Wacom Pen Work

How Does a Wacom Pen Work?

Digital Technology

The Wacom Company, LTD manufactures a variety of digital pens to be used in conjunction with digital tablets that replace and refine the functions of a normal computer mouse. Popular with graphic designers, a Wacom pen allows the user to draw and sketch on a digital tablet with precision.

The Pen

The digital Wacom pen is slightly thicker than a normal pen, and features a dual-purpose switch near the tip. The designer presses on either end of the switch to perform typical mouse operations, such as selecting an object, opening a menu to adjust the features of the pen, or adjusting the thickness, the style or the size and color of the brush stroke. In addition, the tip of the pen utilizes a replaceable stylus that makes contact with the tablet. By reversing the pen, the artist can “erase” mistakes.

The Tablet

The tablet senses the movement of the digital pen and transfers the designer’s sketch to his computer screen. Wacom tablets come in various sizes, with the smallest being 3 by 5 inches and the larger tablets with more than 8 inches of drawing area. The price of a Wacom pen and tablet increases with the size.


A Wacom pen and tablet connect to the computer by way of an attached USB cord and a corresponding USB port on the computer. Most pens and tablets are compatible with either a Mac or a PC, but double-check the package specifications before purchasing because some of the less expensive Wacom pens run on only one type of computer (see Resources).

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Graphic designers and computer artists enjoy the versatility of a Wacom pen because they can hold it just as they would a drawing pen or a paintbrush. Photo editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop, are often compatible with the Wacom pen, as well as most leading design, layout and word processing programs.

Additional Features

Some Wacom pens come with a tracing feature that allows the user to place a photograph or an image beneath the top layer of the tablet and use the digital pen to trace over the image, transferring a sketched facsimile onto the monitor.

Pros and Cons

Some users complain about having to adapt their fingers to the shape of the digital pen initially, but most find it very useful after they get used to it. The pen allows the artist to make precision drawings that are difficult when manipulating a regular computer mouse.