Ergonomic of Graphics tablets

image data/images/blog/2010/00/2010c/tutorial-tablet-ergonomy.jpg

The perfect graphics tablet doesn't exist. Choosing a graphics tablet for an artist can be compared to finding a music instrument for a musician.
And so, I received a lot of emails concerning what kind of graphics tablet I use for my digital paintings. I bought a lot of tablets trying to get the best setup. My quest for the best graphic tablet finally ended with the A5. A 'little' tablet is now my main tool ( A "Wacom Intuos 4 Medium" to be precise ). But this result might only apply to me.
Let me share with you all my studies about ergonomics, cause behind the tablet size , the real question is about ergonomic of work.

1. A good access to keyboard and extra mouse

The keyboard

Most of CG artists use shortcuts on the keyboard to speed up their work-flow. It's really good that constructor add more and more button to setup custom shortcuts on the graphics tablet, but it will never replace a complete left hand on a keyboard, in my humble point of view.
If you like to write notes, add descriptions, answer to IRC discussions while you are working, you need to have a good access to a keyboard.

The extra mouse

Many users believe graphics tablet can replace mouse. Sure it can. But for some work-flow I'm sometime use the mouse because I am faster with it. That's why I try keeping an extra mouse on my desktop.
Why didn't I use the mouse delivered with the graphics tablet ? Because it has to be removed from the active surface area each time you switch the pen and the mouse.

2. Big graphics tablet

Big graphics tablet are certainly the most precise and comfortable graphics tablet from a technical point of view. I owned a "Wacom Intuos 3 A4" for years. From my point of view the main problem with big graphics tablets is all about ergonomics.

01 tablet ergonomic a4 side

a. The first way poeple usually place graphics tablet is on their desktop, as a mouse pad. This position hurts the arm and shoulder as represented in red on the picture. This position is good for typing text cause the keyboard is still in front of you.


b.One solution is putting the graphics tablet to the center of the desk and pushing the keyboard to the left. Drawing/painting is really comfortable in front of the LCD display.

03 tablet ergonomic a4 bad textmode

c. Putting the keyboard on the side might make you twist your back too often while editting text.

04 tablet ergonomic a4 curveddesk b

05 tablet ergonomic a4 curveddesk a

d. e. The best solution I found is a curved desk with a chair on the pivot. Because everything is around you,  you won't be twisting your back or extending your arm too much.

06 tablet ergonomic a4 textmode

f. The best way to edit long texts with a big graphics tablet is to use the keyboard on the top of it for the time needed. To avoid scratches on the surface of your tablet, just glue pieces of soft material under your keyboard.

07 tablet ergonomy laptop a4

g. Using a big graphics tablet with a laptop is difficult and can be painful for the shoulder, and it's not comfortable during travelling because of its size.

3. Small graphics tablet

Small graphics tablet offers a less big active area and are certainly less precise.

Since the surface is smaller , it would be better having a graphics tablet with a good resolution if you work on a big screen.

On a desktop, ergonomics are usually better this way than with a bigger tablet, and the size makes it easier to transport it while traveling. 

I owned a "Graphire 3 A5" a "Wacom Bamboo Fun A5", and a "Wacom Intuos 4 Medium".

- The "Graphire 3 A5" was my first graphics tablet and got a good feeling for drawing on the 1280x1024 pixel LCD display. The 512 levels of pressures were good enough.

- The "Wacom Bamboo Fun A5" was my graphics tablet for traveling and working remotely, during the period I worked at home with the "Wacom Intuos 3 A4". The resolution of the "Wacom Bamboo Fun A5" was perfect for my laptop display (1440x900) and for the conferences display ( usually still 1024x768 ). But this tablet got issues with precision on drawing on a large screen 1680x1050 or 1920x1050. The 512 levels of pressure are enough.

- The "Wacom Intuos 4 Medium" mixes precision , high-resolution and the little size, I use it for both traveling and working at home. I like it for everything I use it for, always the same comfort. 

08 tablet ergonomic a5 normaldesk

h. Here is how I use my graphics tablet at home. I noticed that having my elbow on the desk enables me to paint during longer periods.

09 tablet ergonomic a5 curveddesk

i. The most confortable situation I was, was with a desk from IKEA at the Blender Institute. The setup was a curved desktop and the 2 elbows on the desk.

10 tablet ergonomic laptop a5

j. Working with the laptop and a small tablet is not that bad, but as the tablet is not in front of the LCD panel it causes some pain in the shoulder on the long run.

11 tablet ergonomic transport

k. Little graphics tablet can be useful in a plane or a train. But of course, it's only a temporary solution for an uncomfortable situation.

4. LCD pen tablets display

I tested the "Wacom Cintiq 21ux" on a demo booth, and I owned a "Wacom Cintiq 12wx" for a year. This graphics tablet display allows working on the surface of the integrated LCD display but they are very expensive. Hand gets warm, the surface of the tablet attracts dirt easily and the surface gets scratched and there's no way of replacing it. I keep an eye on these technologies, and I'm still convinced they are the key to the future work-flow for digital painters.

12 tablet ergonomic lcdtablet big

l. The big models of LCD pen tablet display have a lot of issues of ergonomy with the keyboard. Those issues are related to the chapter 1. You can't put your keyboard on it and type as in (f.)

13 tablet ergonomic lcdtablet dual

m. The little models are to use in dual mode with a traditionnal LCD. One of the bests ways I found when I used one was putting the keyboard between the LCD and the graphics tablet. One of the most annoying things was the different color calibration of the 2 LCD devices and the constant switching between monitors.


As I said in the intro, the perfect graphics tablet doesn't exist and going back to my comparison about the musician and the music instrument, the best way to find the better one will certainly be to try them. For the moment, mine is the "Wacom Intuos 4 Medium". If you want to share your experience and continue discussing about this, your welcome to comments.

-David Revoy

additional informations :

Note 1: In my opinion, Intuos 4 tablets are shipped with nibs that wears out ridiculously fast, maybe because of the grainy plastic layout cover. But it can be fixed by cutting an Intuos 3 A4 layout gray cover , and replacing the nibs with Intuos 3 pen nibs. It's too bad and sad we have to fix it, but it's cool we can still do it. If you are against this regression of quality, you can sign this petition

Note 2: All the graphics were done with Inkscape, thanks to the developers for this great free and open-source vector graphics software. I enjoyed working with it for this presentation

Note 3: As this article is about my experience, all examples are for right-handed people. Left-handed people are welcome to mirror the example in their mind.

