The drawing experience

What it feels like to draw on a drawing tablet


The easiest way to understand what it feels like to draw on a drawing tablet is to compare it to drawing with pen and paper.

A pen display works just like pen and paper in the sense that you can exactly see what you're drawing. More specifically your eyes are looking at what you're drawing.

With a pen tablet things are very different - your hand is drawing in one place but you're looking somewhere else to see what's being drawn. So fundamentally using a pen tablet works differently than pen and paper.

Getting strokes right the first time

Because it is more clear what the pen is doing with the pen display many people who use append display say that they “get the stroke right the first time”.

With a pen tablet people often feel like they have to make the stroke multiple times to get it right and have to press undo to erase Any errant strokes.

I would generally agree with this feeling. When I want to get a drawing done faster especially if I have a general sense of what it is I want to draw then I do work faster with the pen display and I find that I have to press undo far less often.

Dealing with your hands

With a pen display, things are natural. You see the pen in the same place the stroke is being drawn - just like when you use pen and paper.

And just like pen-and-paper, your own hand and the pen will block your eyes from seeing the display. The easy solution to this is to reposition your eyes or take advantage of the canvas zoom and rotation features of your drawing app.

With a pen tablet, you are looking at a monitor but drawing somewhere else with your hand. Fundamentally this is no different than using a mouse. So this is kind of a convenience actually since you never have to worry about the positions of your hands. They can be anywhere and they will never block what you see.

Adjustment period

Because a pen display works like pen and paper almost everyone can immediately start using a pen display. It's just kind of obvious how it works. And especially these days with so many people having used devices like iPads. They know how to deal with the screen that they can interact with.

For pen tablets things get a little more complicated. I would say that 80% of people can immediately or at least in a few minutes get comfortable using a pen tablet. Another 10% of people will take anywhere from a couple of days to maybe a couple of weeks to adjust to a pen tablet. And the remaining 10% of people will never be able to adjust to a pen tablet. For them it will never feel natural to use. And they are better off getting a pen display.

Unfortunately without trying a pen tablet it's really difficult to tell if you would fall into the 10% of people who just can't use pen tablets..

Matching aspect ratios

With a pen display, the active are and the screen have the same size. This means the pen will draw exactly where you see it draw.

With a pen tablet, the active area where you raw is separate from the monitor where you see the your strokes. Unless specifically configured in the driver, this will cause your strokes to be distorted. For example if you draw a circle on the tablet it will show up as an oval on the screen. It is easy to fix this problem in the driver. More here: match aspect ratios between pen tablets and monitors.

Last updated