How And Why I Use A Wacom Graphics Tablet

catI have a Wacom Intuos Pro 5 Graphics Tablet in Medium size, a Doki Art Glove and the ExpressKey Remote.  Above you can see my desk setup with two monitors, keyboard, mouse and the dark grey/black rectangle in front of the mouse is the tablet. This is how my desk is setup all the time –  Cognac is lying in his usual spot too!

Tablet link

Glove Link

Remote Link

Quite frequently I see people asking about getting a tablet, wanting to know what the best size is, how much its used, how its used and if people like them and would they recommend them.

My answer to this is always YES, I would totally recommend one, and here are my reasons why etc.

  1.   I have issues with damaged tendons in my wrist and thumb area, which means lots of mouse use really hurts, especially those small controlled repetitive brush stroke movements.  So using the pen is a different angle of grip for me, which helps control the overuse, and also promotes healing in the affected area, as its not being continually strained all the time.  This is also helped by the fact that the entire surface of the Intuous works like a touchpad on a laptop, so I can use it to mouse with just one finger.  Plus the scroll circle on the side allows for easier scrolling, which is kinder on the hand as well.
  2.  Freedom of movement gives better, more accurate control.  I can rest the side of my hand on the tablet for steadiness with very fine brush strokes if necessary.  Or I can swing my whole arm from the shoulder for loose easy strokes and movement, reducing repetitive strain on the wrist and forearm.  The movement is more natural and better for the body.
  3.   The Doki Art Glove is an interface between the skin of my hand and the surface of the tablet – you can get friction juddering, and also sweat build up with contact on the surfact.  The glove provides a friction free surface, which is washable, and makes for a much nicer user experience.  I only got my glove before Xmas but I use it all the time.

    Image from Doki site

  4.   MOAR BUTTONS!!!  One of the cool things about the tablet is it has programmable buttons to do certain things – I have mine set to things like Undo, Alt, Ctl, Shft  etc.  But there are lots of steps or functions that I do over and over again that I need more buttons for – so I got an ExpressKey Remote (admittedly it was damaged box stock at a fraction of the usual price!).So I now have buttons dedicated to New Layer, Stamp Visible Layers (Ctl Shft Alt E) and I have a whole heap of other ones I need to program but the two buttons I use the most with my tablet are Right Click and Adjust Brush Size – if I click one then the other and hold down with my left hand, if I move my pen to the top and bottom of the tablet, it changes the hardness, and from left to right changes the size of the brush.

    Being able to work with both hands simultaneously is so much faster and more efficient!  I was already doing this but it required holding one button on the tablet and a right click on the pen, and was very awkward and tiring.  Doing it on the two big buttons at the bottom of the Express Key is much better.

Image from Wacom Australia site


What size do you get?

– I was lucky enough to borrow a Bamboo tablet to try for a week to establish if it was a viable option for me, and it was a small sized tablet and I felt it was too small.  Ordered the Medium instead and when it arrived it seemed HUGE but quickly established that it was the right size – too big and you get tired moving your arm all over the place too much.

– I use two monitors which is one of the reasons I got the Med size, it easily allows me to mouse across both of them with accuracy

It takes some getting used to

– Its a very different approach and not easy to make the transition over.  All the training videos say you should go completely no mouse for at least a week to get used to it – depending on how much you use your computer and potentially the tablet, I would plan on around 2-4 week period of adjustment.

-There isn’t a lot of information around on how to set it up really specifically to your requirements – ie how you set up buttons to do a certain thing or function.  I watched a LOT of videos and harvested various tid bits from each until I got an idea of how it could do what I wanted it to do.  That evolved over time which ended up with the Remote solving a lot of those problems for me more efficiently.

-You can do lots of different things with it, like set it only to work in one mode in one program which it will do when that program is open, but will work in a different way when that program is closed.

So when I have Photoshop open, the full area of the tablet is focused on the monitor that has PS loaded up into it for the PEN functionality – but I can use my finger to mouse across both monitors.  When PS is closed, the pen works equally across both screens

tabletAbove relates the to the Pen Functionality when PS is open – it maps to only ONE monitor

Below relates to the Pen Functionality when PS is closes – it maps to BOTH monitors

capture-2So to get the best out of it, you really have to invest some time in educating yourself about what it can do, then muck around with the settings until you find a combination that works for you.

