XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro review: a pen display for professional digital artists designers

The professional-grade XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro ( £609.99 direct) carries on the company's tradition of offering the best PC- and Mac-based drawing surfaces on the planet. It's ideal for professional illustrators, cartoonists, graphic designers, and artists who prefer to sketch directly on the screen, instead of drawing on a gray tablet and having to look at a separate display while working.

The Artist 22E Pro as our Editors' Choice for interactive pen displays, thanks in part to the 22E Pro's improved LED-backlit display and wide-aspect ratio, but mainly because there's still nothing quite like a XP-Pen Artist display.

If someone was to ask me “what’s the best cheap graphics tablet in the world?” I would say “I don’t know for sure…but the XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro comes pretty darn close!”
Technically I suppose it’s not really a graphics tablet, but more of a hybrid drawing pad, canvas, computer and art studio all rolled into one. Whatever it is, it’s stonkingly good!

The XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro 21.5 inch is a state-of-the-art sophisticated piece of equipment designed to maximize your productivity and make creating digital art easier. Boasting a large display, pen-tilt recognition, and proficient levels of pen-pressure sensitivity, the Artist 22E Pro is designed with the user experience in mind. With intuitive ExpressKeys and Touch Strips for easy shortcuts and multi-touch gestures to view your images from all angles, it’s a powerhouse in the industry.



Higher Price Point
The XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro 21.5 inch clocks in at the higher end of the price spectrum, but don’t let that deter you. Countless Amazon reviews have lauded the efficiency and reliability of the Artist 22E Pro and noted that while the initial sticker price shock was a little off putting, the results were fantastic. If you’re serious about your graphic art, this might be the product for you. You can find the XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro in United Kingdom at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Graphics-Drawing-Artist22E-Pressure-Sensitivity/dp/B07CP1LMHJ .

ExpressKeys, Touch Strips, and Radial Menu

Well, the XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro has a solution. This model has 16 ExpressKeys that you can program to direct your keyboard shortcuts and modifiers that you use most often. That way, you’ll avoid having to stop your work entirely to perform a function. ExpressKeys are a godsend for people working on strict deadlines.

You can keep the keys you use most often right on the screen for super-easy access. In addition to ExpressKeys, the Artist 22E Pro comes equipped with Touch Strips and Touch Strip toggle buttons that allow you to zoom and scroll seamlessly. Both systems are specifically set up to increase productivity and enhance the end-user experience.

While the 21.5-inch screen of the XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro Touch is certainly the main attraction, the bezel isn't there just for show. In fact, the bezel features numerous ExpressKeys that can improve productivity.

For both the left and the right side of the bezel, there are 2 sets of 4 ExpressKeys and one ExpressKey between them. That's 9 ExpressKeys on each side, for a total of 18 ExpressKeys. This allows you to set a variety of options and hotkeys. You can also set various hotkeys and shortcuts for a specific application (remember that button in the top right labeled with an "i"? Press that). Located behind the ExpressKeys, on either side, are the touch strips. The touch strips allow you to zoom in and out with precision. Also, the middle ExpressKey acts as a toggle for the touch strips, providing you with the ability to change their function, such as from auto-scrolling to cycling layers.

While not a physical button, the XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro Touch gives you an option for a radial menu. By default, if you press three fingers on the screen at the same time, you'll get a circular menu with a variety of options. You'll be able to customize the radial menu in the XP-Pen Tablet Properties menu to fit your needs.
Widescreen Display to Accommodate All Your Applications
The XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro Pen Display Tablet 21.5 inch comes with a widescreen 21.5-inch HD display, perfect for viewing applications and programs with extensive menus. When you’re working with applications like Photoshop, Maya or Zbrush, their huge expanding menus can be unreachable on smaller screens, a constant bugbear of mine when using them on a laptop. With the Artist 22E Pro however, you won’t miss any part of the menu or application and you won’t need to scroll constantly to access the tools you need.

Previous Artist models had notably smaller screens, and became a common complaint among users, namely that although the interface was excellent, the screen was just too small. Thankfully XP-Pen has addressed the issue and this model fixes the problem.

