Dragon tree

Drawing on a Tablet


on a desktop computer?

Not very easily – if you try to use a mouse!

Animated computer mouse twitching whiskers

The computer rodent was never meant for the artistic life. Drawing with this early digital doodle tool was a bit like drawing a cobweb with a brick.

If you really want to draw and paint on your desktop computer and this is something new for you, you need to get a graphics tablet. The star brand Wacom produce a range of tablets from simple for the occasional office doodle to the fully equipped Cintiq line. The Cintiq tablets have programable buttons and multiple styli for fine digital art.

Using a stylus with a more basic Wacom tablet is drawing on a tablet – but only at one remove. You don’t draw directly on your monitor. The desktop tablet sits at the side of your computer or laptop.  At first writing, painting and drawing on a tablet like this feels odd, but it’s much the same kind of displacement you get with a mouse. You soon get used to it.

A desktop graphics tablet remains tethered to your computer even if connected wirelessly, since it has no screen of its own.  You can however pick it up to draw on.

What’s the advantage of painting on a hand held tablet?

It’s hand held!

Drawing on a tablet directly is like drawing on a hand held sketch pad. Freedom at last!

You sacrifice the full use of powerful desktop applications like Corel Painter or Photoshop, but mobile drawing and painting apps become more sophisticated by the day. Not to mention the devices they ride on. These days a smartphone or tablet can be more advanced than the computer it syncs with. 

*Note Added in August 2014. New Corel Painter for Android  and Photoshop Touch for both iPads and Android tablets add new power to drawing on a tablet.

There are more good drawing and painting apps for iPads and even iPhones than for Android tablets, but development continues at an amazing pace.

Hand held tablets do have a few disadvantages in comparison with desktop tablets.

Most styli – sorry to be rude but this incudes your finger – have a blunt squashy tip. You can in fact make quite a fine line – and pinch zoom is a huge advantage –  but you might still miss the sensation of precision.

Another oft lamented lack is pressure sensitivity. Press on a Wacom side-of-the-desktop stylus and you get a broader, heavier line, as you would with a brush. Some desktop tools and settings give variations in transparency too.

Mobile users exempt from this lament are owners of a Samsung Galaxy Note, or one of the new Windows tablets.  The Galaxy Note series have a sensor board built into the screen, like the Wacom desktop tablets and Cintiqs.  Styli like the S Pen and Wacom Bamboo Feel can be pressure sensitive without extra help. Ultimate bliss for drawing on a tablet! Not only are these styli instantly responsive. They also have a fine, firm tip for pinpoint precision.

Artichoke-like flower drawing
Artifact. S Pen precision scribble in Wacom’s Bamboo Paper

iPads lack this extra layer. To paint pressure sensitive lines on an iPad,  you have to pay up for a battery powered, bluetooth connected stylus. This can be an Adonit Jot Touch, Pogo Connect, Hex 3 Jaja or Wacom Intuos Creative.

Note. Things move so fast in this computer graphics world that after updating this page, I have transmogrified it into a blog post. Here it will be dated, thus causing me less embarrassment if read past its sell-by date!

Published by

Valerie Beeby

We used to say 'Seeing is believing'. Now it's more like 'Believing is seeing'. We see what we expect to see. Look again and who knows. Does it really match what's actually there? ...I've always been fascinated by how our minds work. As a writer and artist, I'm particularly interested in new research into how we perceive this extraordinary world we live in, where things are not always what they seem.

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