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Is there a way (a hack; a commercial app; etc...) which enables me to use any of the available <300$ tablets as a pen-input device to my PC? And specifically in Photoshop?

Wacom's offerings are out of my reach and the school wouldn't get me something they couldn't get back in a perfect state which means only software licenses. So I'm asking for a software that enables a tablet's touch screen to be used as an display/pen-input for Photoshop/other-design-programs as they run on my PC's resources; not using the tablet for anything but displaying what the GPU outputs, and inputting from the pen.

If you can also recommend specific tablets within this range, please do.

  • It should be Android. But Windows 8 also looks promising and I'll be using Windows (8 too) on my PC so maybe higher compatibility?
  • Pressure sensitivity is a must.
  • Precision should be high.

Of course that all depends on your knowing a particular tablet model that works, or a workaround that works for a model or a series.

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I'm not sure any are pressure sensitive. The bigger issue is precision...none of the capacitive screens are known for precision, and they are all designed to be used with our human stubby fingers rather than precision drawing tools. –  DA01 Jan 6 '12 at 15:15
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Welcome to GD. You say "Wacom's offerins are out of [your] reach", and indicate a budget of <$300. Wacom's Intuos4 Small is $229... why is this out of reach? –  Farray Jan 6 '12 at 19:14
    
@Farray maybe its because he wants an *DISPLAY + pointer input device? There are lots and lots of cheap graphic tablets. What he wants is a cintiq style experience, and intuos or bamboo dont provide that. For me, im searching for a similar thing. I dont even mind not having pressure detection! Id just like to do some fast sketching seeing what i draw where i draw it, not on a separate monitor. I was using sketchbook pro on my android tablet, but the tablet was too slow, thats why i was seeking a way to make the tablet just an input device –  K.L. Nov 18 '12 at 13:56

18 Answers 18

precision + screen = expensive

android no.

These technologies have not crossed paths ever on the cheap, and if so, it would be seen as a pro device. The price would be then in the thousands. Look at the Cintiq range from wacom. they are just a screen and already way past your budget.

Sorry to be a downer but a Wacom tablet is really your only option.

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I think the viewsonic Gslate has pressure sensitivity.

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The G-Slate is by LG; Viewsonic's is the Gtablet. Neither has touch sensitivity. The Lenovo Thinkpad tablet and HTC Flyer do however. Not sure how many pressure levels they have, but I'm pretty sure Lenovo's uses Wacom's tablet technology. –  Lèse majesté Apr 6 '12 at 8:38

RemoteDroid is an Android app that lets you use your Android phone or tablet as a touchpad/keyboard/mouse for your computer. You just need to install the Android app on your phone/tablet and the RemoteDroid server on your computer for it to connect to.

There's also PRemoteDroid which seems to be the same thing, but with apparently no documentation. I'm not sure where to find the Android client app, as the Google Code project only has the server app.

Neither of these are designed to let you use your Android like a Cintiq tablet. But they are handy for drawing on your computer when you don't have access to a Wacom tablet.

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I still haven't found a useful tablet app for working with Photoshop (or any graphic application, for that matter). With apps that try to use the tablet as a sort of remote desktop device, bandwidth problems will drive you crazy. None of the "remote" apps I've tried, including RemoteDroid, PRemoteDroid, Win-Remote and several others, provides absolute-positioning input such as a real pen tablet provides. They make your finger or capacitive pen work like a mouse -- relative positioning -- which makes them counter-intuitive and thoroughly annoying to work with.

I strongly recommend getting a Wacom Bamboo or small Intuos tablet. You'll work a lot faster, learn more quickly, and turn out much better products than with any of the current tablet apps.

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At that point, I whole-heartily curse the modern economical system! –  Noein Apr 7 '12 at 18:14
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Oh, give it time. Moore's law is still working, the folks at Adobe are already experimenting with big (>50-inch) "drafting table style" touchscreens, and a few tablets already sport pressure-sensitive pens. Samsung demoed one at Adobe MAX last year, and the Lenovo Thinkpad tablet and pen are fantastic. I don't foresee price-per-unit coming down much, but performance will improve a lot over the next 2-3 years. –  Alan Gilbertson Apr 7 '12 at 19:25

Just buy photoshop touch for $10 and enjoy it.Its great and i use it.