All popular illustration, photography, design and animation applications should be easily operative from the Artist 22E Pro.

The 21.5-inch HD screen is also an ideal place on which to view the evolution of your creative work. It renders 16.7 million colours and is super sharp and crisp.

Full HD 21.5-Inch H-IPS Display
With a 16:9 aspect ratio and Full HD 1920 x 1080 native resolution, the XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro Touch can display up to 16.7 million colors. Since the XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro Touch supports a variety of inclines, the viewing angle of the display has to be considered. Fortunately, the H-IPS display supports up to 178° (89°/89° for both horizontal and vertical). The XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro Touch is not a stand-alone tablet, and requires a connection to your Mac or PC computer. For video, you'll need to connect the 29-pin DVI-I connector to your computer, while an additional USB connection is required if you want to take advantage of the multi-touch capabilities of the XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro Touch.

The display features industry-standard color presets, such the default 4000K whitepoint. The XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro Touch also has a 77%-82% Adobe RGB color gamut.
However, the Artist 22E Pro does not have multi-touch capabilities and relies mostly on pen input. The Artist 24HD is also a pen-input-only display from XP-Pen, but it offers a larger 24.1" screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio and 1920 x 1080 native resolution. The 1920 x 1080 native resolution on the Artist 24HD offers more height, giving you an extra 120 lines of vertical pixels, making it ideal for multimedia applications, such as Photoshop and Illustrator.

Adjusts for a Workspace that Fits your Body
Ergonomic workspaces are increasingly important these days and for good reason! We’ve learned that everyone works differently and in order to be effective and productive, we must discover our best working position. The XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro 21.5 inch is extremely versatile in this regard in that it can move and recline as an easel would and rotate to match the way you draw – in other words, it moves, not you.

The Artist 22E Pro comes with modifying options that further customize your workspace and adapt it to your specific needs. You can purchase an articulating arm to further enhance the span of movement, or simply lay it flat on your desk if that’s your preferred method of working.

The Stand



A VESA-compatible desk stand is pre-installed and it’s easy to raise or lower the angle of the display to suit your preferences. Because of the compact size of the display, I found myself cradling the Artist 22E Pro in my lap rather than leaving it on the desk. If I were to keep it permanently, I would probably remove the Artist 22E Pro’s fixed stand so I could use it more comfortably on my lap.its unique design allows improved angles for both viewing as well as utilizing the multi-touch and pen input.

With or without the stand installed, the Artist 22E Pro is pretty heavyweight. Three cables for power, video and pen all connect along the left side. While this is preferable to connections along the bottom of the display that tend to get caught and tangled with the stand, the protruding connectors are a little unsightly and might come undone if you work with the display off the desk.

Calibration and edge accuracy were excellent out of the box. I didn’t have to change a thing to reach any corner targets. Parallax is also minimal while looking down at the display. From the side, the distance between the pen tip andthe cursor is no more than 1/16-inch, and I didn’t have any issues compensating for it.

The hard pen nibs tend to squeak a little bit against the glass. Fortunately, the supplied matte screen protector dulls the squeaks and provides a velvety drawing surface.

The screen protector itself is an overlay that attaches to the top edge of the display. This is very easy to apply and avoids unwanted bubbles and blemishes.

Pricing
The XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro 21.5 inch is priced around £609.99 with the option to make monthly payments of $70 per month (if you buy directly from XP-Pen). The lofty price tag might give you pause, but this is top-of-the-line technology and the perks outweigh the negatives. If you’re serious about graphic design and taking your career to the next level, the Artist 22E Pro might be the best choice for you.

Cross Platform
The XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro Touch is compatible with both Mac and PC computers. While the XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro Touch has plug-and-play functionality, it's recommended that you install the drivers and download the manual from the included installation CD. While the XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro Touch is easy to install, it may take some time to transition from using a XP-Pen tablet off-screen to drawing on the screen itself. Take your time, to familiarize yourself with the controls and multi-touch gestures (both XP-Pen's and the operating system you're using, whether it's Mac OS X or Windows).

