ThinkPad and SketchBook Pro

November 10, 2012 Length: 5 min Back to Posts

Tablets are everywhere. The amount of choices can make it a real burden to find one that is a good fit. There is always the iPad to default to, but with new entries popping up every couple of months, it is worth to take a step back and weigh your options. Out of all of the tablets that I looked at, the ThinkPad seems to be superior for what I wanted. I mainly am interested in artwork, drawing, and painting skills. The ThinkPad seems to have the competition beat with my research. Read on to find out why I think so.


Sure the latest version of iPad has a higher resolution, faster processor, and more apps in the market – but those don’t matter when all you want to do is draw! The benefits that really sell the ThinkPad as an artist tablet are the following:

  • internal stylus that fits into the tablet
  • pressure sensitivity pen nib
  • low cost

To make it the perfect artist’s companion, I thought the best designed artist tablet has to be comparable to a great sketchbook. It needs to be portable, compact, easy to use, responsive, and fit in my budget.

The Stylus

The stylus on the ThinkPad is the biggest selling point with this tablet. Not only does it fit inside of the tablet so you don’t have to carry it separately, but it actually comes to a point. Most pen nibs ( including Wacom’s tablet pen) has a large rubber tip that feels clumsy. It is really difficult to be very precise and add any detail. In addition to the small pen nib, it also allows for pressure sensitivity.  In all of my searching through the web, I couldn’t find anything else on the market that could compete with this.

Low Cost

Prices are staggering when you look at the range you can spend on a tablet. They range from a couple hundred dollars all of the way into the thousands. Features really start coming into question at this point. What do you really need? The two options that seemed to have the best options were a Window 7 tablet that works with regular Wacom pens. The other option was a ThinkPad, which has a proprietary pen with almost the same functionality ( no eraser on the back like a Wacom).

They both seem to work, but when comparing the prices, the ThinkPad is considerably less expensive. You also can’t put the pen inside of the tablet, so you would have to carry it around and have the potential of losing it that way.

SketchBook Pro

There are multiple flavors of this application on the web: Sketchbook Mobile and Sketchbook Pro. Some people get confused that the mobile version is for all mobile devices. This is not true. The mobile version is for smaller mobile devices like an iPhone.  The screens and interfaces are much larger and are designed for smaller screens. The interface is always in portrait mode with the mobile version.

The regular Sketchbook is for tablets. It is very similar, but the interface is re-arranged to be in landscape mode. There are more interface elements on the screen, as well as more customization options.

The differences between the free “Express” version and the paid “Pro” version are pretty substantial. The biggest advantages of the pro version aren’t new ways to paint, but conveniences that make drawing and painting feel less like work. Also, the free version doesn’t have the latest software updates, so pen pressure support might not work if you are on a newer version of Android.

There are quite a few “hidden” features that are are hard to know about unless you try to swipe every UI element or hold others down. There are also some nice options in the preferences that can allow you to turn off/on various settings.

sketchbook Pro figure drawing

There are a lot of buttons and brushes, but when it came time for me to do some figure drawing, I felt like most features in the application simply were too much for my taste.

The picture above was a quick 10 minute drawing I did yesterday from a drawing class in St. Louis. When it came to feeling natural as a sketchpad, the only options that I felt comfortable working with were changing brushes and selecting color from the menus on the side menus. Fiddling with brush settings and custom brushes became more of a distraction than anything else. Once you find a few brushes you like, it is probably best to just stick with those .

My favorite brushes are listed from top to bottom on the left brush menu ( use screenshot above for icon reference).

  1. water painting - hard to tell based off the brush shape
  2. great for inking and sketching
  3. has more of a bristle feel to it. good for painting
  4. works well with the first brush for water painting
  5. paint spackles for some nice flourishs
  6. basic sketching with graininess
  7. detail eraser for fine tune erasing
  8. block eraser for large areas


I am super excited about using the Lenovo ThinkPad more in the future to build my art skills. The portability, pressure-sensitive stylus, and ability to put down ideas quickly is a big win for me.

How does the photoshop app compare? I would love to see some drawings if anyone has been using this device.

Here are a few more drawings from the model in different poses.

Hi, I'm Scott

I mostly keep this blog to help me remember things. Writing is also a great way to understand things at a deeper level. I would highly recommend it if you don't write at all.