Artists these days are slowly integrating digital design into their workflow, using touchscreens and digital pens in addition to the good old brush + canvas.
Applications such as Illustrator, Maya, Photoshop, etc. are tools that modern creative professionals use on a daily basis and many comics or animations you see these days are almost entirely designed in digital environments.
So it only makes sense that you’d need a laptop to power all your creative needs as an artist. But how to choose one? Worry not, for we have done all the research and compiled a list of the best laptops for artists.
Microsoft’s Surface Pro 7 gets our top recommendation. It is one of the best laptops for drawing thanks to its excellent high resolution touchscreen and super portable 2-in-1 design. Read on to learn more about the Surface Pro 7 and other laptops we chose for artists.
Here is the list of 7 best laptop for Artists:
The ideal package, it has everything an artist needs. From a 10th generation Core i7 processor with Iris graphics to 16GB of LPDDR4x RAM and solid state storage- the Surface Pro 7 is what you want as an artist who is constantly on the move.
It is light at just under 800 grams, so you won’t even notice the extra weight in your backpack.
The body is made from a tough magnesium alloy so it can handle a couple of drops and keep chugging on.
The display is a standout feature on this Surface Pro, it is just 12.3 inches in size which is typical of a 2-in-1 tablet computer.
But the resolution is mind boggling at 2736 x 1824. Wireless connectivity is provided in the form of 802.11ax, the newest and fastest standard.
You get a type cover for when you want to use this as a standard laptop computer for writing some posts on social media or filling out forms.
At just 0.82 inches thick and 3.64lbs in weight, the Lenovo Flex 5 is an incredible laptop that offers excellent value in terms of both price and portability.
The Flex 5 is powered by an AMD Ryzen 5 4500U processor which was an excellent choice on the part of Lenovo.
The Intel 10th generation Ice Lake processors are nice, but they still get beat by Ryzen 4000 series mobile processors in both performance/ power efficiency.
A 10-point 14” FHD IPS display is the cherry on top. And remember- this is a budget machine that any student or amateur artist can afford.
Inspiron laptops are always a nice value proposition, no matter which series you look at.
Despite their plastic construction, underwhelming trackpads, and mediocre webcams, Inspiron laptops pack some pretty decent hardware and good displays.
The Inspiron 14 5400 is a nice example of an all-rounder for artists, you can use it for drawing or editing photos and video.
It has a full HD touch display and 10th generation Intel Core i7 processor- just what you need from a laptop for artists.
There is just enough RAM for basic stuff in Illustrator and Photoshop, although we would have liked 16GB.
That would have ensured good performance for the next 2 to 3 years. A 512GB SSD means there is enough storage for apps and data, but you can still use an external storage drive since this laptop has plenty of I/O.
HP’s Envy line is their mid-range counterpart to the more premium Spectre laptops.
The x360 moniker means this is a laptop with a 360° hinge, i.e. a 2-in-1 so you can use it as a drawing tablet or traditional laptop based on what you need.
A mobile content creation powerhouse, the Envy x360 offers excellent performance at a relatively low price with the AMD Ryzen 5 4500U processor.
With just 8GB of memory, the Envy x360 seems a little RAM starved at first. If you work with 3D applications, you definitely need at least 16GB of RAM. Depending on the type of work you do, you might want to purchase the version with 16GB of RAM.
Because the RAM is soldered to the mainboard, you can’t upgrade it later even if you want to.
The display is decent, not mind blowing since it is a 15.6” panel with 1080p resolution and okay viewing angles. The pen is decent too.
A 13 inch screen is ideal for drawing logos, sketches, etc. on the go when you’re travelling between work and home, it is also just the right size for sliding into your backpack.
The Dell XPS 13 7390 lets you get more done in less time.
It has a 10th generation Ice Lake Core i7 processor with 32GB of RAM, which is absolutely bonkers when you consider the fact that this is essentially a 13 inch ultrabook designed for 2D artwork.
The additional RAM comes in handy if you’re rendering stuff or animating scenes in Blender/ 3ds Max.
The Infinity Edge touchscreen is a bit on the glossier side, but it has really good brightness (500 nits) and excellent color accuracy.
With a resolution of 1920 x 1200, you get ideal pixel density for drawing and consuming content, plus this is a 16:10 format display which is perfect for professionals.
Want an XPS, but with a screen size larger than 13 inches? Check out the XPS 15 9500 which is a regular laptop rather than a 2-in-1, so it is best used in combination with a Wacom graphics tablet.
If you use it as a standalone drawing solution, the screen doesn’t go all the way back and it tend to wobble like any other laptop screen when you draw on it with a pen.
Instead, you should connect this laptop to a graphic tablet + pen setup and use the excellent display to work on your projects.
In terms of processing muscle, it is unrivalled- a Core i7 10750H processor guarantees top of the line speed in all creative applications.
Then there’s the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650ti dedicated graphics for tasks that take advantage of CUDA acceleration.
Designed for professionals who need a sleek yet powerful machine for all their projects.
The MSI Prestige 14 packs some really impressive hardware underneath its sleek chassis.
An Intel 10th generation Ice Lake quad core provides the perfect balance of single and multithreaded performance for Adobe Creative Suite applications.
