i bought an xp-pen artist 15.6 tablet in early 2020, and i LOVE it. after a year of drawing with it on a desk stand, though, i was starting to Feel some of the things it was doing to my neck and back, and i wanted a better ergonomic solution. i was also just tired of how much space my tablet took up on my desk-- blocking part of the view of my main monitor, forcing me to keep my keyboard in my lap or on a folding table off to the side while drawing, etc. i just needed a change! i found myself wishing i could somehow position the tablet in mid-air where it'd be easy to draw on without having to choose between arm or spine pain, and then i realized, oh, THAT'S A THING. that's what ergo arms are for!
i looked into ergotron arms and stuff and the price tags terrified me. the artist 15.6 also doesn't have a built-in VESA mount, so for a while i thought my tablet was unmountable, until i came across some info in a reddit thread that CHANGED MY FUCKIN LIFE. it's the next-best thing to actually being able to turn off gravity. i really can "float" my tablet over my chair. i've reduced both arm/shoulder and spine-related pain!
anyway. you can do this. for pretty cheap, and you don't even have to be a supergenius. i am HOPELESS with all things mechanical and i managed this. i believe in you.
the fuck is a VESA mount?
first of all, if you don't know what a VESA mount is, it's the Standard Doohickey For Mounting Monitors. the acronym stands for "Video Electronics Standards Association." if your dad once spent an afternoon swearing and screwing an adjustable tv mount into your wall, or you know any nerds with adjustable monitors on arms, those are probably VESA. it's also called a FDMI (flat display mounting interface). these are useful acronyms while hunting for products.
do i need an ergotron arm? do i need to buy one that says FOR TABLET ARTIST DIGITAL ART WACOM? what if my tablet doesn't have the mount?
so here's the deal. you do not need an expensive tablet with a VESA mount. you do not need to drop almost $400 for the wacom flex arm, or whatever the fuck, and you don't need to be looking for refurbished or used specialty ones for slightly less painful prices. you can just find one that is a not-painful-at-all price!
what do i need?
★ a small budget (i did this for a bit under $50)
★ to know the dimensions and weight of your tablet
★ a VESA adapter that's going to hold your tablet snugly without blocking buttons or your hand
★ a standard monitor arm that will fit on your desk and hold that size and weight of tablet (plus a little extra weight since you're gonna have your arm on it).
remember to always check return policies (and find out who pays return shipping) before you buy anything. if you get something that doesn't work out, you don't want to be out money.
you have a LOT of choices. there are a lot of different brands/styles of monitor arms out there, and lot of different little grabby friends that will hold your tablet and attach to them. make sure to also look at VESA mounts intended for laptops and larger android/iPad tablets. i recommend looking for something that's "quick release" so that you can easily remove your tablet for cleaning or travel.
make sure you take and compare measurements. my arm is clamped to my desk and it BARELY fit the lip! you may need a board or something to extend your desk so the clamp will stay in place. i didn't think about this part beforehand and almost didn't get away with it, but it fit my desk with a couple of millimeters to spare:
first of all: it's gonna wobble. wobble will happen. especially if you have a lightweight desk and not some sort of heavy wooden monster that stoically absorbs all your leg-bouncing and chair wiggling. if you're used to drawing on a sketchbook one-handed on your knee while eating a sandwich you'll probably fine-- if you're used to something that stays put a little better, or have a really heavy hand, you might struggle with this. here's the thing, i read the reviews on the fancy expensive For Artists ergonomic arms and those also wobble, so i don't think this is something worth spending extra to try to avoid. i was really worried about it, like i-have-an-anxiety-disorder-worried enough that i could have very easily made a problem out of it just by psyching myself out, and i got used to it in a day. a friend tried the same setup and couldn't deal with the wobble at all and just went back to the desk stand. again, check return policies, and be prepared for the possibility that this might take a few tries to get right, or just not work for you.
the VESA adapter i bought is a little too deep-dish for my thin-crust tablet, so sometimes when i'm adjusting it, it does slip around. it's never been a problem while drawing.
the main thing to watch out for is accidental cable/port damage. using the arm does put you at higher risk of this, especially if your port is off to one side. make sure you understand well how the arm moves so that when you move the tablet around, you aren't yanking hard on the cord. make sure you have a firm grip on it whenever you move it, like it's a steering wheel. take care not to leave it in positions that may strain the cable. by this point in your life, you've probably had a phone or some other device where the charge port got all loose and had connectivity issues-- not what you want for your tablet.
most arms will have somewhere to thread cables to keep them contained and out of the way but it might not be set up to accommodate your tablet very well. depending on your setup, you may want to get an extension for your cables or move your computer so you can give them more slack. EVERY time you move the arm, you need to be staying aware of your cable and port. when i'm about to make a major shift in position (getting it into or moving it out of the Drawing Zone) i just unplug it. i also try to remember to unplug it when the computer is off, in case it gets bumped or certain animals whose names will not be mentioned decide to do little crimes.
additional tablet safety tips for the paranoid
keep your tools handy, set up a google calendar reminder, and tighten any joints/clamps/etc. every month or so. i don't think it's very likely that you'll wiggle it all apart unexpectedly, but better safe than sorry. i also have a baby blanket (like literally a receiving blanket like you'd wrap a newborn in) that i toss over my tablet if there's Liquid Danger Afoot, like i've decided to eat soup at my desk. (pre-arm i used to just take it off the stand and put it in a laptop zip case.)
i spent a little less than $50 on my setup, i've been using it for two months, and i'm extremely pleased with it. you could probably do it for even less if you found a used arm on eBay or at a local secondhand store. even if you're not having any pains YET, i can't recommend this enough. it's a preventative measure that protects your future health, it's fun, it's convenient, it's luxury. you deserve this. even if you're just a hobbyist or a beginner, if you can make the investment it's 100% worth it imo.
enjoyyyyyy!!! share this info with your art friends! and feel free to share your tips and experiences in the comments.