Note 4: All the graphics and text of this post are under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 , read the following page to know more about here

Note 5:
As I'm French, my English is not perfect and if you notice some mistakes and want to help me to correct it, send me an email with your corrections, I will update it as soon as I can. Thanks !


11 august 2010: Thanks a lot Slug45 for the english corrections and the nice email, I learned a lot and that was easy to update ! Thanks again


  QuentinG - Reply

très intéressant...
C'est vrai que sur le moment où l'on achète sa tablette, on ne pense pas forcément à l'ergonomie, et pourtant...

  Bruno Cornelsen - Reply

Hello David! I love your work and i bought the Chaos&Evolutions DVD. I hope it arrived soon! :) This is a great article! This is a real problem we, digital artists have. But i'm a product designer too and i am designing a better table to solve this kind of problem. I'll annouce it soon.

  Juho Vepsäläinen - Reply

As I happen to use a laptop as my main computer I have settled using my tablet (Intuos3 A5 Wide) on my lap. It gives nice access to the tablet shortcuts for my thumb and feels like a natural way to draw.

  Boudewijn Rempt - Reply

I have two setups: a lenovo X61t for mobile use, and a bigger laptop with a separate tablet at home. The X61t is really nice, even though the resolution is very low. I don't fold it in tablet mode for painting, I leave the screen upright, so I can have a keyboard and and painting area at the same time.

  Corniger - Reply

I have another variant happening: a keyboard drawer and the tablet on top of the desk. Not great, but at least there's no twisting required.
An Intuos4 L, btw., that I can't claim to be very happy with. The buttons are hard to press, from the side and SMALL, the touchring, at least out of the box, is pretty useless with anything but Photoshop CS4, and the whole thing is wearing quickly, mostly the pen nibs, which is crazy. Pen&Touch seems more fun to use for 80€ vs 400...

  theparanoidcriticalrevolution - Reply

Never heard of elbow trick before. Interesting.

You forgot one important tip for right-handed people though - get a keyboard without numpad!

  Livio - Reply

It's always great to share tips and trick about digital painting. Actually, my intouos 3 A6 is so small that I can hardly imagine how to work with another tablet, but I generally found that I feel really not comfortable when the tablet is placed not in front of the screen.

  Giniu - Reply

You say that tablet cannot replace mouse, and what do you think about new Bamboo series that integrate tablet with full sized touchpad? Like - I'm planning to get such device myself soon, to get rid of mouse (and hand pain that slows me down) thanks to touch and some nice gestures in it

  David Revoy OP , - Reply

Hey, Thanks for the feedbacks. I'm really proud to have comments of peoples I already know from other forum, or as artist with their name or pseudo. I'm honored you read me and reply.
Thanks to share your method, some really gives fresh ideas.

For the question of Giniu about new Bamboo touch, including touch pad + tablet :
Touch pad for me never replace efficiently a mouse ( mouse wheel scroll+click ). If you own a Linux system be carrefull about the driver, I don't think it's well supported for the moment.
Hand pain is really a problem with mouse. I know some people at the Blender Institute that use tablet to totally replace the mouse ; so it's possible. Here I use the mouse only a little percent of the time. For precision mainly as doing the vector art with bezier curve on this article, or when I use Blender. So mixing the both is a solution too, and your hand will recover health with practising most of the time another position of work.
Give us feedback if you decide yourself to buy it and if it solved your problem.

  Giniu - Reply

> Touch pad for me never replace efficiently a mouse ( mouse wheel scroll click )

Well, this one have 2 scrolls, taps, sweeps, zoom-in/out and rotate cw/ccw thanks to 2 finger gestures, so it's more than usual mouse - and as of linux driver, it just came out, i.e. 0.8.6 release of driver (though not all gestures are supported yet, both scrolls and zoom should work).

Thanks for reply, I will be checking it out soon probably, will tell you how it went :)

  David Revoy OP , - Reply

Hi Giniu,
Thanks for the feedback :) It's looks really good ; I have to update the linuxwacom driver since it's a "production" release. May be it will support the OLED of my Intuos 4.

  Giniu - Reply

OLED? it should - changelog says it was added in 0.8.5-8 in around December, so it should be in this release

  Anthony - Reply

I've been researching this too and I think I've found a pretty good ergonomic solution to using a tablet as your main hand to screen device.
it's a combination between a Wacom tablet and a 3Dconnexion "SpaceNavigator" 3D mouse

<img src=""></img>

  Corniger - Reply

@Anthony: I have the Space Navigator, too! Just too bad noone bothered to create a 64bit Blender plugin :( Otherwise, a very helpful device!

  Nathan Cunningham - Reply

Hi David,

I recieved your DVD today from the post office, thanks very much, it looks great!

My Genius Tablet has finally died after 6 years of service, and I have been trying to decide on a replacement (VisTablet Muse or Intuos4 Medium)!

I think you have just convinced me on my purchase!


  Jay - Reply

High David just getting into the digital medium. I have followed your tutorial as best as I can using a simply stock mouse. Is there anyway I can email my drawing that I have done in Alchemy to you? I'd like some criticism form a pro.


  Jay - Reply

Wow lot of errors in that comment. Sorry!

  jjackle - Reply

Good article. Youve figured out the same/best ergonomic layout that I am using. But the height of the work surface and your seated height are also important. That third dimension can be as helpfull or painful as side-to-side travel. I have always found it interesting what each artist uses, what his studio looks like, and thier inspirations.

I just got into digital painting after years of vecter-based art. I needed to pick a program for paintng my cartoons. After all freeware and some trials from main-line programs, I like to do the Inkscape-MyPaint mix. I've not done that much with Gimp yet. But i love that all of these programs integrate well.


  Dave - Reply

Another alternative which I find works well is having a programmable keyboard which is set up with hotkeys for the software you're using. It limits the number of keys you can use a little, but I've found that it works fine with most programs (the only one I had trouble with was blender, but that's largely because I hadn't used it in a while and had forgotten which hotkeys I used most often in that)

I'm combining it with a mouse, bamboo and laptop

  Slug45 - Reply

After LOTS of combinations, the one that does the trick for me is:
1. A big table (140 cm [width] x >70 cm x n cm [height]).
2. My old Wacom intuos 3 A5.
3. Apple [mini] Keyboard ().
And that's all. I don't use a mouse nor the tablet's "express keys"/"touch strips".

