Graphics Tablets

Graphics tablets (which include a flat drawing tablet and a pen) truly are an indispensable addition to your digital darkroom (that's digital photo editing),  digital art, digital drawing and digital scrapbooking projects. Wacom graphics tablets, such as the Intuos Creative, Intuos Pro and Cintiq are the best known examples of these products. 

Each of them (other than the Cintiq which is an LCD screen) includes a flat tablet which is connected to your computer by USB (on the Intuos Creative a wireless kit is available and the wireless kit is included with the Intuos Pro products), a pressure sensitive pen and the tablet drivers.  In the big picture a pen and tablet is an input device.

Graphics Tablets Users

  • Pro Photographers
  • Graphics Designers
  • Industrial Designers
  • Scrapbookers
  • Crafters
  • Animators
  • Illustrators
  • Medical
  • Health Care Workers
  • Educators
  • Mapping
  • Office Workers
  • Control Systems
  • Scrapbookers
  • Presenters
  • Families
  • Amateur Photographers
  • Students
  • Video and Audio Pros

Other input devices connected to your computer include your mouse, your scanner and your keyboard. All of them input commands or information into your computer.  What separates the Wacom graphics tablets from other input devices is the amazing pressure sensitivity, the accuracy of the products and the ease of use (after a short learning curve).

The closest input device to a pen and tablet is a mouse but there really is no comparison. A Intuos Creative or Intuos Pro is superior to a mouse in every way - more on that later.

Quite frankly, there's nothing you can do with a mouse or track pad that isn't easier and more accurately done with a pen and tablet!

Graphics Tablets are primarily used with Graphics software (Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, PaintShop Pro, Corel Painter, Autodesk Sketchbook), Vector software (Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw) plus a host of high end professional software - and - they can also be an incredible help for someone with RSI (repetitive stress injury) which can be caused by long term mouse use.

Wacom graphics tablets (also known as a pen tablets) are the must have, indispensable tool for photographers, designers, digital artists and other computer users. All things being equal, in fact, the natural feel and precision of a graphics tablets outperforms a mouse every time in every situation.

How do the new versions, Intuos and Intuos Pro,
compare to the previous versions,
Bamboo and Intuos 5?

Click here to find out!

The Feel

The first thing you notice and one of the reasons that Graphics Tablets are so darn popular is the totally natural way they feel when you're working with one.  Most of us began our artistic endeavors (no matter what level we're at now) with crayons and moved to pencils and pens, markers and brushes. We have been using these tools with paper all our lives.

The incredible software packages such as Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Illustrator, PaintShop Pro, Corel Painter, Corel Draw, Autodesk Sketchbook have introduced a new level of creativity and fun for those who love  art and are ready to move from the classical tools to digital drawing, painting, photo editing and photo restoration.

A mouse just doesn’t feel right in an artistic environment. There's probably someone, somewhere who can create fabulous art with a mouse but I've never met that person or seen their art.  I've seen artwork created with a graphics tablet in the hands of an accomplished artist and their results are wonderful to see.

Wacom graphics tablets have changed the digital art landscape because a digital pen is really no different from any other pen you have ever used simply because after using one for awhile ...

  • It feels like any pen you have ever used
  • it looks like any pen you have ever used, and
  • it works like any pen you have ever used

No matter what your skill level (from the artistically challenged to the artistic genius) a tablet takes you to a whole new level of creativity - and damn it sure is a lot of fun!

When you pick up your Wacom pen the first time it just feels - well, natural and when you draw your first squiggle on the tablet it feels right and you will be amazed by the precision!

Graphics Tablets Precision

This is a measure of how many points are recognized in an inch and is stated as dots per inch (DPI). A typical mouse will detect 300 to 600 dots per inch on your computer screen and the expensive laser mice the gamers love will detect more.

Compare this to a Intuos Creative tablet, which detects 2540 dots per inch and an Intuos Pro which detects 5080 dots per inch!

This outstanding precision means that you have far more control of your digital art and photo retouching with your Wacom pen and tablet than you have with your mouse.

Your finished product done with a mouse is acceptable but the finished product done with an Intuos or Intuos Pro is outstanding. The natural feel and precision of the pen produces smooth, flowing brush stokes that are a real treat for your creative senses.

You will no longer be frustrated as you struggle with a mouse in your digital art or photo retouching projects to produce acceptable results – your projects will flow smoothly and effortlessly, producing results you will be proud of. 

The typical response I hear when someone works with Wacom Intuos graphics tablets for the first time is "woooo - is that ever smooth! I gotta get me one of these!"

OK – so far we have a natural feeling, precise tablet that is a real treat to use. If that isn’t enough these things are also Pressure Sensitive!


Pressure Sensitivity

As you vary the pressure you apply to the pen on the tablet your brush stroke will change, becoming ...

  • Larger or smaller.
  • Darker or lighter.
  • More or less scattered on the canvas. 
  • Plus other dynamics and they depend on the software.

depending on the brush settings in your software.

A mouse has 1 level of pressure (well, 2 if you count both on and off).

The Intuos Creative tablets (Pen, Small Pen & Touch and Medium Pen & Touch) recognizes 1024 levels of pressure and the Intuos Pro tablets, Cintiqs and Cintiq Companions recognizes 2048 levels of pressure.