Professional Uses
The XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro Touch focuses on facilitating the digital workflow for professional photography, art, and design. By allowing users to draw, write, or edit directly on the screen, the XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro Touch offers a more natural way for photographers and artists to work.

In the past, users would have to sketch their designs on paper and then use a scanner to import the sketches into their computers. Only after that were they able to trace or touch up their work in Photoshop or Illustrator. With the Artist 22E Pro Touch, XP-Pen allows you to skip the unnecessary step of scanning and allows you to draw directly into your preferred application. The XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro Touch makes tracing easier and much more natural since you’re working on the image itself. Sketching also works fairly well, allowing you to draw and erase your sketches without wasting paper.

We found that long strokes worked flawlessly, but short strokes took some getting used to. It’s possible that moving from a traditional XP-Pen tablet to drawing on the Artist 22E Pro Touch may confront you with a learning curve. The XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro Touch boasts all 8192 levels of pen-pressure sensitivity, allowing for a variety of stroke depths and intensities. We also found the touch strips on the back to be quite useful, because we were able to adjust brush size on the fly, without having to go into settings. We also found that certain multi-touch gestures facilitate navigating the workspace and kept our hands on the screen, not fumbling around for the keyboard. Overall, the XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro Touch can definitely make life easier for professional photographers, graphic designers, and artists.

Downloadable Software Bundle

The XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro Touch is not a stand-alone tablet, and requires a Mac or PC computer. Since it doesn't have an operating system of its own, there is no preloaded software that comes with it. Instead, it's recommended that you install the drivers and download the manual from the www.xp-pen.com

Exceptionally Designed Pen with Sensitive Tip for Fine Detail
The XP-Pen P02S is truly an innovative piece of engineering, distinguishing between 8192 different levels of pressure, making it among the most accurate instruments you will use for digital graphic design. The pen is specifically crafted to allow you to make subtle and minuscule changes to your work and by simply adjusting pen pressure or tilt angle, you can change line weight and brush size, as you would with a paintbrush.

The pen is so cutting-edge that you can actually program functions into it yourself, making the user experience unique and tailored to what you need to get done in your workspace.

Programmable Shortcuts to Streamline your Workflow
Does it irritate you to interrupt your flow with unnecessary commands and clicks?



The supplied pens have a nice size. They’re lightweight plastic and coated in a rubberized material, with just the right amount of heft. Here too I found I preferred the Yiynova pen’s contoured body and slightly longer barrel.

The pen comes equipped with a rubberized grip that makes sure you don’t have any cramps or marks after hours of use(lefties will know what I’m talking about).

The stylus almost felt like an actual pen in my hand, which is great especially for people that really like drawing with pen and paper. However, it’s the tablet’s display screen that allows the pen to move so freely that really makes it great.

The 8192 levels of pressure on the stylus really allows you to create detailed drawings with ease.

This coupled with the large drawing area and the smoothness of the display makes the XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro arguably the best tablet in terms of accuracy and detail.

The company claims that the pen should last up to 100 hours on a full charge. To achieve this, the pen automatically goes into sleep mode after 20 minutes. To wake it, you tap it against the display.

The pen driver offers 4- and 9-point calibration. Neither of these reaches into the display corners, so if your device isn’t well calibrated out of the box, you may be out of luck.

There are 17 Click Sensitivity stops from Light to Heavy in the Pressure control panel. I had to set my sensitivity to one stop above lightest to get the full range of pressure. Like all the other UC Logic devices I’ve tested, the middle range of pressure is the digitizer’s biggest limitation. It’s really easy to blow past the middle levels. I also found that initial activation force was too high when I went above the third pressure notch.

In practice, pressure was very responsive in Clip Studio Paint using either Wintab or Windows Ink. I also had very good results in Photoshop, Sketchbook Pro and Sketchable.

You will also be able to purchase a Classic Pen separately, which is for users who prefer a thin pen. The Inking Pen allows you to sketch your ideas on real paper while capturing a digital likeness of your sketch that you can import to your computer via USB.