The setup is like the "I" setup, but because the table is big enough, I can have both elbows on the table.

I would also recommend:
1. Having the top of the screen a little bit above your eyesight.
2. Your elbows should be NEVER "floating".
3. The tablet should be > A5.
4. Get a REALLY NICE chair.

Thanks and Cheers!

  Trongrl - Reply


Thanks for the tips! I use a laptop with a fairly large Adesso tablet (because i'm 17 and these are the tools my parents would get me) And i push the laptop all the way to the back of the desk and put the tablet in front of it. Not good for eye strain, but having the tablet lined up with the screen helps me a little with angling the strokes properly. I have a tendency, with this solution, to find myself stretched all the way across the tablet with my face in the screen when i draw for long periods of time.

  Antoine - Reply

Existe t-il une version française de cet excellant tuto?


Graphiste Linux amateur.

  Deevad OP , - Reply

Thanks all for the feedback :)

@Antoine : La version FR n'éxiste pas encore, mais votre commentaire me donne l'idée de peut-être faire sa traduction.

  Benjamin Bailey (Banor) - Reply

Thanks for this great article, Revoy! Very good. One thing, though: what type of Ikea desk did the Blender Foundation use?

  Deevad OP , - Reply

Hi Benjamin,

You can find the ikea desk here ,(on the FR website ) :

It's a Galant in "L" (angular desk) with telescopic feet . 160x120 cm

  eydi - Reply

Hey thanks so much for this great article about graphic tablets... I want to try bigger tablets but now I give up :) My graphic tablet is a little one A5 :)

  Rob - Reply

David, thank you a million times over for the advice you have shared as well as brushes lol.

I know that this is an older post but I thought that since I came upon it at such a late date others may do the same.

With regard to the Cintique, I'm not entirely sure it would work depending on what method of sensing the pen tip location it uses but I do know that for the Ipad and other tablet computers there are clear plastic screen guards that have a light adhesive that easily comes off when it needs to be removed and or replaced. Because wear and tear to the Cintique is an issue, using such a cover might be a good solution... of course I just looked at the mid sized one and it costs $2000.00 American so I doubt I will be checking this solution out lol.

Also, I know that Wacom now produces a stylus for the Ipad so the new Ipad may become a more cost effective alternative as a pen tablet!

Thanks again,

  David REVOY OP , - Reply

@eydi : Thanks for the comment :)

@Rob: Thanks for the info about wacom pen on Ipad, I'm waiting a lot the new 'cintiq-like' future solution with better pricing and a bit more solid :D

  jikz - Reply

Hey great article (although I am a month late) It made me think back a few weeks when I wrote this: it would possibly change everything about tablets (make them unnecessary)if the technology is viable and of good quality.
Seriously, you put some awesome efforts into this and when Blend n Paint arrive I will be in ergonomic bliss!

  Gillian Holding - Reply

Très interessant! je cherchais depuis longtemps quelques précisions sur les avantages/inconvénients du Intuos médium. Up till now i've been using a Bamboo fun larger size, but i think it feels intuitively better to use a medium sized tablet to more easily reflect the relative size/ ergonomics of what's appearing on the laptop screen...

  blake - Reply

Je suis gaucher en dessin, mais droitier pour la souris, VDM.

  Still - Reply

Hi David;

Do you have any tips for the use of a Wacom Bamboo CTH-661 and a Mac 13.3"? In my desktop, I run Debian and I don't have any problems with ergonomics, because I use your tips here. But now, I started to use my Wacom with my Mac and I couldn't find any tips here to use in this case.



  Sam - Reply

I use a compact keyboard (w/o numpad) but still isn't pefect. I think about using a split keyboard like Kinesis Freestyle with the tablet inbetween it's two pieces. But haven't put my hands on a split keyboard yet.

  Kasia - Reply

I've got WacomIntous4 and it gives me a lot of pain to work with it along with the keyboard and mouse by my side (and I suffer from pain in my right arm...).

Also, I don't know why but the tablet mouse works pretty weird -it just slides and the readings of the cursor are so insanly fast. My guess is that the mouse is intruding itself with my normal pc mouse. So I use pc mouse instead and only pen for the tablet.

  Barney - Reply

Hi David,

I know this is pretty late into the discussion. I think I might have a temporary solution with regards to ergonomics. A little about me first: I used to be an animator, but that was not meant to be. I have damaged both of my wrists and have been advised to choose a career that does not include computers.

Because of the constant pain while working with a graphics tablet, a keyboard and a mouse I thought it might be great if I could replace some of my hardware. This solution is only for my painting workflow. I don't know how this will work for everyone.

Solution: A simple PS2 or Xbox joystick without the vibration and 6-axis features. I use the USB port to connect the joystick in Ubuntu.

My joystick has been remapped in Ubuntu by this software called Qjoypad.

Qjoypad has been designed to play computer/keyboard games on a joystick. Since programs also use the keyboard for shortcuts I just mapped the frequently used/essential keys to the joystick.

Qjoypad allows profiles. I have a profile for:
1. General file manager(including comic book reading and browsing)
3. MyPaint

I have tested this for Blender 3d and it works too. But I haven't figured out how handle the joystick and graphics tablet in Blender being a newbie. Moving an object properly is still a hassle for me.

What do you think about this option? This way I rarely use the keyboard while painting. Scrolling and browsing the internet is also not a problem. I click the links with the pen.I pretty much use the keyboard only for chat, emails and terminal commands. Sometimes I can pull off a chat with handwriting recognition software but that taxes my hands.

  David REVOY OP , - Reply

@Barney : I think it's a really good option, because I use it too nowadays . I think you'll be interrested to read what I did here : :)

  Ragnar - Reply

I've used a variety of tables, from the ArtPad II to the Cintiq, and have found a couple of layouts that work for me.

