As a professional concept artist and illustrator with almost 10 years of experience in the industry, I have owned and used lots of different drawing tablets, and perhaps what has impressed me the most is how fast the technology of digital arts has grown. XP-Pen is one of those companies that is always working hard to improve its products actively taking into consideration the feedback from its customers. As such, when XP-Pen released the Artist 15.6 and the Artist 13.3, I was pretty excited, and I couldn’t wait to explore the new and improved features provided by XP-Pen on the drawing tablet.
I have used the Artist 15.6 tablet for a while now and have spent a considerable amount of time drawing on it; I believe I have gotten adequate information from my experience with it to competently review the tablet. This review will not just be based on my personal opinions alone. I also asked a couple of my students from my class where I teach concept art about their experience with the product.
One student owns the Artist 13.3, and the other owns the 15.6, and I believe that as beginners in the world of digital arts, their reviews will be equally useful. Here, I will cover what we – my students and I, liked about our experience with the graphics tablet as well as the things we didn’t we like and would prefer if XP-Pen made improvements to those features. As a teacher and concept artist, my review is going to be a bit tilted towards the beginner artist who is looking to kick-start a career in digital arts.
Specifications of the XP-Pens Artist Tablet
Before we dive into the review, first of all, let’s assess the features and specifications of both tablets.
-The build and packaging of the Artist 13.3 looks very neat. Below are the specifications of the graphics tablet.
– Dimensions: 15.3 x 9.8 x 0.3 inches
– Weight: 2.2 lb
– Screen size: 13.3 inches
– Resolution: 1920 x 1080
– Panel type: IPS
– Input: USB-C
– Pen Pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels
The Artist 13.3 has a 178° viewing angle designed to produce sharper colors with greater contrast to produce more brilliant graphics. The body of the tablet is coated with a customized anti-reflective material capable of reducing glare by as much as 56 percent. The pen is battery free and uses the new Passive Pen Stylus technology which comes with 8192 levels of instant Pen Pressure Sensitivity. The pen offers the artist total control of the drawing process allowing you to be as fluid and creative as possible with your art.
The Artist 13.3 also provides a very convenient platform to work on with its 6 customizable express keys. I spent a lot of time drawing on the tablet because of how smooth and swift working with the keys were, you could go from the pen to the eraser function with just a click. The tablet has a 6mm ultra-thin design and weighs just a little over 2 pounds which makes it quite easy to carry around. The Artist 13.3 also comes with the new brightness adjust button so you can easily adjust the screen brightness to suit your preference.
The build and packaging of the Artist 15.6 looks very neat. Below are the specifications of the graphics tablet.
– Dimensions: 17.4 x 11.02 x 0.5 inches
– Weight: 3.2 lb
– Screen size: 15.6 inches
– Resolution:1920 x 1080
– Panel type: IPS
– Input: USB-C
– Pen Pressure sensitivity: 8,192 levels
The screen resolution of the Artist 15.6 is amazing. The 178° visual angle provides a high definition display to give your artwork that sharp, crisp, and clean image quality. The tablet offers IPS panel Full HD display with a much bigger drawing space to allow for an intuitive and natural workflow in the digital art creation process.
The 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity in the battery-free high precision pen stylus feature a brush and pen palette to let you create and modify graphics as you like. The pen also has its pen stand which swivels to display the replacement nips so you can easily and conveniently replace the pen tips. In addition to the pen stand, the tablet comes packed with extra tools such as a 3-in-1 Cable, 8 pieces of replacement pen nibs, 2 pieces of anti-fouling drawing gloves, 1 HDMI to Mac Adapter Cable and a guidebook among other components.
At 3.2 pounds and with 11mm of thickness, the Artist 15.6 was ergonomically designed to be super thin and light to promote portability so it can be carried around without being an inconvenience. The Artist 15.6 is also compatible with a number of creative software applications. Photoshop, Painter, Illustrator, Mudbox, Zbrush, Maya and Sketchbook are some of the supported graphics software. The system is also supported on Mac OS from version 10.10 and above and on Windows 7, 8 and 10. Its wide range of compatible systems makes it the ideal graphics creation tool for digital artists, beginner or expert alike.
What do my students think about the tablet? What they like and don´t like about it.
Having gone through the basic features and specifications of each tablet, I will now go into the review of the tablets. I will start with the review from two of my students whom both use the Artist 13.3 and Artist 15.6. Below is the subjective opinion of both students concerning the features they loved about this X-Pen Artist
The tablet comes with a handful of accessories all designed to provide ease of use. My students loved the anti-fouling artist gloves, they are quite light and fit nicely on the hands. Ultimately, they are very comfortable, and you can easily move your hand across the screen just as well. The monitor also has a pen stand which acts as a pen base for your pen. The stand has a built-in nip remover with 8 extra nips to serve as a replacement, which is great because you do not have to worry about tour pen tips ever again.
• Paper texture
The screens of both the Artist 13.3 and 15.6 come with a matte screen protector which the students are very appreciative of. They think the matte screens are practically better than the glossy ones. For one, matte screens are non-reflective, and you can work without any distracting reflective glare. Beyond the absence of reflections which trust me, is great, the matte surface also gives the screen this awesome paper-like texture. Basically, when you draw on it, it feels just like a pen on paper.
For a digital drawing tool of these specifications and features, there is no denying that the Artist 13.6 and Artist 15.6 are considerably inexpensive retailing at $299,99 and $369.99. For students and beginner artist, this price is quite affordable, which would explain why my students think it’s great.
The pens used on both tablets are battery free. Essentially, they do not need to be charged, and you can use them as real pens just like the Wacom Cintiq pens. I love this real-pen like functionality, and my students think it is great as well.
