Pen & Tablet + Embroidery =??

There has been quite a buzz on facebook about tablets and Cintiques for the past week, so I thought I would take a moment and explain exactly what they are and what they can do for your embroidery digitizing.


A tablet can come in a few forms (not talking about the Cintiques yet, they are completely different) and different sizes – and of course different kinds.  Here at OML we have invested in a few different types, and we did some research and found that for our needs, Wacom is the way to go.  Wacom is the industry standard when it comes to tablets, and generally you get what you pay for, so we went with Wacom, and we are happy with everything that we have bought to date. The tablet provides you with an area to use your pen – its the point of contact – you use it as a mouse – but you see your actions on a monitor.  If you want a tablet that is a monitor, then the Cintique is what you want.  The pen and Tablet = mouse and mousepad.  Same thing, just different input!

Now lets be clear here, you do not have to have a tablet to digitize, we are only making suggestions if you want one, we find the tablets enjoyable for working with embroidery programs (especially Hatch’s freehand tool, its so much fun).  You can use a tablet on any computer – Mac or PC.  You have to download a little driver, and thats about it!

Tablets are meant to take the place of your mouse:  instead of clicking with your mouse and moving it around, you use a pen.  It does take a  bit of getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, it is absolutely awesome.  Here are the ones that we use:  we have the largest one, so we have the biggest field:


The pen is not shown in the picture, but we will get to that shortly.  So you have a tablet and a pen.  You can use the pen the same as the mouse, but you can also use gestures on the tablet part – easy swiping, pinch to zoom, etc.  Those are super handy shortcuts for working in embroidery – zoom right into your work!




I can see many benefits for using a pen and tablet for embroidery.  Precision, shortcuts, comfort to name a few.  Lets go over a few of them.

Shortcuts:  ah, the joys of shortcuts!  This is the real reason why I don’t use keyboard shortcuts too often – although I try to use them for the videos – but they are not a habit.  Depending on your tablet, there are a row of buttons on the left side, as well as a radial menu.  All of the buttons as well as the radial menu can be programmed for the shortcuts that you use in Hatch.  Super easy – just press a button for UNDO instead of reaching for your keyboard for CTRL-Z…One little short cut isn’t a whole lot, but once you start using them on the tablet you will find that there are not enough buttons!!

intuos keys

The radial keys have tons of options that you can add to your tablet – all to make your life easier!  Here is what the radial menu looks like, but not set up for embroidery:


You can see that there are lots of opportunities for creating your own shortcuts for your embroidery software.

PRECISION:  Once you get the hang of it, the pen is a very precise instrument – it feels very natural to digitize with a pen, as opposed to a mouse.  Tap with your pen on the tablet for a left click, click the pen button and tap or hover for a right click.  You can even use the on screen keyboard and use your pen to write or click – instead of reaching for the keyboard.  Your movements are precise for embroidery – you can do anything with the pen that you can do with the mouse.

COMFORT:  ahhh, this is the part that I like the best.  Comfort.  How?  well if you get the wireless tablet, who says it has to stay on your desk?  They are not very heavy, so you can either hold it or put it on your lap, or even hold it on the arm of your chair.  You can take a break from being tied to your desk and sit back, relax and digitize.  Everything you need is right there – so sit back, get comfy and use your pen and tablet to create wonderful designs.


Here is what the pen looks like:  its a larger sized pen, but you can program the buttons, and the top button works as an eraser in some programs – not really applicable to embroidery though – but i use it quite a bit for illustration.  As you can see, you can set up the pen to work the way you want it to work.  If you don’t know what to do, leave it on its default settings and try working with it.


intuos 2

Once you get used to the whole pen idea, the workflow will fall into place.  Once you practice a bit with the pen and set it up the way that you are happy with, then you can work with the tablet a bit.  Similar to the pen, you can program each button to do a specific task and its a matter of memorizing the keys and getting used to using them!  The Intuos pro comes wth a feature that it will put up a screen to the left naming all of your buttons.  A bit help there :).  If you don’t have that feature, a couple sticky notes should do the trick.

How do you set it up for embroidery?  that depends on your workflow!  To do an awesome set up, I digitize a design or two and make note of the tools and shortcuts that I use most often.  In Hatch for example, the top icons are easily accessible so I don’t usually add them into the shortcut keys – except for the UNDO shortcut – that one is the first one added to the tablet.  I think for Hatch the ENTER key would be the next one I would add – we use that a lot to complete actions, so it would be a good candidate for a shortcut key.


We will be talking more about the tablets – people have so many questions!  This is a general guide meant to explain what a tablet is to everyone who asked on Facebook.  I know other companies make pen and tablets, and I am sure that they work fine, but I will recommend Wacom as the industry leader for tablets – they are the best of the best!

If you want to try a Wacom pen and tablet, you can get a smaller one – the Intuos tablets for somewhere around $89.00 in some places.  While I prefer the larger tablet, a small one might do what you want.

Enjoy your pen and tablets – don’t forget that the tablet part is pressure and touch sensitive, so you can use gestures, too – zoom in and zoom out with a pinch gesture (just like on Iphones) and you can swipe and depending on your level of Wacom, a few other gestures too.


One response to “Pen & Tablet + Embroidery =??”

  1. WolfChild Designs Avatar

    I have a simple Wacom Intuos tablet and I’ve been trying to use it with my Bernina software. It works okay with clicking around. I’ve played with the setting a lot to get it close to how I use my mouse. The problem I’m having with it is zooming in and out. When I use my mouse I can use the scroll wheel to zoom in and out with losing my place in the design. However, setting one of the click buttons or shortcut keys to zoom/pan doesn’t work as well. It zooms out to thousands and when to try to zoom back it the design has moved off to the size so far you can even find it. Is there a way to set the pen up to zoom without it being crazy?

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