How To Use a Drawing Tablet: A Complete Guide

We rely on technology to perform an array of daily tasks, and drawing has become no different. With digital art in full swing, using a PC to draw is mainly being replaced by drawing tablets due to convenience. Tablets enable artists to experiment more while carrying fewer supplies.

If you’ve been wondering how to use a drawing tablet, look no further. In this guide, we’ll provide a step-to-step tutorial so that you can use your tablet to unleash your inner creative genius and create some stunning art.

Step 1: Make Sure That You Have the Appropriate Equipment

A drawing tablet is a gadget used for creating digital art. To draw with a tablet, you need a special pen. If you don’t own a drawing tablet yet, the first thing to consider is what type of drawing tablet would best suit your needs. To help you decide, here are the kinds you could encounter:

1. Screenless Drawing Tablet

A screenless drawing tablet, also known as a graphics tablet, is a device without a display. To be able to draw, you need to connect it to your computer. In most cases, you’ll need a stylus pen too. You simply draw on the tablet with a pen as you would on paper, while everything you create is displayed on your computer monitor.

2. Standalone Drawing Tablet

A standalone drawing tablet is a device that doesn’t need to be connected to a computer. It’s capable of running drawing software on its own and has a display where you draw and see your creations. You may opt to use a drawing tablet designed explicitly for drawing or draw on a regular tablet, such as an iPad.

3. Pen Display Drawing Tablet

A pen display drawing tablet is a hybrid of the first two types. It does feature a display, but it still needs to be connected to a computer. Everything you see on your computer monitor will also appear on the tablet screen.

Depending on the drawing tablet you opt for, you’ll need some additional equipment, including a dedicated pen and a computer in case of screenless and pen display tablets.

When it comes to pens, you need to make sure that the one you choose is compatible with your tablet. For instance, even an Apple Pencil can only be used on certain models of iPads.

Step 2: Select a Program to Draw In

After selecting the device to draw on and preparing your Wacom or another tablet for use, you’ll need to find the appropriate software. Your options are far from limited, as a pool of programs can help you bring your imagination to life. Some of the best choices include:

  • Autodesk Sketchbook
  • Gimp
  • Artflow
  • Adobe Photoshop CC
  • Paint Tool SAI
  • Krita
  • Procreate
  • Clip Studio Paint

For example, Gimp is a free tool that is a solid, beginner-friendly option. It has all of the essential features, allowing you to learn and experiment. Often mentioned as a free alternative to Adobe Photoshop CC, Gimp has a large community ready to answer all the questions you may have. When you become more comfortable with drawing on a tablet, you can upgrade to more advanced software.

Step 3: Get the Hang of the Basic Tools in the Drawing Program

Learning to draw on a tablet takes some time and patience. Most digital art programs have plenty of options that you’ll need to get the hang of.

Firstly, you should make a sketch. We’ll use Gimp as an example software to take you through some essential tools you can use and show you how to sketch with a tablet.

Gimp’s layout consists of the following sections:

  • Canvas
  • Toolbox
  • Tool options
  • Layers, channels, paths, and undo history
  • Brushes, patterns, and gradients

To start sketching, you can select the paintbrush tool from the toolbox. You can pick the brush thickness that you find the most suitable for your sketch.

If you wish to draw shapes that you can later move around, you should create a separate layer before you begin. Creating layers is a good practice to adopt when drawing on a tablet, as it allows you to delete lines or shapes without compromising the whole drawing.

You can also upload an existing sketch or photo to draw over. The best way to do this is by clicking on File and then Open.

You can also change the opacity of your layer, which is conveniently located in the Layers section. This allows you to make the photo you uploaded as transparent as you need to blend seamlessly with your creation.

Step 4: Experiment With More Advanced Options

Once you’ve mastered the basics of using a drawing tablet, it’s time to explore some of the more advanced options. Here are some cool features that you could use. In this case, we will use Artflow as an example.

Artflow, like most other software, has a neat feature that allows you to make your drawings perfectly symmetrical. You need to select the Mirror Tool and draw on one side while the program replicates your strokes onto the other.

Another helpful option is the Alpha Lock, an additional greyscale image that represents the layer’s transparency. You can effortlessly draw over a shape without going over the outline by enabling this feature. It’s incredibly handy for shading.

Alpha Lock doesn’t allow for multiple layers on top of the shape, so if you asses you’ll need more layers, you can use the Layer Clipping Mask instead.

The Layer Clipping Mask option works the same way as Alpha Lock, the only difference being that it allows you to create as many layers as you need. By using this tool, you can make any changes to your drawing afterwards without starting over.

Drawing Tablet Tips and Tricks

This section will mention some drawing tablet tips that could take your digital drawings to the next level.

Tip 1: Don’t move your fingers or wrist while drawing. Rather, you should keep them locked in place and practice drawing by moving only your elbow.

Tip 2: Make quick strokes with your pencil. That will help you make smoother lines.

Tip 3: You can adjust the pen pressure in your tablet’s driver.

Tip 4: You can use your graphics tablet as a touchpad. Simply hover over it with your pen instead of applying pressure.

Tip 5: You can set up shortcuts to save time. For example, you can use your keyboard to zoom in and out or navigate between layers.


Using a drawing tablet for simple doodling is pretty straightforward. However, if you’re looking to create more complex art, learning how to draw smooth lines with a tablet might take some time.

This article took you through the steps you should take in your digital art journey and gave you some tips for drawing on a tablet. Now you’re all set for showing off your artistic skills.


Can a beginner use a drawing tablet?

Yes, a beginner can use a drawing tablet. Keep in mind that if you’re a complete beginner, it could take a while to get the hang of it. While drawing tablets offer benefits for new and professional artists alike, you can use your phone as a drawing tablet for a PC until you decide whether this is something you plan on taking seriously.

Can you use a drawing tablet without a computer?

It depends on the kind of tablet you have. Some drawing tablets don’t require a computer to function, and these are referred to as standalone drawing tablets. If you’re using a graphics tablet or a pen display tablet, you need to connect the device to the computer.

How long does it take to get used to the drawing tablet?

The time it takes for someone to get accustomed to drawing on a tablet can vary, depending on the individual and the time dedicated to practising. The learning curve can take anywhere from a couple of days to a month. Even if it takes you longer, don’t worry; you’ll eventually learn how to use a drawing tablet.

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