In today's everything digital world, it would be absolutely impossible to draw cartoons or be a professional illustrator without mastering computer art applications.
Whether to retouch and alter photographs or drawing a human figure from scratch, artists these days must know all about computer systems that assist in creating visual art.
If you are employed in any field related to animation, illustration, communication, or advertising, you would know: drawing is now synonymous with computer graphics. And just as pencil drawing, oils and pastels all need specific drawing tools, so do you need the right tools for digital drawing.
Are you in the market for a tablet with excellent graphic capability?
If you are a designer, an illustrator or an amateur manga artist, this article is for you.
Find out now how to choose a tablet that meets your needs and budget.
The Basics: What a Graphics Tablet Does
Considered peripheral equipment to a basic computer system, these sensitive pads connect to your computer via USB or other wired connection.
Most come equipped with a stylus, which feels much like an ordinary graphite pencil in your hand.
These styli permit more precision than even an optical mouse or a touch pad. They make line drawings and crosshatching effortless, when compared to traditional charcoal or pen and ink drawings.
Graphic tablets are indispensable for dimensional drawing and painting in digital mode.
If you are just learning how to draw, buying a tablet will not magically endow you with the ability to draw animals or draw a rose.
On the other hand, once you have mastered drawing animals, enhancing your art with a graphic tablet could yield amazing results.
And, the more proficient you get at using your new art tool, the more you will be able to draw freehand, perhaps progressing to 3 dimensional work.
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Differences Between Paper and Drawing with a Tablet
Before you learn how to create art with such a tablet, there are a few things you should know.
A graphic tablet is completely unlike a sketchpad.
First: you will not have the weight, heft or texture of paper to warm and steady your hand.
Second, you would draw with markedly different technique.
Selecting drawing materials: the proper pencil for outlining, charcoal for shading and an eraser for blending - these are a thing of the past.
With a graphic tablet, you can take advantage of different Photoshop elements – or any other drawing software you choose, to break down your sketches and work each part independently.
Should you draw contours incorrectly, you won't need a kneaded eraser to make them disappear, for example.
On some tablet models, you need only upend the stylus to make use of its built-in rubber, as you would with a traditional wooden pencil.
Digital painting is a dream come true for the professional artist, all without the nightmarish mess it takes to paint with acrylics or oils.
Pastels, reds, blues and yellows: embellish your art with every color of the rainbow and every shade in between, without buying a single Conté crayon or watercolor.
You could not ask for better tone, depth or finish than with this indispensable tool for modern design.
You can also use it to retouch scanned photographs of your childhood.
After extolling all of the virtues such a versatile tool embodies, we now caution...
Despite the striking resemblance between the standard drawing pencil and a stylus, the two tools cannot be wielded in the same manner.
If you are just learning to draw on such a tablet, you will discover this the first time you use it.
If you have already established your pen and ink drawing techniques, you will need time to adapt to this new medium.
Such a transition can be tedious. In this case as with all others, perseverance is key: soon you will have mastered how to draw people on your digital canvas.
Drawing and sketching requires fine-tuned hand-eye coordination.
Therefore, it is a bit disconcerting that, what your hand produces does not appear directly under it; your focus should be on a computer screen, rather than on your hand.
Getting into the habit of moving your stylus independent of vision takes some getting used to.
Unless you have a graphic tablet with LCD screen – where the image appears under your hand, as with a traditional sketchbook, count on a few sessions of erasure rather than productivity.
Now that we know exactly what a graphics tablet is, let's do away with pencil and paper, by choosing one.
Think of all the trees you will be saving!
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Selecting the Right Drawing Tablet for Your Art
On the subject of graphic tablets, one name stands out: Wacom.
If you are after value and performance that comes with a solid reputation, the Wacom tablet is generally the first word on any artist's lips.
If you are taking drawing classes, your art teacher may insist on you having one.
We will talk more about Wacom tablets later in this article.
A Tablet for Your First Art Lessons
If you are unsure about your future as an artist, you may not want to invest heavily in art supplies, even if those materials are all included in a tablet.
Rightly so! Why buy top of the line if your prospects are uncertain?
You can find very good entry-level tablets, at a reasonable price, that will work perfectly for photo editing and basic drawing.
Of course, the more advanced the features, the easier it is to execute precision work – and the higher the price.
Here we note an important distinction between graphic tablets and traditional art media:
Some tablets have up to a 1024dpi resolution.
That means that the drawing pad is extremely sensitive to pressure.
The harder you press the stylus onto the pad, the thicker the drawn lines.
You won't get that effect painting with any brush!
If your career as an artist is still in the learn how to draw stages, you could fare well with a 1000dpi pad.
If you are more advanced in your art instruction, you should think about those higher-resolution types that are especially suited to professionals.