For Intuos1/2/3 A5, I like the layout you have in (L), with the tablet nearest me, keyboard above it and then the screen. But an even better solution is using the Kinesis Freestyle split keyboard. Make sure you get one with the longer cable, as they come in two varieties. This way you can place the tablet between the two halves of your keyboard. Though it does require that you know touch typing, as hunt-n-pick on a split keyboard is a painful exercise. Oh, and people will look at you funny when they see your desktop layout. :)

Unfortunately, the cable for the Kinesis is a little too short for a Cintiq 21". It will fit a little behind the edge of the screen, but is kind of inconvenient. Alternately you can flip the screen to portrait mode, and work that way instead. Admittedly, I haven't found a great solution for the Cintiq...short of maybe trying to solder a longer cable between the two halves of my keyboard. :)

I've done quite a bit of drawing on a TabletPC, where there is no keyboard when you flip the screen over to tablet mode, and found quite a few handy tools on Linux to make it easier to work without one. There are really only two things you need to install, and both are in the Ubuntu software center.

Firstly, there is CellWriter, which provides an on screen keyboard, and does hand writing recognition. It's not as fast as typing on a real keyboard, but I generally don't do a lot of typing while I'm drawing in Gimp, so it's not a problem.

Secondly, there is EasyStroke. I posted a tutorial on it over at GimpTalk a while ago ( … ntry267505 ), though the pictures from it seem to have gone missing. It's really simple to set up. You draw a shape while holding the side switch, and assign a keyboard shortcut to it. You can assign different shortcuts to different programs. I've found that I generally only use about 10 or so different gestures. For instance, when I draw an S shape, my drawing is saved, and a straight line going down, is Undo. The nice thing about it is that it's about as fast as using keyboard shortcuts, and once you get used to it, it really becomes second nature.

  David REVOY OP , - Reply

@Ragnar : Hey thanks for your feedback , they make me want to test a split keyboard and a gesture recognition software :)

  Barney - Reply

That gamepad hack for Cintiq was really nice :) Good job

  ram - Reply

J'utilise toujours ma tablette (A5) face à moi, le clavier juste derrière, bien en face de l'écran central (configuration 3 écrans), le dos bien calé contre mon fauteuil (enfin, quand j'y pense...) ! ^^

  Simon - Reply

Thank you.
After an hour of searching I have found your setup.
Turns out I have been using the curved approach you have but only on one side; time to make a change!

  Peter - Reply

Thank you very much fort this tutorial. It was very hopefull. I've made some changes like you write with a small tablet and it works fine. My lines are more percise after this change even I drow on tablet about 2 years I never get the right position for it. One thing I can write something new: I have 2 monitors and they are useful when you can have all the panels on the second monitor but there is an issue; the second monitor eats half of your tablet surface what you don't use. This reduce the activ area on your tablet and reduse instantly your drawing surface. If you have a big tablet it is ok but with a small A5 tablet it is importatnt every inch of the space you can use. Thank you.

  David REVOY OP , - Reply

@All :Thx!

@Peter : Thanks Peter for the feeback. yes, I forgot talking about multimonitors, and also my experience with Cintiq growed. I might find time to update this article. Keep drawing !

  Chris - Reply

Interesting in these two years that there has barely been any mention of desk setups where a keyboard tray is involved. There isn't too much documented about it on quick Google searches, but a funny dilemma is whether you would want the keyboard or the tablet on the tray, and what you would want on the top of the desk. What do you all think?

  David REVOY OP , - Reply

@Chris : Hey, sure 'tray' under desk is a unvolontary omission on my article. I bought one on Ikea ; and tested it ( I tested it for keyboard. I think it can be great and save room on the desk. Also, I disliked it because it was hard for exemple to play FPS or to have the wrist on something stable while long typing ( clients emails , scenarios ,etc... ).
But for occasionnal keystroke or typing, it can be a very good solution.

  David Matos - Reply

Brilliant, useful article —thanks!

  KAge - Reply

Wow, thanks for the tips; I've been having aches around my shoulder area ever since i start using a tablet for drawing; reading your tutorial is very informative to me =D

  Jon Sandell - Reply

Thanks David

For all the tips and other stuf you got here
Currently mostly using mypaint and krita love those programs just needs a way to do rotatable meshes and i got everything i need to work using an aiptek 140000u and a nice extra addition that i don't see others using its from a company called Wolfkin actualy made for gaming but works really well for my digital setup


sits besides my graphic tablet
the keys are perfect and at so much speed to my work
used it for gaming but this works even beter

  David REVOY OP , - Reply

@Jon Sandell : Hey, thanks for the link , I'm always curious to see more hardware, I watched this video , and it sound good. I'm looking for a mini Keyboard also , for low price to do other experiment, so I always have the eyes on each hardware related. :)

  Jon Sandell - Reply

Yes, that is the one i have both that one and those other two too … board.html

I really love it. At first i had to decide where and what function to put under what key or keycombination
there have been like 8 different setups until i found the one that makes me work as i want to

Using Mypaint as a canvas My maschine is the best I ever had to do these kind of things
HannsG HZ281 28" screen
Intel i7 12gb Mem and 8TB HDD
Aiptek 140000u will be replaced when i can with a Aiptek Media II
under ubuntu waltop

Specs are compatible with wacom
9,5” (24 cm) premium Graphic Tablet
Battery-free pen with tilt sensitivity
2048 true pressure levels, high 5080 Lpi resolution
4 free programmable hot keys

i like the aiptek and if the buttons K1-K34 are avaiable then it is for me "the perfect instrument"

Anyway after a while it feels so natural just wish i could save the keyboard layout that i have now just made a text file so i don't lose it when i need to reinstall

adjusting while you work is very inspiring turning around and changing colour on the fly will post a vid to show how i use it and add some commentary

still getting to grips and making the transfer from plain pencils >> all digital and tablet. At some point i was thinking why sketch, scan tidy
When i could be doing all of that on the pc
At the moment using Elementary OS Luna with git builds of gimp an mypaint the new mypaint with the layers , mirror and adjustable brushes is enough for now amazed at how smooth the pressure sensitivity reacts to pen

better than in gimp or photoshop

  David REVOY OP , - Reply

@Jon Sandell : Oh good to hear the Aiptek is working fine with good seducing specifications. Elementary OS sound really good, I keep an eye on it , but I became really in love for the flexibility of KDE. I'm looking for the moment to move to another Linux distribution KDE based , because I'm a bit tired of all the problems made by Ubuntu. I have eyes on Fedora, Debian testing and Arch Linux. I test them on a VM from time to time, to see if I can build the things I need, or if they behave stable.

  brobr - Reply

Have you considered Slackware? This very old, most unix-like distro comes with KDE and is very stable, well maintained and with an active supportive community (e.g. on ). State-of-the-art KDE packages are available ( as well as other packages like Blender or Inkscape etc. (via Slackware is highly configurable using text-files and keeps you -the user- in control of your computer.

  srcspider - Reply

I suggest looking into what you can do with a Razor Tartarus (or the previous model Nostromo). It's a gaming gamepad that has just enough keys to get everything you want and is extremely compact (they are essentially designed for laptop gaming so you dont break/devalue your laptop keyboard though intense use). Because its a gaming pad it allows you to program all the keys with stupid combinations (ie. Alt+Ctrl on same key, or even entire combinations Ctrl+SHIFT+ALT+KEY to bypass the "must be two keys" limitations on key mapping in photoshop).

