Drawing Tablet or Mouse: A Designer’s Verdict

Is one better?

I have a confession to make: I use my mouse to illustrate everything I create.

I’ve always been interested in using a drawing tablet, but after borrowing my friend’s tablet in college, I decided it wasn’t worth the learning curve. I didn’t feel as though I could control the tablet as well as a mouse, nor was it as responsive. Seven years later, I found myself illustrating for most of my day with only a mouse and I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to try a drawing tablet again. Luckily, I didn’t have to wonder for long, because Lemonly just so happened to purchase a new Wacom tablet.

drawing tablet or mouse

I decided to challenge myself and draw the same image with three different methods. First I would use the new tablet side-by-side my mouse and pen tool and to complete the comparison, I’d finish with my good ol’ pencil and paper. I allotted five minutes to illustrate the same image of a woman with all three methods. I strategically chose a person because they are made up of organic shapes, leaving more room to stylize without worrying about precision. I knew this would work to my advantage using a new tool.

PRO: Free-flowing lines

My first impression was that this tablet is far more intuitive than the tablet I tried in college. It didn’t take long for me to understand the basics and get started. I chose a simple wedge brush and started drawing my subject. The process was surprisingly fast and the end-product had the same loose, free-flowing lines as when I use a pencil and paper. This look is something I find difficult to produce with a mouse and pen tool, so bonus points for the tablet.

CON: Imprecise

The biggest drawback was that I felt I couldn’t be as precise and in control as I am when using my mouse. I assume this feeling would fade with practice, but I found it difficult to let go of control of my illustration.

Next, I created a sketch of the same image with my pen tool and mouse. Despite having eight years of practice using this method, it wasn’t much faster, but my ability to make precise marks and manipulate the lines was much better. I still prefer the control I have with my mouse.

However, the mouse and pen tool just can’t come as close to recreating the feeling or results of drawing with a pencil and paper. After all, I’ve been drawing with a pencil in paper all of my life, so regardless of my experience with a mouse, this will always feel more natural to me.

Verdict

Comparing the two illustrations, I realized that while my tablet illustration has room for improvement and I was a little frustrated with my lack of control, I prefer the way the end-product looks. Using the tablet forced me to relinquish control and accept that my marks wouldn’t be as precise as I would have liked. However, when I stopped trying to control every mark, I ended up appreciating the results much more.

Life lesson learned.

I don’t plan on ditching my mouse anytime soon, but next time I’m illustrating something without hard edges, I won’t hesitate to pick up the tablet.