Then you get 16GB of RAM, although this is definitely a bit on the slower side at just 2133MHz (makes sense since it is LPDDR3).
A GeForce GTX 1650 Max Q graphics processor ensures excellent performance in 3D applications. Thunderbolt ports allow for easy connection of external GPUs and displays, for when you need to do some serious work.
Depending on whether you’re working with 2D art or 3D models, you’ll want a computer that is powerful enough to fulfil your daily needs.
It’s wise to have a machine that is slightly more powerful than you need it to be, because a couple years down the line when you scale up your projects and software your computer can keep up.
We recommend 16GB of RAM and a Core i5 or higher processor.
If you’re going with AMD, you’ll need a Ryzen 5 or higher. That should be more than enough to run Illustrator and Photoshop. If you’re using Blender, Maya, ZBrush, etc. you’ll need a Core i7/ Ryzen 7 processor and a dedicated GPU.
Dedicated GPUs aren’t necessary if you’re just making sketches or working with photos. But if you’re rendering and animating 3D models, they do accelerate the workflow significantly.
The type of laptop you need:
We suggest you for a 2-in-1 if you want something to plug the gap between home and office.
You might have a dedicated workstation with a graphics tablet and powerful PC, but you can’t carry all that with you on the bus or metro.
If you want to be creative on the go, you’ll need a 13 inch 2-in-1 or something like a tablet. Carrying a full drawing tablet is also cumbersome, so a 2-in-1 should be perfect.
It allows you to draw, edit designs, share projects with your colleagues, listen to music, watch videos, etc. and you can do multiple things at the same time.
Some 2-in-1 laptops these days have really innovative designs which allow you to accelerate your workflow and work on multiple things simultaneously.
You can get laptops with dual display systems or detachable screens in the 2-in-1 segment. Plus, the display itself won’t wobble or bounce while you’re drawing on it (this is a problem with traditional touchscreen laptops).
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. I’m a graphic designer, what laptop should I get?
A. The first thing you need is a laptop with a color-accurate display that also has a high resolution. Next, depending on how much you value portability and the type of work you do, you can either choose a gaming laptop or an ultrabook. If you’ll work with OpenGL reliant professional CAD software, we recommend you get a workstation laptop with a Quadro GPU.
And try to get a laptop that has a 4k display if it fits into your budget. IPS panels are the norm if you want color accuracy. Stay away from TN as they have poor colors and viewing angles. Don’t want to lug a massive gaming/ workstation laptop around all day? Check out a 2-in-1 with a detachable screen, preferably one that has a battery which lasts for at least 8 hours.
If you aren’t sure whether you need dedicated graphics at the moment, purchase a laptop with Thunderbolt 3 ports so you can hook up an external GPU later down the line, should the need arise.
Q. If I already own a graphics tablet, do I go for a 2-in-1 or just get a regular laptop?
A. A regular laptop is what you should get if you already own a graphics tablet, since you probably work at a desk in your home or office. Touchscreen functionality is nice to have, but not compulsory since you’ll do all of your drawing with the graphics tablet. The laptop screen has just one job- to show in real time what you’re drawing with your hand on the tablet.
Color accuracy and high resolution are desirable, so get a gaming laptop with an OLED panel or high quality IPS display. Another option if you already own a graphics tablet is to get a thin and light ultrabook with a 4K screen, and spend the money you save on an actual workstation desktop instead.
Q. Mac or PC?
A. Windows vs OSX is what you need to decide between. If OSX is what you’re familiar with, and all the software you need is on Mac, then by all means- get a MacBook. But understand that MacBooks lag behind Windows 2-in-1s in terms of flexibility and touchscreen options.
The touchbar is like a child’s toy compared to an actual touchscreen. Yep, there are no touchscreen MacBooks out there even though MacBooks have screens with excellent colors and pixel densities. If you own or plan to purchase a graphics tablet, then a Mac is definitely worth considering. Otherwise, just get an iPad.
We hope this article helped you decide which laptop to purchase for your artistic pursuits.
The Surface Pro 7 beats out everything else with a nice combination of portability, build quality, performance, and battery life. It is basically a digital sketchbook and pencil that you can carry in your backpack.
We recommend you purchase the 16GB models because upgrading RAM is not a thing in these super compact 2-in-1 machines.
Once you purchase a certain configuration, you’re stuck with whatever storage and memory amount it has for next 5 or 6 years till you get a brand new machine.
It is really well built, and even the detachable keyboard doesn’t feel too wobbly as you hammer away an article or blog post.
It isn’t something you would write your college dissertation on, but for a quick 30 to 40 minute typing session the Surface Pro’s keyboard functions perfectly fine. And since it has great wireless connectivity, you can always hook up an external Bluetooth keyboard for long form typing.
There are some nice I/O options too- you have a USB Type A so you can connect external storage or mice.
Then there’s a Type C port so you can hook up an external display (up to 4k 60Hz). A unibody magnesium alloy chassis makes this little guy feel rigid and unbendable despite weighing less than 800 grams.
And the display is also top-notch, both in terms of resolution and color accuracy.
It is a bummer that you’ve got to purchase the pen separately, considering the price of this laptop. But hey, it is designed for professionals and serious artists who probably wouldn’t want some cheap free pen to begin with.