Drawing tablets

A reader asked if I use a drawing tablet. Before I answer that question, let’s talk about what a drawing table is for those who might not be familiar with the technology. There are three types of technology collectively referred to as drawing tablets. For each type, the artist uses the supplied pen to create a drawing on some software running on a computer.

A simple tablet is a screenless tablet with a textured surface that is similar to drawing paper. You connect the tablet to software running on a computer. As with all tablet types, the sensitivity of the pen and tablet surface is critical. Artists have to learn to coordinate hand actions with the results on the screen, similar to using a mouse.

A drawing display is a tablet with a screen. This tablet this also connected to a computer. Think of it as a separate monitor designed for drawing. Artists use the pen directly on the tablet.

A standalone tablet is a tablet with a screen and built-in computer. Like the drawing display, artists draw directly on the tablet surface. Some artists use an iPad for this purpose.

Pricewise, simple tablets are the cheapest option while standalone tablets are the most expensive. Professional designers are found using all three types.

When I looked at this technology several years ago, I found it lacking for my use case. But I recently revisited this technology and was surprised by how much progress has been made. There are a lot of options for ‘fine’ artists–not just designers and cartoonists.

So, to answer the reader’s question, I have a tablet that I sometimes use. I use my tablet for studies and sketches but have no plans to use them in my paintings.

After trying all three types, I settled on a simple tablet by Wacom. The tablet’s surface is excellent and the size is right. There are good software options for artists. I like Krita, Adobe Fresco, and Rebelle. I like the latter so much I bought a copy. These apps work seamlessly with my tablet.

I can see why illustrators and designers use this technology. If, like me, your tablet is connected to a beefy computer and graphics card, the drawing experience is very lifelike. Add in the ability to quickly do takeoffs and versions, I can see how this technology is winning.

This simple sketch is an example of the kind of work I produce with my tablet. It doesn’t look computer-created (I hope).

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