October 10, 2020

With the digital revolution in art design, many creative professionals these days hook up graphics tablets to their PC or laptop. But what if you could draw right on your laptop? Without needing a secondary device dedicated to drawing? Whether you’re an illustrator, artist, planner, engineer, architect, or animator there is a laptop in here for you. We’ve created a list of the best laptops for drawing.

And if you don’t have time to read through the full article, our top recommendation is the Microsoft Surface Book 3. It has excellent battery life, is very well built with a full metal body and has plenty of horsepower to run whatever drawing software you use. Plus, the all-new Surface Pen is more comfortable, precise, and customizable than ever before.

Here is the list of 7 best laptop for Drawing:

Our top pick, the Surface Book 3 is another excellent addition in a series of 2-in-1 laptops. It’s designed to deliver the functionality and multitasking prowess of a laptop, but with the portability and footprint of a tablet.

What makes the Surface Book 3 different from something like the Surface Laptop is the fact that you can actually detach the screen and use it like a true tablet.

Whereas the Surface Laptop is… well, it’s just a regular laptop, only thinner and lighter.

Regular laptops with touchscreens that support styluses just aren’t good for drawing, because every time you press your pen against the screen, it bounces around or gets pushed back.

This throws off the precision you would normally have, and results in irregularities.

 Another issue with standard touchscreen laptops is the fact that you can’t really posture yourself in a comfortable way since you’ve got the thing on a desk and have to look down at its screen with your neck bent down and head pushed to the front.

Over time, this style of working can result in some visits to the chiropractor.

With a Surface Book 3, you can detach the display which has its own battery unit and use it like an actual tablet.

Only this one runs the full Windows 10 OS and has insane processing power thanks to a 10th gen Intel Core i5/ i7 processor.

 You can even get it with a massive 16GB of RAM and a dedicated GPU (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650). Plus, the battery life on this laptop is insane- 10 plus hours, with moderate usage (drawing, browsing, editing photos, watching video, etc.).

And the display is just perfect- it’s vibrant with amazing detail and colors, brightness levels are high enough for outdoor usage.

Pros

  • The new Surface Pen supports 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity, has just the right amount of friction, and can detect tilt.
  • Lag-free pen, there is virtually zero delay between your hand input and results on the screen
  • Can be used in 3 different modes- Laptop, Tablet, or Studio
  • Much faster than the previous Surface Book model thanks to a 10th generation Intel processor and 8/ 16GB of RAM
  • You can even render 3D models or create animations on it if you purchase the version with a GTX 1650 and 16GB of RAM
  • Perfect build quality, there is minimal wobble in the detachable keyboard and the body feels very rigid
  • Extremely slim and light with battery life for days
  • Despite being a 2-in-1 with a detachable screen, it has every port you need- USB Type A, Type C, and a full-sized SD card slot

Cons

  • The higher end version with an i7 processor and GTX 1650 graphics can run pretty hot if you push it in applications such as Maya and Blender
  • Built-in speaker audio could have been better

Positioned to compete versus the 13 inch HP Spectre x360 (which we reviewed in our article for best writer’s laptops), the Yoga C940 has some neat tricks up its sleeve.

For one, it comes with a Wacom AES pen and has a silo built-in for the pen so you can conveniently take it out and place it back into the laptop.

The pen feels smooth, lag-free, and precise with great pressure sensitivity and tilt detection.

 Excellent for drawing artwork and logos. The display isn’t OLED, but whites look excellent and colors are really good.

Plus, it helps the battery life since OLED panels can consume quite a bit of juice especially when you crank up the brightness.

The audio isn’t bad at all with decent bass and no tinny feeling like you would get on a standard ultrabook.

Plus, there are 4 two watt speakers in total, two of which are inside the revolving soundbar that is part of the display hinge. It always points at you no matter which mode you’re using the laptop in (standard or tablet).