If you have a Large tablet size, it may be required since almost none of the layouts shown will work; and given how slow the normal tablet buttons are compared to any keyboard-like buttons you will (eventually) want to avoid using the tablet buttons.

Some pics (mostly nostromo since its been around longer).

Size: … -274451152 … -329770993

Keymapping example: … -372732147

A word of warning, the tartarus may be easier to use (due to fitting better for people with smaller hands) then the older nostromo model.

  David REVOY OP , - Reply

@brobr : I'll consider testing Slackware ; I knew only the name, I never gave it a try. thx !

@srcspider : Hey, yes thanks for the infos about this hardware. The only problem with those hardware are Linux compatibility in my case. Hard to find a userbase of developpers owning this hardware and developping a driver. But it does sound good.

  Chris - Reply

Hey, I don't know if you follow Stan Propenko, who's publishing a series of interesting videotutorials on drawing. Yesterday he posted a video on how to hold the pencil ( I'm kinda annoyed to note that I have to change ANOTHER basis of my drawing style, but each annoyed change improved my performance, so I fear I'm learn it anyway. But I noticed Propenko showed himself working with a charcoal pencil on a large sheet tilted upward. That's different from working on graphic tablet or sketchbooks, with graphite pencils or pens.

How do you hold the pen while working?

  David REVOY OP , - Reply

@Chris :Hey, I discover this video. Here I hold it tripod, but my thumb go inside. I need thin pen because of this peculiar grip ; that's why I don't like large Wacom stylus and often buy the slim version or customise mine with removing parts. I never felt my gesture or drawing precision affected by this. I never changed, and focus to what happen on paper. If one day I feel pain , I'll probably change position.

  Chris - Reply

@ David REVOY I was expecting an aswer like this. I rarely draw on surfaces bigger than an A4 and my graphic tablet is about an A5, so I never had the problem of "hairy curves". I was mostly concerned about inflammation of the tendons of the wrist and elbow and I guessed the other hold is safer for the arm

  goldleaf - Reply

Nice article (as are all of your write ups!) Thanks David!

I wanted to chime in on the split keyboards: they're awesome! (I use the Kinesis Freestyle) But to get the most flexibility, get the one with the 20 inch cord, rather than the standard 8 inches. They are worth the little extra bit of money.


  David REVOY OP , - Reply

@goldleaf : Thx for the article :) I had a look on google image. It does looks nice to split keyboard. It is for using this way ? : … irst-look/ ; with what type of tablet size are you using it ?

  Cestarian - Reply

Hey I've got an Intuos A5 (CTH-680) that's the new bamboo I guess. I wouldn't want a bigger one even if I have a huge 27" monitor, I think the surface on the tablet is almost too big in fact (I don't want to have to move my arm too much to cover the whole thing)

I often wonder about the height of the tablet, my friend who draws quite a bit keeps it at roughly rib-height, but some say I should keep it at a height where my elbow can hang.

In my case i've got a keyboard drawer on my desk, and a relatively big one too (it can hold my large mousepad and logitech gaming keyboard, gaming keyboard is a silly name though, i like to think of it as a utility keyboard, 18x3 buttons i can program to do whatever I want! it's useful in windows, but it's epic on linux, once I got the drivers working) anyways aside from my keyboard adventures, I have 2 setups in mind I think are cool, one being keeping the tablet on the desk and the keyboard and mouse where they are (basic), but another interesting one I thought of which I haven't tried is keeping the tablet and mouse on the keyboard drawer and the keyboard on the desk (kind of an ironic setup right?)

So far i've kept the tablet on the desk and the keyboard in the drawer, but just now I tried switching them up now and I feel that this is the most relaxed (healthy I guess) arm position for the tablet that i've found (excuse the horrible image; in my defense so far the only thing i've drawn were portraits and bodies! and I'm still getting used to the tablet, this image shows well how unsteady my hand is on the tablet. I've had it for less than a week I guess. Also, a blunder on my end was that I used the basic rounded brush in this image whereas I should've used some of Thera's nice inking brushes I got for it instead.)

This way I can easily keep my entire arm relaxed (from shoulder down to the very wrist) and have easy access to all the HIDs. I tried before to place the touchpad where the mouse is and keep the keyboard in the drawer, but I really need my tablet to be as directly in front of my screen as possible to be able to draw sensibly.

Think this positioning is bad for some reason? (Perhaps the screen is too far away from my face for example, or the keyboard position is funky?)

  David REVOY OP , - Reply

@Cestarian : Hey, I tested here the Ikea Summera ; less than 10€ ; but the stability and size of it wasn't enought good for a tablet and my hand to rest on it . I guess typing on a keyboard is lighter. My wife got a desk with this type of 'pull-out keyboard shelf' built-in directly , and this one is robust and got tiny wheel. I guess this type of 'pull-out keyboard shelf' can be strong enough for a tablet.

I don't know if it's good or bad as a position ; only you can tell. Painting / Drawing all a days during a week will tell you immediatly if a position is good or not. When practising one hour per day here and there, almost any setup is more or less ok. :-)

  Cestarian - Reply

Yeah my shelf is sturdy and came with my desk, it's nearly as steady as the desk itself, it only budges just a little bit when i press down on it with my arm (too little for me to notice really) it's also pretty big, for reference the "gaming" keyboard is about an entire numpad wider than a normal keyboard, and the large mousepad is well.. a large mouspad, I was fitting these 2 monsters side by side on it.

