Pen Handling

Everybody knows how to hold a pen, right?  I am assuming that’s why I am never asked “Hey Joe, how should I hold my pen?”  Well I am going to do you the favor of asking it for you.  Why?  Because it is the most important precursor to using your pen without the speed bumps.  Honestly you are going to hit enough bumps in life, and I just want to soften the blows I can.  I know it all sounds pretty easy, and it really is.  I am still going to cover the nuances of holding and basic use of your pen that will help you come to terms with it just a little faster.

How YOU hold the pen is a very personal thing.  We all hold a pen a little differently?  What I would ask is that you hold it as much like a normal writing pen as you can.  Just for the record, for pen and touch tablets, touch is ignored if the pen is close enough to the tablet to move the pointer.

First, you do not have to touch the tablet in order to move the pointer.  Depending on your tablet, it will read the pen in proximity to the tablet within a quarter inch on a Bamboo and half an inch on an Intuos.  This is a good thing, but don’t be surprised if for the first half hour you find yourself putting the pen on the tablet thinking you are going to force the cursor to do something it won’t.  You cannot push the cursor to the upper corner of the screen by scooting it like you would with a mouse.  Trust me, you’ll get used to the pen and tablet quickly.

The next thing to consider is the side switch, the little rocker switch on the barrel of the pen.  Depending on your tablet, the switch is set to “right click,” and “Double click” or “pan/scroll,” by default.   Accidentally hitting these will cause… let’s just say, undesired results.  A random right or double click can drive anyone to lunacy, but if you are new to a tablet, just expect to see them once in a while as you get used to navigating with a pen.  The side switch also works when just hovering over the tablet.  So you do not have to touch the pen tip to the tablet to use the right or double click function.  This means you can do most of your navigating on the desktop without ever touching the pen tip to the tablet at all.

Now, finally, how I hold the pen. I prefer to clutch up on my Intuos pens, just like I do with an ink pen. I then use my thumb to access the side switch.

I recommend trying both to see which works best for youIn either case, you can easily roll the switch into your thumb, and access both ends of the switch. Once again, this is purely an individual thing.  I also know a few people who hold the pen a little further back and can easily use the switch with their index finger.

Using the side switch with index finger

This last method doesn’t work for me at all, but Wes is a wizard with his pen, and that is how he holds his.

Finally, and most importantly, is the tip of the pen.  The tip of the pen is your left mouse click.  When you touch the pen to the tablet you are clicking.  When you touch the tip to the tablet and drag, you are doing a click and drag.  This is by design and makes a world of sense if you stop and think about it.  If you want to draw in any graphics program with a mouse, you would have to left click and drag the mouse.  Now, much like if you were using a real pen on paper, if you want to draw, you simply touch the pen to the tablet.  Another way to think of it is like this, if you don’t want to leave ink or if you just want to move the pointer AND NOT CLICK, don’t touch the pen to the tablet.

Check back again soon and I will go over the rest of the story.  Getting used to navigating with your pen is the first step toward mastery. The video on mapping your tablet to your display  will get you started and I will be back with some tips to help you come to terms with mapping as well.

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