Scratches on a Drawing Tablet: Do They Matter?

Drawing Tablet
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So you’ve got a shiny new drawing tablet or graphics tablet huh? After some furious scribbling with your new pride and joy you might be horrified to find scratches on the surface. Have you done something wrong or is this normal? Do they affect the function at all? All perfectly normal questions I also asked myself.

Scratches on a drawing tablet are normal and can occur with regular usage. Light scuffs and scratches occur most commonly due to pressing too hard with the pen or using a worn nib. A dirty surface, nib or hand are also frequent causes. Deep scratches are only a problem if they cause the nib to catch or interrupt your stroke and compromise the usage of your tablet.

Damage to drawing tablets can be particularly likely if you’re traveling and trying to stay creative. So if you find this article useful you might also be interested in my post Create Digital Art & Designs While Traveling: Complete Guide.

Purely visual scuffs and scratches will not affect the function of your drawing or graphics tablet. They are designed to have a pen rub over them repeatedly and this is something that will have thoroughly tested during the development of the product. Over time, your tablet will attract many light scratches which will eventually affect the feel of the surface and resistance to the nib but this is normal.

Deeper scratches will still not affect the ability for the tablet to function itself but may interrupt the ability for the pen nib to flow over the surface. If the nib catches in deeper grooves or tracks into them then your ability to draw lines or strokes may be compromised and turn out to look jagged. Deeper scratches may also rub your hand and cause you annoyance.

The location of deep scratches will probably make more of a difference than the nature of the scratch itself. If the scratch was caused by external damage such as an object being left on top then you might be lucky if the scratch is in an area of the tablet that is less commonly used.

If however, the scratch is in a highly used area of the tablet then it might be time to think about fixing the scratch or replacing the surface. Keep reading for some solutions on how to fix scratches on your drawing tablet.

What Causes Scratches on a Drawing Tablet?

Most common causes of scratches come down to user error and can be avoided if you know about them in advance:

  • Pressing too hard. This is a common cause by new users to drawing or graphics tablets. If the pressure sensitivity is set incorrectly, then the user will need to press harder to achieve the desired results. Not only will it cause scratches but it will also mean that you get through nibs much faster. If your nib is lasting days instead of months or years then you’re pressing too hard.
  • Worn nibs. Uneven wear on a nib can create sharp edges which can more easily scratch the surface of your tablet. It can also increase the likelihood of the pen casing itself colliding with the tablet surface.
  • Material from plastic pen nibs depositing on the tablet surface.
  • Dirty nib. Dust or dirt on the nib can grind against the surface of the tablet when used.
  • Jewellery or clothing around the wrist. This has the potential to cause deeper scratches so is important to avoid.
  • Dirt or crumbs under the wrist can abrade the surface of the tablet.
  • Dirty tablet. This can be ground into the surface of the tablet either by the pen nib itself or the user’s hand or clothing.
  • Putting objects on top of your tablet. Leaving your tablet out when not being used can mean that it’s easy for a family member who doesn’t understand how sensitive a drawing tablet is can stack objects on top of it or knock it over. This is another potential cause of deep scratches.
  • Different tablets use different materials for their drawing surfaces. Those with plastic surfaces will scratch more easily than those with glass which have greater wear resistance.

How To Remove Scratches on a Drawing Tablet

Damage disclaimer: These methods are listed for information purposes and I do not specifically recommend their usage and therefore do not accept any responsibility for any damage or loss caused by any of these methods. It is your responsibility to ensure that you take care of your tablet, research any repair thoroughly and hence accept any risk when attempting any repairs.

Light scuffs and scratches are normal to occur on a drawing tablet and can sometimes be removed or improved but is a sign of normal wear and tear so is nothing to worry about. Deeper scratches are likely a sign of damage or improper usage but can still potentially be fixed.

