Review: Wacom Cintiq 13HD Pen Display Tablet

We have Javier Fregoso who's reviewing the Wacom Cintiq 13HD for us.

My name is Javier Fregoso and I'm a graphic designer and illustrator. I've been using Wacom Intuos tablets since 1999 and the Cintiq tablets 7 years ago and never went back.

For the occasional traveling or working on another studio I use my Macbook Pro and an Intuos 3 tablet that I bought used 8 years ago and it still works great. When I’m in my studio I use my laptop next to my desktop computer that’s connected to my Cintiq 21UX. Using the old tablet next to the Cintiq was fine but I had to switch pens and it was messy, sometimes I forgot I was using the Intuos 3 pen and I switched back to the Cintiq with that pen and the driver crashed, stopped working, forced me to restart or at least unplug and replug the Cintiq again. Also I wanted to work on a Cintiq all the time anywhere, but the Cintiq Companion was too expensive and for the work I do (mainly packaging design) I need to work on Mac because that’s what the printers use.

I bought the Cintiq 13HD a year ago. Here’s my review from a digital artist’s perspective

I have to say, Wacom did a great job with its packaging design. I usually don’t keep boxes of products unless they are a great design example, in this case the print quality of the box and the unpacking experience was fantastic.


  • 13HD Tablet
  • Stand
  • Power supply
  • USB-HDMI-Power cable
  • CD and quick start guide
  • Pen on a nice case with extra pen nibs and nib clip

Design of the tablet connection ports and cables.

The design of the tablet is top notch quality and looks great, ports are accessible and easy to use, express keys and power switch have a nice feel. You know that you have a quality product in your hands, feels light but solid.

The stand

That’s the only thing it feels cheap and not so well designed compared to all the rest of the stuff that came on the box. But I have to say that after a year of use it feels solid and it does its job really well, it’s always on the back of the tablet so you don’t see it that much. I keep it on 50 degrees position. It works but yes it looks cheap and it’s not a great piece of design. I’d love to have a small stand that rotates and it’s easy to move similar to the 21 UX.

The stand has 3 positions 22, 35 and 50 degrees. I only use the 50 degrees position that is similar to my 21UX and works great for me. I found that the tablet needs to be on top of something (just a couple of inches) to be able to work on the entire surface. The 22 degrees position can work on a desk for sketching but the other two don’t work great when you try to draw a the bottom of the screen since your hand gets stopped by the desk and it’s quite annoying. I use a Yoga Brick under my tablet, seems to work fine, you can also use some books or something solid.


The stylus is great, it has a great feel to it, nice weight distribution for drawing, it’s one of those things that feel familiar after so many years of using Wacom pens, I like it better than my 21UX stylus which became all gooey on the top part and I don’t use anymore since the new stylus works great with both Cintiqs. They did some work on the design of this new pen but not much and it’s great, a good hybrid between the Intuos 3 and my Cintiq’s 21 UX stylus.

Top to bottom: Cintiq 13HD stylus, 21UX stylus, Intuos3 stylus

The stylus comes in a great case, with 9 replacement nibs, 3 color rings and a clip tool to replace the nibs. It is a great design touch that you won’t use much but it’s a nice thing to have (I’d love the stand to have this quality since I use it every day). There’s also a pen holder similar to previous generation’s one but without the extra nibs inside.

Set Up

Set up is easy, plug the adapter into the wall, plug the HDMI and USB to your computer and download the latest driver from I didn’t use the included CD, but it’s nice of Wacom to include it though.

My only frustration setting up the tablet was that my old Macbook Pro doesn’t have the HDMI port and I had buy an adapter. So check your computer’s connections, if you are like me and don’t change computers so often you might need an adapter.

Left: Cintiq 3-in-1 cable. Right: Adapter to HDMI

Install the drivers and you are ready to go (same on Windows and Mac). Wacom’s drivers are solid and I haven’t got any problems, again I don’t really update the system to often. I use Windows 7 and Mac OS Mavericks, I prefer a stable computer than a new system with tons of problems.

The tablet’s control panel is very customizable. You can customize the keys to your frequently used commands, circular command for even more shortcuts, adjust the pressure of the pen tip and the eraser. I’m an old school guy and I use the keyboard more than the Express keys and I leave the defaults alone unless I really need something different. I like the fact that you can add your apps and create customs sets for each of them.

Calibrating the pen is the most important thing to do in the set up process, you want to have the cursor as close as possible to the pen point. This is my third Cintiq and I have to say Wacom is improving the accuracy with each generation, the calibration is near perfect on this one!


The display is 13.3 inches with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and it’s amazing! The resolution is great, the colors on this are incredible and when I see my labels or other design work it looks like a final color print. Photos and illustrations look great. The anti-glare coating is really good.

I calibrate it with a Spyder2 rather doing it by eye since it gives you a more neutral result. The default color of the Cintiq 13HD is pretty good. I do this since I design mostly for print and consistent color is very important. Overall a superb quality display, way better than my older 21UX Cintiq.

Using the Cintiq 13HD

If you haven’t use a Cintiq, well it will be a revelation, everything you do, you do it faster and better (or at least it feels faster). The drawing surface is nice and has a little grip to it, like a very smooth paper. One thing I like about this Cintiq is that you don’t use your shoulder-arm movement to draw and you don’t get as tired as with a large Cintiq. I love the large Cintiq and it’s my main screen but the small one is so much fun to draw with. Quick sketching is particularly nice on this one. This Cintiq is precise, very, very precise, the resolution of the screen and the near perfect calibration of the cursor makes it a great tool for detailed drawing or graphic design.

