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.
IN A HURRY? HERE ARE OUR TOP 7 PICKS FOR THE BEST LAPTOP FOR ARTISTS…
Microsoft Surface Pro 7
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.
- Tons of connectivity for such a small machine, it even has a Type A port
- Type C port for powering external displays up to 4k 60Hz
- Intel 10th generation Intel Core i7 processor with Iris graphics
- 16GB of LPDDR4x RAM
- 256/ 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
- 2736 x 1824 resolution touchscreen
- Type cover detachable keyboard for when you want to use the Surface Pro 7 in laptop mode
- All-day battery power
- You have to purchase the pen separately
- Type cover keyboard is not ideal for long form writing
Lenovo Flex 5
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.
- Superb performance with an AMD Ryzen 5 4500U hexacore mobile processor
- 16GB DDR4 RAM
- 360° hinge so you can use your laptop in 3 different modes- tend, stand, regular
- Up to 10 hours of battery life
- Actually decent keyboard
- Top firing stereo speakers that sound great considering this is a budget laptop
- Fingerprint sensor
- Thin and light designThin and light design
- Physical webcam shutter
- You get a free digital pen
- No 802.11 ax Wi-Fi
- The screen is 250 nits which can be an issue if you plan to use this laptop outdoors
Dell Inspiron 14 5400
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.
- Intel 10th generation Core i7 processor
- 12GB of RAM
- 512GB SSD
- Two Type A ports and a Type C
- HDMI out
- SD card reader
- Fairly large trackpad and palm rest
- Page Up and Page Down are located in really weird spots
- Power button integrated into keyboard
- Built-in audio sounds tinny and weak
HP Envy x360
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.
- AMD Ryzen 5 4500U processor
- Thin & Light design
- Very well built, especially when you consider the mid-range price tag
- Good onboard audio
- Free pen
- Rugged 360° hinge
- Only 8GB of RAM, we recommend you get the slightly more expensive 16GB version if you can afford it
- 1080p resolution and mediocre viewing angles
Dell XPS 13 7390
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.
- 16:10 display with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 (13.4 inch IPS panel)
- 500 nits brightness
- Ultra fast 3733MHz LPDDR4x RAM
- 10th generation Intel Ice Lake Core i7 processor
- Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 network card with Bluetooth 5
- Carbon fiber palm rest
- Good trackpad and keyboard
- Dual fan cooling system for low noise and great thermals
- Double anodized diamond cut sides and aluminum unibody chassis
- Corning Gorilla Glass 5
- Certain models have touchpad wobble, this is a design flaw and you should contact Dell support to get a replacement unit
- Webcam is mediocre
Dell XPS 15 9500
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.
- 16:10 15.6” display with 4k resolution and 100% Adobe RGB color gamut, perfect for drawing and video/ photo editing
- HDR400 compatible
- 62% larger touchpad compared to previous XPS 15 models, and a larger screen despite having a smaller footprint (thanks to the slim bezel design)
- Corning Gorilla Glass 6 protection
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650ti dedicated graphics
- 16GB RAM
- 1TB SSD
- Windows 10 Pro
- Massive battery
- No Ryzen configuration
- Built-in audio is slightly underwhelming for the money you’re spending on such a premium machine
MSI Prestige 14 A10SC-230
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.
- UHD 4k display with 100% Adobe RGB color gamut
- GTX 1650 Max Q graphics with 4GB GDDR5 VRAM
- Thunderbolt 3 ports
- 90Whr lithium polymer battery
- 512GB NVMe SSD
- 10h generation Core i7 Ice Lake processor
- 802.11ax Wi-Fi
- 16GB RAM
- Mediocre 720p webcam
- Can run into heating issues
- Audio could have been better
How To Select The Best Laptop For Artists?
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
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.