Pros

  • Really good keyboard with decent travel and tactility
  • Rechargeable Wacom AES pen included, but you can also use a Lenovo active pen which is bigger
  • Very little line jitter while drawing, the experience is quite fluid and lag-free with lots of precision
  • USB Type A port so you can use a  USB mouse or connect external storage
  • Thunderbolt port
  • Has headphone jack
  • Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5, thanks to Intel AX201 RF module
  • 60Wh battery and 65 watt fast charger available
  • Core i7-1065G7 10th generation Ice Lake processor
  • Unibody aluminum body
  • 1080p display with 400nits brightness, and there is a version of the C940 with a 4k display (it also has higher brightness)
  • Iris Plus graphics comes in handy if you’re using Photoshop or playing older/ indie games
  • Dual fan cooling setup keeps things cool on the bottom panel, so you don’t feel the heat while holding it in tablet mode

Cons

  • Really glossy display with a significant amount of glare, especially when it’s slightly off-angle
  • The FHD model (1080p) doesn’t have as wide a color gamut coverage as the 4k display (get the model with a 4k display if you’re interested in editing photo or video)

The Notebook 9 pro looks sharp and professional, it’s also built entirely out of metal and has an excellent FHD touch display which is good enough for most artists out there.

We wouldn’t recommend this laptop for editing photos or videos however, because the display isn’t THAT good in terms of color accuracy, brightness, or resolution (just 1080p).

However, the Notebook 9 Pro delivers a solid performance in every aspect- speed, portability, battery life, and features. It has a bunch ports too, including two Thunderbolt 3 ports and a micro SD reader.

The fingerprint reader is built right into the side-mounted power button, so unlocking this 2-in-1 feels really natural and responsive, especially in tablet mode.

Live message allows you to draw your own emojis and create hand-written messages for your photos which appear on your friend’s screen in real time.

You can use the included Active Pen to bookmark and take notes within voice messages that you record in seminars and meetings. The pen itself is large with a nice finish that feels good in the fingers.

Pros

  • Comes with a really ergonomic, large pen that has 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity
  • 16GB of RAM for true multitasking
  • More than enough processor muscle to host video meetings, edit photos, create presentations, browse the web, game, etc.
  • Dedicated RX 540 graphics processor with 2GB of VRAM (nice for Photoshop or Premiere Pro)
  • Fast PCIe SSD
  • Design looks sharp and futuristic

Cons

  • Wish they could somehow get the camera tech from their phones into their laptops, because the webcam is mediocre at best
  • Keyboard is decent, travel is a bit too shallow and doesn’t feel as crisp as what you’d find on a Microsoft Surface or Lenovo Yoga
  • Should have used a 10th generation Ice Lake chip or Ryzen 4000 laptop processor
  • There’s no silo to store the pen

In this market filled with 2-in-1 laptops where it feels as if every company is just mimicking the other guy or making small incremental updates to their previous year’s model, the Yoga Book C930 is a refreshing change.

In fact, this isn’t even a laptop in the traditional sense. Neither is it a tablet. It has a folding hinge in the middle, but there is no keyboard on the bottom.

Instead, the Yoga Book C930 has an “E Ink” display in place of the keyboard.

 This E Ink display can act as a keyboard, mimicking key travel and tactility through key press animations and haptic feedback.

But that is just one of its many functions- the E Ink display can also act as a little sketchpad where you can take notes while watching a video or presentation on the main screen.

Oh, and by the way this laptop’s main screen is 2560 x 1600 QHD IPS (also with touch support).

Even the secondary display has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 which makes it a great choice for reading Ebooks or watching short videos while you’re relaxing on the couch or bed. 

You can draw on it, drag application windows into it, make edits on the fly, etc.

The entire laptop feels like a big paper notepad which is awesome, it even comes with a digitizer that clips into the back of the main display.

 And there’s a fingerprint reader on the side that only works like half of the time, so you end up unlocking this laptop with a pin (the old fashioned way).

Pros

  • Fanless aluminum design which is just 9.9mm thick
  • Super versatile design with its dual screen setup
  • QHD main display, even the E Ink secondary display is FHD
  • Comes with a very accurate and smooth stylus for artists
  • The secondary display speeds up your workflow and allows this laptop to switch between an eBook reader, tablet, notepad, sketchbook, movie viewer, or drawing canvas on the fly
  • You can double-tap the lid and the laptop will open itself

Cons

  • Slightly weak in terms of processing power and RAM- there’s an old i5 and just 4GB of RAM
  • Battery life could have been better
  • Fingerprint reader isn’t that consistent or accurate
  • We don’t recommend using the “fake” keyboard for actually typing anything that’s longer than a couple hundred words

Is your kid into art and drawing? Want to introduce them to digital art via tablets and laptops? Well, you should check out the Chromebook Flip C214 because it’s the perfect low budget art laptop for a kid or beginner.

It doesn’t have the processing power of a HP Spectre x360 or the fluidity and precision of a Surface Book, but it gets the job done for newbies.

