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This Wacom drawing tablet feels like putting pen to paper

If you're a digital artist or graphic designer, you need to try the Wacom Intuos Pro.
Written by Allison Murray, Staff Writer
Overhead image of person's hand holding a pen and writing on a black Wacom drawing tablet
Allison Murray/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • The Wacom Intuos Pro comes in three sizes and normally retails for $380 (for the medium size).
  • This drawing tablet has 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity and allows you to customize your favorite and most-used shortcuts. 
  • However, you need an external screen to use this tablet, and the stylus nibs must be replaced often. 

The Wacom Intuos Pro drawing tablet is made for creatives, and it feels like pen to paper when you're drawing or sketching on it. If you're looking to detail finer strokes or have a super responsive drawing tablet, this is the one. 

Full disclosure: I am not an artist. However, I am a tech reporter who's tested various tablets and knows the ins and outs of what makes a good tablet. And the Wacom Intuos Pro is a good tablet. 

Also: The best drawing tablets

This drawing tablet is built for professionals: Artists who create digital art, graphic designers, photographers looking to make precise edits in Photoshop, etc. For serious digital artists, this tablet would be a valuable tool to help make detailed sketches, edits, or drawings. But for me? The Wacom Intuos Pro was simply fun.

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Having never used a screenless tablet, the setup for the Wacom Intuos Pro was much different than simply turning on an iPad or a Samsung Galaxy Tab S8. The tablet comes in three sizes (small, medium, and large), as well as the battery-free Pro Pen 2 with extra nibs and a USB-A to USB-C cord to connect directly to a device, or you can pair the tablet via Bluetooth. 

I tried both methods: The Bluetooth pairing took some time to figure out how exactly to do it, but Wacom has helpful videos on its site. As for using the cord to plug directly into a device, I had to dig out my 2016 MacBook Air (remember when Apple used to have USB-A ports?) and plug it in. I preferred this method overall since it was easier. 

Once connected to a device, it took a lot of playing around to figure out how to work this drawing tablet. You can customize everything, including what the Pro Pen 2's buttons do, what the ExpressKeys on the tablet's side do, and touch gestures with your fingers, so there's a lot to learn. It took me a long time to figure out how to get it to work correctly with my setup. 

You also have to have a drawing program compatible with Wacom (as a non-artist, I had to download one, making the process longer and more difficult). There is a steep learning curve when controlling what's on your screen using a tablet that doesn't have a screen. Thankfully, the pen is super accurate, and it can be used as a mouse or a drawing utensil. 

Digital drawing at its finest

After the setup is complete, everything from there is easy. Drawing in a program (I used the Sketchbook Illustration app) is a seamless experience, like a pen to paper. The pressure points on the pen are super sensitive so that you can go light and thin or dark and thick with your strokes. You can use the tablet to zoom in and out of your artwork, making fine-tuning details a breeze. 

I even had my friend, who has been painting as a hobby for years, come over and try out the tablet. Her words were, "I didn't know digital painting could be like this! You can get so precise with the details and shading!" 

Her art showcases this detailed shading one can get using the Pro Pen 2 and the tablet in tandem.

Wacom Intuos Pro connected to a Macbook Air with a drawing of a blue cup on its screen
Allison Murray/ZDNET

My art -- albeit simple -- showcases that anyone can use this drawing tablet to make a reasonably decent work of art. 

Wacom Intuos Pro connected to a Macbook Air with a drawing of a mountain landscape on its screen
Allison Murray/ZDNET

ZDNET's buying advice

All in all, this is a fantastic drawing tablet–for professionals. With virtually no lag and 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, the Wacom Intuos Pro is built with digital artists in mind to help you create works of art more easily. I'd recommend this tablet to any graphic designer, sketch artist, or photographer. But, if you're like me (no art experience whatsoever), I'd say leave this one to the pros. 

In addition, since apps are usually more powerful on a laptop or computer, compatibility across programs like Adobe and Corel Painter is far superior to their tablet OS versions, making the Wacom Intuos Pro an excellent option for those who prefer desktop programs.

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