Daniel Nisbet

Episode 67  |  August 24, 2018

What is it like to use a drawing tablet instead of a mouse

This year marks 15 years since I last used a mouse with my computer. When I made the change then, a lot of people thought I was crazy for not wanting to use a mouse.

I recall the change pretty clearly. I was still in college and my professors had brought in a whole load of Wacom tablets for the class to try. I was intrigued with them because a lot of my background leading up to my college career was drawing and sketchbooks. The mouse was fine, because my experience using a computer leading up to this point had always involved using a mouse. But it was more for pointing and clicking on a computer screen and playing games instead of doing design work with it.

So you can imagine trying a tablet was a no-brainer.

From the second that I plugged it in, I knew that this was going to be a game changer for me. By being able to use my natural ability to draw and have it reproduced on a screen without the additional step of having to scan or anything, I knew that I was going to be onto something. I made it a priority to continue using a Wacom tablet and haven't stopped since.

Once in a while, I'll sit down to someone else's computer and use their mouse to quickly do something. It may seem odd, but I've found it difficult to go back to using one.

Something I've loved about my particular Wacom tablets over the years is the ability to do more than basic things like moving, clicking and dragging. Not to sound too much like an advertisement because this isn't, but they have done a lot in regards to functionality. I have access to shortcut buttons and could even swipe and zoom before things like the Magic Trackpad came along.

But the biggest thing for me and something I actually missed with the newer ones was the ability to slip a drawing underneath the top layer of the tablet and trace something out. This gave me some additional flexibility. Again, being a broke college kid, money for a scanner wasn't in the budget. It was so nice to quickly sketch something in my sketchbook and if it had more promise, I could slip it under the tablet's drawing mat and re-sketch it into Photoshop. From there, I could easily move into refining my work in an almost seamless manner.

Something I always point out, is that it did take me time to learn and adjust to using a drawing tablet. It takes practice to draw with my hand but look at a screen. Interestingly, when I have people sit down on my tablet and give it a test drive, it's one of the first things that they get frustrated with. It's one of the major reasons why they walk away from it.

That said, there are a number of small tablets that are fairly budget friendly. If you don't have a friend and an iPad is out of reach, then I'd challenge you to give this route a go. You may be surprised at how quickly you can pick it up and get good results.