And it actually feels good in the hand despite a fully plastic body. Battery life isn’t bad either, plus the 768p resolution is masked well by a small 11.6” screen which means the actual pixel density isn’t terrible.

 For rough sketches, basic planning, notes, etc. this is all you need. You could be a student with limited funds, in that case the C214 is ideal for you.

Pros

  • Despite being built entirely out of plastic and being relatively cheap, it is MIL-STD 810G certified for durability and resistance against dust/ moisture/ physical shocks, etc.
  • The display is fairly good despite having a low resolution of just 768p. Colors are nice and viewing angles are ideal for drawing
  • Rubber grip on sides so you don’t drop it by accident, and the 3D-textured finish prevents too many fingerprints from piling up on the body
  • Cheap option for students, kids, and beginners who are just getting started with art and need their first laptop
  • The keyboard isn’t bad at all, and you can actually type an article for your blog (or even an entire thesis) on it

Cons

  • Just 32GB of storage (and it’s eMMC which isn’t as fast or reliable as an SSD)
  • Celeron N4000 processor means this laptop will feel sluggish
  • Just 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM (forget about multitasking)

A 2-in-1 for professionals with deep pockets who want an all rounder which can do everything at any time.

The ZBook Studio x360 G5 (thanks for such an easy to pronounce name, HP) is a killer machine for those who can afford it.

Unlike your average ultrabook, this beast of a laptop is actually powered by a full-on high performance 6 core 45W TDP chip. Which is the Intel Core i7-8750H.

Intel has been rebranding this exact same chip since 2018 by giving it slightly higher base and boost clocks. The 10th generation i7-10750H is this exact chip with increased clock speeds.

And how do you feed such a beastly processor? Why, by pairing it with 16GB of fast DDR4 memory in dual channel of course.

 Oh, and how about a Quadro P1000 graphics processor? You know, the one that is used primarily by professionals in large companies to do complex enterprise stuff.

The display is a 4k 15.6” touchscreen and you get a Wacom pen to have some fun in software like Illustrator or ZBrush.

Colors are excellent, viewing angles are perfect, brightness is high, what more does a creative professional need? Usually, a laptop like this is provided to employees who need it directly by the company.

But if you want the absolute best and don’t mind the 5lb weight, go for it.

Pros

  • Ultimate in ultrabook performance- Core i7-8750H 6 core 45W processor
  • 16GB DDR4 RAM
  • Quadro P1000 professional graphics for people who want to render 3D models and create animations
  • 4k display with 100% Adobe RGB color gamut coverage, perfect if you’re doing print work (not available in all versions of this laptop, look for models equipped with “DreamColor” displays)
  • Low latency Wacom pen included which has 3 customizable buttons, 4096 pressure levels, and tilt detection
  • All-metal construction, built like a tank
  • Massive 6-cell 94Wh battery
  • Great keyboard and touchpad
  • While it is great for artists, this laptop can also function as a gaming/ rendering machine
  • Super fast 1TB NVMe SSD

Cons

  • Slightly on the heavier side at nearly 5lbs
  • Battery drains really fast if you’re rendering videos or doing CAD work

Want a high-performance laptop for drawing at mid-range price? The Acer Spin 5 is just what you need since it manages to feature a 10th generation Ice Lake quad core chip and 16GB of high speed LPDDR4x memory without being too heavy on the wallet.

 How did Acer manage this feat? Well, they didn’t use a metal chassis for starters.

The chassis has a plastic underbody with a metallic finish which means it has that tiny bit of flex in the keyboard deck and palm rest.

Something noticeable if you’re one of those guys who is heavy handed while typing. There is a fingerprint reader built into the trackpad, both are decent but nothing to write home about.

The battery life is solid, but not on the level of a  Microsoft Surface Book.

As for the display, it is a 13.5” 2256 x 1504 (yes, that’s a 3:2 aspect ratio) panel which is perfect for content creators. Whether you’re using Illustrator, Krita, Photoshop, etc. this laptop can handle it all.

 And it comes with a Wacom AES 1.0 pen. There is a silo built into the side to hold the pen, it also functions as a quick charging dock.

