Learn from Michelle

Wacom Art Pen vs. Wacom Grip Pen

There's a lot of resistance from new digital painters on the Wacom Art Pen investment.  It's an additional $80 purchase (as of the date of this writing) and I'm constantly questioned why it's necessary.

In short - your success as a digital artist depends on it!

The Wacom Intuos Pro ships with the standard grip pen.  It functions wonderfully for all manner of things -- including retouching.  It will take you anywhere you want to go... until you want to learn to paint.  Then it will become your Achille's heel.

The Wacom grip pen is missing one critical function - barrel rotation.

The Wacom grip pen will control your brush - it will even tilt your brush - but it will not ROTATE your brush.

Why is this a problem?

Certain kinds of brushes - hair brushes for example - need to be positioned carefully for the best results.  The "bristles" of the brush will need to line up with the direction of the hair growth.  That's where the critical barrel rotation comes in.

What does barrel rotation look like?

If you spin the Wacom art pen in your hand, the brush head will spin on your screen as in the graphic below...

Not ALL brushes rotate.  Only specially designed brushes have this function.  But for the ones that do - it is absolutely critical that you have the art pen to control the tool adequately.

If you're ready to purchase your own art pen, here's an Amazon link (this is NOT an affiliate link -- I just get asked A LOT if this is the correct tool so I'm linking it in this blog post): https://www.amazon.com/Wacom-KP701E2-Art-Pen/dp/B003ICXCXE/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=wacom+art+pen&qid=1553562211&s=gateway&sr=8-1

**NOTE** The Wacom Art Pen will only work with the Wacom Intuos 4, Wacom Intuos 5, and Wacom Intuos Pro tablets.

How to differentiate your Wacom Art Pen from your Wacom Grip Pen

Take a close look at the image above.  Can you tell at a glance which is the art pen and which is the grip pen?

The grip pen above is actually the newest one available and it is much easier to differentiate this version from previous versions.  The grip pen has the silver label around the toggle.  But this is a recent addition.

Prior to the current grip pen, both pens were all black.  How's a body supposed to tell which is which?!

Start by looking at the tips...


The art pen ships with a thick, slanted nib.  It is on the left.  The grip pen ships with a thin, pencil-like nib.  It is on the right.  Also, note that the art pen barrel is slightly thicker at the widest point than the grip pen.

Next, take a look at the "eraser" end of the pens.  The art pen has the "WACOM" text around the end and is thicker.  The grip pen has no logo and is thinner.

When in doubt - grab a brush with a rotational function and see if it spins.  You'll know for sure in an instant if you have the grip pen or the art pen!

Not sure if you own a brush with a rotational function? 

I can help you with that! Just click the image below and you'll be taken to a page where you can download a great brush to test your art pen.


The Wacom Art pen is a must-have for your painting journey.  It will quite literally make or break your success as a digital artist!

Return to BLOG Home

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join the mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from my team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

I hate SPAM. I will never sell your information, for any reason.