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7 Ways to Draw on a Laptop (How drawing works on a laptop) Full Guide

7 Ways to Draw on a Laptop (How drawing works on a laptop) Full Guide

Are you a beginner in digital art and want to find the best ways to draw on a laptop? Or maybe you are a teacher wondering how to draw on a laptop, or even how to create digital art without a pen tablet.

Whatever the case, you should know that there are many innovative tools to help you draw on a laptop.

After some research, we found 7 different combinations: from using your laptop’s mouse or touchpad to drawing on a touchscreen laptop with a pen, nothing is left out of our review.

In this article, we will also introduce you to all the drawing apps, online whiteboards, and annotation software you can use to draw on a laptop. We even tested the drawing experience in Google Chrome!

See: The 11 Best Laptops for Drawing & Digital Art

Don’t want to buy and connect a drawing tablet? See the 7 Ways to Write and Draw on a Non Touch Screen Laptop

By the end of this read, you’ll know how to draw on a laptop. You’ll also know every piece of software and hardware you can use to draw digitally on a Macbook or Windows laptop (Lenovo, Dell, etc.).

Related: 7 Best Digital Art Pads & Tablets for Beginner Artists

How to Draw on a Laptop

7 Ways To Draw On A Laptop

To create digital art on a laptop by drawing, you first need to decide on some hardware: You can either use a mouse, a stylus pen (on a laptop with a touchscreen), a drawing pad and stylus combo, or your laptop’s touchpad.

If you’re new to drawing on a laptop, see the The 7 Ultimate Drawing Tablet Setups for Digital Artists

Each method has its pros and cons when it comes to drawing precision, price, features, and comfort level. Let us examine them one by one.

1. Use a mouse

Drawing Using A Mouse

The first way to draw on a laptop is to use a mouse. Since most of us have a mouse for our laptops, this is one of the cheapest solutions. Many wonder: is it possible to draw on a laptop with a mouse? Well, absolutely.

Although most professional artists and graphic designers prefer drawing pads, there are some professionals who use a mouse to draw anime characters and illustrations. There’s really nothing you can not do with a mouse when it comes to drawing. All beginner-friendly and advanced drawing apps and whiteboards work perfectly with any mouse.

Related: See the 7 Best MacBooks for Photoshop & Photo Editing

From Photoshop and Krita to Limnu and Miro, every software supports drawing with a mouse. The biggest drawback to this solution is the lack of pressure sensitivity.

Therefore, we suggest drawing with the mouse for remote teachers and beginner artists, but not for professional artists and designers.

2. Use a Touch screen laptop & Stylus

Drawing Using A Laptop and Stylus

If you already have a touchscreen laptop like a Microsoft Surface Pro or a Lenovo IdeaPad, this is probably the best way to go. Most touchscreen laptops and tablets support active pens as well.

This means that you can opt for a pressure-sensitive stylus that will help you control your strokes on drawing apps like Illustrator. Keep in mind that not all active pens are compatible with any laptop. For example, if you own a Lenovo touchscreen laptop, you should go for the latest Lenovo Active Pen.

On the flip side, if you’re on a budget, you can purchase a non-active pen such as the ones seen in our post on Stylus Pens for Touch Screen Laptops. This will allow you to draw or write directly on the display of your touchscreen laptop.

3. Drawing Pen tablet & Stylus Pen

Drawing Using A Tablet and Stylus

Using a drawing tablet is the most common way for professional artists, designers, and photographers to draw on a laptop digitally. In fact, drawing tablets are specifically designed for creating digital art on a computer.

You will need to learn how drawing tablets work before you use one.

That said, devices like the latest Wacom One come with an active pen and can help you draw on a laptop with any drawing app or online whiteboard. Using a Wacom device is one of the popular ways to draw on a laptop.

When it comes to prices, there are numerous graphic tablets for beginners (budget-friendly devices without an integrated screen) and professionals (tablets like the Wacom Cintiq 16).

After our test, we found that this is by far the best choice for those who are serious about creating digital art. The high pressure sensitivity that drawing tablets offer leads to a detailed and precise drawing experience.

