The best laptop for illustrators is basically essential if you're a creative type but also always on the move. You need something that allows you to design while away from home, and that's not always easy to come by.
If you make a living off your work, then this becomes even more essential. So, much like if you're looking for any of the best graphic design monitors or the best video editing monitors, you need to know what to look for in order to get the best.
Many will just go for a good laptop with a stylus, or a 2-in-1 option that has a touchscreen. These tend to be a little more versatile than the best graphics tablets for photo editing, but there's more to it than just that.
One thing that a lot of people forget is that running programmes like Photoshop and Illustrator can be quite resource-intensive, which means you'll need a fair amount of power to make them work as well as you can.
As a result, we’ve selected six powerful laptops based on our research into their specs, features, and general reviews that we think are great for illustrating. Plus, we’ve answered some of your most frequently asked questions so you can pick the best ones for you. Before that though, here are our top picks...
Best laptops for illustrators
- MacBook Pro (2021)
- ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo OLED
- Acer ConceptD Ezel 7
- Dell XPS 13 OLED
- HP Envy x360
- Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5
1. MacBook Pro (2021)
Best Apple laptop for illustrators
MacBooks have long been the favourites for graphic designers and illustrators, and the MacBook Pro 14-Inch (2021) is the latest and greatest iteration of Apple's all-conquering ultrabook.
It features an M1 Pro chip inside with an eight-core CPU and 14-core GPU for some immense performance that should allow you to power through both intense design work and day-to-day productivity tasks without a hitch.
Whilst having so many cores is often inefficient for both laptops and computers, in the realm of illustration and rendering, threading processes are highly optimised to make use of all these cores.
For its display, the MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) features a Liquid Retina XDR panel which features a Mini LED backlight for some incredible brightness and immensely accurate colours. There's also Apple's ProMotion tech bundled that should give you a 120Hz refresh rate for super-smooth output, should you need it.
A 512GB SSD at the bottom end gives you some good storage to work with, although this new MacBook Pro can be configured with up to 8TB if you do need that much. Its port selection is also rather good, with USB-C, HDMI out, and an SD card reader on offer, as well as the return of Apple's clever MagSafe charging port.
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2. Acer ConceptD Ezel 7
Best Acer laptop for illustrators
The Acer ConceptD Ezel 7 certainly looks to be a brilliant choice for illustrators, especially thanks to one clever design feature.
It offers a clever hinged display that can be tilted forward and positioned for up close working, which is especially useful for illustrators. In addition, this display is also touchscreen and comes with a stylus and the same digitizer tech that’s present in some of Wacom’s high-end drawing tablets.
Under the hood, the Ezel 7 is also pretty powerful, with an H-series 10th gen Intel processor, as well as an Nvidia RTX 2080 SUPER GPU that should offer some immense performance for professional workloads, even if they are a couple of generations old at this point.
This also looks to be a rather well-built laptop with a metal outer frame. It's quite heavy at 2.5kg, but should still be portable enough.
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3. ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo OLED
Best ASUS laptop for illustrators
If one screen isn't enough, and you want the power of two, then the ASUS should be a marvellous choice.
As the name suggests, you're going to be getting the power of an OLED panel in the top with a 15.6-inch display, complete with 4K resolution that should offer up some incredible contrast and highly detailed images.
Inside, the ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo OLED packs an eleventh-gen Intel Core i9-11900H, complete with eight cores for some proper multi-threaded power, and a discrete Nvidia RTX 3060 GPU, which should be great for handling any intense workloads.
There's also a 1TB Samsung 970 EVO SSD packed inside, which should offer you some speedy read and writes, and up to 32GB of RAM gives you loads of headroom for running any particularly difficult-to-run programs.
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4. Dell XPS 13 OLED
Best Dell laptop illustrators
The Dell XPS 13 OLED represents an incredible purchase for anyone hunting for a compact ultrabook with an awful lot of power, especially illustrators.
You'll be getting a 13.4 inch 4K OLED panel to offer you some perfect blacks with immense contrast, and some nicely detailed images, complete with 500 nits of brightness to ensure images are vibrant. In addition, the panel is also a touchscreen and features very thin bezels, so you'll be able to maximise screen real estate.
Inside, the Dell XPS 13 OLED packs a quad-core Intel Core i7-1185G7 processor which should offer you some rather beefy performance, especially with a clock speed of up to 4.8GHz when this chip turbos.
