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What is a Wacom Tablet and how do they work?

What is a Wacom Tablet and how do they work?

What is a Wacom Tablet? Well, if you are someone that has considered drawing on your computer for work purposes, then you may have asked this question since Wacom is the most popular graphics tablet brand around.

Due to the popularity of the Wacom brand name amongst drawing tablets, you’ll often hear consumers refer to a drawing tablet or graphics tablet as a Wacom tablet.

So, what is a Wacom tablet? A Wacom tablet is a graphics tablet that can be connected to your computer where you can create and edit artwork such as animations and drawings using software such as Photoshop, Illustrator or Procreate. Wacom tablets behave as an input device for desktops and laptop computers in order to digitize strokes and lines drawn by a stylus pen.

Related: iPad vs Wacom: Which is Better for Digital Art? (Full Review)

In this post we’ll cover what a Wacom tablet is and also what a Wacom tablet is used for.

What is a Wacom tablet used for?

What is a Wacom tablet used for_

Wacom graphics tablets are innovative devices used as a surface attachment for drawing on a laptop or desktop computer. The Wacom tablet is a brand of drawing tablets mainly used for drawing by graphic designers, artists and photographers.

Using a digital canvas and stylus pen, Wacom tablets are designed to function like traditional drawing or note-taking devices. Of course, there are numerous Wacom tablet models, from beginner-friendly to top-of-the-line professional models for artists. A beginner friendly model is the Wacom One creative pen tablet 13.3.

The main tasks that Wacom tablets can help with are drawing, graphics and animation. Besides the professional users, there are also many beginners and students who use Wacom tablets either for fun or for assessment. 

This is the main reason why Wacom offers numerous alternatives. From super expensive models like the latest Cintiq Pro 24 to cheaper ones like the Wacom Intuos. All models are used for the same purposes and tasks. However, there are significant differences when it comes to reliability and features.

A professional graphic designer, for example, will most likely use a model from Wacom Cintiq class.

The more expensive Wacom models typically have a fantastic built-in screen and offer excellent pressure sensitivity and other drawing features. They also typically have more programmable buttons, and shortcut keys to configure.

On the other hand, a beginner may be happy with a Wacom Intuos or even a tablet and pen combination like the iPad with Apple Pencil, Lenovo Yoga, Surface Pro etc.

This is especially true if you are editing photos or using photoshop. See our post: 7 Best Wacom Tablets for Photo Editing & Photographers

For those on a budget an XP-Pen or Huion drawing/graphics tablet work well in nearly all situations as a designer.What does a Wacom tablet do

Should a beginner artist or designer use a Wacom tablet?

Should a beginner artist or designer use a Wacom tablet_

If you are a beginner, you may know what a drawing tablet is. But what makes a Wacom tablet different from any other graphics tablet?

The logic behind all graphics tablets is pretty much the same: they are all designed to serve as a digital drawing canvas. Similarly, drawing tablets can be used to capture your artwork digitally.

Related: Tips to Improve your Drawing with a Wacom Tablet

However, with Wacom, there are distinct differences. There is no denying that Wacom is the most popular brand name for good reasons. In fact, all Wacom tablets are reliable and offer great drawing features, making the Wacom tablet worth it for anyone drawing digitally (this includes digital art)

A beginner may use a Wacom intuos or graphics tablet of this type

  • One thing to note for beginners is that the Wacom tablets can run a bit higher price point compared to cheaper alternatives like the Huion or XP-Pen models.

Even the cheapest Wacom tablets, such as the Wacom Intuos have exceptional pressure sensitivity that makes you feel like you are drawing on traditional paper. This has everything to do with the top-notch pens that Wacom develops. Plus, Wacom offers some of the best software around, and all of the brand’s models connect easily to any desktop or laptop.

Also see our post: 7 Best Digital Art Tablets for Beginner Artists

How does a Wacom Tablet work?

How does a Wacom Tablet work_

A Wacom tablet works by using a pressure sensitive surface that sends electronic signals from a digitizer, to a computer or laptop. A Wacom tablet utilizes the Wacom drivers and software to interpret drawn lines from a stylus.

Tablets from Wacom can also allow for the adjustment settings to be used for drawing on various apps such adobe photoshop, digital whiteboards for work or AutoCAD & designer work.

Wacom tablets are specifically designed to allow you to draw and write directly on your computer. Their screen or surface works like a traditional notebook and the digital pen works like a pencil or a ballpoint pen.

The technology behind Wacom tablets may look complicated, but it’s easy to explain. A pressure-sensitive system allows the Wacom tablet to detect the thickness of a shape. In this way, the pen communicates directly with the tablet and in a few microseconds everything is transferred to the screen of your computer.

