Since a nice Wacom tablet is a bit pricey, especially for someone like me who doesn't do much graphic editing, I was wondering if it is possible to use a tablet (i.e. my Nexus 7) as a Wacom-esque drawing tablet when connected to a Linux computer?

I did a bit of searching, however most of the info I found is for using a Wacom tablet on an Android device. I've never used a Wacom device, however I have been doing some graphic editing in Gimp, and think it would be much easier than just using a mouse. And since I have a Nexus 7, it seemed like the logical place to start. I would have to use the Nexus as a USB peripheral for the computer, and I don't know if it is possible to transmit the touch screen coordinates to the PC.

If anyone can point me in the right direction, I'd appreciate it!


The GfxTablet project should allow you to do this. It's network-based rather than USB though.

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  • I think gfxTablet does not work on Windows. – bgmCoder Oct 22 '15 at 19:06
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    @BGM - The asker says in the question that they use Linux and the question is also tagged Linux. – Compro01 Oct 23 '15 at 11:47
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    @Compro01 My apologies; every time I read "PC" I associate it with a Windows OS. Maybe I shouldn't do that, but in my defense, nobody ever thinks of a Macintosh as a "PC". It's usually "Mac and PC". – bgmCoder Oct 23 '15 at 15:43
  • note that this is only suitable on a trusted network (not at your coffee shop) forums.bitfire.at/topic/1629/… – lofidevops Feb 27 '18 at 12:47

A touchscreen tablet is not like a Wacom tablet. Drawing tablets use a stylus with one or two pressure-sensitive tips and several buttons. The stylus is also sensitive to the angle you hold it at, and the tablet can detect when the stylus is hovering above the tablet, even with no contact. A drawing tablet has a resolution of a fraction of a millimetre. You can wield the stylus like a calligraphy pen, an airbrush, or anything in between.

A capacitive touchscreen such as you get on a Nexus 7 is designed to detect fat blobs like finger tips. It can't react to you hovering over it, to the natural pressure changes you get over the course of a stroke, or to the angle. Samsung's Note series has a pretty advanced stylus, and it makes a nice drawing tool, but it still lacks the advanced features like angle sensitivity.

Sure, you can use a touchscreen to draw and to create artwork, but asking it to replace a Wacom tablet is like asking finger-painting to replace the whole range of artists' paintbrushes. You'll never be satisfied with the results.

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    I agree with many points in your answer, but but I also think it's likely that an individual who is looking for a hack rather than an actual graphics tablet may not need the entire functionality of a true graphics tablet. Also, graphics tablets are serious tools in their own right. Someone without the training and experience to effectively use them will likely have similar results as with an android tablet. – JSON Jan 15 '15 at 23:32
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    @JSON Even when a layperson with no art background tries to sign their name with their finger on a touchscreen, the results are completely different from doing it with a real pen, even a biro that isn't pressure- or angle-sensitive. Sure, many users won't need the entire functionality of a graphics tablet, but they will need the precision and responsiveness, and to use it on a PC they'll definitely need to be able to point without clicking. – Dan Hulme Jan 16 '15 at 8:18
  • Irrespective of the fact that you make a good point, this "answer" does not answer the OP's question, hence I am forced to downvote. – axolotl May 15 '17 at 17:17
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    @Aalok The question is, "Is it possible to use a tablet as a Wacom-esque drawing tablet?" and my answer is "no". I'm not sure how I could make that more directly answer the question. – Dan Hulme May 18 '17 at 8:50
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    I agree with this answer for the majority of cases and it serves as a perfect deterrent for people trying to get too much out of the tablet. On the other hand I must agree as well that there are use cases out there where using a tablet as drawing tablet would work. So here comes my upvote, with the remark that it should probably never be accepted as final answer. – Maarten Bodewes Mar 1 '18 at 15:59

The Virtual Tablet app is free on the Google Play Store. It works with some flaws but overall good. See the developers site for more information

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  • Works great but pressure sensitivity works only with sketchbook – Denis May 15 '15 at 9:15
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    OP explicitly asked for a software to use "when connected to a Linux computer", and Virtual Tablet does NOT support Linux. – Fran Marzoa Jun 16 '17 at 18:57
  • @bmdixon is virtual tablet safe? I couldn't find any information on this. – Hao S Jul 16 at 5:20

A Samsung Note II has all of what you are looking for. It uses pressure sensitivity like a Wacom, and it even has a Wacom digitizer built into it! Doing some research now, apparently there is an app that allows connection to a PC for that purpose exactly.

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    Can you tell us what app you've found that does that? Does it work with Linux? – Andrew Lott Jul 3 '13 at 14:22

I had the exact same wish as you, and I eventually found a solution I was happy with. It does not solve it in 100% the way you had envisioned, but let me see if it helps you.

At first I was thinking to use the Android device as a remote desktop control (for example, via TeamViewer of Chrome Remote Deksktop) for my computer, and then open drawing software on the desktop computer and control that using the stylus on the Android device.

That worked. However, there are some issues with cursor sensitivity, and (depending on which remote software you use) you usually have to make a custom "gesture" to draw. Not very elegant. Also, there was usually considerable lag.

The solution I found was to simply use a collaborative drawing app called Explain Everything" that runs on both desktop (Web) and Android (app). Then I just collaborate with myself on both the desktop and the Android-device.

It looks like this:

enter image description here

The device in this photo actually has en e-ink display, but in practice that has no significance, as it runs Android and is for all intents and purposes just an Android tablet with different display technology than most.

Now, I realize that you may have some specialized software on the desktop, and that may be your whole reason for asking this question. Thus, you may not wish to use this particular drawing solution. Therefore, I admit that my answer is not perfect. However, you can export whatever you draw in Explain Everything as vector graphics, and import it into whatever software you prefer for further processing.

I have not yet used Explain Everything for serious drawing, so I can not vouch for its quality. However, there are a multitude of collaborative drawing apps that work both on desktop and on Android, so you can choose whichever suits you best.

Actually, I found that Microsoft Office for Android actually has decent drawing capabilities, and it can sync live with the web or desktop version of Office. A bit laggy with the sync, but good enough for me. I am switching to that now because I found the interface of Explain Everything to be a bit confusing.

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For this I use AIRDROID which turns a tablet in a third display for me, on which you can diplay your 'edit' window of the programs you like to use

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    I see that apps like iDisplay and Splashtop Extended Display can answer the question in the manner you suggest, but reading the features makes it sound like Airdroid works in the opposite direction. Can you add some clarity to this answer? – Saiboogu Jan 28 '15 at 18:46

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