Drawing Tablet Alternatives For Beginning Digital Artists

drawing tablet alternativesAre you an aspiring digital artist?

Then one of the first pieces of advice that you will get is to buy a drawing tablet.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the money to buy a high-end drawing tablet right from the start. Or maybe you first want to get your toes wet a little before committing.

Today we will look at some Wacom Cintiq equivalents and alternatives that you can use instead of a graphics tablet.

Painting With A Mouse On The Computer

You probably came to this article because you tried to do some drawing with a mouse and didn’t like the result a lot. So this advice might not be exactly what you were looking for.

But don’t throw away the baby with the bathwater just yet!

When learning how to draw on a computer with a mouse, it is crucial to have the right type of digital art software.

Which Software To Use For Drawing Using A Mouse

Photoshop is a popular program that is the first choice for many tablet users. It is easy to find tutorials for it and it has a wide range of options and tools to choose from.

But if you are drawing with a mouse, it is almost impossible to obtain the same quality lines as with a tablet.

First of all, it is very difficult to draw smooth lines using a mouse. Although it is great for small movements to navigate a computer screen, to select and click on things, a computer mouse is obviously not designed for smooth and long strokes needed for drawing.

Additionally, a mouse doesn’t register pressure sensitivity at all. This means your lines will have the same thickness throughout. Which results in rather artificial looking lines.

The solution to this problem?

Using a vector program and paths!

The Difference Between Raster And Vector Programs

Most popular drawing programs such as Photoshop, Gimp, and PaintTool Sai are so-called raster editors. This means that the program saves your drawing as a collection of individual pixels.

This makes resizing or changing the image difficult because it normally results in quality loss and pixelated images.

Vector programs such as Illustrator, Inkscape, and CorelDRAW work differently. Rather than storing pixels, the save a set of rules and instructions. For example, a line can be stored in terms of its start point, endpoint and width.

If you change any of these three parameters, the vector program can crunch the numbers and redraw the line. This makes sure that your images are scalable and adjustable.

Although new versions of Photoshop include some vector options, it is not as good as special vector programs.

To learn more about the difference between vector and raster programs, I suggest reading this article.

So How Will Vectors Help Me Learn How To Draw Using A Mouse?

If you are familiar with Photoshop you might remember the pen tool. The pen tool lets you create paths: smooth curves that you can modify afterward.

The cool thing about vector programs such as Illustrator is that everything you draw is a path. If you want to draw with a mouse, then paths are going to be your new best friend.

This will allow you to make amazing line art even with a mouse. Although you might have to redefine your definition of drawing a little bit.

Rather than making wobbly and scrawny lines by moving the mouse directly, you will indicate the start point, endpoint and thickness and the computer will do the work for you. And you can easily fix mistakes by clicking and dropping anchor points.

But How Does A Mouse Measure Pressure Sensitivity?

Simply put, your mouse does not detect the amount of pressure you apply.

Fortunately, you can fake it by using a feature called Width Tool. When enabled, the width tool can automatically change the thickness at any point along the line. This will result in lines that are thin at the start and endpoints, and thicker in the center.

Since the computer calculates the perfect line, you might even argue that it is more accurate than a drawing tablet.

For a more in detail tutorial to master drawing with a pen read this article.

If you still don’t buy into the idea of drawing with a mouse, then make sure to check out the video below. In the video, you can see what a skilled digital artist can achieve even without a drawing tablet available.

Digital Drawing With Other Devices

Other electronic devices that you already own may function as one of the best Cintiq alternatives.

If you think about it, a drawing tablet is just a sensitive touch screen with a pen. Does this sound familiar to you?

Many other electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and touchscreen laptops are similar features and can thus be used for drawing.

Since these devices are not specifically designed for digital drawing, they might not have the best performance. But they can still be a good alternative to drawing tablets for beginners.

How To Draw With Your Phone?

We are constantly using touching, swiping and write on our smartphones to either unlock your phone, select your next romantic date or make some quick notes.

It therefor might not be a huge shock to realize you can do some simple drawing on your phone as well. All you need is the right application to help you.

There seem to be a lot more Android phone drawing apps out there than iPhone options. A good drawing app for android phone users and iPhone users alike is Ibis Paint.

It provides lots of features such as 140 different brushes, dip pens, and layer support. You can even record yourself draw.

It even has special features for some types of drawing such as manga, as you can see in the video below.

How To Draw With An iPad?

Whereas drawing on your phone might be a little tedious because of the small screen, drawing on a tablet such as your iPad might give you much more room to play with.

There are a variety of iPad art programs that you can use to get started. You might be surprised how much details you add by frequently zooming in and out on your work.

You can choose to either work with your fingers if your screen is sufficiently big or use a pressurized stylus instead for work that requires more details.

While reading the iPad drawing app reviews out there, Sketchbook Pro and Procreate are two programs that are frequently mentioned as good programs to start with.

In the video below, you can see review on using an iPad and alternating between Procreate and Sketchbook Pro.

Should I Just Buy A Drawing Tablet After All?

Despite all the good suggestions above, if you are a serious digital artist you eventually want to purchase a drawing tablet.

Without one, you will be missing on many useful features. Most noticeably, drawing tablets can normally easily detect up to 1024 different pressure levels. With any of the other devices such as your phone, you will be lucky to even half 25% of that.

Additionally, you won’t be able to use other features such as angle sensitivity or buttons on your pen and tablet. And you will have to deal with poor time resolution and inaccurate detection of the cursor.

Of course, if you get the hang of drawing with a mouse you won’t have these problems. However, working with a mouse in a rather unintuitive process and might take a long time to master.

Moreover, drawing tablets aren’t as expensive as they used to be anymore. You don’t need to start out with an expensive Wacom Cintiq right from the start. You can read our other article to find some cheaper drawing tablets.

Long story short, if you really want to become a digital artist, there are many ways to get there. You might want to play around with your phone, iPad or mouse initially. But eventually, you will have to upgrade your equipment when you get serious.