My students particularly love the driver settings of this tablet. The driver comes in a pen disk, but you have the option of downloading it too from the XP-Pen website. It is very easy to download and install the driver for this tablet, and it is supported on both Mac OS and Windows. Once the driver is downloaded and installed, provided you have uninstalled any previous tablet driver, it will easily detect the pen display, and then you are set. From the driver settings, you can configure a range of features to suit your drawing style. You can change the pen display (available in right-hand and left-hand mode), pressure sensitivity, screen calibration, mouse buttons, etc. You can even configure your own keyboard shortcuts! Nice.
You don’t feel like drawing on your tablet? Good. You can still use it as a tablet or screen to suit whatever purpose you need it for. This versatility in a function makes the tablet fun to use.
• Cable connections
The tablet comes with a USB extension cable and a plug for Mac Thunderbolt/HDMI to Mac adapter cable for an artist working with a Mac computer system. The tablet also comes with a 3-in-1 cable for easy cable management when you need to keep your workplace clutter free. The students find this ease of connectivity a feature worth loving.
• IPS Panel
Both the 13.3 and the 15.6 have screens with IPS panel display offering a 1920 × 1080 screen resolution with 178°visual angle. The colors are sharper, the images are more vivid, and the graphics are just overall more striking and not quite saturated. As a digital artist, I know how much better your image turns out when the colors are reproduced just right. Satisfaction with your artwork keeps you creative, and students will be very appreciative of this screen.
What they don´t like
Below are some of the things that didn’t exactly turn out right with the tablet and could possibly deter workflow.
• Overheating on the right corner
The right-hand side of the tablet is where the USB-C port and brightness adjust buttons are located. After an extended period of time, my students observed that the bottom right corner is usually hotter than the rest of the tablet. Considering the fact that you may have to hold the tablet while working, overheating is not just problematic, it poses a great inconvenience for the person holding it.
• Lack of its own tablet stand
While still in the topic of inconvenience, the tablet doesn’t come with its own stand. As such, you either have to hold it while working or buy a tablet stand separately for your tablet. The first scenario may not be practical for lengthy work times and in the second scenario, you end up incurring extra costs for yourself. No solution is completely easy, and my students certainly would have preferred a built-in stand.
• Thicker frames around the screen
While the tablet itself has an ultra-thin design, that is about the only thin specifications on the tablet. The frame around the screen is unnecessarily thick, and it would have made a better design it was a lot thinner.
• Screen calibration for sharper colors
Colors on the tablet tend to be somewhat darker than what they are supposed to be and to correct this darkening function; you will have to change the screen calibration. Proper calibration will increase the distance between the screen and the pixels effectively reducing parallax. Still, I do know that the darkened colors and having to calibrate the screen can be discouraging for artists.
• Poor screen texture
The screen of the tablet has a non-reflective matte surface, and while that may look great, my students weren’t quite impressed with how it felt. If you run your hands across the screen without wearing your anti fouling gloves, you may observe a sticky feel on your hand owing to the texture of the screen.
What do I think of the drawing tablet?
Like I mentioned earlier, I have used the tablet myself and in addition to the opinion of my students, from my experience, the tablet made quite an impression, and I do have my personal opinion to share as well.
• Good tablet if you are a newbie
I think the Artist 15.6 would make an excellent tablet for a beginner artist in the industry. It is relatively easy to navigate, the features are simple to interpret and use, and you can always configure your buttons and shortcuts from the driver settings. Its compatibility with the Windows and Mac operating systems is also a bonus as well as you do not have to worry about needing to use a system with an operating system you are not familiar with. I find the overall drawing performance of the tablet very smooth something every artist, beginner or expert would appreciate. Ultimately, if my students were to ask me for a drawing tool recommendation, this would be my answer.
• Great tablet at that price
I’m going to reiterate on the pricing here because I think they are a steal at those prices. From the IPS panel screen with HD display resolution to a battery-free stylus with 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity, it is unlikely you would find another drawing tablet with these specs and features in the market in this price range.
• The adjustable screen brightness is great
I think the concept of adjustable screen brightness is awesome. Sometimes while drawing, you may want to view your artwork at different brightness levels and with the monitor, you have the solution to that. The brightness buttons are located on the right-hand side of the tablet from where you can easily adjust the settings without much ado.
• Portability is a great function
The dimensions of the tablet are relatively small, it has an ultra-thin design, and it is extremely lightweight as well making it perfectly portable. As a student, if you need to carry it to class and by extension anywhere at all, it can easily fit into a regular sized bag along with other books.
Now about the things I didn’t really like about this graphics tablet; I must admit I’m not a big fan of the matte screen surface. I did not like the feel of the paper texture and considering the fact that the tablet is a handheld device, you can see how using the tablet may pose a bit of a problem for me. Moreover having used the Wacom Cintiq and the iPad Pro, I’m already used to the smooth screen surface provided by these devices so having to readjust to the somewhat rough surface was not that easy. Also, I think the absence of a tablet stand is a major drawback. If as an artist you want to draw at a slight angle, you could either improvise or buy a stand in the market, something that would be unnecessary if the tablet was just packaged with a stand.
Altogether, the XP-Pen Artist 13.3 and 15.6 are concise and sleek digital drawing tablets with several innovative features to improve your drawing and illustrative skills. The combination of the price, responsiveness, portability and several other factors makes this graphics drawing tablet a superb one. I would recommend this tablet to any newcomer or beginner artist. This tablet comes with a lot of functions to help simplify your work for a seamless user experience and if you need to improve your digital experience then look no further than this tool.
For this article, I had the pleasure to collaborate with one of my students Héctor Bonada. Feel free to check Héctor’s Artstation clicking here.