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You’ve got a brand-new pen tablet but feel a bit uncomfortable about dawing with this sleek monolith-like device? This video is just for you. Today I’ll talk about the seven points of using a pen tablet for a complete newcomer to digital manga drawing with CLIP STUDIO PAINT.


Hi Konichiwa! My name is Seotch, a manga creator/instructor with more than ten years of career. This video is the first installment of my CLIP STUDIO PAINT CRASH COURSE, and I plan to make more of these in the following few weeks. 

In this episode, I’ll talk about the tips for drawing with a pen tablet for a complete newcomer to digital drawing. If you’ve recently switched from traditional pen & paper, you may feel uncomfortable with your new drawing experience. 

I know how you feel. Back when I took up my first pen tablet, it was not that I had aspired to become a Jedi of digital manga immediately. Still, at least I expected a smooth transition since I had some experience of manga drawing with traditional materials.

However, my expectation was quickly replaced by despair. My first impression with my brand new tablet, which I remember as one of the Wacom UD series in the mid-’90s, was like, ‘What’s wrong with this device!?’ The experience of drawing with the tablet on my desktop while seeing the completely separate monitor in front of me was so stressful. I’m almost convinced that no one would ever be able to draw a piece of art unless what they are after is unnamable mysterious abstract art.

But, of course, it was not the device but me that was wrong. So, after several weeks of hustling, I gradually got the hang of it and have been creating commercial mangas and illustrations with pen tablets.

Today, I’d like to talk about some tips I wish I had known when I started digital drawing. I believe the same is true for you.

First, I briefly touch on the basics of the pen tablet operation, then move on to the following 7 tips. 

  1. Get a right pen tablet
  2. Place Your Tablet in the Right Position
  3. Use Force Proportions 
  4. Understand the Absolute Positioning
  5. Use Stabilization
  6. Use Fast Brushstrokes
  7. Customize the Side Switches

These tips are primarily for ordinary pen tablets. If you are using a pen display or iPad, you can skip this video and watch from the next.  

So much for the introduction. Now let’s get started!

Basic Operations

Before we go into the tips, let’s swiftly go through the basics.

Holding your pen

You can hold your digitizer pen as you would with a traditional pencil or a ballpoint with a small caveat. It depends on the model of your tablet, but often there are side switches on your pen. To avoid a miss-click and a consequential tragedy, place your fingers beside instead of onto the switches. Officially, it is recommended to press the switch with your thumb. Though, I find it more comfortable using my index and middle fingers instead. It is my personal preference, and you can use whichever fingers you feel comfortable with. 

Moving the Pointer

To move the pointer, hover the pen slightly above the tablet’s active area and move it around. You will find the cursor moving following your strokes despite the tip of your pen not touching the surface of the tablet. Even today, this feels magical to a technological caveman like me. 

Single and Double Click

To single-click, simply tap the active area of the tablet once. To double-click, yes, your guess is right. Tap the tablet twice, with your pen, of course.

Drag and Drop

To start dragging, press the pen tip onto the tablet and move it. You can finish the dragging by simply picking the pen away from the tablet. As a result, the item you were dragging will be dropped. Newton’s law.  

Right Click

Up until this point, all operations were relatively intuitive, but it might not be the case with the right-click. To do that, you need to press one of the side switches while hovering the pen slightly above the tablet. Which button you should press depends on the model of the tablet you are using. With Intuos Pro I use, the lower side-switch is assigned to the right-click by default. 

7 Points to Know to be a master of pen tablet

We’ve covered the basics of pen tablets, but I know many beginners are well-aware of those points and be at a loss nonetheless. So, now let’s move on to the tips. Here are the 7 points to know to be a master of digital drawing.  

Get the right pen tablet.

In the first place, I recommend getting the right pen tablet to satisfy your needs. I know some of you have already purchased one, but I need to point this out because this is crucial for your drawing experience. 

When choosing a pen tablet, there are a lot of things to consider. The manufacturer, the pressure sensitivity, the active area size, the tilt recognition, and the list goes on. 

However, with ordinary pen tablets, I mean not pen displays such as Wacom Cintiq, I date to say that the only thing that matters is the size of the active area. 

If you are only interested in coloring your illustrations, the small-sized tablets with a 7-inch active area like Wacom Intuos S will do. But if you put weight also on drawing, you want to get a tablet larger than the medium size. 

With a small-sized tablet, a minor mistake in your stroke will be magnified into a major error in the rendered line in your graphic software. In general, as a tablet gets bigger, the quality of the lines you draw improves.

Having said that, a large tablet such as Wacom Intuos Pro Large takes a lot of space on your desktop. Also, it is way too expensive for casual hobby users. 

So, in my view, medium-sized tablets with about 10 inches active area such as Wacom Intuos Medium, XP-PEN Deco01 V2, GAOMON M10K PRO are the best choices. 

In terms of manufacturers, no doubt Wacom is the leading brand in this market and produces products with the best quality. I’ve been using Wacom tablets throughout my professional career, and I always enjoy their one-step-ahead drawing experience.  

