In the age where everything is digitalized, artists and designers should take advantage of the efficiency and convenience of drawing tablets. They are portable and can work with a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Artists who advocate for less waste will also be thrilled with the paperless feature of drawing tablets and the lack of toxic painting mediums.
Many drawing tablets in the market cater to beginner and advanced artists. And if you are looking for one to start digital art, here are eight features to look for when shopping for potential drawing tablets.
Size of Active Area
Drawing tablets come in different sizes. Some can be as small as half a letter-sized paper; others can be as wide as an 11-inch laptop. No matter the size of the tablet you are going for, it is crucial to consider the tablet’s active area size. Simply put, a larger active area allows you to work on larger drawings without having to zoom in and out all the time. Tablets with larger functional areas are perfect for real estate concept sketches. Hence, concept artists can create drawings of future projects similar to the pre-selling condos in Quezon City.
Note that physical size and active area aren’t the same. Since your tablet’s price depends on its physical size, it is wise to check how wide the active area will be. Doing so will let you purchase a drawing tablet large enough to accommodate your drawing needs.
The quality of your digital art will depend on the resolution of your drawing tablet. Resolution is measured by lines per inch (LPI); the higher your tablet’s resolution, the more details you can do with your art. Higher resolution also means you can be more precise with your pen movements, leading to smoother lines and curves and better pen control.
Ideally, a resolution of 1,000 LPI is excellent for drawings with finer details. However, a tablet with a lower resolution is suitable for making logos, webtoons, cartoons, and anime drawings.
Most drawing tablets have pressure sensitivity levels ranging from 300 to 3,000. The different levels determine how thin or thick your lines will be. Simply put, the harder pressure you put, the thicker and harder your lines will be, and the lighter the pressure, the thinner and softer lines you’ll have.
Pressure sensitivity is vital in creating quality artwork. Using varying lines establishes depth, shadow, highlights, and more dimensions for your drawings. Think of it as using charcoal or graphite pencils of different hardness to make thicker and darker lines for shadows and thin strokes for details such as eyelashes, loose hair strands, and skin details. The difference is you are using digital brushes and one drawing pen that you can adjust to cater to your art needs.
Also called tracking speed, your tablet’s responsiveness refers to how fast your drawings will appear on the screen. For most tablets, this responsiveness is instantaneous, but it may differ depending on your computer’s specifications.
Before you purchase a drawing tablet, check which computer specifications it requires to run smoothly. These may include your current operating system, CPU, RAM, and GPU. Also, research top brands with excellent responsiveness to ensure you won’t experience lag while drawing.
If you need to use your drawing tablet a lot, it will be more efficient to have buttons that you can easily customize depending on your needs. These controls help you set up your tablet, zoom in and out, change layers, and undo previous actions. Sure, these controls are doable with the shortcuts on your computer keyboard. But accessible commands on your drawing tablet make it easier for you to adjust the settings as you need.
Most of the stylus pens that come with drawing tablets have controls that you can tinker with as you go. Use it to change your pressure sensitivity levels or switch between your pen and eraser tools. Drawing with your tablet will become faster and easier.
Most of the drawing tablets available in the market will either have a USB 2 or 3. If you have an older computer, your only option might be USB 2. However, a drawing tablet with USB 3 might just work perfectly fine.
But if you want to splurge a little more on more hi-tech drawing tablets, you can get one that connects to your computer via Bluetooth. Search which brands offer Bluetooth connectivity and which ones are suitable for your computer specifications.
Not all drawing tablets are suitable for all computer operating systems and digital art software. It is best to research if the brands that you want can run on your computer. For example, if you use Mac OS or an older Windows version, some tablets might not be compatible with your current computer. Plus, not all tablets are compatible with all drawing software. Some drawing software may cost you money to get the full version, while others are offered for free. It is best to check which tablets support both free and paid software, especially if you are still a beginner at digital art.
You’ll also have to consider how to install the drawing tablet on your computer. Some tablet brands have drivers automatically installed in devices with either Apple OS, Android, or Windows. On the other hand, you might score a tablet with drivers that need manual installation on your device.
Stylus Pen Type
Stylus pens also come in different types. You can choose from battery-powered, rechargeable, and electromagnetic resonance (EMR) types.
- Battery-powered types run on AAA batteries. They are thicker and may be uncomfortable if you have smaller hands. If you have this stylus type, it is best to have extra batteries on hand so you avoid leaving unfinished work if your pen runs out of power.
- Rechargeable stylus pens are much slimmer and portable compared to battery-powered ones. They usually last around eight to ten hours, so you can take them with you when you travel or work outside. You may bring a power bank to recharge your stylus if you run out and don’t have an electric source available.
- Electro-Magnetic Resonance (EMR) stylus pens are the newest pen-type in the market. Like their namesake, they use electromagnetic frequency to wirelessly draw power from the tablet, so they don’t need recharging. Compared to the previous two, EMR stylus pens are low-maintenance, less-likely to get damaged, and more accurate in transferring drawings to your device screen.
Overall, drawing tablets are advanced tools that every digital artist should have. They simulate some features of traditional art through advanced technology and digital means. So before you buy a drawing tablet, consider these eight features to start your journey towards becoming a better digital artist.