons.

Perhaps for a professional user, it may be worth it to own a dedicated stand-alone drawing tablet on the side to assist you in day to day tasks, take with you to travel, or move around with you throughout the day while you create. However, if you can use an iPad for something other than a stand-alone drawing tablet, then it could be worth it.

For people who are budget-conscious, or just don’t see the need when they already own a computer or a laptop, a normal drawing tablet that you have to connect to a computer will do just fine.

It’s not as if there are no uses for a stand-alone drawing tablet. It’s just that it’s far easier and better to own a computer and use a tablet than it is to just use one on its own.

About the author: My name is Marcus, I am a lawyer (LL.M.) and the founder of this website. Besides sometimes doing lawyer stuff, I like to draw and improve my skills as a “digital artist”, and I write about what I learn on this website. If you want to know more about me or reach out, then you can click here.

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