Is Digital Better? Using Hand Drawn Visuals

Alison working on a large living mural

Anyone who’s experienced graphic recording firsthand might have been struck by how completely…low tech it is! At the events we support, our artists have two easels, a white EagleCell board (think of it as a sturdy huge piece of paper), and a box full of markers. The only technology we use on live events are our phones for quick reference and spelling checks.

In this age of technological innovation, are graphic recorders missing out on everything that high-tech has to offer? In the past year we’ve seen articles about painting in Virtual Reality and even a marker that draws electrical circuits.

Lindsay drawing in banner on board while smiling

As artists, we love the physicality of drawing on paper. We love the look and texture of markers, and we love working creatively within the boundaries it creates. Our name is Ink Factory after all!

There is also something truly exciting about seeing pen put to paper. We see a spark of excitement in our audience’s eyes when they realize we’re actually drawing live, and they get to watch. Most people have never witnessed a professional illustrator work in person, and that has a similar magical quality to hearing a well-trained musician play, or seeing a moving theatrical performance. Audiences immediately recognize that an actual person is listening and creating visuals live, which is not always as evident with digital graphic recording.

Artist drawing on Cintiq tablet with projection in front of audience

Audience watches an artist create digital visual notes during a general session presentation


We do offer digital graphic recording at Ink Factory, and have noticed that it’s a growing trend within our industry. The portability, convenience and flexibility of drawing on a tablet can’t be ignored, and tech-minded clients are partial to it. We prefer to use Adobe Photoshop with our 22″ Wacom Cintiq while digitally scribing, but many others are comfortable using an iPad pro with a stylus. There is definitely a learning curve involved with digital graphic recording, as an artist gets comfortable with the tools and ticks of each individual program.

One major benefit our clients get out of our digital scribing is the immediate shareability – there are no photographs to process – and therefore images can get Tweeted, emailed, liked and Instagrammed almost instantly.

Artist drawing digital visual notes on Cintiq

But as anyone who’s ever given a PowerPoint presentation knows, technology is bound to fail at one point or another. Clear communication with between us and the client’s audio-visual team is absolutely essential if we don’t want to show up at an event with no way to project our work or plug in our setup. Batteries run out, cords get lost, and computers lag.

We do our absolute best to prevent any problems during the day of digital graphic recording. We request a test-run the day or morning before to make sure all our devices are running smoothly. With our traditional markers and artists boards, this extra time isn’t necessary.

If the core of what we do is visually depicting the key concept within our client’s conversations, then both analog and digital graphic recording can be winners. Our brains synthesize the information and our hands create the strokes – no matter what medium we’re using. Which medium you choose depends on the setting, your audience, and your level of experience with technology.

Artist drawing on Cintiq with projection next to them in blue lighting


Do you prefer digital or analog scribing? If you scribe digitally, what’s your setup?