Including a powerful Intel processor also means you'll be able to take advantage of Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics that should offer you some good performance for both day-to-day working and more intensive tasks.
You'll also be getting oodles of storage with a 2TB SSD, which should not only give you plenty of headroom but also allow you to get your files on and off the drive rather quickly. Speaking of speed, 32GB of DDR4 RAM should also be rather quick, and there's a fair capacity to work with for some large-scale multitasking.
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5. HP Envy x360
Best HP laptop for illustrators
If having a 2-in-1 laptop is of paramount importance, then the HP Envy x360 should be an excellent option to consider.
A 2-in-1 laptop allows you to flip the screen over and use it as a tablet, which is particularly handy if you're using a stylus for maximum accuracy. The display on offer here is a 15.6-inch FHD IPS panel with edge-to-edge glass, giving you plenty of screen real estate to work with, as well as some rather good viewing angles, which is handy.
Inside, the HP Envy x360 packs an AMD Ryzen 5 5500U processor with six cores to allow for some brilliant multi-threaded performance, and 16GB of RAM will allow you to run more intense programs with plenty of capacity to multi-task and get on with any other work with no fuss.
There's also a great selection of ports on offer including a couple of USB-As, HDMI out, an SD card reader, and a USB-C. As for wireless connectivity, you'll find WiFi 6 on offer which should offer you some rather quick speeds with very little in the way of latency.
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6. Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5
Best Lenovo laptop for illustrators
The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 looks like a fantastic choice for illustrators on a budget, and we'd go as far as to say it's one of the best budget laptops around today.
You'll find a 14-inch FHD panel which offers you a nice middle-ground for being portable whilst still offering you a good amount of screen real estate, and the fact it's a 2-in-1 with the screen able to be flipped over is rather useful for designers.
There's an AMD Ryzen 5 5500U processor inside, offering you some beefy performance for those more intense tasks. That's reflected with its six cores and twelve threads that should be plenty for both day-to-day working and running creative programs such as Photoshop or Illustrator.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 also features a rather generous port selection with USB-C, USB-A, HDMI out, and an SD card reader all represented, which should give you plenty of options for connectivity to add any other devices.
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Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
No need to panic if you've got any questions. We've answered some of the most frequently asked queries below.
Is a laptop for illustrators worth it?
In short, yes. Getting a laptop for illustration work is likely to be a fantastic investment given the power that high-end laptops have, alongside the crisp, high-res display with incredible colour accuracy so your pictures will be true to life.
In addition, a laptop for illustrative purposes should have a good port selection for any expansion, such as if you want to plug a graphics tablet in and use that alongside the laptop.
How much should I spend on a laptop for design work?
As a general rule, spending between $1000 and $2500 will get you an incredibly capable laptop, complete with a bright and vibrant display with a high resolution, plenty of power from internal components, and a good selection of ports, too.
What should I look for in a laptop for illustrators?
In essence, a good display is going to be key, so make sure you've first got an adequate amount of screen real estate for the work you'll be doing. We'd say to head for something between 13 and 17 inches in size, just depending on what space you have.
In addition, getting a powerful multi-core processor will allow you to run design programs without issue, and Intel or AMD chips should be able to do it rather well.
Having multiple cores is especially useful in fields like illustration and video editing, which can more readily use multithreading for rendering.
With modern CPU advances also comes the rise of powerful integrated graphics, so if you don't want or need a discrete GPU, then modern integrated graphics in CPUs these days will definitely suffice for intense design work.
In addition, you'll want to look for a good amount of RAM to ensure multitasking and running those intense tasks is possible. As a general rule, we'd say that 16GB is a good starting point, although some laptops can provide you with more if you do need it.
Is a Mac or PC better for graphic design?
Truth be told, this is all down to personal preference, but both platforms have their merits.
Macs are popular due to the simplicity of macOS and the benefits that can bring, whilst Windows laptops can offer benefits such as a touchscreen display, which no MacBook currently offers, as well as the general familiarity of Windows.
How much RAM do you need to run Adobe Creative Suite?
As a bare minimum, Adobe recommends that you have 8GB of RAM on your PC to run the likes of Photoshop or Illustrator, given it's a more intense program.
The laptops we've listed above should have more than enough capacity to run Adobe's Creative Suite, given they feature 16GB (Adobe's recommended RAM capacity), or even more.