Sunday Mailbag

June 16th, 2013 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: I just recently downloaded a drawing app for my iPad (Sketch Club) and picked up a fairly cheap stylus from Amazon. It’s my first experience doing any kind of digital doodling but it’s proven to be a fun place to start. Because of the whole touch pad scenario, I’ve found on more than one occasion that my hand would rest on the screen and inadvertently draw strokes I didn’t intend. As a result, I hold the stylus much differently than I would a regular pen and it’s slightly altered the style of my drawings (for the better. I think). Is this something you also dealt with when making the leap to digital and if so, how did you adapt? I’m just a casual doodler, usually while I’m on the couch watching TV, so I realize this may be a basic question (or one with a basic answer – “Yeah, dummy, stop touching the screen with your hand”), but thought I’d throw it out there in case you haven’t touched on it already.

A: You have just detailed what is the major obstacle when it comes to using touch-based devices for drawing. Tablets like the iPad were designed for input from fingertips/human skin, not a stylus. As a result, the styluses that have been designed for them have to duplicate the input that a fingertip creates, which is why most of them have a big, puffy, marshmallow ends or a plastic disc to create the needed surface area interaction. Worse, as you say the screen reacts to any contact with the hand, including the palm which many artists rest or touch to the drawing surface when working. That causes the digital artist trying to use a touch tablet to have to alter the mechanics of their drawing so they don’t touch the tablet surface with anything but the tip of their stylus.

Fortunately this is not a problem with the Cintiq or a Wacom tablet. These devices only recognize the stylus tip for input…fingertips, palms or any other objects have no effect on them. I can draw with my natural mechanics on these, unlike on a touch tablet.

The latest Cintiq is a “touch” model that claims you can do both touch input and stylus input independent of each other. In other words, you can use your fingertips to scroll, rotate or zoom while drawing with the stylus but somehow your palm does not cause the issues you described. I have yet to see this in action or test it. If it works as advertised, it would be an amazing thing, but I am highly skeptical.

Thanks to Ed Placencia of Lancaster, PA for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!



  1. Tuncay Erol says:

    Hi Tom,
    I have a 24 HD touch Cintiq..depending on the app you use it has the same issues like on iPad..It works best with Corel Painter 12..when I use it with any other like Photoshop CS6 you get the unwanted dots and lines..I have turned off the touch feature for most of the time..I hope it can be used with updates in the future. When I work in Painter 12 I get a feeling, how cool it get, when it works well..

  2. Tyson Cole says:

    I have an old (2005?) hp touchsmart tm2. The screen spins around and folds down so you can use it like a mini cintiq, and both the stylus and your fingers work. Resting your hand on it usually doesn’t cause a problem. It’s not perfect, but it works for me.

  3. anon says:

    hey what about 3d printing and zbrush … will you ever get into making and selling your own sculptures of caricatures?

  4. Craig Kenny says:

    When I draw on my ipad, to avoid “hand lines” I bought a cheap pair of ‘magic’ gloves ( the ones that apparently fit any size hand) and cut away the 3 bigger fingers leaving my pinkie and side of my hand covered by the glove. Not pretty but effective in avoiding unwanted touches. Hope this helps you


LA Workshop no. 2 underway today!

Workshops Ad

Dracula ad

Doctor Who Ad

Superman Ad

%d bloggers like this: