I’ve used Adobe Photoshop since CS2. Back in the early 2000s, you wouldn’t even think of using Photoshop on anything but a desktop.
Things have since changed and Photoshop is actively used on tablets. This is pretty amazing, given that it opens up a whole new world of portability and creativity.
MyNextTablet has reviewed pretty much every tablet since 2008 and we’ve reviewed Photoshop on all of the tablets which support it.
If you are thinking of buying a tablet, then read our recommendations of which one to buy so you have a seamless and enjoyable experience using Photoshop.
Overview of Tablets for Photoshop
If you are an Android fan, I have bad news. Photoshop doesn’t run on Androids. They only run on Windows tablets and iPads.
In fact, you will get different Photoshop experiences depending on which OS you are running.
Yes, it’s true that you can get Photoshop on the iPad. It says “Photoshop”. However, the iPad’s Photoshop is a scaled-down Photoshop.
Windows tablets get access to the full Photoshop experience, as if you were on your work computer. However, this then begs the question of what kind of Windows tablet you need in order to have a good experience.
- Best overall tablet for Photoshop: Microsoft Surface Pro 9 (on Amazon*). Photoshop professionals would want the full-fledged experience and not the more limited iPad experience. Therefore, the Surface Pro 9 is excellent for Photoshop, handling 33-megapixel photo editing well. The tablet features a high-resolution screen (2880 x 1920) with excellent color accuracy and a 120Hz refresh rate, enhancing the experience with the Microsoft Slim Pen 2. However, battery life is a concern, lasting only 4.5 hours on a continuous HD video playback test at maximum settings. Avoid the ARM version of the Surface Pro 9.
- Best flagship alternative: Microsoft Surface Go series (on Amazon*). The Surface Go series is a compact and portable tablet from Microsoft, but it comes with performance trade-offs, especially in lower-spec models. The new Surface Go 4 is the highest-spec compact tablet and is suitable for Photoshop use with its excellent screen quality, offering good color accuracy and contrast. However, users might face slow response times and storage constraints, especially when compared to high-spec desktops. The device is ideal for those who need a lightweight, fully-featured Photoshop experience on the go but should be chosen with realistic expectations about its performance capabilities.
- Best Apple alternative: Apple iPad Pro 12.9” & iPad Pro 11″ (on Amazon*). If you don’t need the full Photoshop experience, then the iPad Pro, with its amazing M-series chip, offers a superior experience for Photoshop users, matching the performance of the latest MacBooks. The tablet’s compatibility with the Apple Pencil 2, which must be purchased separately, adds to its functionality, especially for tasks requiring precision. The main difference between the 12.9″ and 11″ models lies in their displays: the 12.9″ version features a Mini LED display providing deeper blacks and better contrast, while the 11″ uses the older Retina display. Both models, however, deliver high-quality visuals suitable for detailed graphic work.
- Necessary companions: Apple Pencil (on Amazon*) and Microsoft Surface Pen (on Amazon*). You’ll need a stylus to go along with your tablet if you want to do serious Photoshop work. For Apple users, make sure to buy the Apple Pencil 1 or 2 — the USB-C version does not have pressure sensitivity! As for Microsoft Surface users, consider buying a Surface Pen. If you have the higher-end Surface models, you could consider buying the newer Surface Slim Pen 2 which has extra features when paired with a Surface Pro 9.
Why Bother With Photoshop On A Tablet?
But this begs the question: why would you even consider using Photoshop on a tablet if you already have a desktop with Photoshop on it?
For one, you can’t shift your desktop to work from a more inspiring place such as a park or cafe.
To bring your Photoshop workstation to these places would be a massive hassle. For me, it would involve bringing three kilograms around, including my laptop, power brick and Wacom graphics tablet – because I need the pen. I’ll never do serious Photoshopping without my Wacom graphics tablet!
Tablets like the Microsoft Surface Go are fantastic kits that are much lighter, have the full Photoshop experience and have a Surface Pen that would allow me to directly interact with Photoshop.
The iPad, though, is a bit of a mixed bag. Yes, the iPads have great color fidelity and the Apple Pencil does a fantastic job of creating pen-to-screen interaction, but Photoshop on the iPad is less feature-rich, unlike the Windows versions.
Let’s take a look at what the main differences are.
Photoshop on PC/Mac vs iPad Photoshop
Even if you have used Photoshop for decades, you’ll still have no idea what some of the options do.
The good news is that Photoshop on the iPad is much simpler and optimized for the tablet experience. The interface on the iPad is more streamlined, with a simplified toolbox and layer panel, lacking the extensive menus and panels found on the desktop.
Furthermore, navigation is reliant on touch gestures, such as pinching to zoom and dragging to move around the canvas, as opposed to the keyboard shortcuts prevalent in the desktop version.
But the real question is whether you’ll hit a roadblock if you happen to need some advanced features.
Feature-wise, the iPad version of Photoshop misses several advanced functionalities that are staples on the desktop. This includes the absence of smart filters, layer effects like drop shadows and glows, channels, local history, non-destructive cropping, and vector-based shapes.
Professional Drawing Tablets for Photoshop
Wacom and HUION make a class of tablets out there that are dedicated to graphic work.
These brands specialize in technology that help you interact more precisely with Photoshop. On an ascending scale of expense, you can buy graphics tablets with pens, then touchscreen displays with a pen that you’d connect to your computer, and finally, a full-on tablet with dedicated graphics cards and laptop-level specs.
For example, the Wacom Mobile Studio Pro 16”* boasts an Intel i7 processor with an NVIDIA Quadro P1000 graphics card and also comes with the Wacom Pro Pen 2 with 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity and is tilt sensitive.
HUION makes the Kamvas Studio 16 Pen Computer* features a QHD 15.8-inch display with 100% Adobe RGB, PenTech 3.0+ Slim Pen, multi-touch gestures, Windows 11 Pro, Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, and functions as a drawing device, computer, and tablet.
Key Features to Look for in a Photoshop Tablet
What you buy can have a significant impact on the quality of your experience with Photoshop on your tablet.
Opt for a tablet with a high-resolution display, as it ensures crisp, detailed visuals. This is vital for editing precision in Photoshop, where fine details matter.
One excellent example of a great display is the iPad Pro 12.9 inch, with a high-quality mini-LED display of 12.9 inches and a resolution of 2732 x 2048 pixels.
Color Accuracy and Gamut
Choose a tablet with excellent color accuracy and a wide color gamut to ensure your work displays true-to-life colors, a critical aspect of professional photo editing.
Again, the iPad Pro (9.7 inches) has fantastic color fidelity with its 103 percent sRGB color gamut screen.
Pressure Sensitivity and Stylus Capabilities
Select a tablet with high pressure sensitivity and an advanced stylus. This allows for nuanced brush strokes and more natural, precise control in Photoshop.
Apple does not make its Pencil’s pressure points publicly known but Microsoft’s Surface Slim Pen has 4,096 points of pressure sensitivity and a 77-degree tilt capability.
Processing Power and RAM
Ensure the tablet has robust processing power, sufficient RAM and disk space to handle Photoshop’s demands, enabling smooth, lag-free editing even with large files.
Yes, you can run Photoshop on the Microsoft Surface Go, but it’ll quickly hit the wall when you are editing complex photos. I can’t count the number of times I’ve hit the “Scratch Disk Full” error!
Portability and Size
Balance portability and screen size. A larger screen offers a better view and more workspace, while a more portable tablet is easier to carry and use on the go.
Battery Life and Connectivity
Look for long battery life and versatile connectivity options. Photoshop requires a lot of processing power so you’ll need a tablet with a beefy battery in order not to have your editing session abruptly interrupted.
Furthermore, consider the charging options so you can minimize the number of cables you have to bring out. It’s nice to be able to charge your tablet using USB-C, which is possible with the Surface Go and the newer Apple iPads.
The Best Tablets for Photoshop: All Details
If you want the full Photoshop experience, then you should only consider Windows tablets. The iPad’s Photoshop, while still useful and can do the majority of tasks, still has some distance to cover to get the same dynamism as the full-blown Photoshop.
Microsoft Surface Pro 9
This is the ultimate tablet for Photoshop.
