Drawing tablets are essential tools for digital artists of all kinds, and it’s not cheap, so we understand why people are looking for ways to protect their devices.
But let’s get this straight, It is not strictly necessary to use a screen protector on a drawing tablet, but it can be a good idea for several reasons. Styluses are designed not to leave any scratches on the screen. Even though Stylus pens can’t scratch the surface, there are other ways how you can do it: accidents happen. Screen protectors can provide you with that additional layer of protection.
Screen protectors also reduce glare and improve visibility, especially if you are working under bright lights or outside. They also help to prevent fingerprints on the screen and smudges. Overall, there are multiple benefits of using a screen protector, but it is not necessary.
Reasons to Use a Screen Protector
There are a few key reasons you might want to use a screen protector on pen display drawing tablets.
- Added Protection Against Damage/Scratches
The first reason is obvious; screen protectors mitigate damage and scratches to your actual screen. This is the biggest reason someone would use a screen protector on a pen display tablet. You don’t have to worry much about how much pressure you exert and if it will leave scratches on the screen.
It can also potentially lengthen your tablet’s lifespan. If a scuffed-up screen is the only reason to replace your tablet, you won’t have to since the screen still feels new.
- Customizable Screen Surface
Another great reason to use a screen protector is you can basically alter the screen surface. You might have a pen display surface that doesn’t suit your preferences. It might not glide as well, have enough friction, or it doesn’t have an anti-glare coating.
There are many different types of screen protectors; plastic film, tempered glass, anti-glare, matte, etc. You have plenty of options to choose from, and most screen protectors are inexpensive. The problem arises when finding a screen protector for a specific pen display tablet. Some pen displays have more options for screen protectors than others, while some have far fewer.
- Less Nib Wear
This is true for glossy tempered glass or plastic screen protectors. As the surface is smooth and glossy, your pen’s nibs will wear out a little slower. This is especially for tablets that have rougher/matte finishes. It isn’t an exact science, but a glossy screen protector can save you some wear on your nibs. There’s less friction to wear out the nib, and it feels smoother to draw.
- No smudges, no fingerprints
The screen protector prevents fingerprints and smudges from accumulating on the screen. If you like to keep things tidy and clean a screen protector might help with this.
Reasons Not to Use a Screen Protector
While the reasons to use a screen protector are compelling, there are a few downsides. The downsides can make or break your productivity, so they’re pretty important.
- Inaccurate Inputs / Sensitivity
The biggest reason not to add a screen protector is inaccurate inputs and lesser sensitivity. Since there’s an added layer on top of the display, your stylus and display might have trouble communicating.
It doesn’t make the tablet unusable, but there is a noticeable input lag. This can inadvertently cause the parallax effect as your screen and cursor aren’t aligned. You might notice your lines aren’t as accurate or that it takes slightly longer to show up. Not to mention your display will be less sensitive. Pen displays and traditional graphics tablets are meant to be used directly. With a screen protector, your display might not be as sensitive since there’s an additional layer cushioning the stylus.
- Less Stability
Screen protectors usually have a smooth, glossy finish. There are options for anti-glare or matte screen protectors, but they’re not available for every tablet model. If the screen protector is slippery, your stylus will glide across the display. But in reality, you might not want your stylus to easily glide on the screen. You need the friction to emulate a pen and paper feel when drawing. Added friction also makes strokes more stable and it’s easier to track your hand-eye coordination.
- More friction = better feel/accuracy.
Not to mention most tablets already have a fully laminated anti-glare display. Putting on a screen protector means you don’t get the same functionality as you normally would. This is especially true for traditional graphics tablets which is why we do not recommend using a surface protector.
- Tablet Displays Already Built to Last
Traditional graphics tablets or pen display tablets are already built to last. They’ve undergone careful testing and consideration to ensure durability. There will always be cases of scratches no matter the tablet.
