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?



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Saturday Brunch Bagels

These absolutely delicious chocolate chip bagels are only made on Saturdays by a local bakery.  So popular that you have to order in advance to make sure you get some, it was absolute torture to spend time shooting these before finally getting to eat them – spread with premium Lewis Road Butter for all the *nom nom NOMS*

Featuring one of my new plates in soft speckled blue (click on the image to see the big version and check out how I made the text match) and my lovely new base which looks like a lovely old wooden table – but is actually strips of flooring vinyl!

Whats your favourite brunch treat?


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I am on Instagram

Finally decided it was time to join in the fun over in Instagram – Find Me Here

Please share your Instagram handle if you have one and also any other recommendations for people I might be interested in following would be greatly appreciated!

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Distressed Chair

One of the things I love about the work of Kim Klassen is the elegant way she works with what I guess is referred to as “shabby chic” – where furniture is worn and used and rough around the edges but still provides an understated background for her work.

Its an aesthetic that is new to me, and slowly I am collecting props in my personal style that fit into that concept.  The one thing I really wanted though, was a chair.

Except the native wood in NZ tends to have a distinct orange/yellow cast when finished, which I personally do not find attractive.  Plus they are quite expensive as they tend to be hardwood, and good wooden furniture, whatever the age, is sought after, and priced accordingly.

Still I kept my eyes open, and noticed a fancy place that embraces the  Nordic styling, but they had a broken chair on special.  I thought the price was too expensive, given it was broken, but went back a few weeks later to see if it was still there, and was prepared to haggle the price.

Lo and behold, a black chair in the same style, broken in a better place (high up on the back support) and was the price I was prepared to pay, so it came home with me.

Pinterest was my friend with finding techniques for distressing furniture.  What I ended up doing was sanding down to bare wood in the places I wanted it (edges and where natural wear would be) and then sanding back as much as the black as I could.

This was A LOT OF SANDING – and it was all done by hand.  I probably went through 6-8 sheets of sandpaper.  Its had roughly 3 coats of paint applied, and sanded back after each one..

I tried the vaseline technique and found it a waste of time, so just stuck with doing it the hard way with elbow grease and sandpaper 🙂  I wanted some black in there for interest and texture but overpainted with the white.

Because it ended up quite distressed, its a pretty rough job for my first go, but I’m not too bothered about it, the idea was that it looked used and worn around the edges.  Certainly a good learning experience.  Not sure that I will involve myself in another one, but I have my chair, which is supposed to be oak, but I think there is some pine in there – all told I spent around $50 plus many hours of sanding and mucking around to get it sorted.

This is the first photo featuring my special chair!  Have you upcycled some furniture?  Got some tips to share?

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More Dark Light Food Photography

Cherries from my tree and they are completely delicious and I was so please to finally sort out this technique so I could properly do them justice!

Huge juicy blackberries, I couldn’t resist buying some to bring home and shoot them – as they are so dark it was a bit challenging, but as they are quite shiny, they reflected enough light to give them dimension which was important.

Check out my new dishes by the way as well!

Blueberries are something I avoid eating, not a fan at all, but these look AMAZING in photos and were on special, so decided to grab some and I really like this photo – and the antique pie dish looks pretty awesome too 🙂

I froze my blackberries to keep them in good condition, and when they hit the warm air, this lovely frost condenses on the outside for a very different look.

Note for the person who keeps linking to my posts but taking credit for my work on their page (and deletes my comments pointing out its MY photography) – I have issued a DMCA notice with WordPress.

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When the Dance is Done

For a long time I have wanted a pair of pointe shoes to use as a prop, but not shiny new ones, instead shoes that have been used and used hard.

Luckily it turns out I know people who know people, and I took possession of this pair a couple of days ago.  Today I was inspired to sit down and spend some time shooting and editing.

As soon as I saw this image with all the fabric detail I *knew* this had to be a Black and White image.


  1. Shot with my 100mm macro lens for wonderful detail
  2. Processed in LR and then with Nik Silver Efex
  3. Over to PS to have a black film emulsion texture added
  4. Added the text layers and grunged them up a bit to blend in

This needs to be seen BIG to fully appreciate all the lovely fabric and editing details.  So many ideas for using these shoes – who else has Pointe Shoes – what do you do with them?



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Blueberries and my Shooting Setup

Found these in the supermarket today.  I am not a fan of blueberries so would never normally buy them, but they look so amazing in food photos, and real blue food is such a rarity and I thought they would look nice in my antique silver spoons – these are the GIANT sized ones that are much bigger than a tablespoon with really deep bowls.  Ideal for piling berries into 🙂

I thought I would show you what my setup looks like – this is laid out on my lounge floor where I have a ranch slider to my right and in front of me is a wide window that I have pulled the curtains closed – that very thing makes a huge difference to the way the light falls on the image.

So above you can see the big bit of foam core at the top of the frame and a smaller bit to the left.  The base is art cardboard (the other side is painted) and the two A4 folded black cards that I use to shape the light.  And the tripod balanced over the top – this is tied back as when I put my camera on portrait orientation, its so top heavy, it falls over!


setup1View from where the camera would sit.  The black thing in the middle is a lovely piece of slate that is matte and adds subtle texture to the background.

So there you go, I have revealed all my secrets for you now 🙂  Go forth and shoot!

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