Potential fixes for scratches are:

  • Wipe with a lightly moist microfiber cloth. Light scuffs easier to remove than deep scratches. These can sometimes be removed in this way, especially if they are caused by plastic residue from a pen nib. Nibs wear down to protect the surface of the tablet which is why they are a replaceable consumable item.
  • Replace the protective layer. Some drawing tablets come with replaceable top layers such as some Wacom tablets. These are designed to be replaced. Wacom call theirs Texture Sheets – find an example of the Wacom Intuos Pro M Texture Sheet on Amazon here (paid link). See the video below on how to replace these. You may also have purchased an aftermarket screen protector which can also be replaced. Another benefit of this is to change the drawing resistance. See my post How to Make a Drawing Tablet Feel Like Paper for more info.
  • Replace the drawing surface. This is essentially a professional repair to replace a component in the tablet which can be undertaken by the manufacturer of the product. It is unlikely to be covered under warranty since most of the time the scratches will be caused by normal wear and tear or improper usage. If your tablet was delivered with scratches on it then that’s a different story and it should be returned immediately.
  • Buffing. This is not recommended as it comes with a high risk of more serious damage. Some users in forums have reported some degree of success in buffing out scratches with very fine sand paper or alternatively an abrasive compound such as toothpaste and a fine cloth. This is most certainly a last resort and will likely further damage your tablet if you do it wrong. It is not something that I would advise.

Check out Wacom’s video of how to replace a Texture Sheet below:

How To Prevent Scratches on a Drawing Tablet

Thankfully most of the common causes of scratches can be avoided or minimized if you know about them in advance.

  • Don’t press too hard. Adjust the pressure settings so less pressure is required to register a stroke. This will also mean that your pen nibs last longer. Pressing too hard is the most common reason for scratches.
  • Clean the surface with a soft cloth. Do this before each use and during long sessions to stop dirt building up which can be ground into the surface by the pen nib.
  • Clean the pen nib. One of the most important steps to take is to clean dirt from the nib. You’ve just done it to the surface so it makes sense to do it to the nib too. Keep an eye on it during usage too and give it a wipe when you notice any dirt.
  • Apply a screen protector. You might want to do this if your tablet does not have replacement drawing surfaces. This can also help nibs last longer depending on the texture selected. A textured protector can be chosen which may feel better during use, since it offers some level of resistance but may make the nibs wear down faster compared to smooth ones.
  • Use a homemade surface. If you don’t want to use expensive screen protectors or you just want to experiment with different levels of resistance, you can tray taping a layer of drawing paper or tracing paper on top of the tablet. This can also imitate the feeling of drawing on a real pad.
  • Proper storage when not in use. Make sure to keep your table out of harm’s way when not in use or put it in a protective case. This will prevent well-meaning family members from stacking items on top or knocking it off the desk.
  • Replace the pen nib. If your pen nib is too warn down then it will start damaging the surface of your tablet. Make sure you check the nib on a regular basis and replace it when required. If you have a Wacom tablet, check out Amazon for replacement nibs here (paid link) or Wacom’s accessories store here.
  • Change the type of pen nib. Different materials are offered for nib replacements, such as felt. Whilst primarily intended to give a different haptic feedback experience, a felt nib will also reduce the amount of damage to the tablet surface.

Check out Wacom’s video below on how to replace their pen nibs:

In conclusion, it is normal to get scratches on your drawing tablet but if you keep it clean and don’t press too hard, most scratches can be prevented or minimized. Some tablets allow for replacement of the drawing surface if things have gone a bit too far. Now go and sketch (but not too hard!)…

If you found this article helpful then feel free to check out my post Essential Gear for Digital Creatives: Complete Guide for a breakdown of other useful tech. You might also like the post Do I Need a 4k Monitor for Photo Editing?

If you’re struggling with your tablet moving around when in use see my post How to Stop a Drawing Tablet Sliding When Drawing.

Then, head over to my Recommended Gear page for the top products you need in your life.

Featured image: Proxima Studio /