Being able to draw anywhere, without having access to a computer, but still having the many advantages that digital software offers is something that more and more designers are looking for to be able to draw inspiration outside, or save time when working in transit. The standalone graphic tablet plays an indispensable role in combining digital drawing with the freedom and comfort of traditional drawing.
The drawing tablet, the essential tool for digital drawing
To draw with a graphic software, if using the keyboard and the mouse is possible, it remains very little advised for an interactive and effective use of your software. Buying a touch tablet adapted to graphic design becomes an obvious choice for drawing on a computer, or even for photo editing. The graphic palette, composed of the graphic tablet and the pen, embeds a technology offering the possibility to get closer to traditional drawing, while having the advantages of digital tools. The levels of sensitivity provided by the pen, the customizable shortcuts, a brush adapted to each style, and even simplified connectivity, with a wireless connection, for the best graphics touch tablets, all these features are, among others, sought by graphic designers to work efficiently on their digital sketches. But more and more, beginners who want to learn digital painting, as well as experienced and professional artists, are increasingly looking to free themselves from the constraint of the computer, in order to be able to work on the move, or to draw outside to find inspiration. Tablets with or without screen, hybrid devices, all graphic tablets have their specificities, and some will be more suitable for such cases.
What are the advantages of a stand-alone graphics tablet?
When we talk about a standalone drawing tablet, we are talking about graphic tablets dedicated entirely to drawing, and having the capacity to detect the pressure and inclination of the pencil with precision, to draw in a clear and rigorous way. We can therefore already exclude multimedia tablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Apple iPad Pro, the Microsoft Surface Pro, or any other type of Android-based tablet, which, despite an increasingly efficient HD screen, are more likely to be useful for browsing the internet, using applications, or making simple quick sketches, without the feeling of comfort that a real graphics tablet provides. Standalone graphics tablets must therefore be able to combine all the aspects of a standard graphics tablet, while being usable anywhere, without a computer or third-party device, all with battery operation, not requiring a power outlet, except for recharging the battery when necessary. If they combine these elements, standalone graphic tablets have the great advantage of allowing its user to draw wherever he/she wants, and whenever he/she wants, in order to rework his/her sketch afterwards at home, on a computer with an adapted graphic software. The artist can thus get inspiration wherever he or she wants, work in public transport, with an easily transportable and handy tool, but also use his or her portable device like a standard graphics tablet once at home or at the office.
What type of stand-alone graphics tablet should I choose?
The graphic tablet without screen
The drawing tablet without screen is regularly used in graphic design in order to make sketches on a computer. However, despite the size of the drawing area of this small drawing tablet, totally adapted to be transportable, it requires the use of a laptop, or a smartphone at least. Indeed, the working area of these devices does not include the possibility of seeing directly what you draw so it is essential to connect it to a computer screen to see the drawing done in front of your eyes. Even for a Bluetooth graphic tablet, working with a smartphone application, the particular hand-eye coordination, already requiring training, as well as the small size of the phone screen, do not allow the perfect precision provided by drawing on paper for example. Drawing tablets without a screen are therefore automatically excluded from the comparison of standalone drawing tablets, as the technology requires the use of a third-party device, with a substantial monitor, in order to draw properly.
The drawing tablet with screen
If the drawing tablet without a screen is out of the competition, buying a drawing tablet with an integrated high-resolution screen may be the ideal solution for the mobile graphic designer looking for a perfect grip for a stand-alone solution. The idea is appealing, as hand-eye coordination problems are no longer an issue, and the impression of drawing naturally is very evident. But these drawing tablets pose many problems for a mobile use. First of all, the price of a graphics tablet with a quality full-hd screen is not affordable for the beginner who wants to choose between different tablet models. Moreover, even for a qualified designer, a graphic tablet of this type requires a large screen promising graphic sensitivity and fluidity in the drawing, a power supply for the power supply, and often a wifi connection to download and run all the software options.