Related: 7 Ways to Write and Draw on a Non Touch Screen Laptop

The fact that the tablet automatically detects the position of the pen is of great importance. With such technology, Wacom has managed to create digital drawing devices that are accurate and reliable, but also affordable for everyone.


Even though not all Wacom tablets have an integrated screen, they all work in a similar way. The main difference is that with affordable models like Wacom Intuos, you draw on an active surface but have to look at your computer screen to see the results.

On the other side, more expensive models like the Cintiq 16 or Cintiq Pro 24, have a high-quality display integrated into the tablet. This allows professionals to see and edit their creations directly on the Wacom tablet. The same applies to a combination of traditional tablet and active pen (e.g. Surface Pro 7 with Microsoft Surface Pen).

Shortcut Buttons

Working with a Wacom tablet would be much more difficult if the brand did not have the so-called shortcut keys. Most Wacom devices have shortcut keys either on the side of the tablet or on the pen itself. These shortcut keys act as tools that allow you to easily access features such as the eraser, various brushes, resizing, animations, and so on.

This addition is extremely useful, especially for professionals who use numerous toolboxes and features of software like Photoshop or Procreate. The shortcut keys are one of the main reasons why Wacom stands out from the competition.

Stylus Pen

A great stylus pen is the name of the game when it comes to digital drawing. This is why Wacom has invested in developing the best active pens available. One of the most important aspects of a pen is the pressure sensitivity it supports.

Most Wacom pens offer more than 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity, resulting in an almost identical experience to traditional drawing.

In addition, Wacom pens never need to be charged and have tilt detection and low activation force to recognise even the lightest strokes.  

Pressure sensitivity 

As mentioned earlier, Wacom tablets offer some of the best pressure sensitivity technology on the market.That being said, the amount of pressure sensitivity is not the only important parameter. Equally important is the connexion of the pen to the tablet and the technology behind it.

Related: How to fix Photoshop Pen Pressure not working

In fact, most Wacom pens outperform competitors like XP-Pen and HUION. Other drawing tablets aside, Wacom devices are generally more accurate than hybrid solutions like touchscreen tablets from Apple Pencil or Lenovo.

Multi touch

One of the most intuitive features you’ll find on a Wacom tablet is multitouch. With most Wacom tablets, you can use multi-touch just like you would with a traditional tablet. This allows you to perform tasks such as zooming in and out or rotating quickly and efficiently.

Multi Touching is one of the most important features when it comes to the user interface. The ability to perform edits quickly is especially useful for complex work like animations and 3D drawings. 

Brand Name

Wacom was founded in 1983 in Saitama, Japan. Since then, the company has quickly become one of the most reliable manufacturers of drawing tablets and graphic devices in general. The reliability and the innovative technology are the main reasons why the brand has been known for years and its devices are used by most professionals.

Although the competition catches up from time to time, Wacom has always been the best selling brand when it comes to graphics tablets.

Is the Wacom Intuos worth it?

Is the Wacom Intuos worth it_

When it comes to graphic tablets for beginners or professionals who need a compact device, there is nothing better than the latest Wacom Intuos.

The brand has managed to come up with an affordable yet reliable and powerful device.

With its compact size and relatively large active area, Intuos is totally portable. The pen has 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity that provide a great drawing experience. The device can easily connect to Mac PCs, Windows desktops, Chromebooks and even Android devices.

Related: Best Macbook Drawing tablets

For all these reasons, Wacom Intuos is definitely worth a purchase. If an integrated screen is not a priority for you or you are on a budget, Intuos is the ultimate all-rounder. 

For more wireless drawing devices, see: Best Wireless Drawing Tablets: Our Top Picks

Is the Wacom Cintiq worth it?

Is the Wacom Cintiq worth it_

Wacom has recently introduced its brand-new Cintiq series. Whether you choose the 16-inch or the 24-inch model, it simply does not get any better than this.

With amazing displays (1080p for the 16-inch and 4K for the 24-inch model), powerful pens and many connectivity options, the Wacom Cintiq model is a must-have for any professional artist, designer or animator.

It all comes down to your personal needs and preferences. For example, if space and budget are not an issue, we would definitely recommend the Pro model. On the other hand, the cintiq 16 is the ideal choice for professionals who need something more portable and affordable.

In any case, all Wacom Cintiq models are worth the investment as they offer an exceptional drawing or animation experience. However, we would not recommend spending this amount of money if you are a beginner and not sure if you want to be a creator. 

What is the best wacom tablet for beginners

What is the best wacom tablet for beginners

Wacom has developed numerous drawing tablets for both beginners and professionals. So if you are a graphic design student or a beginner, Wacom has the best devices for you.

First and foremost, we would definitely recommend the Wacom Intuos described above. As explained, the Intuos is an amazing all-rounder and a great first drawing tablet. However, if you do not want to go for the Intuos, Wacom offers another beginner-friendly alternative: the Wacom One. The current One is Wacom’s most affordable device. The differences between the two tablets are not big.

