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A Guide to Illustration Using A Drawing Tablet

Illustration isn’t what it used to be. Previously, you would just whip out a sketchpad or an easel, and manually get along with your work. If you wanted to upload it onto the internet you would need to scan it and then upload it that way. You’d need to buy specific pens or pencils to do it – all of these things can cost a lot of money.


These days, if you practice your illustration on devices like XP Pen drawing tablets, you can do all sorts of things and all you need is the tablet itself to do it. You can select colors and brush types right from your screen, and transfer them to keep right onto your PC. But how does it work? There aren’t many tutorials online to help, and it can be hard to know where to start.

We’re here to help. Here’s our guide to illustration using a drawing tablet.

Get Your Tools Together

Aside from your graphics tablet, there are also some other tools that you may need. You will need a computer that can run a graphics design program such as Photoshop. You will need the graphics program itself, and you’ll need the graphics tablet. Aside from this, you just need your own creativity and some idea of what you want to create. It may take a little while to get used to your graphics tablet or the graphics program though, so have a little patience.

Get to Grips with the Graphics Tablet

It’s not super difficult to use a graphics tablet and you will usually find instructions along with your device. They all generally work the same way though. You will have a stylus, then you will need to hold it as you would with any other writing device in whichever hand you usually use to draw or write. Then, press the stylus onto the tablet and then move it to create your illustration.

When you’re using the tablet, make sure that you’re looking at the screen. It seems a little obvious, but you need to be able to see what you’re doing while you’re doing it. It’s also a good idea to make sure that the tablet is facing you head on, otherwise the cursor may move in all sorts of directions and it’ll be harder to draw. Since you are doing the illustration in front of the computer, you should also take care to keep good posture too. You don’t want to get neck or back aches because you’ve been drawing!

It’s also handy just to use the tablet rather than using a mouse in order to get used to using it.

Check Your Pen Thickness and Adjust Drivers

Sometimes using a graphics tablet can be uncomfortable. In this situation, it’s a good idea to check the thickness of the pen, as this may make it a little bit easier for you to use. Certain thicknesses may not work for some hands. You can buy alternative pens online for your particular tablet.

If you’re still having issues with the pen, you can also adjust the pen pressure using the driver for the drawing tablet or you can adjust the settings on the drawing software directly.

Get Used to Your Drawing Software

It’s also worth getting used to the drawing system that you’re going to be using in advance. Check where all of the options are for pen thickness, color and more before you use the tablet, or else you may just find yourself getting very frustrated instead. You can look up some tutorials online for specific software. If you find that you don’t like the software very much you can also change later down the line – there are hundreds of options out there to choose from.


Now that you know the basics of how to use your graphics tablet, it’s now time to do a little bit of experimentation.

It’s worth noting that in many respects drawing on a tablet is very much like drawing on a sheet of paper, but there are some key differences. For instance, you may find yourself struggling to join up line strokes at first because you’re trying to look at the screen rather than down at the tablet you’re drawing on.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to play around with doing some simple strokes on the tablet. For instance, do a few basic things – try drawing a square that has straight edges free hand – don’t cheat and head straight to the straight edge tool! Then try to draw a circle – as round as you can. Here, you can also experiment with the size of the brush stroked to see what you like.

Once you’ve drawn some basic shapes for a while, you can then move on to writing. This part is particularly fun, since you can play around with a bunch of different calligraphy brushes. Try not to rush it – just work at a slow pace and see the results!

Finally, you can get into the real nitty gritty stuff – sketching freehand! Just take a small brush stroke on the tablet and gradually start to sketch. You can play around with the darkness of the brush too, just like you would be able to do with a normal pencil.

Let’s Draw!

You’ve got your basics in place – now it’s time to start sketching properly! You can start with doing some outlines of some basic objects and then gradually fill them in. It’s worth looking up some tutorials online to get some inspiration.

You can apply your usual sketching techniques here, too. You can play around with different kinds of tools as needed.


You would shade in your creations on paper, so you also need to do it on your tablet! You will need to create a new layer on your software, and then create a silhouette of the object in question. You then color the shape in and press firmly onto it so that it turns opaque. It may look a little bit irregular once you’ve gotten rid of the outlines, so you may need to play around with it to make it look more uniform.


Shading layers should then be applied to your creation. You can do this in a number of different ways – sketch and smudge is just one of them. The name may also differ between programs, so you should play around with it a little.


Every drawing needs a little color! Simply add another layer on your drawing program of choice, and then color it in. This should go underneath the shading layer.


Once you have done all of this, you can then do other things such as adding shadows and scaling. You can basically play around with the tools available to you to find out what you like, much like you would with drawing on paper with a pencil.


There’s one huge difference between drawing on paper and drawing on a graphics tablet – you need to make sure that you save! You don’t want to spend hours on a drawing and then all of your hard work is gone because you didn’t save your work properly. Once you are done, you can also export it into a PNG so that you have the image saved so you can share it if you want to!


Illustration using a graphics tablet can be tricky at first, but with a little bit of time and patience you can get fantastic results in no time!