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DIY Solution to make a small drawing tablet easier to use for beginners

Just a quick and dirty way to expand the “wrist support” surface of a smaller drawn tablet.

Hmm, ok, well, this doesn’t have much to do with board games, but after starting to paint my Darkest Dungeon miniatures, I got a growing desire to do more creative “art”, and decided to start learning how to draw.

After about a month, I am glad to report that I still badly suck at drawing, but I did end up buying a small drawing tablet for digital art: the Intuos Small (affiliate link). That’s basically the most recommended tablet for beginners by many artists and specialized websites, and won’t go into a detailed review, in particular since I have nothing to compare it do, but it does the job I guess.

I’ve been doing a combination of digital drawing and traditional drawing with a pen and paper. Traditional drawing feels much more natural and precise, but there’s no denying that digital art can be convenient, so I thought I’d try both.

One of the (many) problems of drawing tablets, in particular those without screens like the Intuos Small, is that there is a steep learning curve. Drawing on a tablet while having to see the result on a different location (your computer’s screen) requires some weird hand-brain coordination that takes a good amount of practice to get used to.

People recommend putting a real sheet of paper on top of the tablet in order to reproduce the look and feel of traditional drawing, and it does help, but there’s an additional thing I was struggling with on this tablet: given how small it is, some of the “elbow drawing” gestures I had been practicing with traditional (recommended to draw straight lines and smooth curves) was becoming very difficult. On a flat surface, it’s very easy to have my elbow guide my hand and make it “slide” on a long distance. With the tiny tablet, I found it extremely difficult to find a comfortable position without having enough “space” for my wrist to rest and slide around the drawing area.

Long story short: the tablet is very small, plus, being an object, it is not sitting at the same level as the desk (duh).

Above is an example from the device’s page on Amazon. Personally I like to have my wrist and/or elbow resting on the table. The volume and shape of the tablet makes it difficult for me.

An ideal solution would be to create a “cavity” in my table, right at the size of the tablet, so that the tablet would be incrusted in the table and exactly at the same level. I’m not committed to digging holes in my table yet, so I went with the best next solution I could thing of: cardboard.

I basically made a large flat surface out of cardboard, with a hole in it the size of my tablet, and put the tablet in it:

As you can see, this is very “rough”, some might call it a prototype. But it does the job. The height of the cardboard is “roughly” the height of the tablet.

The Wacom intuos small isn’t completely flat, its back is a bit higher than its front. To compensate for that, I have a tiny piece of cardboard attached to the front of my contraption, that I can put under the front of the tablet. It slightly elevates the front of the tablet, ensuring the whole thing becomes flat instead of inclined (I’m sure some ergonomics engineers at Wacom are screaming at their screen if they see that…but that’s how I prefer it)

To cover the hole, I put a sheet of plastic. It smooths out any difference of level between the tablet and the cardboard (as long as it’s off by only 1 or 2 mm, it works out), and a side effect is that it acts as a protection for the tablet.

But I’m not entirely sure it is required: I really didn’t like the plastic “feeling” of the pen on the tablet, so I put a piece of paper on top of it. And it works great! So I’m thinking maybe the plastic wasn’t necessary. I might remove it in the future and just use the paper?

This tiny cardboard thing definitely made it easier for me to draw straight lines and use my elbow, on this flat surface. The only negative point I can see so far is that the shortcut buttons on the Wacom tablet are a bit harder to access.

Not actually drawn on the tablet 🙂

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