However, high quality naturally comes with a high price tag. Wacom tablets are far more expensive than equivalent products from other manufacturers such as XP-PEN, GAOMON, and HUION. In spite of that, you might not see so much difference in functionality among them. So, if you have plenty of budgets, go with Wacom. Otherwise, the other brands I mentioned before, XP-PEN, GAOMON, and HUION, would be a good choice as a starter. They offer good quality products at affordable prices than Wacom. 

The same goes for pressure sensitivity. Flagship models of each manufacturer can register 8192 levels of pen pressure, whereas entry models offer 4096 levels of sensitivity. However, for me, it is hard to tell which is which unless comparing them side by side. 

Place Your Tablet in the Right Position

The next point you need to check after getting the right tablet is to set it in the right position. Place it right in front of your display, with each edge parallel to your display. A difference in the angles between your display and tablet directly affects the lines you draw. 

Use Force Proportions 

Third, make sure to enable the Force Proportions. This option sets the aspect ratio of the tablet’s active area to match your monitors. The option is disabled by default for some reason, but I strongly recommend turning it on. By setting this, some portion of the device’s active area may not be usable anymore. 

I know this feels like a bit of waste. Nonetheless, you don’t want to end up drawing an ellipse on your monitor when you stroke a perfect circle on your tablet. Right? This option saves you from that sort of frustration. 

Understand the Absolute Positioning

Fourth, get familiar with the concept of Absolute Positioning. Unlike with the mouse, where the pointer on the monitor is positioned relative to the current coordinates of the pointer itself, with the pen tablet, the pointer is absolutely positioned corresponding to the coordinates of the pen on the tablet. 

It may sound a bit complicated, but it actually is not. It just means that each corner of the active area of the tablet corresponds to that of the monitor. If you want to move the pointer to the upper left corner of the screen, all you need to do is place the tip of the pen on the same corner of the tablet’s active area. Then, the pointer jumps to that new location from where it was before. You don’t need to take it along as you do with the mouse. It teleports. Cool!

At first, it could be confusing, but once you get the hang of it, it feels pretty natural and an efficient way to move around the pointer. Take some time to get familiar with it. 

Use Stabilization Option

Fifth, try using a high [Stabilization] setting for your brush. If you find jitterings in the lines you draw, you can reduce it by simply using a built-in function of CLIP STUDIO PAINT. I use this software as an instance, but other drawing software should also have a similar setting.  

In the [Tool Property] pallet of the brush you are using, find the property named [Stabillization]. The property’s value is set to six by default, but try pumping it up to a higher value, say around 50. 

You will immediately see the effect by drawing a line. At the cost of speed, jitterings in your strokes are suppressed, and a rounded, smooth line will be rendered.  

This option is especially useful if you prefer to draw in slow brushstrokes since smooth lines could be tough to draw depending on the tablet you use.

Having said that, I personally don’t use the [Stabilization] property often. Instead, I prefer to use the next tip.

Use Fast Brushstrokes

Sixth, use swift brushstrokes to draw smooth lines. If you move your pan fast enough, the rendered line should appear sleek and beautiful without any programmatic stabilization. The lines drawn in this manner tend to have a beautiful fading on both ends. All you have to do is just connect those lines and make them into finished line art. 

You may wonder where you should split and connect lines. Beautiful line art tends to be formed with consecutive s-shaped curves, and the same goes for manga character illustrations. For example, the forehead is drawn in an outward curve, the temple is inward, the cheek is outward, and on and on.

You can simply draw one curve by one brushstroke and start the next curve from the end of the previous one. If you are new to the pan tablet, connecting lines on the first try will be challenging, but you can undo it as many times as you need. As your mastery of the pen tablet grows, the number of trials and errors will gradually be decreased. 

Until then, it would be really helpful to make the execution of the undoing as handy as possible. That brings us to the final tip.

Customize the Side Switches

Seventh, customize the side switches of your pen. This is not mandatory, but I definitely recommend it to streamline your workflow. 

I use Wacom Intuos Pro Large as an example here. The settings may differ depending on the tablet you use, but the general idea should be the same. 

By default, the upper side switch is allocated to a double click, which I find a waste. You can assign an operation you use the most often by selecting an item from the pulldown menu. My personal preference is Undo. To do that, select [Keyboard] > [Key Stroke]. A dialog pops up, and press Ctrl + Z for Windows, Command + Z for Mac in the input box. 

Now you can undo anything just by pressing the upper side switch. 

The lower side switch is set to Right Button Click by default. Usually, the right click is assigned to the context menu, and I prefer to keep it as it is. However, CLIP STUDIO PAINT overrides and allocates it to Eyedropper. This setting would be convenient when coloring but sometimes cause problems when I press it by mistake by picking up the canvas color in place of the drawing color. 

You can change the behavior from [Modifier Key Settings] if you like. With [General settings] selected, scroll down to find [Right click], and from the pulldown on the right, select [Show Menu]. Or, you can assign whichever tool you like by selecting [Change tool temporarily]. Eraser would be a good candidate. 


That’s it! We’ve covered the basics and the 5 points to know to start a journey of mastering the pen tablet in this episode. I plan to talk more about practical techniques of drawing manga art in the upcoming episodes. 

I hope you enjoyed this video and if you are interested in future episodes, please subscribe to this channel. Until then, keep practicing and enjoy drawing manga. See you again soon. Matane!

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