The Wacom One is larger, but has the same size active area (larger borders). Also, the One can only connect to a Windows PC, Mac or Chromebook (no Android devices). Other than that, both devices are ideal for beginners.

Which Wacom tablet for photo editing?

Which Wacom tablet for photo editing_

Photo editing is a challenging task that can become much easier with a Wacom drawing tablet. Even though a Wacom Cintiq for photo editing offers an ultimately detailed editing experience in Photoshop or other software, it is not an absolute must.

In fact, photo editing may require detailed edits, but we do not think an integrated screen on your Wacom tablet is necessary unless you are a professional artist or designer.

Therefore, Wacom Intuos and Wacom One are more than capable of providing an amazing photo editing experience, especially for photographers and beginner editors.

How to update Wacom driver

How to update Wacom driver

Updating the drivers for your Wacom tablet is very simple. All you need to do is:

  1. Go to Google and search for Update Wacom Drivers.
  2. Go to Wacom’s Driver page
  3. Type your Wacom tablet name under the “Search to find your product resources below“
  4. Once you find your model a new tab will open containing the latest macOS and Windows drivers, but also the manual and warranty of your device. 
  5. Download and install your driver. You are good to go!

What model Wacom tablet do I have

What model Wacom tablet do I have

The easiest way to find out which Wacom tablet you own is to find out the serial number. The serial number of Intuos pen tablets can be found on the bottom of the device.

On most Cintiq displays, the model number and serial number are located under the left foot that supports the screen.

Once you have found your device’s model number or serial number, all you have to do is type it into Google. The results will show you which model you have. 


What do you need to use a Wacom tablet

All you need to use a Wacom tablet is a compatible PC. Most Wacom drawing tablets are compatible with both Mac and Windows PCs. As for connectivity, you can easily connect the tablet to your PC via Bluetooth or USB. 

Can you use a Wacom tablet without a computer?

Most Wacom tablets are not standalone devices, which means you cannot use them without a computer. Of course, Wacom also offers a standalone drawing tablet that does not require a computer: Wacom Mobile Studio Pro. This is also known by artists as a portable drawing tablet.

What software comes with Wacom Intuos

The latest Intuos comes with a reliable creative software called Clip Studio Paint Pro. You can use this for free and also try creative software such as Corel Painter Essentials 8 and Corel AfterShot Pro 3 for free for 90 days. Intuos also includes a three-month trial of EdTech software, Kami App, Pear Deck and more.

What is the best Wacom tablet for Adobe Illustrator

Wacom tablets offer an amazing experience at Adobe Illustrator. Still, which one you choose depends on your personal needs and expertise. For example, professional artists who use Illustrator for complicated drawings can opt for a Wacom Cintiq. On the other hand, more affordable tablets like the Wacom Intuos are suitable for beginners.

What are the alternatives to a Wacom tablet?

There are many alternatives to the Wacom tablet such as the XP-Pen or Huion brands. These brands all compete with similar type of models, but their individual devices has different types of settings, features and overall quality. For example, certain models of the XP-Pen may have a dial or a button rather than the interface/design the Wacom or Huion provides.

Outside of the Wacom, XP-Pen, and Huon devices, Wacom alternatives include the iPad. Some of the most popular are a graphics tablet, a pen and paper, or mouse.


A Wacom Tablet can be used for artwork, education, drawing and whiteboarding for work, scribbling, and handwritten digitized notes. It can also be used with the majority of drawing tablet apps on windows & Mac OS.

A Wacom tablet is a graphic tablet for digital drawing. Some models have a screen built in, while others are considered graphic tablets or ‘drawing pads’ in many communities online.  A Wacom Cintiq, into and other models from Wacom are is also known as computer-input device which acts as an electronic  sheet of paper to draw on, but without the need to re-use or throughout the paper since its a digital type of device.

The Wacom tablet and pen allows users to draw precisely and directly on the computer’s screen depending on which model you use. For example, The Wacom mobile studioPro is a standalone tablet with a screen and computer built-in. While the ‘One by Wacom’ model needs a laptop or computer to connect to and does not have a screen built in.

The Wacom tablets provide a natural drawing experience similar to that of  traditional analog tools such as pencils and ink pens.  A Wacom tablet is a graphic tablet for digital drawing — a computer-input device which acts as an electronic continuous sheet of paper.

About the author:

Photo of Paul Michael, Founder of MediaPeanut

Paul Michael

Paul Michael is a media and technology expert whose research reveals how technology and media are being used in the world today. He has expertise on computers, the internet, streaming, Roku, electronics, and education. He also enjoys graphic design & digital art. Paul has his Bachelors of Arts and Science(s) from Rutgers University-New Brunswick, NJ