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Tablets can do a lot of cool things: they can let you surf the web with your fingers, they can play movies, and they can even provide a great gaming experience. But did you know you can also use a tablet for drawing?

You’re probably aware of the stylus, the pen-based tool that for years has let us write and draw on touchscreens. But for people who fancy themselves more artistic, there are other options.

From left to right: Nomad Play, Nomad Brush, Nomad Compose, Pogo Sketch Pro, Architect Stylus.

Designed by an artist for use by other artists, the Nomad Brush is a paint brush for use with touchscreens. Built differently from a regular paint brush, the Nomad is made of a combination of natural and synthetic fibres, allowing the capacitive touchscreens of today’s devices to pickup on motions made by the brush.

Using a brush on a screen is obviously a different experience than that of one on canvas or cardboard, but people who are more comfortable with a brush than painting with a finger – an otherwise unnatural way to draw – will find themselves at ease here.

Several versions of the Nomad exist, including the dual-tipped Nomad Compose, an aluminium model that can equip two tips at once, different to the original Nomad made of wood that has a single tip like a regular paint brush.

"Painting" on a Galaxy Tab 7.7 with the Nomad Brush.

Kids can even get in on the fun with Nomad’s “Play”, a fat stubby version of the brush with carvings of rocket ships and stars aimed at the younger artists.

We tested a few of the models here and found the dual-tip Nomad Compose to be the best, allowing both a medium sized brush for a more “painterly” feel, and an ultra-short angled tip that not only provides a different texture to work with, but also gives you more control.

Pens are also available for tablets, offering a more precise way of drawing that design students may prefer. These are actually the more common type of stylus, using a soft rubberised end-point that works with the tablet’s capacitive screen.

This stylus is actually the most common type, but not all are created equal. Those with an eye for design or who prefer balanced pens may find themselves looking for angled styluses such as Pogo’s Sketch Pro or the heavy Architect Stylus.

The fatter child-friendly version of the Nomad, seen here digitally painting an ice cream cone.

Of course, all of these tools are useless without the right app.

Luckily, there are loads of choices available, including Autodesk’s Sketchbook, a portable version of the company’s drawing application available on Windows and Mac OS. Sketchbook is available for Android and iOS devices, meaning it can be brought with you on practically any smartphone or tablet.

Another app – “Procreate” – promises a high definition canvas on the Apple iPad 2, layers, and the creation of brushes. What’s more, it’s also made by an Australian company and automatically saves your images.

Sketchbook is available for Android mobile phones, allowing you to digitally paint and draw on your smartphone whenever you want.

Other drawing and painting apps include the ink-inspired ZenBrush, ArtRage, Sketch Rolls, and even Adobe Photoshop Touch.

With all of these artistic uses for tablets, we thought of students studying art at both high school and university. We wondered whether the traditional Visual Art Process Diary – the book where students scrawled their ideas on over a long period – could be made in a digital form.

The Nomad Brush up close.

After all, a digital VAPD would not only make for a lighter backpack and more portable diary, it would also save paper and help the environment.

One NSW teacher told GadgetGuy that she couldn’t “see why they [students] couldn’t do it via a tablet; as long as all the sketches and ideas were there.”

Another told us that “as long as it documents what they’re doing and can be accessed by those who need to see it, it would be fine.”

Brushes aren't the only way to go. The rubber tipped stylus can be an effective digital drawing tool, as seen here in the Pogo Stylus Pro.

The situation may be different for every school, but if you’re considering dropping the paper diary this year and giving it a shot on a tablet or mobile phone, check with your art teacher first.

Explain to them what you’re thinking of doing and say that you’ll export the results into a PDF or image selection when it’s grading time.