But a word of warning: do not buy the Microsoft SQ3 ARM version! The ARM version cannot run many programs natively and therefore isn’t the best to provide an optimized experience for many programs.
We tested it on the Core i5, 8GB RAM version and it runs fine when editing 33 megapixel photos.
However, for more intensive work with larger files, or tons of layers and effects, you should get at least the 16GB RAM version because 8GB is quite small for Photoshop. You can buy a configuration with up to 32GB of RAM and up to 1TB SSD storage that ensures the smooth running of demanding applications like Photoshop.
The screen also offers great pixel density at 2880 x 1920 pixels with fantastic sRGB color gamut coverage. Coupled with the newer Microsoft Slim Pen 2 and the display’s 120Hz refresh rate, you can really see the edits instantaneously as you draw over areas that you want to edit.
Unfortunately, battery life with the Surface Pro 9 is limited. We ran an endless YouTube HD loop at maximum brightness and 120Hz and only got 4.5 hours of battery life. Bring a charger!
Apple iPad Pro 12.9” & iPad Pro 11″
Apple’s M-series chips have eclipsed its competitors by a large margin in terms of its amazing optimization and it’s obvious on the iPad Pro.
Whether you buy the 12.9” or 11” variant, the iPad Pro will offer you a great experience with Photoshop, largely due to the integration of the M2 chip, identical to the one found in the latest MacBooks.
The iPad Pro’s compatibility with the Apple Pencil 2 significantly enhances its utility. Just like Microsoft’s Slim Pen, you do have to buy it separately.
With its high pressure sensitivity and convenient induction charging, the Pencil 2 can help Photoshop users do tasks that require precision such as object masking and portrait retouching.
The one main, and obvious, difference between the iPad Pro 12.9” and 11” are the screens they use. The 11” iPad Pro uses the older Retina display while the iPad Pro 12.9” comes with the new Mini LED display. While both are great displays, the 12.9” one gets deeper blacks and better contrast compared to an OLED screen.
Apple iPad Air
The iPad Air is a great alternative to consider if portability is your main concern. It also comes with the M1 chip, so you’re not compromising on performance, plus it’s compatible with the Apple Pencil 2 and provides two keyboard options.
There are some compromises, though. Its 10.9-inch display only delivers 60Hz, which means that responses from drawing on the screen would be just a bit slower. Furthermore, the base model comes with a mere 64GB of storage.
Microsoft Surface Go series
Since we’re talking about the iPad Air, it’ll only be fair to talk about Microsoft’s compact competitor.
The Surface Go series is really meant for portability and the sacrifices in performance do become obvious, particularly if you didn’t opt for the higher-spec Surface Go.
The new Surface Go 4 has nothing fancy compared to the top-tier Surface tablets or the iPad Pro.
It has the Intel N200 processor and an integrated graphics card with 8GB RAM and UFS hard drives of 64, 128 and 256GB.
Its 10.5” screen puts out 1920 x 1280 pixels which is compatible with a range of Surface Pens. Color accuracy, contrast and black point are also excellent – an important aspect for Photoshop users who need to ensure images are consistent across different media.
That said, any computer in the Surface Go lineup will eventually hit a bottleneck and everything will become slow. Or Photoshop will complain that there’s not enough Scratch Disk space (because the biggest hard drive you can buy is a 256GB one).
I’d recommend buying the Surface Go if you can temper your expectations about performance. If you are used to using Photoshop on a high-spec desktop, prepare for longer load times, slower response and perhaps issues you don’t face on the PC that are related to the relatively low-spec of the Surface Go series.
The upside is that you get to use a fully-featured Photoshop on a very compact computer that weighs just over 1.5 pounds all in.
Here’s the deal. If you want to use the fully-featured Photoshop, then you need to get a Windows-based tablet.
If not, you can get an iPad and use the iOS’s Photoshop. The good thing is that this version is optimized for the iPad so you are going to have a better and smoother experience than if you used it on a Microsoft Surface device.
The best tablet for Photoshop remains the Surface Pro 9 with its great spec. We tested it and we’re really satisfied that it could fulfill the majority of cases that you’d use Photoshop for. In fact, if the Surface Pro 9 cannot manage the workload, then I can’t think of any tablet that will deal with it.
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