Hand/Arm Strain



  • I am just starting out with digital art using a Wacom Intuos Art tablet and the standard pen it comes with.

    With traditional art, I can draw for hours at a time and I don't seem to get hand or arm strain.

    After a couple hours of digital art, I can feel my hand and arm get fatigued? Is this a common thing with digital art? Or am I doing it wrong?



  • @Kayla-Groening Interesting. I found switching to digital really helpful in relieving hand strain. I couldn't go for more than an hour with traditional, and seem to be able to go forever (or until my bottom gets tired of sitting so long ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) with digital. I think for me, not having to use the same amount of pressure plus being able to colour in big swaths at a time help relieve the strain. Repetitive motions will strain my shoulder, so I try to switch things up a lot. Do you think it has to do with positioning? Are you using the tablet at a different place and angle than you do with your sketchpad?



  • @Cayleen isnt that interesting. What type of mediums did you use traditionally?



  • @Cayleen I've use my desk and chair for both traditional and digital, so I dont think it's either of those. The stylus pen maybe? I'm not sure. I've tried changing the pressure settings so that I dont have to push as hard, but I'm still getting fatigue in my hand and elbow. I drew with the stylus for a few hours straight yesterday and I'm still feeling it, especially in the elbow.

    Maybe it's just that I'm not taking enough breaks. Whereas working traditionally, I'm forced to take breaks while the ink or watercolour layers dry.



  • @Kayla-Groening I once suffered cramps in my forearms while taking piano lessons. The piano teacher said it was from concentrating too hard on trying to play the right notes rather than an ergonomic issue. Probably not the cause of your fatigue but maybe something to consider if you're thinking more than usual when you work?


  • Pro

    @Kayla-Groening I'm so sorry to hear you're having pain issues! ๐Ÿ˜จ I actually have the inverse experience just like @Cayleen : I get pain with traditional pencils, but not with digital. That's because on my Intuos I can adjust the pressure sensitivity so that I don't have to press hard at all, but with traditional pencils I have to press much harder to get the same result. It causes pain in my hand and shoulder blade in as little as 30 minutes! Anyway, I think you probably need to figure out exactly what's causing the stress to your arm to find a good solution to relieve it. It could be due to the position of your tablet, position of your arm while you draw, or your pressure settings. Do you let your palm rest on the tablet, or do you hold it off the tablet in mid-air? Does your forearm have a good resting position on your desk? Where is the pain/fatigue exactly? This could help you narrow it down.



  • @NessIllustration I think it may have something to do with having the drawing tablet in a fixed position. With traditional drawing, I swing and move the paper around a lot to get different angles. I'm also moving my arm and hand a lot. With digital, I'm in the same position the majority of the time. I've tried moving the tablet on angles as I draw, but my lines always go off in weird directions. My brain can't fathom that tablet to screen correlation with the tablet on an angle. ๐Ÿคฏ



  • @Kayla-Groening If you've been working with ink and watercolor, that may be a cause for the difference too. Working with a brush is a lot different than working with a pen or pencil.

    I think you're probably right about being able to swing the paper around and get new positions and take larger strokes and things like that when working traditionally as opposed to digitally. If you've been working on large pages, and then transition to a small(er) tablet, that could be a major factor as well.



  • @Kayla-Groening Try rotating the canvas on screen (Photoshop hot key 'R') instead of the tablet or your arm.
    It's crucial for you to figure out a posture which works best for you. But before that you need to rest your hand/elbow till the pain subsides. Else with only a few minutes of work, the pain can recur.



  • @Neha-Rawat this is good to know. It didn't occur to me to rotate the screen instead of the tablet. I've been resting over the weekend (traditional art only).๐Ÿ˜‹ Its been a couple days and I can still feel the strain. I'll give it a few more days. Thanks.


  • SVS OG

    @Kayla-Groening It's your tablet causing the problem. I also used a wacom intuos (small) when I began digital. The problem was that I was staring at the screen most of the time that I wasn't aware how bad my drawing arm was contorting using the wacom intuos. It was very hard for me to create clean linework so I was gripping the pen really hard just to control my lines. My hand would end up getting really sore and sometimes cramping. I was developing carpal syndrome. My fingers would grow numb and all I could feel was this strange tingling sensation and no, it was just pins and needles. There were days that I couldn't draw because of the pain. As soon as I earned enough money, I bought an ipad and my hand issues disappeared.


  • Pro

    @Kayla-Groening Try rotating your canvas! CTRL+R on Photoshop. This way you can always draw your line in the most comfortable angle ๐Ÿ™‚



  • @Kayla-Groening I feel the most strain with sketching, using a real pencil and paper. Watercolour isnโ€™t as taxing for sure. I actually devised a little gadget that would let me draw flat handed, since it was my hand cramping that bothered me the most. But digital essentially fixed that. On your thoughts about taking breaks, I think thatโ€™s crucial. Maybe set a 20 min timer and find some hand/arm stretches to do while you walk about for 5 mins, and then get back for another 20. I find this type of schedule helps my ability to stay focused and push through the less fun stuff too.


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