Capturing Hand-drawn Graphics and Writing

Hand-drawn graphics can enhance teaching in a number of ways, for example highlighting or annotating text or images, writing equations, sketching diagrams, etc. Many people find drawing by hand much more natural, allowing for greater freedom of expression.

There are two approaches for digitally capturing hand-drawn graphics for use in teaching:

  1. Use a camera to record drawings on a whiteboard, paper, or any other surface.
  2. Use a tablet or graphics tablet

1. Using a camera

The simplest method can be to use a camera to record yourself drawing. Any camera capable of recording video will suffice, including a mobile phone or a webcam. There are a wide range of stands, clamps and tripods available which can be used to hold a camera in position while you draw. You can also improvise a stand with everyday objects such as a stack of books, an anglepoise lamp, woodwork clamp and/or a cardboard box.

Desk setup to capture hand-drawn graphics with a phone camera. A mic stand and adjustable woodwork clamp holds the phone in place. The height of the mic stand is adjusted so it is as high as possible while still being possible to see the screen while writing. Black Uniball pens and Berol fineline felt tips are used so the writing is easily visible. A desk lamp is out of shot but lighting the paper.

Other desk set up examples to capture drawings with a camera
Desk set up to capture hand-drawn graphics with a web camera. A box is placed over the page to stop natural light from a nearby window reflecting off the page. A hole is cut on top of the box for the webcam to record through. The edges of the box are folded down to make it more stable. The camera films in landscape so only the top half of the page is used - it's advised to plan out the space on the page you will be writing in before starting.
A phone is balanced on an anglepoise desk lamp to record hand-drawn graphics on a page below. The lamp allows for flexibility of the height that is needed. The phone is balanced between two pieces of metal in the lamp, and blue tack and elastic bands help keep it secure.
A phone is balanced on a stack of books to capture hand-drawn graphics on a page below. The top book is balanced perpendicular to the others so the phone can be rested on the edge overlooking the paper below. A weight on the top book acts as a counterbalance so the phone is balanced. Books can be added or taken away to get the area you want to work on in shot.

For further advice on recording video at home see our guide on teaching using video.

2. Using a Tablet or Graphics Tablet

To capture hand-drawn images using a tablet or graphics tablet, you will need to:

  • Choose an input device
  • Choose a drawing program
  • Record your screen or share your screen online

The video below summarises the key features of these approaches.

Choose an input device

There are three main options available to you:

1. Using a mouse

Most devices have a drawing program (e.g. Microsoft Paint) in which you can use the mouse to create images and hand writing. Some presentation tools (e.g. Blackboard Collaborate) have a ‘draw’ feature in which you can use the mouse to create images, highlight text, etc.


2. Using a graphics tablet

A dedicated graphics tablet (aka digitiser or drawing tablet) is a device which plugs into your computer, enabling you to capture hand-drawn images, animations and writing. There are many options available, although WACOM is a leading brand. One example is the “WACOM Intuos CTL-4100K-N 5" Graphics Tablet”, which retails for approximately £70.


3. Using a stylus and your own tablet

If you already own a tablet or similar device (such as an iPad, Surface or even your phone), you can use it in conjunction with a stylus (or a finger) to capture hand-drawn images.

There is a huge range of styluses ranging from cheap bulk purchases such as the Syolee Tool Stylus Pen (sold in packs of 22 for £6.99) to expensive, pressure sensitive devices such as the Apple Pencil (sold individually for around £100).

Unless you have a Surface or similar device, you will need to connect your tablet to a laptop or desktop. The easiest way to do this is with Duet Display, which turns your tablet into a second monitor for your Mac or PC.

There are also a number of dedicated graphics tablet apps available, such as AstroPad and EasyCanvas for iPad and VirtualTablet for Android devices.

Choose drawing software

If you are using your mouse, touch screen (with a stylus or finger) or a dedicated graphics tablet, you will also need a drawing program. The are a number of different programs available for all platforms:

PowerPoint

  • PowerPoint slides can be annotated
  • The annotations will be removed when you go to the next slide and are not stored

Adobe Acrobat

  • PowerPoint presentations, Google Slides or other documents can be converted into PDF form
  • These can then be annotated using the comment function which brings up options for different pen colours, highlighters, typing and stamps

Google Jamboard

  • Create ‘Jams’ (online interactive whiteboards)
  • Add images and post-it notes (which you can draw on/annotate)
  • Sketch or write
  • The app version has more features than the browser version (e.g. you can add in material like slides from Google Drive)
  • It can be used collaboratively with your students or in staff meetings

Microsoft Paint

  • Windows comes with a drawing program called Paint
  • There is a browser version available at jspaint.app

Architectural, Engineering and Mapping related software e.g. GIS

  • You may need other more specialised software tools that are relevant to your discipline that will integrate with graphics tablets and styli

Other programs

  • There are a number of advanced graphics programs in Adobe Creative Cloud, such as Photoshop and Illustrator

Three of these tools are demonstrated in this video on writing, drawing and annotating digitally

Record your screen or share your screen online

When you have chosen an input device and graphics package, you will need to record your screen or share your screen online so that others can see it.

Recording your screen

We recommend using Kaltura Capture to record your screen. Please see our guidance page for more information about Kaltura (including Kaltura Capture).

Sharing your screen online

For formal classroom settings, we recommend using Blackboard Collaborate to share your screen online as it is designed for teaching and has a number of built in tools. 

You can also share your screen in Google Meet. Further information can be found on Google Meet's help pages


Examples of practice

The following video show examples of how colleagues at the University have used some of the techniques above to support learning in a number of areas.

Engineering Mathematics

Dr Anthony Rossiter has many examples of annotating PowerPoint presentation to teach maths to engineering students.

Please see Anthony's YouTube channel for further examples.

Architecture

Watch this session to gain an insight into an Architecture design tutorial using Google Jamboard and an Apple Pen to review a student's work collaboratively online.