A mouse has 1 level of pressure (well, 2 if you count both on and off).

Pressure sensitivity is extremely useful in your digital art or photo restoration projects. What you are doing is taking the brush size and/or the opacity setting from the top of the screen option bar and putting them in your hand so you can change it on the fly (dynamically) as you vary the pressure on the pen.

Pressure sensitivity is extremely useful in your digital art or photo restoration projects. What you're doing is taking the brush size and/or the opacity setting from the top of the screen option bar and putting them in your hand so you can change it on the fly (dynamically) as you vary the pressure on the pen.




Examples of Pressure Sensitivity

If you want to see what Pressure Sensitivity really means without prowling through all of the tutorials on this site then ..

Changing Brush Size with pressure - Quick Mask

Changing Opacity with pressure -  Dodge and Burn - using both the Dodge and Burn Tools and a Soft Light layer and using Opacity with the Clone Tool to Remove Shine.

What this means is that your pen and tablet work exactly like any pen, pencil or brush you have ever used.


Putting It All Together

When you put it all together, natural feel, precision and pressure sensitivity, you've got and experience unlike anything you will ever get with a mouse.  It just works!

Photoshop, for instance, is an amazing program for making global changes to a photograph – by global changes that means changes to the whole image.

When you want to change just one small part of the image with a mouse (local control) it's a challenge because you have to mess with the brush size and the opacity by changing their settings in the option bar and then try to achieve the results you want with an imprecise tool – the mouse.

With the Wacom tablet you have total control because you instruct Photoshop (or Elements or PaintShop) to change the brush size, the opacity of your brush and other more creative brush dynamics through the Brushes Palette and then you vary your pressure between the pen and the tablet to achieve the results you desire.

What this does is take the opacity and/or the size adjustments off of the option bar and puts them in your hand.

Doesn’t that seem like a sensible place for the size and opacity adjustments to be?

Dodging and Burning is probably the very best example of Local Control -  The PaintShop Pro version is here,  and the Photoshop and Photoshop Elements version is here.  

Using a tablet to Dodge and Burn with a Soft Light Layer may be one of the most useful digital editing techniques you will every learn.

Which Works Best
Windows or Mac

Right out of the box the Wacom tablets work perfectly with both Mac and Windows. 

It is a simple matter to install the tablet drivers and then you're good to go. You can fine tune your tablet in the Control Panel (Windows) or System Preferences (MAC) to your individual needs but many people find the default settings are fine. Your new tablet will work with any software on your computer.

If you have wrist problems from excessive "mousing" you can replace your mouse with the pen and tablet for a more comfortable computer experience.

Graphics software like Photoshop and and Corel Painter are enhanced and even more powerful when the tablet is installed. Photoshop has over 19 pressure sensitive tools and the adjustments for each are found in the Brushes Palette.

Here's a great link for you Apple users ...

All About Apple

All About Apple gives you advice and tips for choosing and buying the best Apple products and accessories online, with fun tips and tricks and how to get the most out of your product.

Software Compatability

The first thing to know is that the major digital editing software companies have gone to great lengths and expense to insure that their products (Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and PaintShop Pro) work seamlessly with the pen tablets from Wacom, taking full advantage of the built in pressure sensitivity and high resolution to create wonderful photo effects.

Normal every day digital editing tasks become much easier and far more accurate with a pen and tablet.  Tasks such as ...

  • Selecting
  • Painting
  • Working with menus
  • Using the tools
  • Drawing
  • Dragging
  • Adjustments in dialogue boxes

all become easier and quicker with a Wacom pen and tablet.

In addition to the normal use of the tablet for artistic endeavors, there are a couple of other fabulous things you can do with your tablet ...

Handwriting Recognition - the ability for computers to recognize handwriting is getting better and better all the time!  Making hand written notes and then turning those notes into text is quite amazing and can be very useful.

Windows Vista and Windows 7 hae Handwriting Recognition built into the operating system while Windows 8 uses OneNote (a free download from Microsoft). 

Multi Touch - imagine how useful it is to have multi-touch on a graphics tablet - one hand is drawing or editing and the other is zooming or rotating the canvas.  This feature is built into the Intuos Small, Intuos Medium and the Intuos Pro models (it's not included with the Intuos Pen).

Tutorials

The tutorials cover how the Intuos, Intuos Pro, Cintiq and Cintiq Companion lines of Graphics Tablets from Wacom work with the most widely used software packages.

  • Photoshop
  • Photoshop Elements
  • Paint Shop Pro

As well as some special applications such as:

  • Scrapbooking
  • Photo Restoration
  • Black and White Conversion
  • Digital Art – tracing a coloring

And, of course, how to set up and use your  Wacom.

Most of the tutorials include a video in addition to the written instructions

being a simple kind of guy, I've tried to keep using tutorials easy to understand and easy to follow. In addition, most of the tutorials make use of basic techniques which makes sense to me because advanced techniques are really just a bunch of basic stuff all put together.

Having said all that, you can still use a mouse if that's what you prefer. So find your software package of choice, click on that link and explore the different tutorials.

Thanks so much for visiting my site and if you have any questions or comments whatsoever about graphics tablets, please contact me through the contact page.

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SBI!