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How to Choose a Graphic Tablet: Hacks for Beginners

The beauty of the graphics tablet is that it imitates drawing on paper. You draw lines with an electronic pen on the surface of the device, and it transmits the movements to the monitor screen. That’s why artists use it to create realistic digital paintings. Photographers process images, designers design logos, and animators make animations for cartoons and high-quality games, like those at https://www.playamo.com/en-ZA/games/poker. It’s more convenient than drawing with a computer mouse.

But the difficulty is that tablets differ significantly. Some will suit beginner illustrators, some will only suit pros, and others will suit people looking for a replacement for a paper notebook for notes.

Types of Drawing Pads

Digital Sketch Pads

This is a small-sized device in the form of a board with a light surface. It comes with a stylus. 

It’s more convenient to make notes in a digital notepad, as it is easy to transfer them to the computer to send to friends, clients or colleagues, to insert the drawn scheme into a presentation. Use it to record important information during phone conversations or meetings, to draw charts or sketch out sketches.

However, devices have little functionality and space for drawing, so they don’t employ artists.

You won’t lose your sketches: they are saved in the memory of the device. The digital sketch pad is also convenient to take with you. And it is inexpensive.  

But a tablet can run out of power at the wrong moment. In addition, the function of notes has long been available in smartphones.

Graphic Tablets

This is a gadget for drawing: a black touch screen and a pen. A person draws on the surface and sees the result on the computer display.

The device is versatile. Web designers and photographers work on small sizes. Artists and architects draw on A4 and A3 formats.

It’s inconvenient to draw large images with many details, because you have to be distracted by the computer screen.

You have a wide range of choices for different tasks and on any budget. The surface of the tablet gives you the feeling of drawing on paper.

However, it is mandatory to use a monitor. A quality tablet is expensive.

Interactive Displays

This is a graphics tablet with a display. It’s also called a graphic monitor. It looks like a normal Android or iOS tablet. It’s more convenient to draw on it: you do not need to take your eyes off the tablet and look at the monitor. However, you still need to connect the device to your computer to run an editor and save images.

The gadget doesn’t differ from the usual graphics tablet, but artists with it are more comfortable when working with small details. For example, for those who make up comics or draw in the technique of digital painting. It is an imitation of real paintings that authors create in watercolor, oil, gouache or pencils.

It’s suitable for everything, but the price is high – beginners don’t need to spend so much.

It’s convenient to work on the big screen. The quality of the display is better than in standard computer monitors.

15 inches is an optimal size. Otherwise, it will be difficult to see the interface of the program, such as Adobe Photoshop. Therefore, such devices are expensive, and also take up more space than a classic graphics tablet. Another disadvantage – the screen, which is quickly scratched. It is necessary to glue a protective film, to buy a case.

Mobile Studios

This is a graphics tablet with a built-in computer. It has RAM and a powerful processor for working in 2D- and 3D-editors.

Suitable for work in the editors with a heavy load on the computer. Besides the main purpose of these devices, they run video games, make calls (there is a camera), and listen to music. If necessary, the mobile studio is used as a monitor. For this purpose, it’s connected with an HDMI cable.

However, there is no point in spending money on a mobile studio if you work from home.

You can work with the gadget anywhere. In a small tablet – the functionality of a productive computer. The screen is a large display with high color rendering.

Mobile studios are expensive. There is a risk of damaging the device in transit, so you need a hard case and a screen protector.

What Features to Consider

Active Area

The size of the surface on which you will work. It’s determined by the size of the sheet of paper: A3, A4, A5, A6. Also by letters:

  • S (Small) – A6.
  • M (Medium) – A5.
  • L (Large) – A4 and A3.

The bigger the screen of the tablet, the higher the price.

The standard option is a tablet A5. It’s comfortable to work with files of any size because if necessary, the artist changes the scale of the image. They do not take up much space, the price is affordable. 

Artists and architects work on large A3 and A4 tablets. With these devices, it’s easy to draw small details, so you don’t have to scale the picture. And you will see the whole picture. 

Resolution

A tablet’s sensitivity to stylus motion. It’s measured in lpi (Lines Per Inch), that is how many lines the device detects when a person draws on it. 

The higher the resolution, the more accurate the gadget reads movements. For a beginner, 2000 lpi is enough. If you are a pro and work on a monitor with a 4K display, choose a tablet with 5080 lpi resolution.

Response Time

Pen speed, which is measured in pps (Points Per Second) or dps (Dots Per Second), the number of dots per second. There is another value – rps (Report Per Second). It shows how many times per second the tablet captures the artist’s actions. Manufacturers use one of these parameters to indicate the response time. 

If the value is low, professionals will notice that the stylus cursor lags behind hand movements, and it is better to choose a tablet with a response time of 200 pps or more. For beginners 100-150 pps will be enough. 

Type of Connection

There are two types of connection:

  • Wired – works only from the cable which is connected to the computer. These devices are cheaper than wireless, they do not need to be charged. If you work at home, don’t splurge on a tablet with a battery. But if you travel a lot, it will be inconvenient.
  • Wireless – runs on battery, connects to your computer via Bluetooth. It comes with a charging cable. One charge is enough for 10-40 hours. If you draw with a tablet in hand, the wireless device is more convenient.

Stylus Sensitivity

The gradation of the stylus pressure from a clear stroke to a thick line. Stylus sensitivity is measured in levels. The more levels, the more accurately the pen reads pressure, and therefore the more realistically draws the line.

The minimum number of levels is 1024. That would be enough for beginning illustrators. A universal option for designers, photographers, and architects is a stylus with 2048 levels of pressure. Artists choose models which have 4096 or even 8192 levels of sensitivity. 

Pen Inclination

The parameter reflects how responsive the stylus is when the user tilts it. With a high tilt angle, the sensation while working is close to drawing with real pencils or brushes. The maximum setting is up to 60 degrees. This characteristic is important if you do a lot of drawing or calligraphy to convey details more accurately.

Maximum Height

The distance from the tip of the pen to the tablet surface, where the device sees the stylus and moves its cursor. Manufacturers set the height at 6-10 mm. If it is less, a person could accidentally hit the tablet screen and draw unnecessarily. 

Stylus Power Type

Let’s consider three types of pens:

  • Active – runs on battery or battery power. A budget option, but the pen can run out of power when you don’t have a battery with you or no place to charge the stylus.
  • Passive – receives an electromagnetic signal from the tablet to the voltage coil inside the pen.
  • Wired – connected to the tablet with a cable. It’s awkward to use because the cord impedes movement. Wired pens are old-fashioned and no longer on the market today.

Additional Features

Hot keys: buttons on the side panels. They are customized for functions that are frequently used. For example, select a specific brush or apply a filter to an image.

Touch Controls: The ability to press the tablet with your hands. So, if you paint with one hand, you can select brushes and colors with the other. It’s the fastest way to work.

Multitouch: Read multiple touches on the screen. With this feature you can set up special gestures to quickly scale the image, rotate the canvas, scroll down and up.

Accessories: items and options that come with the graphics tablet. These include interchangeable pen nibs, a stylus holder, and a subscription to paid graphics programs.

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