4. Use a Reusable Smart Notebook (e.g. Rocketbook)

In the digital art landscape, tools like the Rocketbook, a reusable smart notebook, offer a unique bridge between traditional sketching and digital design. For artists who cherish the tactile sensation of drawing on paper but want the flexibility of digital tools, this smart notebook is a game-changer. Users can sketch or doodle using a special pen, capturing the raw essence of hand-drawn designs.

With the Rocketbook app, these sketches are effortlessly converted into a digital format, ready to be refined or shared on various platforms. This seamless integration ensures artists don’t lose the authenticity of hand-drawn sketches while benefiting from digital enhancements.

The standout feature of the Rocketbook, however, is its reusability. After digitizing their sketches, artists can wipe the pages clean, ready for a new masterpiece. This blend of traditional sketching with digital adaptability makes Rocketbook a compelling choice for artists exploring ways to draw on a laptop.

5. Use a Wireless Graphics Tablet

Drawing Using A Wireless Graphics Tablet

In the realm of digital artistry, wireless graphics tablets are carving a niche as essential tools for those valuing mobility and flexibility. These tablets, free from the constraints of wires, offer artists an uncluttered workspace and an enhanced drawing experience, merging the best of both traditional and digital realms.

The beauty of these wireless tablets lies in their adaptability. They cater to a wide audience, from beginners looking for budget-friendly options to professionals seeking high-end models.

However, what truly sets these tablets apart is their commitment to quality and precision. The portability and high pressure sensitivity of wireless graphics tablets offer an unparalleled drawing experience. This fusion of convenience and precision positions wireless tablets as a must-have for serious digital artists.

If you are looking to buy a wireless graphics tablet, see our post on the best wireless graphics tablets.

6. Use touchpad

Drawing Using A Touchpad

Another way to draw on a laptop (drawing digitally) is to use the touchpad on your device. You can either use your fingers or a non-active stylus. Of course, this is not the best solution when it comes to creating detailed digital artwork.

On the other hand, it works very well if you want to draw or write on a whiteboard. Opt for an affordable pen (starting at $3) and start drawing with your touchpad in no time. Finally, there are some laptops that come with powerful touchpad software.

Apps like ASUS Touchpad Handwriting, for example, help you complete tasks like creating and sharing your digital signature.

What can I use to draw on my laptop

What can I use to draw on my laptop

It becomes clear that drawing on a laptop is not as difficult as it may sound. The basic tools you can use to draw on your laptop are:

  1. A mouse
  2. An active or simple stylus (on a touchscreen laptop)
  3. A digital writing pad with an included active pen
  4. Your laptop’s touchpad
  5. Graphics tablet, such as the XP-Pen or Wacom
  6. You can use a Drawing Tablet for Mac
  7. Wireless drawing tablet
  8. A drawing tablet with a screen

Choosing the best tool depends on your personal needs, preferences, and budget. Also, the choice depends entirely on your skill level.

For example, drawing on a laptop with a mouse is a better choice for those who want to experiment with digital drawing. On the other hand, if you want to create top-notch art, you should opt for a drawing tablet.

However, external hardware is not the only thing you need to draw on a tablet. Let us take a look at what kind of software you can use for drawing on a laptop.

See our post: Do I really need a tablet if I have a laptop?

Different Ways to Draw on a Laptop

Different Ways to Draw on a Laptop

Drawing apps

The most common type of software used for drawing on laptops are graphic design and illustration applications. Both macOS and Windows devices have a built-in drawing app that is perfect for simple drawings. However, this app is not enough to create detailed artwork.

There are numerous free and high-quality drawing apps available in the market. The best drawing apps for beginners are:

  1. Krita (Free-to-use, perfect for illustrations)
  2. Medibang (Free-to-use, perfect for cartoonists)
  3. Autodesk Sketchbook (Free-to-use, great for drawing with a mouse)

On the flip side, most professionals opt for an advanced drawing software like:

  1. Adobe Photoshop (ideal for drawing and photo-editing)
  2. Adobe Illustrator (perfect for creating top-notch digital art)
  3. Clip Studio Paint (great for 3D drawings)

Also see the 7 Best Drawing Tablets for Photoshop & Illustrator, which you can connect to your laptop to create digital paintings.


