Tips for Transitioning from a Mouse to a Pen Tablet

While using a pen tablet might seem easier to use than a mouse, you may need to get used to the tool after spending years on the mouse. Sure it’s easier and better to create with a tablet, however using a few tips, you can speed up the process. The less time you spend getting used to your new tablet, the more time you spend creating. So let’s get going with a few nice tips!

Computer Graphic Nerd

Install the complete driver package:And I mean, install it, not just copy it to C: or download and leave it there, which some people would do!! Some manufacturers provide “driver only” and “Full suite” versions for download. New users ideally should use the full suite as it contains guides, additional features and functionality for your new tablet. Once you are a pro you can decide whether those features help you or come in your way. If latter is the case then you may choose to remove that part of the software. Most tablets need the driver to be installed first before plugging in the device. The tablet is connected to the display port and a USB, the display port gets the screen working and the usb is used for transmitting pointing signals just like your mouse.

Calibrate the tablet: You may need to calibrate the tablet before use in some cases. This makes sure your screen and tablet are synced. This is also true to display touch tablets on which you can draw right on the screen. Without calibration there may be a difference in where you move your hand and where the brush is drawing.

Pressure tactics: A pen tablet has thousands of levels of pressure sensitivity, for example mine has 2048. These pressure levels enable you to thicken the lines for example, or bend the brush angle. Your understanding about the mouse needs to go as its not pressure sensitive. Learn to use your digital pen just like a brush more than a pen or pencil. Practice a few pressure enabled brushes in photoshop or your favourite graphics editor. Regular brushes which are not pressure enabled do not respond to this feature. In PS, you can define and create your own regular or pressure brush.

Hold it like a pen: Use your digital pen held like a pen and not a brush. Although it behaves like a brush, it needs to be held down like a pen. So it’s a little odd for a traditional artist as they may be used to holding their brushes their own way. Practicing is the only way to get comfortable here. No amount of theory can replace some good hours practicing it. concentrate on the strokes and curves and see how different brushes behave. See how the angle and thickness is affected. You can also edit brushes to respond differently to pen pressure.

Woman Drawing on a Digital Tablet

Never sideline the side switches: One mistake new learners make is try to click and use the pen side switch all the time. Try avoiding it and concentrate on the side switches. This lets you use two hands and makes your tablet experience easier. Many tablets come with programmable switches and some come with a scroll/zoom wheel. Set these options in the tablet software to what you are comfortable with.

Keep your tablet aligned to your screen: Or else your strokes may feel disoriented. Keeping your tablet in line with the screen helps you maintain harmony with what you draw and what you see. It just makes it super easy to draw this way and it is the only right way to do it. Keeping the tablet at an angle makes one disoriented and tires one quickly because your brain has to compensate for the difference and you have to constantly concentrate on where your hand is going.

A note on display tablets: I have used a display tablet since I started but after I tried my hands on a friends non display, I found both to be as good. For an artist both tablets are good. If you have some more money it’s a personal choice if you want to buy a display tablet. In my opinion, apart from the “draw on the screen” advantage, the bigger advantage you get is that you save on desk space as the tablet and display are built into one. Some really expensive ones offer your a large display with multi and draw features built into the tablet itself. They are quite productive and I feel the way to go if you want a display tablet.

Thanks for reading my blog and do share your own tips, I will be very happy to read your own experience or struggle with your tablet!

Photo credits: Denis Pepin, G2studio.

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September 14, 2018


Thank you for your kind comments@Data2203; Try try till you succeed :-)@Seawatch1; Thank you!

September 14, 2018


Agree. It was really hard to start use my bamboo tablet. Now it still resting) Need to try again!

September 14, 2018


Good article. I tied a tablet (Waco Bamboo) but couldn't get the hang of it. With your tips, I might have more luck.Larry

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