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What Is A Wacom Tablet? & Do You Need One?

DISCLAIMER: I am not sponsored by Wacom, all opinions are my own!


So you’re probably wondering “What is a Wacom tablet?”

Well, let’s talk about it, first, let’s break the word “Wacom Tablet” into two parts.

Let’s start with “Wacom”, Wacom is a Japanese company that makes drawing tablets.

“Tablet” is short for Drawing Tablet.

So what exactly is a drawing tablet?

A Drawing Tablet is a device that allows you to replace your mouse with a Pen(sometimes referred to as a stylus)

The Pen behaves just like a mouse would with the noticeable difference being the accuracy.

The position of your pen correlates to the position of the cursor on your computer monitor.

The Pen is only operational on the Active area of your tablet. Once you move your pen outside of the tablet’s active area your computer will no longer recognize it. 

What is the active area of a drawing tablet?

The active area is the portion of the surface of your tablet where your stylus works.

The picture to the right has its active area highlighted in yellow.

Now that you have a rough idea of what a tablet is, let’s discuss the three types of drawing tablets.

The 3 Types of Drawing Tablets 

The Three types are a Graphics Tablet, Pen Display Tablet, & Computer tablet.

QUICK NOTE: Another name for the Graphics Tablet is a Pen Tablet, but because the Pen Display tablet sounds so similar to it we're going to call it a graphics tablet for this post.

So let’s dive deep & discuss the details of each of the three tablets. We’ll start with the most common.

1.The Graphics Tablet

Not only are Graphics Tablets the most common among digital artist but there also the cheapest of the three types. 

This tablet comes with a rectangular body & a pen. As discuess earlier in this post the pen behaves the same way a mouse does. But only on the active area of the tablet.

Typically these tablets come with a cablet to plug into your computer. But the more recent graphics tablets come with a bluetooth option giving them wireless capabilites. 

They charge while plugged into your computer, so you never ave to worry about charging them ever. Unless of course you’re using Bluetooh. 

Check out my review of the best Graphics Tablet of 2019!

One gripe a lot of  artist including myself have with graphics tablets is we don’t like looking away from our hand while drawing. 

Luckily the Pen Display Tablet solves that problem for us!

The Pen Display Tablet

The Pen Display Tablet gives you the ability to draw directly onto it’s flat pressure sensitive screen, solving the weird drawing cordinaion problem presented by the Graphics Tablet. 

The Pen Display Tablet connects to your computer & mirrors your computer screen while you draw. These tablets usually come with legs that allow you to draw more ergonomically.

Unfortunately it cannot operate without being plugged into a computer. This makes it difficult to travel with.


The Computer Tablet solves this problem. 

Computer Tablet:

Also known as a pen computer, or Tablet computer. 

Similar to the pen display tablet this tablet uses a pressure sen allows sitive screen that allows you draw directly onto it.

However this tablet is a computer, so there is no need to plug it inmto anything, making it travel fmore travel friendly than the Pen Display Tablet.  

These tablets operate like your standard desktop do, & even allow you to use wireless keyboards. Because of this the Computer Tables are the MOST expensioe of the three ranging from $1.5k-$2.2k

How do you use a Wacom tablet 

You plug your tablet into your computer or pair the Bluetooth.

Then you follow the instructions in the manual provided to download the driver. Or just go Wacoms Driver Directory there you’ll find the corresponding driver for your tablet. Then you download it.

Now that you downloaded the driver and activated it you know can use your drawing tablet on your computer.

You going to want to find a drawing or editing program now. (Example: Photoshop, Illustrator, Paint Tool Sai)

Once you got your hands on a program, download it & start drawing or editing using your tablet.

What’s a driver?

A driver is software you download so that your computer recognizes the functions carried out by your tablet. The driver also allows extensive customization to your tablet and pen.

What comes with a Wacom tablet. 

This varies depending on the model you purchase.

Usually, you get the Tablet itself, a Pen(stylus) Instruction Manual & Cord.

The more expensive tablets come with nice accesories like  have built-in Bluetooth, Pen Stand, multiple cables (if it’s a pen display) free nibs, , free programs, etc..

Why People Use Tablets

They make editing digital photograph, digital art, & 3d art/animation very easy to do while offering a level of precision impossible for a mouse to replicate.

They do this by incorporating things like gestures, multi-touch, pen pressure, express keys, touch rings, tilt, pen buttons & an eraser.

Bellow this I provided some definitions of the blue words above words used in the paragraph above this one.


Multi-touch: Multi-touch features of your pen tablet or pen display enable you to interact with a computer using only your fingertips on the surface.

Gestures: The specific movements of your fingertips while touching the tablet. You can program specific functions for certain gestures.

For example, you can use the click function with your fingertips by tapping your tablet with one finger.

Pen Pressure: Your tablets ability to sense how hard you press down on your pen & then convert that pressure into the corresponding thickness of a line or level of opacity. For example, if you want a thicker line press down harder than usual.  Bellow is a series of smiley faces I drew with various levels of pressure ranging from light to heavy. 

Express Keys: Are shortcut buttons on your tablet. They can be customized to any function you want, for any program you use.

For example, you can program one of your express keys to perform Save(command + s) while in photoshop. 

Touch Rings

They operate the same exact way the express keys do. 

Pen Buttons: These are buttons located o your pen that operates like the express keys. I usually set mine to Undo & The Hand Tool in photoshop. 

Tilt: the amount of tilt between the tool and tablet. This is used to create a natural-looking pen, brush, and eraser strokes in applications that support tilt-sensitivity.

Eraser: Located at the opposite end of the pen nib. The eraser allows you to erase…

You should have a basic grasp of what a tablet is now! Let’s talk about if you need one. 

So do you need a drawing tablet?

Well, that depends entirely on your goals.

If your goals involve retouching digital photos or becoming a digital artist (illustrator, graphic designer, designer) I would say yes. 

Work I made With some of my Tablets 


Congratulations, you made it to the end of this post & now have a deep understanding of what a Wacom Tablet is! 

Now it’s time to tell your mouse to get lost so you can upgrade to your first drawing tablet. 

If you’re interested in getting a new tablet, check out my review of The Best Beginner Tablets Under $100

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