But most tablets are already solidly built with finishes/technology to ensure the stylus isn’t damaging the screen. If this was a problem, tablet manufacturers would already capitalize by creating their own screen/surface protectors. Trust the display and keep it away from sharp, damaging objects like keys, coins, pens, etc.
What Type of Tablet Do You Have?
There are two types of ‘drawing tablets’ known as Pen Displays and Graphics Tablets. Both allow users to create digital art and graphics, but they work in slightly different ways.
Pen Display Tablet
Pen Display tablets are drawing tablets that feature an actual screen. Pen tablets are like monitors that come with stylus support. You can draw directly onto the screen. They allow seeing the artwork on the screen as you create it, which is helpful to some.
Pen displays are expensive, so it makes sense that you want to protect your device from scratches. There are multiple benefits: prevents smudges and fingerprints, reduces glare, improves visibility, and provides an extra layer of protection, but you also have to keep in mind there’s an extra layer of surface on your screen. It affects the drawing a bit, but most people don’t feel it and get used to it. Worst case scenario: you can always remove it.
Traditional Graphics Tablet
Traditional graphics tablets or pen tablets don’t have a display like a Pen Display tablet. You have a plastic surface or active work area where you can draw.
Typically, people don’t use screen protectors on graphics tablets. Since there isn’t a display, it’s counterintuitive to use a screen or surface protector. But some users may want to protect the surface from scratches.
We’d advise avoiding the use of screen protectors on traditional graphics tablets as it may cause problems. The tablet is not meant to have a plastic or glass screen protector, so you may find it harder to register inputs or exert pressure.
This will cause a worse user experience, inaccurate inputs, and, overall, losing out on the tablet’s key functionality. Not to mention a screen protector may leave residue and damage the tablet’s work area.
Tips to Reduce Scratches on Drawing Tablets Without a Screen Protector
- Replace Nibs Often – Know when to replace your nibs. A worn-out nib will expose the hard interior, which can cause damage/scratch the screen. Routine nib replacement will help keep your tablet scratch free.
- Store it Properly – Don’t simply shove your drawing tablet into a bag. Keep it in the laptop compartment or a separate sleeve away from keys, pens, coins, and other objects that can damage the tablet.
- Use Less Pressure – Pressure sensitivity is essential with drawing tablets but know when to hold back. You don’t need to constantly use too much pressure, which can leave indents and scratches on the screen. You can feel if there’s too much pressure on the display. Adjust accordingly.
- Clean the Surface – Cleaning your tablet display is essential. It helps removes oils/debris from your hands as well as dust. Cleaning the screen removes dust and oil buildup, which makes it easier to see. It also removes dust on the screen that can scratch the display.
A screen protector has its advantages and disadvantages. To some people, they are helpful. To some, they are the opposite.
A screen protector will prevent scratches, smudges, and fingerprints, reduce glare and improve visibility.
A screen protector will also have some disadvantages, such as Inaccurate inputs, lesser sensitivity, and stability are very tough to overcome. You’ll end up spending more time correcting your work which just isn’t ideal.
If scratches are a big deal for you, you can try a screen protector and see if it impacts how you work. Some people can easily adjust to the downfalls. If that sounds like you, give it a shot. You can always remove or replace it.
For readers with traditional graphics tablets, we’d recommend avoiding surface protectors. There isn’t much advantage to using one, and it can hamper productivity.
I'm a writer and editor in iPads & Android Tablets, Windows Tablet section. I'm passionate about technology, especially about tablets. I'm on a mission to assist people in discovering their ideal tablets. In addition, I'm dedicated to producing helpful how-to guides and sharing top-notch tips and tricks. In my early carrier I founded and became and editor at worldoftablet and have been a guest author at many other tech blogs. In wolfoftablet I'm focusing on iPads, Tablets, Apple Pencil, Apps, Reviews, Buyers Guides and Tablet Accessories. In free time I like to play games on my PS5 or iOS.