Drawing Tablet With or Without Screen? The Need To Know

Over the years, companies such as Wacom, Huion, XP-Pen, and many more have come out with a large number of different drawing tablets with varying specifications and at different price ranges.

It is no wonder why it is difficult to determine which one is right for you!

Arguably the most significant difference between these drawing tablets is whether they come with or without a screen (as you are probably aware).

If you are currently on the screen vs. screenless debate yourself, then you are in the right place.

Here is a list of the most important things you need to take into account before deciding on whether to go without or without a screen!

Screen vs. screenless

  • Price difference. Pen tablets are significantly cheaper.
  • Steep learning curve. Much easier to learn how to use pen displays.
  • Portability. Pen tablets are often more compact in size.
  • Clear view and proper posture. When using a pen display, your hand can get in the way, and your posture will generally be worse.
  • Types of work. Pen displays are better for extensive detailing.

Note: A drawing tablet with a screen is also known as a “pen display”. Its screenless cousin is known as “pen tablet”.

I have elaborated on each point below, so continue reading for more details 👇 🙂

Pen Tablets Are Cheaper

Pen Tablet: When it comes to price, pen tablets are a lot cheaper and can cost anywhere between $30-$75.

However, prices can differ a lot according to the features of a tablet. The more the features, the higher the price would be.

For instance, if you’re splurging on a bigger-sized tablet or one with very high pressure sensitivity, it will likely cost more.

Pen Display: Same is the case with a pen display tablet but the prices are a lot higher than their screenless counterparts.

The average price of a pen display tablet can go up to $850 if you’re going for a premium one with more features.

But if you’re looking for cheaper options, some do cost about $200 though their functions might be limited.

Pen Displays Are Easier To Work With

Pen tablet: Learning how to use a pen tablet can take a lot longer since the screen displaying your art is not the one you’re drawing on.

It may be difficult to get the pen to go where you want to in the beginning which can be a bit disassociating. You would have to anticipate where you’ll be drawing on the screen.

Pen Display: Learning how to draw on a pen display tablet is a lot easier and takes less time since it is basically mimicking paper.

That is not to say that it won’t be difficult to get used to for beginner artists but compared to screenless tablets, the adjustment period is a lot less.

Pen Tablets Are Generally More Portable

Pen Tablet: Since the larger-sized pen tablets are even considered small compared to screen tablets, these take the win on portability.

You can easily put them on your lap or wherever you’re comfortable drawing.

Because of their compact size and weight, they are also quite travel-friendly as long as you have your laptop with you.

Pen Display: Though screen tablets have a lot of great features, being portable usually isn’t one of them.

Pen display tablets are essentially like a second monitor. For instance, if you’re getting a 23-inch one, that will require a lot of desk space.

In some cases, they might also need a stand. That means you would be stuck at your desk for long hours making them a less comfortable option.

But if portability is an issue, there are quite a few smaller and travel-friendly options out there as well. However, they might not have a lot of the advanced features that larger-sized pen display tablets would.

Pen Tablets Offer Clear View Of Your Drawing And Enable Better Posture

Pen Tablet: Going for a pen tablet means your drawing would be displayed on a separate screen.

This will not only make it easier to work as your view won’t be obstructed by your hand and arm moving around, but it also allows you to sit with an upright spine for better posture.

If you suffer from pain in your lower back and/or neck, then this might be a huge difference!

Pen Display: Since you’re drawing on the screen itself, it is a given that your arm will get in the way at some point. You can make things easier for yourself by turning the pen display.

Pen Displays Are Best For Detailing

Pen Tablet: Generally good for sketches, concept art, and figure studies.

If you want to make digital art that needs a lot of detail, that can require a lot of zooming in and out.

With pen tablets, zooming in too deep can make drawings come out looking grainy and distorted. This way you can’t get an idea of what you want your drawing to look like.

However, sketches and concept arts don’t require a lot of detail making pen tablets the perfect tool for them.

Pen Displays: Pen displays are best when you’re doing projects that require finer detail.

Zooming in and out is a lot easier with screen tablets and since you are drawing on the same screen, you can easily fix errors.


At the end of the day, both drawing tablets with and without screens will enable you to make great digital art!

deciding on a drawing tablet should be judged on your capabilities as an artist.

If you are a beginner and not too sure about whether a drawing tablet is something for you, then it might be a safer choice to pick up a cheaper pen tablet.

Pen Tablet Pen Display
Price $30-$75* $200-$850*
Learning Curve and Adaptability Generally, takes more time Takes less time
Portability Yes. Depending on the size. Less portable.
Clear View and good posture Yes Your arm can get in the way.
Likely to “hunch” over your tablet.
Types of Work Great for sketches, figure studies, and concept art Same as pen tablets, but are also great for detailing

*The prices are just approximations. 

Here is a useful video that explains the above.

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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