Things I learned immediately after buying a tablet

Art Tools, Artwork, Lifeblogging

The last time I had a tablet, it was an unmitigated disaster, because I was 12 and I didn’t know you needed… like… an actual art program? To go with the tablet? Preferably with things like layers and pressure sensitivity? To be sure, MS Paint is a perfectly valid medium, but it only works if that’s the look you’re going for.

I went back to ballpoints on printer paper real fast.

But I really wanted the smooth, antialiased look of digital, and even after I figured out how to adjust levels and such on my scanned work, nothing gave me that look. But guess what was on sale this December??INTUOS-draw

While I wasn’t looking, Wacom started bundling their tablets with art programs. And that tablet? Comes with the exact program I was going to buy anyway. I could not have purchased this faster.

Okay, I could have purchased this a little faster, if the Comic (which has a perfectly nice box) looked like the Draw (which has a box I’d straight-up put on my mantel). Look at this thing. Look at it.

I also had to wait until I got a computer that could handle the obscene number of layers I like to use. Having acquired that computer, I thought I was ready.

I really did.

Lesson 1: Tablet pens do not feel like actual pens

I use Sakura Microns, mainly. I use them pretty hard. I like to press down on the paper a little too much, because pressure flattens out the tooth of the paper and makes your lines smoother. It also calms my shaky hands.


This tablet picks up every tiny little movement, and adding pressure don’t make the pen get stuck in the tooth and stop wiggling–it makes it slip around the slick surface and wiggle more.

TriceratopsThis little guy was the best I could do.

Look at those ragged lines.

Look at that weirdly-flat snout.

It’s not misshapen because I don’t know reptile anatomy–it’s misshapen because I couldn’t make the lines go where they belonged.

This was the point where gave up, and alt+tabbed straight to YouTube.

Lesson 2: Line stabilization is a thing

Self-PortraitI was freaking out over nothing. Turns out, the programmers of drawing programs know all about shaky hands.

My artist buddy told me, “Turn your line stabilization up to 26.”

And I was like, “Ugh, but it’s so laggy like that.”

And he was like, “Yeah *shrug*”

So I stopped being a baby, and turned my stabilization up to 26… and then immediately turned them down to 22. It only took about an hour to get used to the lag, because:

Lesson 3: Gotta go fast

Those slow, careful lines I was doing on paper? Do Not Work on a tablet. Not even with line stabilization on.

Believe me, I tried.

After a frustrating fifteen minutes of unmitigated failure, I gave in and did things the right way–which is to say, drawing in long sweeping motions from the shoulder, instead of short arcs from the wrist and fingers.

This caused some issues.

  1. Sweeping in a gentle arc is easy, but sweeping in a loop is… not.
  2. I rotate my paper a lot. I really only have a couple of movements keyed into my muscle memory, and I turn my paper around until one of the movements matches the sketch. But turning my tablet… ah… did not work.

But rotating the canvas works great. And binding my rotation/zoom keys to the default gaming directional keys let me move the canvas around however I wanted without ever putting the pen down.


This configuration has the bonus feature of making me feel cool.



If you’re just starting out on a tablet, yes, it is totally different from physical media, and yes, it’s probably completely different from what you were expecting. Yes, everything you do completely sucks and doesn’t look anything like you wanted it to.

It’s okay.

You’re fine.

This is a totally new medium, and it’s going to take you some time to figure it out. You’d suck just like this if you’d suddenly gone from oil paints to chalk pastels, too.

I’ve only been at this for like four days, and I’ve already gone from [undo forever] to “this is fine.” You’re doing great. Your muscle memory will catch up to your eye real soon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s