I found there was a certain trick to getting the arm position just right though, so my arm doesn't have to bend around my stomach I usually move it just a little bit to the right (it kind of rests one side on the mousepad)

Little enough so I don't mentally notice that it's not really directly in front of my screen, but much enough so i can easily cover the entire tablet with my arm without any effort. I guess i'll see over the next week how it works out in the long term (I'll post my results a week from now in here if I remember to). Actually I hope it works out, it gives me an excuse to show off my expensive keyboard, and also makes the little LCD monitor built into it visible (I always thought it was such a shame to have a monitor and led backlighting on my keyboard that's hidden inside a drawer.)

I btw highly recommend macro keyboards like mine (if you want one it seems only the logitech keyboards work on linux & with unofficial drivers, but I managed to make mine work even better than it does in windows; since I hardcoded my macros into the drivers the macro keys respond faster) this thing has massively boosted my accessibility in both windows and linux, this is the one i've got;

If you ever decide to buy one (which I would consider a smart move for anyone who uses computers a lot) make sure to google around to see how much success people have had getting that particular model to work on Linux, I can help you get that particular (G510) model working, but I'd be useless for other models probably. I use 6 of my keys to swap workspaces (with this keyboard I can easily use 6 workspaces instead of the traditional 4, I could use 18 if I wnated to dedicate all the keys in one of the presets to workspaces, but I only need 6 so I don't), another 6 to access the folders I most frequently visit and the 3rd set of 6 keys for actual utility (browsing in particular, 3 of them for changing and closing tabs; one for mouse clicks and one is alt+f4, the fourth is a terminal) and that's just desktop use, now that i'm starting to use digital art programs which have a track record of having way too many keyboard shortcuts that are hard to remember, I can just bind the most important ones (all the ones that I need to use but require me to use a modifer like ctrl) to my macro keys, so i can work even faster. I never used this thing in a video game, and after getting used to the increased accessibility it gives I can't live without it anymore. It's like the keyboard gave me wings when I figured out how to use it to speed up most of the things I do in the computer. Then again with SteamOS coming, maybe razer's macro keypads will get linux compatible drivers sometime late 2014 which would mean you could just buy a keypad for this functionality (cheaper and doesn't take as much space). I think these companies (razer and logitech) are way too shortsighted selling something this amazing as "gaming" products though.

It's at least something to consider ^_^ I personally think even if it's double, triple or quadruple the price of a normal keyboard having a keyboard that gives me 18(x3, because 3 presets i can switch between on the fly with the M keys) extra buttons which I can use for a good boost my productivity is worth it in the long run.

  David REVOY OP , - Reply

@Cestarian : nice Keyboard ! Cool for your setup and about the driver . Switching workspace with a single key is attractive ; I can also for sure use many key like this for a lot of task. For the moment, no budget for keyboard; my next computer toy will be a more silent fan for Gfx card; and may be changing graphic card.

  Cestarian - Reply

I thought it was a pain to change GPU fans, I never do it, I just keep em stock (meaning I'd go with a new one if I were you) but well; if you ever get a particularly beautiful paycheck at least you know that you could use a keyboard like that.

And yes, switching workspace with one button is super nice, this thing may speed up my windows usage, but on linux it's even more useful since there are simply more system commands (like changing workspace & opening terminal) that you use often. I only use like 12 of the buttons on windows (because I simply don't need any more than that on there) but I could probably find a load more of commands I use in linux.

But what do you need a dedicated graphics card for? Do you do 3D modeling? or perhaps you just like the increased performance of compisiting effects? Or do you just like to play games like I do?

  Ybenn - Reply

I have big problem with this - the arms of my chair are much lower than the surface of my desk (the keyboard is on the moving "drawer" thingy ( ), so I'm leaning my Intuos3 A4 on the edge of the desk, but using it gives me constant pain in my shoulder.

I don;t know what to do. Can anyone suggest something?

  Darko Bednjanec - Reply

Hi David,
I am using tablet as you do in "h", "home position". But because I am using larger tablet, keyboard is between LCD and tablet. It could be awkward, but not so much because I am using kneeling chair - which is the main reason I am posting here.
For ergonomic reasons, I really do recommend to try it: my back is not hurting me anymore, and I find that I am much more "maneuverable" (for using keyboard or so).
I am using my old Intuos3 Special Edition A4 USB, active area of 305x231 mm, 1,024 levels of Pressure-sensitivity. It does have 2 "ExpressKeys" and "Touch Strips", 4 keys on both sides... but I am not using it, it just not fit to me.
I've got in package Grip Pen stylus and Airbrush stylus, and it should has "Tilt Sensitivity". However, I am not using airbrush not tilt because it requires Corel Painter (I've got crippled Corel Painter Essentials 3) that I don't like, and it does not work @ Linux, and I am using mostly MyPaint, GIMP, Krita, Photoshop (@Wine, for some cmyk specific reasons) and Inkscape. None of them is supporting tilting as far as I know.
Tablet mouse is useless as you declared before.

I am interested at your opinion about kneeling chair, and/or airbrush stylus & tilting features.

  David REVOY OP , - Reply

@Darko Bednjanec : Hey, I tested the ergonomic chair on knees, and even an expensive dek chair. I'm actually back to a simple wooden ikea chair, I need to sit on hard surface nowaday, and stable ( I didn't liked the wheel experience ).
Oh, Intuos 3 special edition are really cool ; I loved this edition. I also have a Intuos 3 A4 here.
About tilting ; Krita, Gimp and Mypaint support it. About airbrush ; it's not supported ; but I'm curious how GNOME < 3.10 would recognize it.
I need to make a video soon about tilt.

  Darko Bednjanec - Reply

@David Revoy:
Thanks for your answer,
I lost url of this page and now found it by accident :-)
Thanks for sharing info about tilting: I have to try it!
@Gnome: I'm still at Mate version of Mint, which is Gnome 2 afaik. Cinnamon is fine, but sometimes has lags (much more cpu extensive) - which could lead to errors at fast drawings.
@kneeling chair: funny thing is that back pair of wheels at my chair has been broken, and I found it more comfortable without it :-)
Probably because of same reason as you said - chair should be static imho.