Wacom has an impressive line of tablets for beginners: Wacom Intuos Art, Intuos Draw, Intuos Photo and Intuos Comic tablet models.
Available in two sizes (small and medium), these entry-level models come equipped with an ergonomic stylus and are quite versatile.
Using it will permit you to edit photos and annotate documents - though if you need to share your graphics in meetings, you might want to consider an interactive whiteboard.
You can embellish or transform your pictures by adding light and shadow, or creating a 3D effect; all are accessories included in the software.
Tablets for Established, Professional Artists
Of course, every working graphic artist wants all of the features included in tablets meant for those taking drawing classes Melbourne or drawing lessons online, and more.
Indeed there are graphic tablets targeted to those who make their living by drawing people.
Those tablets' features include:
- Larger screen size – on some models, up to A4!
- Higher screen resolution, up to 1024lpi
- Increased sensitivity to input
- Capacitive: reading the tilt and direction of the stylus, without the tip touching the screen or pad
- Keyboard shortcuts built into the graphics tablet
- A multitouch option – exerting pressure with up to 5 fingers on the touch strip.
For professional art drawing, Wacom is truly a leader in the field.
The Intuos Pro series are wireless, include programmable gesture drawing, with a resolution of 5080dpi, and a stylus tilt recognition level at plus or minus 60.
All of the Wacom Intuos Pro graphic tablet features are wrapped in a sturdy, compact and attractive design.
It is a model that is suitable for an advanced or professional user.
Graphic Tablets with LCD Screen
I have GOT to get me one of these! - Will Smith, Independence Day
For the serious artist, seasoned architect or systems engineer, a graphics tablet with built-in LCD screen is a must.
This type of tablet is a computer onto itself.
Also called a portable interactive screen, your stylus strokes appear under your hand, much the way last century's drawing tools made portraiture appear on the sketch paper they hovered over.
Many portrait artists find these tablets more comfortable to use, because they can focus on their hand movement rather than on a computer screen.
In fact, outside of the obvious lack of warmth that paper generates – liquid crystal screens are much cooler, the sensation of passing pencil over paper is much the same.
Let's say you want to draw a still life.
No longer do you have to wait for optimal light, pose your subject, mix colours and, perhaps, have to erase a contour line that just will not render properly.
No need to worry if you have the right colored pencils or enough oil pastels for the job.
With such a tablet, all of your supplies are included.
Here again, Wacom fits the bill: the Cintiq 27HD Touch is the high-end model, at the forefront of artistic innovation.
It is a very large tablet: a 27-inch screen offers ample room to work.
As for colour: from light shade and pastels to somber, darker tones, this treasure of drawing skills has them all.
Before we talk about price, let us now make a disclaimer.
Whereas Wacom is the undisputed leader in the graphic tablet art industry, there are other, equally respectable names that give a satisfying performance in realistic drawing.
Huion stands against the competition by offering a quality model at an unbeatable price.
A price lower than the leader brand, we might add.
The Huion GT-220 tablet has a generous 21-inch screen, and loads of positive feedback from absolute beginners in art class, all the way to the established portrait artist.
User feedback is an important, distinguishing characteristic when considering upgrading to the latest in art rendering technology.
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The Price of Graphics Tablets
Short answer: prices are as varied as the breadth of technology available.
The stereotype of the starving artist featuring prominently, still today; the price of a graphics tablet is obviously an important criterion in choosing a tablet.
Even more important to consider: do you know how to draw portraits realistically enough that your investment in a tablet will pay off?
Or do you more want to draw cool things, like graffiti and cartoon people?
Whatever your intention – simple shapes or complex portrait drawing, you will be able to find entry-level tablets for just under £50.
Are you aiming higher in your artistic aspirations?
Professional tablet models, with tons of features and interactive screens could run into several hundred pounds.
Still, investing in a graphics tablet would be cheaper, in the long run, than constantly replacing canvas, watercolors, your colored pencil set and charcoal pencil.
It is much easier to clean, too!
To make your selection – to compare the merits of various tablets, you should consider these characteristics:
- Stylus resolution
- Screen resolution
- Screen size
- Pressure levels of the stylus
- Advanced Features
- Integrated software
Now, a final suggestion...
If you are still undecided about your future as an artist, and looking for an alternative to the graphics tablet, you may already own your solution.
The Ipad Pro tablet and its pencil, the Ultra-book or the Surface Pro could be a suitable alternative to more expensive tablets, especially if you have only started drawing.
And, thanks to digital advances, you no longer need to fret about framing your art!
Inspired to start art classes? Want to find drawing lessons for kids? You'll find tutors for drawing lessons for beginners and experts looking to diversify their skill set on Superprof.