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Millennial graphic designers don’t need paper anymore. These days, a graphics tablet allows them to draw digital images freehand. Sure, everyone still loves the feel of paper. Sure, using fancy technology alone won’t make you into an artist. But if you want to get paid, you need to know how to use digital technology.
The business of art happens through computers, and knowing how to use the latest technology will be the cornerstone of your career. This week, we will take a look at one of those tools: the graphics tablet.
A graphics tablet may look like a fancy iPad; however, it is actually a highly specialized tool for digital artists. A graphics tablet is an input device that allows you to create and edit images using a stylus. This means you can draw on a computer like you draw in a sketchbook, but also opens the door to a wide array of applications only possible in digital arts.
You can use your stylus to sculpt and texture 3D models for video games or fluidly apply special effects to a video you are editing. Graphics tablets also allow you to work in a variety of programs, making use of a wide variety of tools and textures. You can paint with plaid, or sketch on an infinite canvas. The limitations of a graphics tablet are only the current software, and your own imagination.
If you want to be a professional artist these days, it will really pay off to have a graphics tablet and know how to use it. Nevertheless, the bewildering array of choices, often at intimidating prices, leaves many students thinking that a graphics tablet is beyond their reach. Nothing could be farther from the truth, so we’ll break it down for you.
There are two main kinds of graphics tablets, display tablets, and non-display tablets. Display tablets have a screen, while non-display ones don’t and rely on your computer’s screen. Some display tablets are freestanding, while others plug into your computer. Some are large, designed to be used at desks or workstations, while others are small enough to fit in satchel. Knowing where you want to use your tablet is the most important thing in understanding which one is best for you.
Other important features include the stylus, and quick buttons. Some tablets use a stylus that requires batteries, which are usually cheaper, but will eventually have to be replaced. On the other hand, a non-battery stylus typically costs more, but it is lighter, smaller, and won’t die on you just as you are rushing to meet a deadline. Many tablets come with quick buttons on the side. These can be very useful if you frequently switch between functions or brushes, or open and collapse certain menus; however, if you don’t use them, they can get in the way.
The tablet of your dreams may cost thousands of dollars, but if you are willing to compromise and focus on the features you really need, it is possible to get one, even on a student budget. The most important thing is to remember: your first tablet doesn’t need to be your last. When you are starting out, it makes a lot more sense to buy the cheapest tablet that will do the job. You can always upgrade when the checks start coming in.
As you learn about using tablets, you’ll soon discover that the best tablet is not simply the biggest one with the most features. Each feature is a compromise, and should be guided by your own artistic style, and professional needs. Some artists need a display tablet to see the line unfurl under their stylus, but if you don’t, you could get a non-display graphics tablet with many advanced features for much less money.
Tablets that rely on your computer are cheaper than free standing ones, so if you don’t mind being stuck at your desk, you can get a fairly large one for a bargain. But if you want to be working on the go, or even in bed, a smaller, you can get a smaller, simpler freestanding tablet. Entry level tablets are a compromise, but you can find them for as cheap as a hundred dollars.
Graphic tablets are amazing tools that have expanded the possibilities of art and design, and just one of the many things you can learn to use at BEAU. If you are interested in training for a career in the arts using the latest technology, check out BEAU’s BFA program in Visual Design. And don’t forget to follow the BEAU Blog, and check out our YouTube Channel.