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I did some research on using my AOC tablet as a pointing device and ended up downloading Remote Mouse. It uses an IP address (i.e. 105.166.2.4) so both devices will meet at. It worked on most applications but I could not get it to work on AutoCad.

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Although not a straightforward solution - not sure it will work, but hoping - there's the LEAP Motion Controller. It looks fantastic!

They say that it doesn't directly support tablets or smartphones; but, with at least some sort of manual calibration, it can easily be set to work on inclined planes/displays (even horizontal ones) with custom sizes, disregarding the main monitors's size/distance/inclination.

In other words, if you have a high-res tablet (like the new non-mini iPads, although that might be a bit small for graphic design) you can use the LEAP as the pointing/stylus with pressure/speed/rotation/etc capabilities and the tablet as the display. Then the tablet only has to display whatever is on the PC's display in real time, but I don't of know any apps for that.

Of course, any good display that can be inclined low enough (or maybe any display; if you use aisles; I draw on the table with my head down :/ ) would work perfectly with the LEAP.

I'm already set on that one (preorder, yay!) and will let you know as soon as I can work with it. Though I don't have any tablets to try it on. If you find android/iOS apps that can show the PC's display video stream on a tablet, and if you have a LEAP, give it a try and let us know how it goes.

~~ May 2013


According to a survey posted by Wacom sometime in April, they are working on a Design Tablet with either Asus or Samsung (both were mentioned in the survey). There was no info on the OS and the maximum size mentioned was 7 inches.

*So realistically, the only options seem to be the Bamboo tablets from Wacom.

*For $99, I heard that Wacom's Bamboo Capture is a really good deal.

See this for a bit on what's available.

-I've also found this but cannot comment on it, recommend it or otherwise.

*Also this.

There's also the Inkling which is said to work with tablets other than the iPad.

All in all, it's a no for the original question. Until Wacom does something about their promised tablet(s), we're out of luck. Any software available for Android today to provide touch input to PC's would lack precision even if the tablet was able in hardware. The options marked with the asterisk (*) are available in the market today while those with the hyphen (-) look very promising on paper.

Material ~~ August 2012

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Oct 10, 2013: No luck with pressure sensitivity on the LEAP, overall a bit... shaky. I decided on a new Intuos (rebranded bamboo) so I guess I'm surrendering this time :'( –  Noein Oct 10 '13 at 9:12

I'd agree with the others that say you're not going to get a quality graphics tablet experience from an inexpensive tablet. The right software (don't know what) teamed with something like the Thinkpad tablet would work, but only because the Tablet has a digitizer (Wacom branded) built in already.

The others that have taken this line insist Wacom is your best choice. I'd ask if you've looked into the Monoprice tablets. They're dirt cheap, and have very good reviews; I included two detailed reviews below. I'll likely be ordering one, maybe two for myself rather shortly.

http://frenden.com/the-little-monoprice-graphics-tablet-that-could/

http://draw2much.blogspot.com/2012/04/welcome-to-my-review-of-monoprice-12-x.html

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This looks seriously fantastic! The next shipment is due in March 2013, I'll most probably order one. At that price and with those reviews (and similar ones since I now know the brand), I'd say 4 years for the tablet and 1 for the pens would be great! –  Noein Sep 14 '12 at 17:50

I have had the opposite experience from Alan. Every RDP product I tried on my little Android reader did exact positioning of the mouse using the stylus. It would be unusable otherwise; I display the PC screen zoomed out in a lot of applications and require pin point accuracy to check radio buttons and what not. Only big issue that I had is that it is difficult to make it do anything other than what it would do with a mouse by left clicking and moving. For most drawing applications that works for the most common operations.

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Have you tried GfxTablet? It allows a user to use his/her android tablet like a cheap drawing tablet. But the catch is that the user must be using a Linux based system (sorry no Windows support) Its has 2 components-one an app to be installed on the device and the second a driver to be installed on the Linux PC that you want to use it on.

http://rfc2822.github.io/GfxTablet/

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There is an app that you can download called Splashtop Streamer. It works on both apple and android products.