Pros

  • Huge improvement over the previous generation Spin 5, now you get super slim 0.3 inch bezels and a much higher resolution
  • Corning Gorilla Glass
  • 10th generation Ice Lake chip
  • 16GB LPDDR4x RAM
  • USB 3.2 Gen 1
  • USB Type C port with Thunderbolt 3 support
  • Wi-Fi 6 with 2x2 MU-MIMO so you won’t drop connectivity even in crowded spaces like the café
  • Good battery life (nowhere near the claimed 15hrs though)
  • Backlit keyboard feels good even though it has very little travel

Cons

  • The 3:2 aspect ratio is excellent for content creation, but not the best choice if you want to watch a movie
  • Touchpad could have been better
  • Acer should have used a standard USB Type C style charger

Get a 2-in-1

If you were thinking about getting a regular touchscreen laptop for drawing, shelf that idea because they are simply too cumbersome and bulky.

A laptop you can’t fold into tablet mode and draw on is pretty much unsuitable as a drawing laptop. Hence, you need a 2-in-1.

The market is flooded with those, with various brands such as Lenovo, Dell, HP, ASUS, Acer, etc. offering excellent choices that are both slim and reasonably powerful.

The build quality of your 2-in-1 matters, because you’ll be pretty hands-on with these devices and if there is a lot of flexing or creaking as you handle them, it ruins the experience.

The display resolution and brightness should also be as high as possible since you need to see every single detail as you draw on your laptop.

 Plus, you never know when you might need to use it outdoors or in some other brightly lit environment.

Portability and battery life

These two go hand in hand, and it’s pretty obvious why.

 If you have a laptop that’s really thin and light but only lasts 6 hours on battery, it defeats the whole purpose of a portable digital drawing device that you can carry anywhere.

 If you have to carry the charger everywhere you go and constantly search for an outlet, it limits your creative potential and slows down work.

On the other hand, a really bulky laptop with a giant battery doesn’t help much either.

You can’t hold the thing for more than 5 minutes without straining your wrists and fingers, forget drawing on it. Might as well carry a notepad and pen at that point.

Pen accuracy and pressure sensitivity

Most high-end 2-in-1 laptops these days come with pressure sensitive pens that have 4000+ pressure levels for superior precision while drawing.

You also need a pen that feels comfortable to hold in the hand. If it feels like you’re holding a stylus instead of a pen, you’ll never be able to get into the flow like you would with a normal pen and paper.

 A pen that can detect tilt for angular strokes is also desirable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Do I need a powerful laptop for drawing?

A. No, not really. Most 2-in-1 laptops don’t have the best processor or graphics card. And that’s fine because you don’t need the latest Ryzen 7 or i7 processor to draw. Nor do you need a dedicated GPU. However, if you’re a 3D artist or animator, a powerful 2-in-1 can also serve as a rendering and animation machine. You can do all your work on just 1 machine, especially if you use tools like ZBrush, Maya, Blender, etc.

Q. What type of display am I looking for?

A. Depending on the type of work that you’re doing, you might want a display that has Adobe RGB color gamut coverage and high resolution. If you’re just making basic sketches and learning how to draw on a digital device, you don’t need anything too fancy. But if you’re creating complex artwork with lots of colors and detail, a better display helps.

Q. Should I get a tablet or laptop?

A. A high-end tablet will fulfill all of your drawing needs for sure. But you’ll be limited in terms of what software you can run, especially if it’s an Android or iOS device. A 2-in-1 offers desktop level functionality on the go, true multitasking, and has a lot more processing power than even a premium tablet. Sure, it is a bit bulkier and might lag behind in battery life. Still, modern 2-in-1 laptops can last 8+ hours on a single charge which should be enough for most artists. Powerful 2-in-1 laptops can even run software like Maya, 3DS Max, Blender, etc. alongside the usual Illustrator and Photoshop.

Conclusion

The Microsoft Surface Book 3 with its excellent Surface Pen and high resolution display is going to do it for most of you reading this article.

It is simply more portable than a traditional 2-in-1 model like the HP Spectre x360 or ASUS Chromebook Flip. Because you can detach its screen, the Surface Book 3 can be both a regular laptop and tablet.

Plus, its battery life is far ahead of the competition. An easy 10+ hours even with stuff like browsing, light drawing, and music playback.

 The build quality is nothing short of excellent, and you get all the I/O you could possible use- USB Type C, full-size SD card reader, and USB Type A.

Processing power is more than what the average artist needs, thanks to an Intel 10th generation Core i5 processor.

 If you get the larger 15” model, it packs a Core i7 processor and twice the RAM which makes it even better for multitasking and heavy workloads such as video editing or rendering.

Now there is also a 13” version with an i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 graphics processor (completely overkill).

If you want your Surface Book to be as powerful as a full sized laptop, go for this more expensive option.

About the author 

Saurav Rath

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