>> Last Updated on
Why use a Graphic Drawing Tablet?
Have you every tried to draw a curve or write letters using your mouse? It's very hard and it's not a question of practice! Using a standard mouse to draw or paint will never yield good results because it is a binary input system, that is either ON or OFF. It allows you to draw a line of constant intensity without any reactivity to pressure or directionality.
On the other hand, a graphic tablet with a digital pen is the best and only way to draw or paint directly on your computer. have pressure sensitivity and direction tracking. This allows the brush to create different levels of pressure intensity as well as following the direction of movement, when desired. This means that it reacts much like a normal physical pen on paper would.
A digital drawing pad is essential in the 3D and 2D production pipelines for multiple steps. It is the only way to go professionnlly, in departments such as concept art, producing textures for 3D models and matte paintings.
Using a Graphic Drawing Tablet
The Workings behind the hardware
The tablet uses magnetic sensitivity and a spring loaded tip to calculate the pressure you put on your pen, while drawing. You can also change the feel of the tip, with interchangeable plastic tips hidden inside the pen. They're made of different materials that vary the resistance of the pen on the surface of the tablet. As for the directional tracking, it is available in software that make use of the vector drawing, such as Corel Painter. It will calculate the angle of the virtual brush depending on the curve of your strokes. One pen usually comes included, but you can also purchase other types of pen, such as airbrushes. They are however relatively expensive, starting at 80$ for a standard pen replacement and upwards for specialty ones.
Ergonomy and Comfort
Be aware that it will take some time to get used to using a graphic pen at first, but once you're familiar, you will never want to go back. The tablet can even replace the mouse entirely, and it is much more convenient for the wrist ergonomy, that a regular mouse. If you have occasional wrist pain, relating to carpal tunnel syndrome, you can even consider switching to a graphic tablet instead of a mouse, for all everyday activities as well. Because your wrist is flat on the desk, while drawing, it doesn't have the same problems as a mouse does.
Important factors to consider
Here is a summary of the important recommendations to find a good drawing pen and tablet for your 3D projects.
The most noticeable factor is the size. It can be arduous to understand the sizes available when shopping online, so you should always compare it with the size of the pen. You should know that it isn't very convenient to draw on the edges of the tablet, so you should reduce the actual drawing area, from 1 inch on every side. We recommend an active drawing area of at least a pen's length for best comfort or anything larger. This translates to a tablet that is approximately as large as a 8-1/2 x 11 sheet of paper or about 14 inches diagonally. If you use a graphic screen, you will need to
The pressure sensitivity determines how many levels of intensity the tablet can detect from your hand. It is the maximum number of steps between a full line and the thinnest line possible at all. What happens if the number of levels are too low? You will see notches on your line as you modulate intensity while drawing. The typical ranges available are 512, 1024 and 2048. On the professional end, you can go up to 8128 levels of pressure sensitivity. The absolute minimum you should consider is 512, but even this isn't really great. 1024 already feels more natural and 2048 is as great as a normal pen. A tablet with 4096 levels of pressure and more will not be noticeably more precise than a 2048 tablet. So above 2048 is probably unnecessary, unless you are an experienced professional working for very color-sensitive studio project. In conclusion, aim for a pressure sensitivity of 1024 or 2048, depending on your budget or the sales.
Some tablets allow you to use your fingers as a mouse on the graphic pad, but it won't react to pressure. This can be fun, but is more of a hassle in the long-term, because your skin already has a tendency to touch the tablet surface, while you draw with your pen, creating weird behaviors. We usually turn this off pretty quickly when used in production.
Graphic Tablets with Interactive Screens
Standard tablets take some more getting used to, because you don't see the results of your drawings directly under your pen, as you would with a pen and paper. Some higher-end graphic tablets have an interactive screen integrated directly under the pad, which allows you to see and draw directly on the same surface. They are however much more expensive, starting at 500$. It is totally optional if you're just starting out, you'll be fine with a standard (non-screen) pad.
Color Range (for screens)
See our computer monitors section to see what you need to look for. What is most important for graphic tablets is, of course, the color range because it will directly influence what you 'think you see' while you draw. Try to find a 99% sRGB color space, or better.
Other important factors are the resolution, the responsiveness and the luminosity. The resolution must be at least HD1080 (1920x1080) for a 24 inch screen, or 2k for larger screens. This is to make sure the spacing beween pixels is not too noticeable, as you will be closer to the surface than on regular screens. The responsiveness should be 4 ms or lower, for an interactive drawing experience. As for the luminosity, try to find a 250 cd or 300 cd screen.
Tablets and digital pens are relatively costly. You can expect to spend between 200$ and 500$ for standard tablets, and between 600$ and 5000$ for the higher-end tablets with graphic screens of reliable brands. Wacom is the leading brand in tablets, and has very good durability, but Huion and Ugee have very competitive prices. But there are also cheaper generics that can compete very well with official brands, at lower cost. Be sure to check out the technical specs to get the most out of your tablet and read reviews.
Huion 1060Plus with 8192 Pressure Levels
Wacom Intuos Pro, Medium
Huion GT-191, HD1080, 19.5 Interactive Pen Display Tablet
Ugee UG-2150, HD1080, 21.5 Inches LED Graphics Monitor
Go to the 'computer hardware' table of contents:
Tell us what you think, we welcome your comments! Did we miss something?
Join the Wombats
Opt-in our occasionnal newsletter to be the first to be informed of our new tutorials series, original content updates, special offers and important announcements! It’s free and spam-free, plus you can unsubscribe at any time.