Digital, online whiteboards are the perfect solution for remote teachers and professionals who want to take notes during team meetings. Let us say you are hosting a webinar on Zoom and need to draw something for your audience. Using a drawing app is pretty time consuming.

So what’s the best way to go about it?

Well, online whiteboards are the fastest way to create simple drawings on a laptop. There are numerous online whiteboards available in the market. However, the most reliable and powerful ones for remote teaching and team collaboration are:

  1. Miro (ideal for team collaboration and turning drawings/ideas into tasks)
  2. Limnu (perfect for remote teaching)
  3. Zoom Virtual Whiteboard (ideal for Zoom video calls)
  4. Explain Everything (to create whiteboard videos)

Annotating Documents

There are many ways to annotate a document using your laptop. For example, if you have a laptop with a touch screen, you can use Google Classroom. This platform is very effective when it comes to annotating PDF and DOC documents. The process is quite simple.

All you have to do is access the document and press the pen icon at the top of the screen. This will allow you to draw or write anything on the document.

For annotating documents on a laptop, we recommend either a laptop with a touch screen and stylus or a drawing tablet with an active pen.

How to Draw on a Macbook

Drawing on a Macbook Pro or Air is preferred by many professional artists and graphic designers. The great Retina displays, powerful hardware, and good batteries are just some of the reasons. There are many ways to draw on a Macbook.

You can connect it to a drawing pad, use a mouse, or use the trackpad. Although using a drawing pad and mouse is very similar to the experience of using a Windows laptop, drawing with a Macbook’s trackpad is quite different. Let us see why.

See The 7 Best MacBooks for Photoshop & Photo Editing

Use the Trackpad

Of course, drawing on a Macbook trackpad is not the same as drawing on a touchscreen or drawing pad. Still, Apple’s touchpads are by far the most sensitive on the market. That said, you can use a Macbook trackpad as a small drawing canvas.

All you need is a simple stylus and you are good to go. We recommend this solution when you want to quickly annotate a document or create simple drawings on a whiteboard.

Alternatively, if you want to use a pressure-sensitive Apple trackpad, you could opt for the latest Apple Magic Trackpad. This is a wireless device that supports multi-touch gestures, making it the perfect solution for drawing with your fingers.

How to Draw on Pages in MacBook

Although Pages is known as a word processor developed by Apple, you can also use it to draw. One interesting feature of the Pages app is that it supports the Apple Pencil. So if you want to sketch or illustrate with Apple’s active pencil, you can definitely do that. All you need to do is:

  1. Choose one of the drawing tools that the Pages app offers
  2. Adjust the color, size and opacity of your brush
  3. That’s it! You can now annotate or draw on the document you’re editing

How to Draw in Google Chrome

To draw in Google Chrome, you can either add an extension or use an online drawing application. To be specific, there are extensions like Webpaint that allow you to draw shapes and lines on live web pages in Google Chrome and then take a screenshot of your drawings/notes.

Also, there are many popular online drawing platforms that allow you to draw in Google Chrome. Sketchpad, AutoDRAW, and GIMP, for example, are all available and fully compatible with Google Chrome.

How to Draw on a Laptop with Illustrator

Illustrator is one of the most popular software for drawing on a laptop. The process is pretty simple. If you draw with the mouse, you just need to install the app and open it.

On the other hand, if you have a drawing pad, you will be happy to hear that Illustrator automatically recognizes it. All you need to do is plug the drawing pad into your laptop and install the driver/drawing pad software.

Is it hard to draw on a laptop?

To answer this question briefly, it depends. For example, if you are an artist but have no experience with digital drawing, it may be difficult, at least for a while. But after a while, you’ll get the hang of it and your digital drawing skills will gradually be perfected.

Keep in mind, if you are an architect or graphic designer that is 3d modeling, you’ll need a stronger device for autocad.

Digital drawing also has a lot to do with the device you use. A top-notch drawing tablet like the Wacom Cintiq, for example, offers a very precise and realistic drawing experience.

See our post on the Best laptop for Cricut design space & Cricut Makers

By all means, drawing on a laptop can be difficult, but only for a while. The longer you draw, the better you will get. Remember that practice makes perfect!

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