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6 Ways a Drawing Tablet Can Help You as an Illustrator

The following is a guest post from Vicky Rubin. Check out Vicky’s blog at Tablets For Artists.

Many illustrators use tablets to do some or all of their art. If you’re new to them, they may seem overwhelming. Having a pressure-sensitive drawing tablet, whether it has a screen or not, can make a huge difference in your workflow. Here are 6 ways they can help:

1. Tablets let you make revisions easily.

Maybe you have no interest in being a digital artist. Still, you need to scan your art because the client needs digital files. It’s just a fact of life that sometimes clients ask for revisions. If you have a tablet, you can make changes without touching your original painting, and you can do them quickly.

2. You can do your project entirely on the tablet.

You can do sketches and the entire project digitally. This is a huge timesaver. You won’t have to scan. With digital art, you can work in layers. For instance, you might keeping your line on the top layer and colors on other layers, making the process very flexible.

3. Your art doesn’t have to end up looking digital.

You can make your pieces look like any media, including oils, watercolors, even cut paper. You can even make vector art look like hand-drawn traditional art.

You can also scan and incorporate your traditional art and add elements such as backgrounds. You can create your own textures and brushes out of shapes, photos, and drawings.

4. You can program shortcuts for your favorite art programs.

You can make your own shortcuts in art programs. Instead of using the menus, you can replace those with a few clicks or gestures. For instance, to zoom, you can pinch the tablet with your fingers. To undo, you could click a button on the pen. You can even program complex keyboard shortcuts and execute these by clicking instead of typing.

5. Tablets don’t have to break the bank.

You may think you have to spend a lot of money. While it’s true that some are expensive, there also are low-priced graphics tablets that cost around $40 and get the job done. There’s also lots of free art software if you can’t spring for Adobe programs. For instance, Gimp is like Photoshop, and Inkscape makes a good substitute for illustrator.

There are also less expensive Cintiq-types of tablets on the market. You can even use a mobile tablet as a Cintiqlike device with your computer.

6. You can go mobile.

You can have it all in a compact package—a 2-in-1 Windows computer or laptop that lets you use full Photoshop. Or a portable tablet where you use apps. You’ll be all set to travel or work in a coffee shop, and you can upload and share your art anytime. You can hand-write notes. And you can do all the things on it that you can do on a computer, such as sending invoices, taking photos, and surfing the Web.

There you have it. Tablets are a valuable art tool for illustrators. They streamline your workflow, make revisions easy, and simplify the back-and-forth with clients. You might wonder how you ever lived without one.

See tablet news and reviews on Tablets for Artists.

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Neil Swaab is a freelance illustrator, art director, author, and educator based in Brooklyn, NY. He's an instructor at Parsons the New School for Design and the illustrator of the New York Times bestselling book Middle School: My Brother is a Big, Fat Liar by James Patterson and Lisa Papademetriou. His new authored and illustrated book, The Secrets to Ruling School: Class Election, comes out this September from Amulet Books.

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