Get started with a drawing tablet


If you just acquired a drawing tablet and want to start using it, this guide will lead you through the basics.

I suggest you first read the beginner's guide

If you don't have a drawing tablet, then try this detailed buying guide.

Get prepped

  • Make sure you know the model number of the tablet. This will help you in many ways later. More here: Finding the model number of a drawing tablet.

  • Make sure you know how to contact support for your tablet manufacturer

  • Read the manual for your tablet. You don't need to even open the box. You can download the manual from the manufacturer website.

Don't drop the pen

  • If drop the pen to the floor, usually it will be unharmed.

  • When you are not using it make sure its stored in such a way it doesn't fall off your desk.

  • HOWEVER, sometimes a pen seems to hit just right and the fall can damage the pen.

Prepare for replaceming your pen

The pen has somewhat delicate parts inside and is the most likely thing you will break. If you lose or damage your pen, there are some things you need to know:

  • First drawing tablets are generally only compatible with the pen they came with or a small number of pens. So note down the model number of the pen. You will need this to get a replacement. More here: Pen compatibility with drawing tablets

  • Pens are surprisingly expensive to replace.

    • Some pens cost half the cost of the tablet

    • Some pens (especially Wacom Pro pens) are more expensive than the tablets of other brands.

Install the tablet driver

  • You need the tablet driver installed for the tablet to work correctly.

  • You can go to the manufacturer site and download the driver and install now before your tablet even arrives.

  • If the tablet driver is installed, when you connect the tablet with USB cable the driver will just detect the tablet and the pen will work as soon as it comes close to the tablet (about 10mm)

  • The drivers install an app you can use to configure the driver. The apps have different names depending on your tablet brand

  • More here: drivers

Connect the tablet

  • Pen tablet - There will be a simple USB cord. These days the cords are all USB-C cords.

    • Some pen tablets ALSO support wireless connection. For now ignore wireless. It just adds more complication. Get it working with a cable first

  • Pen display - There are several options. See connecting a pen display

The NO SIGNAL problem with pen displays

If you encounter a "NO SIGNAL" message, follow these troubleshooting steps: Troubleshoot the NO SIGNAL problem

How the pen & tablet work with the computer

  • Once the tablet driver is installed and the tablet is connected it will detect the pen. It will treat the pen just like a mouse. (except a mouse uses relative positioning and the pen uses absolute positioning. more here: Absolute versus relative positioning)

  • If the pen is in range (about 10mm) of the tablet or touching the tablet , then moving the pen will move the mouse pointer.

    • If the pen is not touching the tablet, it will be like your are not pressing down any mouse buttons

    • if the pen is touching the tablet, it will be like you are holding down the left mouse button

  • In drawing apps which are pen aware can take advantage of other features like pressure and tilt.

  • If you are using a drawing program, You don't need to hold down any button for it to draw, just put touch the pen to the tablet.

Active Area (aka Working Area)

  • The active area on the tablet is the region of the tablet that is sensitive to the pen.

    • Wacom calls this the "Active Area" in their docs. In their driver, it is called "Mapping"

    • Huion calls this the "Working Area"

    • I will always call it the "active area" because that is the oldest term for it.

  • Go into the driver and and find the active area and get familiar with what it looks like. It's one of the most common things you'll need to adjust.

  • More here: Active Area

Map the Active Area to a single display

  • This step is needed for pen tablets (the ones without a screen)

  • The active area can be mapped to 1 of your displays or multiple displays.

  • For now, map the active area to a single display.

Match aspect ratios between the active area and your display

  • This step is needed for pen tablets (the ones without a screen). You don't have to do this for other kinds of tablets.

  • This step is important for pen tablets. If you don't do this there will be a distortion as you draw - in other words tracing out a perfect circle on the tablet will draw an oval on the screen.

  • Change the active area settings to use the same aspect ratio as the screen. Explanation and instruction here: Matching aspect ratios.


Perform this configuration: Disable the press-and-hold ring in Windows


  • Krita - I highly recommend you Install Krita. It is a FREE and good drawing app. Eve if you are not going to draw anything, it is useful for testing and troubleshooting.

  • Kleki - Kleki is a FREE web-based app that is very simple. It's ideal I think for something for kids to start with before they try something complicated like Krita.

  • Clip Studio Paint - I draw a lot of illustrations so I pay for a subscription to Clip Studio Paint.

  • Photopea ( is a web-based Photoshop-like app. It is very good and also has a free tier.

  • Procreate - this is THE drawing app to get if you are drawing on an iPad.

  • Infinite Painter - this is the equivalent of Procreate, but for Android devices.

  • Other applications - Look here to find a large number of applications to explore: applications

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