Taking notes with drawing tablets


Taking notes is a popular scenario for drawing tablets.

Generally I believe you will get the most natural experience taking notes if you use a standalone tablet or dedicated note taking devices. Because both these kinds of devices have screens, are portable, and don't require a computer to use. And this makes them very convenient for taking notes.

On the other hand some people enjoy taking notes with pen tablets (screenless tablets) or pen displays (screen tablets).

General considerations

Besides locating the position of the pen there are two pen features to discuss.

  • pen pressure - this is somewhat useful for taking notes because it will make your notes look a bit more natural.

  • pen tilt - for taking notes, I don't think this is very important at all. And many note taking apps ignore this feature entirely.

Using pen tablets (screenless tablets)

Some people can work very well with using a pen tablet for taking notes. Though I'm not one of these people. The chief difficulty in taking notes with the pen tablet is that you cannot see what you are writing and instead you have to look at the screen of your computer. Some find this difficult for taking notes . But for others it works very well.


  • Size. Small pen tablets don't offer much space for writing and it can feel cramped. A medium pen tablet is better, but then it takes up much more space.

  • Wireless. You might prefer to get a pen tablet that supports a wireless connection. Because it can be a little irritating to have the tablet always physically connected to the computer.

Recommended pen tablets

If you do want to use a pen tablet for taking notes here are some devices that will work well and don’t cost too much. You can even find them for less cost on eBay.

  • Wacom One Medium (CTL-672)

  • Wacom One Small (CTL-472)

Using a pen display (screen tablet)

Pen displays, because they do have a screen, generally feel more natural for note taking than a pen tablet. However the chief problem with the pen display is that it requires connection with the computer.


  • Size - a 13" or smaller pen display should work fine. In fact 13" may even be a bit large for this purpose.

  • Wireless. A pen display will always have at least one wire that needs to be connected to the computer.

  • Power. The pen display will draw a significant amount of power from your laptop. And this will really reduce the battery life of your laptop.

  • Complex connection. Ideally you would use a single cable to connect a pen display to a computer. But for various reasons this is not always possible. As an alternative you may be required to have a more complex cabling arrangement - often using a 3-in-1 cable. More here about using one USB-C cable with a pen display.

  • Pointer lag. Pen displays have a lot of pointer lag - this can be very difficult to deal with when taking notes - especially if you write fast. More here: lag

  • Dropping the tablet. If you are note taking in a location where you might drop your pen display, in many cases you will either experience a cracked screen or simply break the tablet entirely.


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