  Sicherheitpolizei - Reply

My solution:

1) Get a desk with a special keyboard drawer that can be slid under the desk
2) Put keyboard in drawer
3) Put tablet on desk
4) Draw as usual, with tablet in front of you. Keyboard is slid under desk
5) Need to type? Slide the keyboard out

  David REVOY OP , - Reply

@Darko Bednjanec : :-)

@Sicherheitpolizei : Hey Sicherheitpolizei, yes, I forgot about the keyboard drawer in this article. It's a good solution but here I have two problem with them :
1. It's hard to keep a hand always on it for keyboard shortcuts. Here I switch tools, modes, etc with keyboard shortcuts. When doing digital art 8h / day sinces decades, it's a must to boost productivity.
2. Also, for playing games, the drawers/keyboard don't feel enough solid to me. and when typing a lot, I have comfort issue with putting my wrist on it.
But for those who use keyboard just here and there, it sounds good. thx for sharing !

  Cestarian - Reply

Hey, since I know you like to create free tutorials, and I know I love your tutorials as well, have you considered joining up with the Cubebrush team? I chanced upon that site yesterday and I was highly impressed with the contents :P your tutorials might get some extra publicity there, and it might be good to have a FOSS soldier infiltrating their ranks to promote free and open source artist software like Blender and Krita The Seriously Evil Laugh

  David REVOY OP , - Reply

@Cestarian : Thanks for the words about my tutorials ; but I won't mix with a group as long as this group does :
* Proprietary content
They do it on regular basis to grow a channel and earn adv revenues. It's a buisness. Here, I do personnal tutorial to help community, with open-source license. Even my Dvd's are open. I'm keeping indi.

* Abuse of female representation as sexual object
They use big boobs, pants, ass often in video thumbnails to drive attention of male teenager audience. That's defintely not part of my personnal values nor my target audience (even if I have nothing against nudity representation and sex-appeals of models in general ).

  Cestarian - Reply

Oh well, it was just a suggestion I guess, and I wrote it on DA originally so you may have noticed a bit of an error (The Seriously Evil Laugh = Emote from DA; placed there to indicate sarcasm)

I can't disagree with you on proprietary content, I'm on the same page as you there but I like that site because at least currently they are providing more free stuff than proprietary stuff, and as a viewer I do not care if it is mixed in with proprietary contents or not, I really liked their price (16$) and so far from what I've seen their proprietary content is only the kind of stuff beginners normally shouldn't be considering (more advanced videos) which is why I was suggesting this, it seems to be headed towards being a great site, and I personally think of that 16$ monthly fee which I would pay to access pro content much like a donation since I don't really need that pro content either way.

But I can respectfully disagree with you on the sexual objectification of females, firstly, where do they become objectified? Are they being branded and sold in any of those images? Not really, they're just drawn in non-realistic proportions and in sexy poses with lack of clothing, there is nothing wrong with that, only feminism extremists see anything wrong with this, in fact a lot of women even like pictures like these. Just as I like pictures like these … -380244081

Unrealistic men, we have exactly the same problem on our side too, men are commonly portrayed in art unrealistically toned and proportioned just as women are, but do you see any of us bitching about it? Is it not the point of art to create things that couldn't exist in the real world?

Theres a huge difference between drawing unrealistically proportioned women, and photoshopping women to look better than they ever could physically look for the sake of advertisement. Out of this world beautiful and sexy women are attractive to me, and out of this world beautiful or well structured and toned males are nothing I dislike at all either, not even a little bit, maybe it's just that I've gotten used to fantasy where every humanoid being gets to be perfect.

That's not to say I don't think half naked women aren't overused in advertisements (no I really think they are overused! so much I sometimes get sick of it!), but I don't see it as objectification, the women after all are not the products being sold in these advertisements, they are the ones getting paid. And in art where nothing was real to begin with, no one gets hurt.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that complaints about sexual objectification of women are a very political thing, it's words tossed around by feminists in order to brainwash people into thinking it is wrong for women to use their sex appeal for advertisement purposes which can often give unfair advantages to some industries. Do not get pulled into believing all that extremist crap, the wisdom of it (which is there) is not really applicable to art, it is that photoshop is being overused to make models which were already going into extremes and unhealthy dieting and as such already looked pretty much incredibly good (or in some cases incredibly starved...) look impossibly good which directly undermines the self esteem of the female population; art doesn't do this as they don't need to be as observant to see that the drawn person is not a real human being and therefore not to be a role model. Self esteem is a huge problem for our female population which is probably why the feminist movements started trying to fight this trend.

There is nothing wrong with using things that attract the eye to advertise, whether it be making a video thumbnail look clickable or to convince people to buy a product, it is the purpose of advertisements to do so to begin with! it is the reason they exist! to promote content. In most cases I suspect women will have nothing against these thumbnails. I'm sure you were particularly thinking about the batgirl thumbnail which was a speedpaint where the artist mind you said "Silly redesign of the recent redesign for Batgirl." and it is silly indeed, she's almost not wearing any clothes, but apart from her waist she seems fairly realistically proportioned, her boobs are in an above average size from a realistic point of view, and that thumbnail is representative of the content making it a thumbnail doing it's job right :)

The sexual objectification of females only takes place in two industries and subdivisions or variants of these industries, one is porn which I very rarely watch (why watch porn when there are entire galleries of pornographic art to look through instead? much more creative, no one gets harmed, and no adding to the demand of porn films) and the other is human trafficking which takes place all over the world in the shadows and corners of all kinds of industries (industries related to stage performance are commonly involved in such, from the managers of singers to models and dancers or other kinds of performers)

Just to prove my point, I did not have to be on deviantart for very longe to find a lot of female artists who draw out of proportion and even sexualized female characters. A lot. Go ahead and look at one if you want. … -434051466

But I don't mean that you should draw women with huge boobs though, I love your art just the way it is, and it's a nice and welcome break from all the super sexy out of proportion female characters other artists tend to draw. Everything has a time and place, and some things are overused, sexuality is one of these things, but that is just because it is within our nature, for worse or for worse.

  David REVOY OP , - Reply

@Cestarian : well, our point of view differ on the matter :-)

  DaBotz - Reply

I personally keep a dedicated keyboard, with a program called HidMacros that permits to "hijack" keys of specific Hid Devices, stacked vertically on the left side of the tablet, as well as a general purpose keyboad and a mouse. … vNu2mQuR0A … 0A&index=3

I love hotkeys, one may say.