It makes Art Easier To Do

Pressure sensitive brush strokes!!! Angle sensitivity!!!  Feather light touches, quickly adjustable hardness/softness or size makes masking fiddly areas much much easier.

It makes fluffing around with the fiddly stuff fun, and with the pressure sensitivity, you have much more control and can use more sophisticated brushes to better effect.

Yes you still need a mouse

I find the one thing impossible to do on the tablet is click and drag, and I do a lot of that.  So I still have my mouse handy.

There are different nibs supplied with the Pen

Inside the pen base are a whole range of different nibs and they all feel different, I use the white springloaded one as it had the nicest feel for me, but no one obviously tells you they are hidden in there!  Unscrew the base to access them 🙂

Price is a factor

These tablets are not the cheapest option and the bigger you go the more the $$.  Also the Cintiq is even more $$ cos you work directly on the surface of the device.  All the accessories are also expensive – I would love to have the Art Brush but cannot justify it at all.  However I truly believe if you make a lot of art, this will have an easily justifiable return on investment, if you put the time into learning it and setting it up to benefit your work flow.

OK that should give people a good summary to figure out if a Tablet is what they want to go for – I absolutely LOVE mine – it has helped reduce quite crippling pain in my hand, made art fun and easy to do, and generally improved my capabilities and enhanced my ability to add subtlety and nuance into my art in a way that wasn’t manageable before.

Who else has a tablet?  Do you love it or never use it?




About lensaddiction

Mad keen photographer figuring it out as she goes!
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8 Responses to How And Why I Use A Wacom Graphics Tablet

  1. green_knight says:

    I have a small Intuous tablet. I previously had a medium size, but found it too large for most things – it was inconvenient to set up (I have limited table space), and I was moving my arm too much and wishing for a smaller size!

    But the best thing about mine was that it came with ‘Manga Studio’ (in it’s CLIP STUDIO PAINT incarnation). This is not software that I would have gone out to buy – I’m not interested in comics – and I have fallen in love with it: Photoshop wins hands down on filters, and you can’t import brushes directly (I use another app for that), but the MangaStudio brush engine is phenomenal, and I love using it. This has the nice side effect that I haven’t felt compelled to upgrade Photoshop (I really dislike the licensing model), so I’m counting it as a win all around.

  2. I could not do without my Wacom (medium size). I try to tell my skeptical friends that it is like switching to a pen or pencil after trying to write with a sledge hammer.

    • Charlene Maginn says:

      This is SO TRUE. I did digital art in PS for 2 years BEFORE I opened my Wacom that had been in a box for 3 years (yes I bought it before I began taking PS online) LOL

  3. Charlene Maginn says:

    I have a note to add here for those who find it difficult to move across the wacom pad surface no matter the size and/or how small (and I have the smallest one). I went to the “mapping” section (see diagram above) and set the TABLET AREA to a small portion of the tablet surface. I can move that “portion” anywhere on the surface to keep both my wrist and hand from repetitive strain AND to ease pain from my fibromyalgia. As well, the “wear and tear” on my tablet is not confined to certain areas – or at least not as quickly if I am working on the tablet in different areas all the time. I change the position about every 2 weeks.

    Before settting the mapping to a smaller portion – I was going to give up on the Wacom completely. So very happy I didn’t as it has given me control of my work in ways I couldn’t have imagined … especially in extractions! Hope this helps

    • Its a good tip – I map the whole space to just one window so I have fine control within PS but it can be quite tiring for long periods to move your whole forearm. My wrist gets tired a lot.

      • Charlene Maginn says:

        Exactly and why I almost gave up. Not sure how I found that little nugget – but I’d been searching for tips on the Wacom and came across it. Wish I could give credit to the one who helped me stay the course! 🙂

      • I also found the artist glove really improved my user experience too, reduces drag and makes it much less tiring to use

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