These characteristics are not compatible with the use of a mobile drawing tablet, suffering from wear and tear and the constraints of travel. You have to focus on lower quality tools, with a screen that is not very receptive to the level of pressure given by the pen, whose brightness can be poor, especially with the sun rays if you want to work outdoors, and whose parallax, the precision between the point of pressure of the pen and what is displayed on the screen, can be catastrophic. If you add to this the usual weakness of the processor and RAM on a graphics tablet with an entry-level screen, which does not allow a good response from the active surface, as well as the rechargeable battery being very stretched, because of the energy consumed by the screen, the purchase of a large drawing tablet running on mains power becomes almost indispensable to obtain the advantages of a graphic tool with integrated screen, which can certainly be an interesting desktop solution, but which will not suit the desires of autonomy and versatility of their buyers.
The paper graphic tablet, or « scanner »
In order to work with affordable devices that match your budget, without laptops, and without the need for a wifi or physical connection to save your drawings digitally, the features of hybrid drawing tablets, such as the Repaper by ISKN, undoubtedly make them the right choice for those who want a standalone drawing tablet. This type of drawing tablet allows you to draw directly on a sheet of paper, affixed to the drawing surface, with your favorite pencil. The sensors responding to the pressure levels, as well as the various detectors responding to the magnetic ring placed around your favorite pen, all integrated into the work area, then allow you to reproduce the strokes made on paper, and to save them, directly in the memory space of the tablet, as if the drawing software was integrated into it. Thus, you draw with the ergonomics and comfort of traditional drawing tools, with a standard hand-eye coordination, while being able to rework your sketches on a dedicated graphics software, using an adapted digital pen, once at home.
All you have to do is transfer your drawing, saved thanks to the storage capacity offered by the "scanner" graphics tablet, to your graphics software, thanks to a simple USB cable, and you will find on your layers the exact replica of your sketch made on paper, without having to go through the scanning process which sometimes gives a wrong result. Also, since the screen is replaced by paper, you don't need a lot of energy or a power supply to work on a drawing tablet like this one, the built-in battery allows you to work on your sketches on the go for long hours (up to 6 hours in the example of the Repaper drawing tablet). Ergonomic, portable, and comfortable to use thanks to the versatility of its work surface, you can benefit from the best standalone graphics tablet with this technology, for only a few euros more than a drawing tablet without an entry-level screen. This makes it the best value for money for beginners who want to discover digital drawing, as well as for professionals who appreciate the comfort of using drawing books, while enjoying the benefits of graphics software.
And how about graphic software?
One can then ask the question of the graphic software, and of the real utility of a mobile graphic tablet for digital drawing. It is necessary to keep in mind that, although the drawing software can be directly integrated in a graphic tablet with screen for example, we saw that this last one is not the ideal to work in a nomad way, the existing models not being the most powerful for this use, and not proposing a compatibility with all the existing drawing programs. It is then more interesting to invest in a hybrid drawing tablet, allowing to work on paper, which will save the drawing in a digital way in the internal memory of the tablet, and which will allow to export it directly on its personal computer or desktop, in order to be able to rework the sketch with the software options. You can now draw on any of the software compatible with your computer, regardless of its operating system, under Windows and Mac, and have access to the best known of these computer programs, such as Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Gimp, Inkscape or Corel Painter, but also to those less widespread, but more adapted to your needs. You no longer have location limitations, and have access to all the advantages of the standard graphics tablet, while being able to work from wherever you want.
As we have seen, doing digital painting on your own, without the help of a computer, requires a really adapted graphic tablet. If the drawing tablets with screen offer attractive specificities, and seem to correspond well to this objective, their high price, and the performances of the mid-range tablets, in this category, do not allow everyone to be able to draw wherever they want. The purchase of a graphic tablet scanner, such as the Repaper by IKSN, becomes a real solution to bridge the gap between the comfort and autonomy of traditional drawing, with the power of digital software.