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Hi Haudn, welcome to GD.SE! Could you please add more info to your answer? How is a remote access app helpful in this case? –  Yisela Jun 3 '13 at 21:36

I have an app called Slide that's meant to be used as a graphic tablet. It now connects over USB or WiFi.

Website: http://www.slide.x10.mx/

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.j03.mobileinput

Free Version: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.loren.slide

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Looks good! But the choppiness -- is it because of the program (some kind of connection overhead), or is it because of the smartphone (a more powerful tablet would fare better)? I'm also excited to see how well pressure sensitivity levels work in Ps. Good luck :) –  Noein Jul 9 '13 at 2:33
    
I will! ^_^ And it depends on your internet speed and hardware (somewhat). It looks a bit choppy in the video, just because it's a video, but it looks better when you're actually using it. About the pressure, unfortunately I don't believe capacative screens have pressure detectors so I cannot implement pressure. Double tap and hold simulates mouse down. –  Joe Jul 9 '13 at 4:43

Spalshtop works excellent for me. Its actually useful for lot of purpose.

Its useful as you can easily zoom into the portion of image and just double tap the screen.

The catch is you would like to have a mouse and keyboard along with it. Wireless or wired it does not matter much but they should be connected to desktop.

I did not try connecting the mouse to android tablet.

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enter image description here

I just made a quick sketch with the spalshtop and a 5inch screen phone in painter. Pardon the bad quality, but thats what comes with 7 minute. Moreover I am not well versed in painter hence the bad selection of brush.

I also made a few little adjustments with mouse. But most of it is from a phone's touch screen in 5 to 6 min. I get much better view in tablet.

Keep a wacom bamboo though. The combination is the key to budget setup in my view.

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That's much, much better than I would've thought possible by a smart phone. Kudos! I imagine, though, that latency was significant. By the end of this year I will... be obliged to settle on a something. I decided on a new Intuos (not Intuos5; but the refreshed/rebranded bamboos). After some time with a bamboo (from a relative), I still can't get used to looking where my hand isn't! So we'll see. –  Noein Oct 10 '13 at 9:06
    
Also, no pressure sensitivity makes it a no-no... –  Noein Oct 10 '13 at 9:06
    
Actually the latency is minimal with wlan. The main problem is the screen size and pressure. I use the best media which all others copy. That is plain pencil and paper.(More paperlike and great control than cintiq). Then I take it to pc and touch up with a wacom bamboo medium size and mouse. –  indianninja Oct 10 '13 at 18:28
    
But if you can find a resistive screen tablet (I dont know if anybody makes them still..maybe a secondhand) which are very cheap, which runs spalshtop( A lot of low end phones dont run it, however most budget tablets run it) you can give it a try. –  indianninja Oct 10 '13 at 18:38
    
I am yet to use the tablet for any serious work, but I think a pc with a [conventional keyboard+mouse] + [wacom bamboo] + [ 7inch or 10 inch or 21 inch(HP makes some) touch tablet with spalshtop] can give you a lot of freedom. –  indianninja Oct 10 '13 at 18:41

BTW galaxy note series tablet and phones has pressure sensitivity and stylus. 256 levels as per I know. But they cost a lot.

You can grab one secondhand on budget though.

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enter image description here

The last answers picture was a shame in quality, so took some time like 20-30 min and did an attempt with the 7inch tablet. Its still bad, but maybe a bit better. Mouse has only been used to select tools and key board to adjust brush size or stuff. everything on a single canvas with ball point pen brush.

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This actually looks quite good. So yeah, maybe primarily for retouching where fluid precision isn't as crucial as in the initial drawing. That said, why in separate answers? I'm not aware of a limit against that several images/one answer and those last two answers merely complement the original. –  Noein Oct 11 '13 at 0:02

enter image description here

This is same image with a bit diffuse blur and blur and retouch (all with tablet other than tool selection etc.) This is my first decent try at this drawing with tablet. Yes, there is lag. But the fingers are natural input devices, so it does not feel that bad.

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