  Artox - Reply

I was searching the net for solutions pertaining to the use of the Surface Pro, when I happened to find your post on ergonomic solutions to using a keyboard+tablet+mouse. I have found an awesome solution for myself and thing other people can also benefit. Here is the combo:
- Wacom Intuos 4 Medium
- Logitech G13 gaming keyboard, which is small enough to sit next to your tablet and not ruin ergonomics (fully programmable and much faster than using the Wacom built-in wheel and buttons)
- TrackMan Marble FX or another trackball to your liking (what you can find, they are really scarce these days, the M570 should be fine for most people)
This is the best combo ergonomically for me, you can rest one hand on the tablet and the other on the G13 and have the full power of using all shortcuts in Photoshop or other software.

  Hoggy - Reply

How about two monitors, one for use with the keyboard, and the when using the tablet? Could work well with the ikea desk, so you turn to one side to use the keyboard, and turn the other way to use the tablet. Might be horrible if you flip between tablet and keyboard very frequently.

  Adam - Reply

This is thoroughly a great post both in terms of writing and illustrations. I't really helped me develop an understanding for ergonomics and many problems of drawing tablets. Thanks for writing and putting it out here on the web!

  Jesse - Reply

Another option if you're willing to invest the money is the Razer Orbweaver. Basically it's a keypad with 16 (I think) programmable mechanical keys as well as an analog stick and a d-pad. Google it to see more. It's made for gaming but I've heard many people who do various types of work on computers that use this.

  Khalil - Reply

I know this thread is old and long, but I couldn't help but add my thoughts. I use a MacBook Pro as my main device with an external monitor attached - the Mac is sitting on an old Griffen iCurve, so the screen is at eye level. Mac to the left, large external monitor right in front of me.

My mouse and keyboard (both external usb/wireless) are on a sliding tray underneath the desk surface and on the occasions when I have to use a drawing tablet it is on the desk, in front of where the main monitor is set. That way I can work with both keyboard and tablet at the same time if needed and have the freedom to move the tablet around for ergonomics and body posture. The tablet has a toggle where I can switch it from tablet to "mouse" mode as needed so I don't have to take my hand from it (rarely, rarely use this feature).

To me this is like your illustration of tablet on top of the keyboard but with the tablet not interfering with the keyboard at all.

  David REVOY OP , - Reply

Hey thank you all for sharing your solutions here.
Yes, the thread is old, but still delicious to read about your setup ideas.

  Akshay Asarkar - Reply

Thanks for sharing your tips. Very helpful for beginners like me !

  Jason Jones - Reply

Thanks for the tips, they're great! I use the tablet professionally and the problem that I've faced is with the ergonomics of the wacom pen. The wacom pen is simply not a great device for extended use. I've modified the pen with the plus ergo grip (an ergonomic grip designed for the wacom pen) and although it helps a lot it does not solve the problem. I think the only solution is to not use the tablet and get back to using a brush and canvas.

  David REVOY OP , - Reply

@Jason Jones : hey, I also modified the pen, making it as a thin cylinder with sand paper, then tooth paste, removing the button, and I found a tape with fabric-like feeling to cover the surface of the pen. It's almost ok :D but I'm really used to draw or paint with brush of a little diameters, not fat or big as a marker.
Thank for your comment, Ill try to update this page :)

  Cornell - Reply

Thanks for this useful article. The ergonomics of serious tablet use are not discussed enough usually. People talk about size, levels of pressure etc, but imo being able to use it comfortably is more important than how many thousands of levels of pressure you have.

I regularly use an Intuos4 A4 an Intuos5 A5 and a Bamboo A6 in a varying set of layouts. The ergonomic factor that I find most important (almost to the point of making others irrelevant) is missing in this post. I find that whatever the tablet size and layout of accompanying keyboard and mouse, the main thing is never to draw while sitting. I have a desk that can be used standing or sitting and my recommendation to anyone who regularly uses a tablet is to invest in a setup that lets you work standing. Once you get used to the extra freedom of motion, you will never want to draw sitting again (except for short intervals to let your feet rest if you need to draw all day).

Additionally I use my A4 tablet on a slanted document holder (Flexdesk 640) which holds the tablet at a more natural drawing angle*. While standing the strain on my wrist, shoulders, back and neck are gone. I got rid of my (light) RSI this way and highly recommend looking into ways to let your tablet and desk fit your body instead of the other way around. Really, look into it! You can thank me later.

*(Incidentally, the A4 tablet is too heavy for the springs on the holder, so that the holder always stays in the "down position", resting the weight on the desk. Fine for my purposes).

Hope this helps someone. Happy drawing!

  Erik - Reply

Excellent post. I'm amazed this thread is still going after 5 years but I guess this topic is something that people feel strongly about. I read in your comments that you have modified your pen to make it smaller. Have you tried using a Wacom classic pen? I found the classic pen to be significantly thinner. For me I prefer thicker pens not thinner. I use the plus ergo grip ( ) to thicken up my pro pen and love it. I'm sort of surprised that wacom doesn't offer a thick ergonomic grip by default. I think the ergonomics of the pen is just as important if not more than the tablet. The first point of contact is the pen not the tablet.

  Noid - Reply

Get a desk with a keyboard tray. Put the tablet on the keyboard tray and the keyboard/laptop on top of the desk. I've been working like that for years and never felt wrist pain.

  David REVOY OP , - Reply

@Noid : Keyboard tray with good stability and long enough can work, sure.
This article has soon 6 years and would need a big update. I'll try to work on it.

  zokish - Reply

"Note 3: As this article is about my experience, all examples are for right-handed people.
Left-handed people are welcome to mirror the example in their mind."


Thank God I'm lefty
right hand -> cursors, Enter, numeric keys, p-up, p-down, home, end, shortcuts...
left hand (as it should to be, because they invented mouse after keyboard) on a mouse, or on pencil...
This is rare situation for left handed people when, (if they are designers or engineers), you have everything as it should to be.

Designers, they never check how many right hands and fingers we have...

  TheArtfulButterfly - Reply

I just found this recently while i was trying to figure out how to use keyboard shortcuts with my tablet. I use a Laptop ( and my arms are short!) so right now the tablet is right in front of me inbetween the laptop and me. its very hard to hunt for keys this way.

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