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Home / Graphic Tablet Tutorial / Want to start digital art?A couple of questions.

Want to start digital art?A couple of questions.

Want to start digital art?A couple of questions.


Okay so I’ve gotten a bunch of asks about tablets and digital art recently, so I’ll answer them all at once in a post like this again. This will contain only very basic info, but I realize what may seem basic to some is completely new information to others. It’s pretty lengthy, so read more under the cut! (with pictures!)

Q1. Do you use a tablet or is it in the computer? yes, I use a tablet, and its not part of the computer, its an extra piece of technology that digital artists buy to make drawing on the computer more natural. 

Here’s a stock image of a dude using a tablet. Note that with entry to medium level tablets, you do not see the image on the tablet, only on the computer screen. The tablet basically maps the location of your hand/pen to a location on the screen to give you control. This disconnection of coordination from where your eyes are looking and where your hand is drawing tends to be one of the harder initial learning curves for people just starting in digital art. 

If you want to be able to see exactly where you are drawing, those tablets do exist as well (Wacom’s Cintiq line), just be prepared to drop a lot of cash for these, since they cost $1000 and up.

More recently in this generation, a meet-in-the-middle solution for a lot of people seems to be with iPads/samsung tablets/etc. More people are likely to already own an iPad, or feel like it’s a better monetary investment for all its uses than a drawing tablet that’s only function is to draw. You still need to buy a pressure sensitive stylus and a program to use. Just do note that paint programs for iPads tend to be less powerful than those for computers, and people who have reviewed both iPad programs and the Cintiqs say that iPad pens don’t feel as natural as the Cintiq. Touch screens register touch location based on a physical input (your finger disrupting an electrically charged field on the screen, to be specific) while wacom’s tablets map a more accurate location on the tablet surface based on bluetooth signals. 

For the price difference, if you are absolutely DYING to be able to see exactly where your pen is touching, I would invest in an iPad/pen combo. But honestly, for beginners i would strongly urge you to invest in a non-screen tablet (Wacom intuos starts at $80USD) with a computer program, because computers are just so much more versatile. Try your hardest to get over the initial learning curve with the hand/eye coordination, I promise it will pay off. 

Q2. What is the tablet exactly for/ why do you need one? Simply put, a tablet allows you to draw lines on the computer with varying pressure like regular, traditional tools. It’s what allows your art to go from this: 

to this:


Arguably, everything that is done with a tablet CAN be done with a mouse using the brush settings and a combination of a brush and eraser, but it wastes so much time, and really doesn’t feel like true drawing at all, which kills the fun! What would take a mouse user a dozen different brush settings to blend two colors, someone with a tablet could do it in just one. It’s also like the difference between trying to draw with a large sharpie marker vs. a properly sharpened pencil. Although you can arguably create some amazing art with just a sharpie, it severely limits the possibilities of what you can do, making you jump through hoops and bend over backwards to get a similar effect of a natural drawing. A tablet gives you much more control over what you want to do. 

Q3. What else do you need to make digital art? An art program is a necessity, because simple programs like MS Paint aren’t going to cut it! You’ll need a program that responds to the pressure sensitivities of the tablet, and there are plenty. The most commonly used ones are Photoshop and Paint Tool Sai (PC only), both of which cost money. Like anything on the internet, you can find ways to pirate them, but that’s not my responsibility :’D There are a lot of free programs that will also do the job, but it’s just harder to find resources on them. The free programs I hear about the most or have been recommended to me are KritaGIMP

These days, more and more people are starting to use iPads with special styluses and paint programs as well. I haven’t had any experience with those, but they are generally a little bit cheaper, and buying a stylus + paint program from the app store for people who already own iPads may be a gentler introduction to digital art for most people who already own them. 

You also need a lot of patience! There’s not a lot of places that offer art classes where you can just walk in and take a workshop on digital art (yet?) However, there are tons and tons of resources online, you just have to be willing to find them and learn from them yourself! 

Q3. & Q4. Where can you buy tablets? 

I have been able to find the cheapest, entry level Wacom tablets in stores like Staples and Best Buy. Some of the stores will carry medium sizes for a few hundred dollars. The more expensive ones, you’re best ordering straight off the Wacom site or from Amazon. You can easily find them used as well, which may be the best investment! Tablet surfaces become easily scratched, which puts people off sometimes, but as a 7-year tablet user, I can assure you they are purely cosmetic, and have no effect on its drawing ability. I bought my cintiq used and it was SO much cheaper than the market price, so I’m really happy about it!!

I always recommend buying used tablets, since people are always upgrading and trying to get rid of their old ones. (like me right now, someone pls buy my old medium intuos. Wacom’s names get confusing when you’re looking for old tablets, so I tried to explain all that here! 

Side note when buying your first tablet, I personally would say don’t even think about trying to spoil yourself at the start.  Wacom does an amazing job producing these technologies, but beware that they’re still trying to edge you for money with these extra little costs like paying more for touch functionality or wireless capabilities. I know it’s not that much more, but my second tablet was touch sensitive and I didn’t need it even once. (It was more inconvenient when it accidentally would turn on, actually)

You’ll want to test the waters with the cheapest technology first, and only upgrade to larger sizes/higher models when you feel like your skills are ready AND you need it, because you won’t be able to feel the effects of a larger monetary investment until you have the skills and experience. Some people buy the cheapest entry level line and stick with it their whole careers, while others will later on feel the need to upgrade. It’s all up to you. 


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