If you’d prefer to use a pen without a side switch or controls, the wide-bodied pen grip is for you. It comes with two in a pack.

Please note that while the Grip Pen is included with the XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro Touch, the Classic Pen, Inkling Pen, Airbrush Pen and Art Pen are all sold separately. If you’re happy with the Grip Pen, but have worn down the nib, you can purchase replacement nibs instead of having to replace the entire pen.
Airbrush Pen

This pen is designed to mimic airbrushing, with systems in place to account for spray distance, angle, and application of ink.The Airbrush Pen includes a finger wheel for an additional degree of control. With the proper software support, you will be able to simulate realistic airbrushing.


Art Pen

The Art Pen is designed to work with a traditional felt marker and you can use it in conjunction with the standard Artist 22 marker to have a range of drawing options.

The Art Pen is a specialty tool that reports pen rotation in addition to the tip pressure, pen location, and pen tilt to the application. With proper software support, you will be able to simulate flat brushes, markers, calligraphy pens, and other natural media tools.

Professional Pen Nibs:
Chisel Felt Nibs

Use these with the Art Pen to create calligraphic masterpieces on your Artist 22E Pro .


Stroke Nibs

The Stroke Nib lets you customize your brush strokes further and can be alternated with standard nibs in any pen.


Wide Bodied Pen Grip
XP-Pen Colour Manager

Intuitively calibrates your colour for cohesion in your work and less stress for you trying to match specific colours. It’s easy to use and maximizes your productivity and workflow.



Art’s Assessment

The XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro is probably the best tablet for a professional artist that needs the most room to work with.

The tablet display resolution comes at 1920 x 1080 with an aspect ratio of 16:9, meaning that the picture will always be crystal clear. There were no pixel errors and even when running high-end games there was no lagging.

The only noticeable problems with the tablet display were the noticeable glare and the fact that it scratched fairly easily. This was easily fixed with an antiglare screen protector.
The XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro Display Drawing Monitor also comes equipped with 18 ExpressKeys that can be easily programmed to suit your needs.

The stylus that comes with the XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro is on-par with the tablet itself. It has a fantastic rubberized grip and flows easily on the tablet allowing for great detail.

The XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro is great for professionals looking for a tablet display that has all the bells and whistles and will be a reliable tool for many years.
If you’re serious about your graphic design work, you need to seriously consider the XP-Pen Artist 22E Pro 21.5 inch . It’s a tool specifically created to boost your productivity, creativity and enhance the end product.

Conclusion
Recap Pros

+ Ergonomically designed for an ideal workspace
+ Several add-ons to customize and enhance user experience
+ State of the art pen for precise and artistic drawing
+ Large screen to accommodate all applications
+ Programmable Shortcuts
+ Precise tracking with no jitter and whatsoever, 5080 lines per inch (highest in class)
+ The textured surface feels natural better than any surface I have used
+ Plenty of useable shortcut keys to speed up workflow
+ The ability to toggle between displays, this feature is so important to me
+ Touch strip which can be set to zoom, cycle layer, change brush size and rotate project
+ Information button helps you remember what shortcut keys are set to
+ Tool button brings up tablet settings quick and easy
+ Nice OSD with all monitor settings in an easy to use front facing position
+ Solid well made tablet everything feels sturdy and thoughtfully constructed
+ Stand with a swivel function
+ Stylus is well made and has an eraser function
+ The tablet recognizes tilt
+ Various nib options in a well thought out base with plenty of replacements
+ Easy removable and replaceable cables in case of damaged cables
+ USB passthrough
+ Great ventilation
Cons

- Expensive, but it’s best in class, so that is to be expected. Maybe upstarts in this field will drive this down someday.
- The textured surface scratches easily
- A huge footprint, not for every desk. Seems to me to be a lot of wasted space between the monitor and the shortcut keys
- Heavy, when I put this on my Ergotron LX arm it sags. The monitor weighs 18.8 pounds (8.5 kg) with the stand