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Graphics tablet pressure sensitivity, and what does it mean?

You are considering buying a graphics tablet. And while you were researching them. You kept stumbling upon the term Pressure Sensitivity all the time. And you couldn’t tell what that term means. Or how does it affect your buying decision. This is what I will explain to you right now.

To learn more about Wacom graphics tablets, in both theory & practical way, check out my book Getting started with Wacom graphics tablet and Digital Painting With Photoshop: Learn Digital Art & Paintings On Good Fundamentals.

Controlling your lines with pressure sensitivity

Pressure sensitivity determines how much you can vary the width of the lines you paint. This is done by applying  different pressure on the tablet surface. To show you want that means. Here are a series of lines I drew using Photoshop. I applied a pressure from very light to very strong with each line I drew:-

Using Graphics tablet pressure sensitivity to Vary the brush size

The more pressure sensitivity a graphics tablet has. The more you will be able to vary the size of your strokes with pressure.

When it comes to that. Pressure sensitivity helps you draw like you do with traditional media. Like pencils & brushes.

Not all software support Graphics tablet pressure sensitivity. To get the best out of your graphics tablet. You have to make sure your software support this feature.

All the major graphics tablets come with software that supports pressure sensitivity. And it is usually Adobe Photoshop Elements or Autodesk Sketchbook. But some tablets come with other software as well~

To see Graphics tablet pressure sensitivity in action. Wacom, the Major graphics tablet manufacturer, offers a great video on how pressure sensitivity works:-

Other things that can be done with pressure sensitivity

If your software supports it. You can also control the lines opacity with pressure. This is a very useful feature in digital painting.

To show you how that work, here are a couple of strokes I made. With each stroke, I varied the amount of pressure applied. Notice how the more pressure I apply, the more opaque the line become. And the less pressure I apply, the more transparent the line is:-

Using Graphics tablet pressure sensitivity to Vary the brush opacity

Some software, like Adobe Photoshop, offers many other ways to use the pen pressure, like the angle of the brush, and many other things. But I won’t discuss these settings here for the sake of simplicity :)

What is the minimum Graphics tablet pressure sensitivity do you need?

The most common pressure sensitivity is around 8192 levels. Which is more than enough to create all sorts of wonderful artworks if used correctly. Some older Graphics Tablets has the sensitivity of 1024, 512 or even the good old 2048 levels. These tablets work great as well, even with the lower sensitivity.

But giving the fact that graphics tablets with 8192 level of pressure sensitivity are common & cheap today. I see no reason to not get that.

And it won’t be long before we see graphics tablets with pressure sensitivity of 16384, or even more :D

List of Graphics tablets (from Amazon):-


See Also

I am an anime artist, and huge fan of digital art. I love drawing with pencils too. But I rarely do that anymore nowadays. Since some aspects of digital art can be tricky, I try my best to explain the concepts as easily as possible.


    1. I love them as well ^^

      I am more than happy with what we are getting today. In fact, my current device supports 8192 pressure sensitivity~ :)

      Just updated the numbers in the post, thank you for pointing that out~

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