January 8, 2010

My Favorite Tool – My Wacom Tablet

I know, I know, I’ve been really lame in getting new articles posted so I figured it was about time for a new one. This one is about my favorite tool in my photo editing toolkit, my Wacom Tablet.

Wacom recently released a new tablet called the Intous Pro, but at the time of this original post it was the Intuos 4. (June 2010) Wacoms top of the line tablet, called the Wacom Cintiq, is aimed at serious professionals, and you actually draw directly on your images right on the screen with your pen. Check it out here.  

The update version of my table is currently called the Intous Pro and the price on them hasn't gone up. I'm sure this is another excellent tablet in their line-up. I’ve been using both of mine, the Intous 3 versions, since they were first released and absolutely love them. (purchased in 2004) Once I used one, I wondered how did I ever live without it. I was debating whether to get a small version to carry in my laptop bag and found a great deal on a smaller version of mine, and I picked it up. It fits right in my laptop case and comes with me everywhere now. I seriously don’t know how I would work on my photos or artwork without them. 

I was reluctant about getting one for quite a while and had to do my homework online and watch some videos on the use of the tablets to see what all the hype was about. But when I actually saw a live demo of someone using one, I knew first hand what they were capable of and went right out and bought one the next day. Let me tell you, I have never regretted it.  I'm updating the original post 6 yrs after the first one for a good reason. Yesterday, I went to help someone with some PC / Printer problems and had to edit a few photos to do some test prints. What a nightmare. Have you ever had to make a fairly complex selection using a mouse? The funny part was, my friend actually owns a Wacom and doesn't even have it hooked up! Anyhow, back to my post. Wacom even has some tutorials on their website to get you going quickly with all sorts of tips. Gone are the days of making complex selections using a mouse. Don't think you could use one?  I gave my friend a simple test, I told him to try to write his name on one of his images with a mouse. Case closed.  

My Intuos 3 tablets give me the power to quickly and professionally edit photos and create digital artwork by turning on the full power of Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter, and believe it or not, over 100 other leading software applications.

Intuos pen tablets use Wacom's Pen-abled technology to give you the natural feel and superior performance of Wacom's patented cordless and battery-free tablet technology. You will find that using the Intuos pen and mouse gives you a lot more control, comfort, and productivity. I alternate between the comfortable Grip Pen and the ergonomic five-button mouse. It is an easy and natural way to work. 

I’m also a big fan of the Express keys and Touch Strips built into the tablets. I use them every time I’m on my computer.
We are all used to using a regular pen or pencil so using a pen tablet comes really easy. The tablet makes it is easy to use the pen because every point on the tablet has a matching point on the screen. When you move your pen over the tablet the cursor moves in precisely the same way on the screen. Where you touch your pen tip to the tablet is where you click. Also, the tablet automatically configures itself to whatever size monitor(s) you have, and I personally have two monitors and the Wacom knows this and works great. Nice huh?

The Intuos 3 cordless pen features a larger grip for comfort, 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity, a Duo-Switch and even a built-in eraser on the end. It even comes with its own pen stand for when your using the mouse. The Duo-Switch on the side of the pen and is nice because you can program the buttons for various functions. I have mine set to double-click and right-click to open programs or to use menus etc.
The pressure option is also really cool. You can program it to use pressure sensitivity or turn it off, usually in the program you're using. It’s like using coloring crayons, press hard for dark color, lightly for light color, or if set for pressure, it will determine how large or small your brush size is. This is an excellent feature when using regular brushes or adjustment brushes in any of your favorite editing programs.
The pen and the mouse both work without any batteries, just by plugging the tablet in to a USB port. The pen comes with 3 tip feels: standard, stroke, and felt, but I’ve only used the standard and it suits me fine. They also have optional air-brush pens which are supposed to be great for artwork and graphics.

The 5-button mouse on the Wacom is great. These days most mice have 2 buttoms and a scroll wheel. Well this mouse has 5 buttons. It has the usual left and right buttons and a scroll wheel, but on both sides is a little button that is automatically set to activate the back and forward keys on your web browser. You know when you open a web page and then click a link, it takes you to another web page. Usually you use the back and forward arrows to navigate back or forward, well with the Wacom there is a button on both sides of the mouse to do just that, one for forward the other for back. I had my first Wacom Tablet for over a year before I even knew they were there! (so much for reading owners manuals huh?) It’s just another nice feature that Wacom added which I use daily.

Some other great features are the Express keys and the Touch Strips. The finger-sensitive Touch Strip allows for quick zooming, panning and scrolling or you can set them up to change brush sizes etc. I don’t really use the Touch Strips that much because I’m a big fan of keyboard shortcuts, but I definitely use the Express keys. You can program these to do just about anything or open any program you want. I’ve got mine set up to open various programs I use all the time. So if I want to check my mail, I press one key, (the red one in the photo) or if I want to go on the Internet I press another. I’ve got others set to open Photoshop, the Bridge, Lightroom and Corel Painter, Word and Excel, all with the touch of a single button! These will work with all your favorite programs on your computer so there’s no more clicking on an icon on your desktop or scrolling through menu’s anymore. Nice huh?

I could go on and on about how much I love my tablets but if you spend any amount of time using Photoshop, Lightroom or Painter you’ll regret putting off buying one for so long. It’s not a huge investment, but definitely worth it. I've been using both of my Intous 3 tablets since they first came out (2004) with no problems ever, you got to love that. There are many models to choose from ranging from hobbyist to pro and they even offer cordless tablets. If you ever get the chance to use one or see one in use, you owe it to yourself to check them out. I’ve included this link to the Wacom Tablet section of B+H Photo, go check them out. If your a designer or a photographer you owe it to yourself to check them out and see all the new models. 

Remember, keep shooting and have some fun!
© D. Gould Photography