The digital world can be confusing with its high specs and several zeros in the price tag! That’s why switching from manual sketching to digital drawing can be tricky since you won’t be using your recognizable, standard art supplies kit.
While many creators choose to use their graphic tablets as drawing pads for PCs, drawing laptops have proved to be a more practical method to get digital with your art.
The problem is there aren’t many models labeled as “drawing laptops” on the market. However, there are many models designed to accommodate graphic designers, comic artists, and creative professionals. You need to know how to point them out.
In this article, we’re going to go through all the essential specs of laptops, focusing on the ones that’ll help artists take their creative process to the next level.
The screen is the most crucial factor to consider when hunting for your dream laptop since it’s your gate to see how your work is going. To choose the one that’ll do justice to your creations, pay attention to the size, resolution, and panel type.
Size and Resolution
The size and resolution go hand in hand in determining the sharpness and clarity of the images. Typically, screen sizes range from 11 to 18 inches. Bigger screens come at heftier prices, but that’s not a thing to compromise on when buying a laptop for drawing. Displays that measure 13-15 inches are usually a safe bet for the price.
The screen resolution refers to how many pixels you have on the screen. The choices begin from 1366 x 768 pixels (HD) and end with 3840 x 2160 (4K). The rule of thumb is the more pixels, the more objects you can see and the easier you can identify smaller items.
Note that the resolution is relative to the screen size, meaning that if you choose a bigger screen, you’ll need more pixels to cover the extra inches. With that in mind, our general recommendation would be not to go lower than 1920 x 1080 pixels (FHD) for 13-inch displays and 2560 x 1440 for 15-inch screens.
The panel type determines the color accuracy and how well you can view your screen from any angle.
While TN (Twisted Nematic) panels cost less and provide faster response time, they show fewer colors and have poor viewing angles. On the other hand, VA (Vertical Alignment) panels offer better viewing angles and high color accuracy, and excellent contrast ratio but at the expense of a poor response time.
IPS (In-plane switching) panels share the same virtues as VA panels but with a response time that lies in the middle between the other two types.
For artists, the best to opt for is an IPS panel since it excels in reproducing colors with high accuracy without eating much of the screen’s response time.
You can always draw with a mouse or using a stylus on the touchpad, but a touchscreen will be of much help if you want to finish your drawings faster and with more precision.
If you decide to go for a touchscreen, consider buying a two-in-one laptop. This would be more convenient to use should you want to let go of the keyboard for a while and have better access to the screen.
What’s a drawing laptop without a stylus to roll over! Using a drawing pen will help you have better control over your drawing line than your finger, as long as you know how to draw with a laptop and stylus. Hence, look for drawing laptops that either supports a stylus or come with their own drawing pen.
Naturally, it’d be better if you can get your hands on a laptop that comes with its pen. For example, drawing MacBooks come with Apple Pencils, Samsung offers S Pens, and Lenovo has its Active Pens.
Nevertheless, if you choose a model that only supports stylus input but doesn’t come with an included pen, make sure you purchase a stylus that’s compatible with your device since some of them work with specific brands only.
The CPU is what determines the performance of your laptop and the key factor that affects its price. You don’t want to spend your hard-earned cash on something that won’t be useful to you. Hence, unless you’re using your laptop for other purposes, such as video editing and transcoding, a high-end CPU would be overkill.
On the other hand, low-end processors can be frustratingly slow and cause many lags, interrupting your creative process.
When choosing a processor, there are two things to keep in mind: the clock speed and number of cores. To put it simply, the clock speed is what enables you to interact with a single program quickly, while the number of cores determines the speed by which your laptop will be able to run more than one program.
Your best bet would be either Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 with a minimum of two cores and 2 GHz clock speed. This will offer speedy performance, enough to run digital art software and programs like Photoshop, Procreate, and Affinity Designer.
5. RAM and Hard Drive
The RAM is your system’s running storage capacity, which determines your laptop’s ability to multitask and run smoothly, while the hard drive is the permanent storage. Besides the processor, both of them decide your laptop’s speed.
To understand them better, think of the RAM as your short-term memory and the hard disk as your long-term one. When you run a program, open files, draw, or put any art on the screen, it gets stored in the RAM. However, when you save your work, it goes to the hard drive, where it’s allowed to stay permanently.
8GB RAM would be sufficient for most digital artworks, yet if you can afford it, aim for 16-32GB to be able to work on many programs simultaneously without any slowdowns or crashes.
As for the hard drive, you can choose either HHD (Hybrid Hard Drive) or SSD (Side-State Drive). Usually, the former would give you more storage space, but the latter offers faster performance.
Although SSD costs more in terms of dollars per gigabyte, it’s worth the extra cash since it dramatically improves the laptop’s speed. Moreover, you can always depend on Cloud storage to compensate for its shortage in storage space, so taking everything into account, SSD is definitely the winner.
6. Operating System
Here’s where most of the conflict takes place! Many artists argue that Windows is the best platform since it’s more affordable, feature-rich, and supported by many brands, which gives more options to the buyers. Others prefer macOS for its better display and smoother performance, despite its higher cost.
All these differences are subtle and don’t make much of a difference for digital artists. The only difference that matters is that macOS doesn’t support touch screens, which can be a deal-breaker for digital illustrators who prefer having the freedom of drawing directly on their screens.
Other than that, both platforms and other less popular ones are compatible with most graphic design and digital art software. So, it’s up to the artist to choose the platform they feel would help them get their job done.
7. Graphics Chip (GPU)
Strange as it may sound, the graphics chip should be the least of your priorities. A dedicated GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) won’t be much use for digital artists and can be a waste of money if you don’t use your laptop for anything other than 2D drawing.
However, for digital designers and those whose work involves 3D modeling, a dedicated high-end GPU would help get their work done much faster.
There are endless types of laptops on the market, and just because a model is more expensive or more powerful doesn’t mean it’s the best for drawing and digital illustration.
A powerful processor can be indispensable for an avid gamer. However, for a digital artist, a mid-level processor will do. A high-end GPU would be unnecessary, but a bigger RAM capacity can make all the difference.
Whether you choose macOS or Windows, you should be fine. However, whatever happens, don’t compromise the display quality and size.
The laptop’s resolution, color accuracy, touch screen, and whether it comes with a drawing pen are the major factors you should base your decision on.
With these tips in mind, we’re sure you’ll be able to go through the models on the market and pick the right laptop for your type of work.