Sketchbook Pro

Using it with Photoshop.

Using the tablet with Photoshop is great, selections and masking are fast and accurate, you really use those 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt recognition here. Also the colors are great, drivers work great with the latest version of PS and it’s the best way to use Photoshop.



Screen quality

Using it with illustrator

Illustrator is my main tool for 80% of my everyday work, some people think that a Cintiq is not a tool for graphic design but I disagree. Using illustrator on the Cintiq is faster and way more accurate than the mouse or a regular tablet, it’s so good to be able to hit those anchor points every time and move them around so precisely. I love it and I totally recommend it for graphic designers or vector illustrators. In this case the pressure sensitivity is not as crucial as the precision, good pen calibration is a must. Colors look great and the sharpness of type and graphic elements is fantastic.

Illustrator lines





With Painter

I love Painter, it’s the best tool for digital painting and I’ve been using it for a long time. I love Painter’s brushes, simply put there’s nothing like it, I use Painter with Photoshop all the time, Photoshop’s editing and color tools are better but Painter’s brushes and simulation of real media are incredible. In Painter you take advantage of the pressure sensitivity of the Cintiq, also the pen tilt works great with some brushes and wet. Painter and a Cintiq are probably the best set of tools for illustration or digital painting.



Painter watercolor effects

Compared to an Intuos tablet

Using a Cintiq is way different than an Intuos. The regular tablets are great and with some practice you can draw, paint, photo edit and do anything you need, but there’s always the weird thing going on where your hand draws far away from your actual drawing. With the Cintiq you feel more like actual traditional drawing and for someone who is used to draw traditionally this is less of a learning curve than the regular tablet.

The benefit of a regular tablet is that you can have a big screen (like an Imac) and also that your hand is not on the way all the time, some people can’t get used to working on a Cintiq because they can’t have the hand over the screen. I‘ve used tablets for a long time and I love them but the Cintiq is simply the next level for digital art.

Compared to a 21UX Cintiq

Obviously size is the main difference, the large Cintiq is way better to work on design or photo editing since you can have all your palettes open and even your email window on the side and you still have a nice work area. My large Cintiq is great but you can see larger pixels compared to the 13HD. Colors are nicer and I think more accurate on the 13HD but not for much.

I think the main difference of the two Cintiqs is the movement of your arm when you draw, on the large Cintiq you can use shoulder movement similar to when you draw on large paper and on the small Cintiq the feeling is more like of a sketch book or a small precious paper piece with small and precise movements. I’d say both are great.

If you can afford it go for the largest you can get, if you can buy only the small one, it’s still a great investment and a fantastic tool that will last for a long time.

One important thing comparing these two, the 13HD doesn’t get warm at all! the large Cintiq gets really hot during summer, I have to put two small fans behind it to keep it cool since I use it all day, that’s the only thing I hate from my 21UX, maybe Wacom fixed that on the newer models but mine gets hot to the point you don’t want to put your hand on top of it.

The 13HD can be used all day in any weather without any discomfort.

Compared to Cintiq 21UX (right)

+ Small and light: good for traveling or small desks.
+ Really good color rendering: good for professional design, photo or illustration work
+ Great resolution: accurate precision and your designs or illustrations look so good
+ Anti-glare: I hate Apple’s shinny screens this one is so much better
+ 2048 pressure levels: You really use them on Painter and Photoshop and your tablet lasts more since you use a lighter touch
+ Great customization: Xpress keys, rocker ring, radial menu and custom keys for each program
+ Durable: I’ve been using it my Cintiq 13HD for a year and it looks like new, it’s build to last
+ Best tool around: Wacom is still the best when it comes to monitor-tablets
+ Great Pen with replacement nibs: Best pen for digital art, replacement nibs for a long time and a super cool case
+ Works great with a lot of digital software
+ Solid drivers for Win and Mac
+ Great design: is so good looking and works incredible well
+ Cool: this tablet looks cool and using a Cintiq is cool if you are a digital artist

- The main complain I have is the weird thin cable connection (see photo above), looks weak and since I use it next to my other screen it bends a little, it could be stronger or magnetic.
- Lack of adapters: Artist are different than gamers or other computer users, we don’t have the latest computer and HDMI might not be standard on our computers, including an adapter would have been nice (the large Cintiqs include them).
- The stand: OK it works but seriously is the weakest design element on the entire Cintiq 13HD experience. It’s ugly and it has limited functionality, with this size of a tablet you do want to rotate the tablet to sketch on it or be able to move the angle of the screen quickly from sketchpad to photo editing, seriously Wacom should sell a premium stand for this Cintiq.


If you are a digital artist you should save and save and save to get this tablet, it’s the entry level Cintiq but it will take your digital art experience to the next level of precision and you will make things like inking, masking, selections or painting faster and they will feel more natural or similar to traditional media.

This tablet is a great addition to a design set up (like an Imac or laptop) or it can be used instead of a crappy laptop screen (my Macbook Pro stays closed all the time).

I think the price is not that bad for what you get and the fact that will last for a long time.

I recommend it to illustrators, photographers and designers who are upgrading from regular tablets to a Cintiq or traditional artist who are moving to digital.

Overall I have no complains other than the stand could be better but that’s nothing compared with the good points on this product, I give it 4.5 stars out of 5.


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Hello I have a question. Does

Hello I have a question. Does the Wacom Cintiq 13HD Touch also just work as a trackpad? I am interested also in just using it like my old wacom tablet (which I use instead of a mouse). So can you quickly switch to the "old school" mode of just using it like an older tablet?

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