What is a Graphics Tablet? / The Advantages of Drawing on Computer

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What is a Graphics Tablet?

A graphics tablet comes in two parts - a plastic pad which connects to your computer by a cable (1), and a stylus. Using suitable graphics software, you can draw on the pad with the stylus (2), and your drawing will appear on the screen (3). Sitting around till mid-afternoon in your dressing gown (4) is optional.

Most tablets use USB connections, and come in a variety of sizes, from A6 through to A3; I use a Wacom Intuos A5 tablet, which costs about £250 in the UK; a good starter tablet is the Wacom Graphire, which costs about £75. The faster your computer, the better your tablet will work.

The stylus is pressure-sensitive, so depending on what software you use, you can draw lines which get thicker the harder you press (like drawing with a brush), or you can "paint" with colour. The drawing above was produced from scratch on computer, using a graphics tablet and a program called Painter 8.

Drawing on a graphics tablet feels really unnatural at first because your hand is in one place and the drawing is appearing somewhere else. It will take a while to get used to that, but the best remedy is lots of practice, even if you just scribble with the stylus.

Advantages of Drawing on Computer

The first time I used a word processor, I felt a huge sense of liberation; suddenly, it didn't matter if I mis-typed something. Even better, I could write something in the order it occurred to me, then cut-and-paste the bits into shape afterwards. I could work in a way that suited the way I thought, not the way dictated by an intractable pen and paper, or worse, typewriter.

That's what working on computer has done for my drawing. Suddenly I'm free to experiment because everything can be changed back if I don't like what I've done.

A page of art at minimum magnification (it's the tiny black dot in the middle of the white square!)
A page of art filling the monitor screen
Maximum magnification - this is the head of one of the two tiny figures visible on the left-hand side of the previous image.

My drawing has improved, because I can zoom right in to the image to work on fine detail (something I always had trouble with before). I used to have to do two stages of pencil drawing (a rough and a finished stage) to make sure the drawing was precise enough before I did the inking, because the inking was so difficult to correct. Now I only do one stage because the "inks" are no more difficult to correct than the "pencils."

I use Adobe Illustrator for drawing because it's a vector-based program - that means every line or patch of black I draw is a separate object that remains "live" and edtable. It gives me a fantastic amount of control over what I've drawn (see below).

1) basic drawing, using medium flexible brush 2) change outline to heavy flexible brush 3) change outline to fine flexible brush 4) scale drawing, scaling line thickness 5) scale drawing without scaling line thickness
6) convert outline to grey 7) convert outline to colour 8) change outline to rough brush stroke effect 9) change outline to charcoal effect 10) um...

...and each of these changes were made after I'd finished the drawing, with one mouse click.

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