Around 15 years ago we were visiting my brother-in-law and his family. While there I saw his computer and it had this strange flat thing with a pen on the desk. I asked my husband what it was and he said it was a Wacom Tablet. You use the pen on the flat part, the tablet, and it works just like a pen, or pencil. I said I wanted one, he said I didn’t need one.
So I waited, and one day while trying to do fine detail work in Photoshop and screaming because the mouse wouldn’t do what I wanted, I finally said: “I’m getting one”. In 2011 I got my first Wacom Tablet, the Intuos 4. I haven’t looked back and now consider it a vital part of my photography gear.
What is a Wacom Tablet?
Wacom Tablets come as two pieces, the tablet, and the pen. The tablet sits flat on your desk and you use it like a piece of paper. So when you put the pen, or stylus, on it the tablet communicates with the computer.
The pen is similar to a mouse in that as you move it over the tablet, the cursor onscreen follows. The active part of the tablet covers the whole screen, but unlike a mouse, you have to lift the pen from the surface to move the cursor. When you want to click on something you just touch the pen to the surface of the tablet.
What do you use it for?
Have you ever considered how good it would be to be able to draw on your computer like you can on a sketch pad? The Wacom Tablets allow you to do that. The pen becomes your drawing instrument and the tablet part your paper or sketch book.
Getting starting using a tablet
There is no doubt that a lot of people have trouble using a tablet when they first start. The pen can be a hard concept to get your head around. It does not work the same way a mouse does. It works more like a pen, and you need to think of the tablet like a piece of paper. When you want to move from one part to another you lift the pen up and move it. The pen talks to the tablet and knows where you are going.
Getting used to it
After you have been using a tablet for a while it becomes second nature. You just move instinctively with it, and in many ways, more so than with a mouse because pens have been around a lot longer.
The Wacom Intuos Pro Tablet
After having the Intuos 4 for a few years I decided that it was time to get a slightly bigger one, and I opted for the Intuos Pro Medium. It is larger than my previous one but has some options which were not available with the older model.
The Pro series allows you to use the tablet wirelessly. Which is really good for people who don’t have a permanent place for it and what to move it around. You have the choice of having it sit on your desk plugged in, or if you want to move it you can remove the plug and not have to worry about connecting it. Mine sits permanently on my desk and so I tend to keep it plugged in.
The tablet part can also be a touchpad. So if you find you are used to using your fingers to move around on the computer then the touch pad area may suit you. This feature certainly helps people that use your computer and don’t know how to use the pen. The touchpad can easily be turned on and off as you want it. The top button on the tablet is set as the default switch for the touchpad feature.
There is also a stand that holds the pen when you aren’t using it. In the bottom of the stand, you will find a storage area for more nibs for the pen. You can purchase them separately, many options are available or both the stand and extra nibs.
I have the older model of the Intuos Pro. The new updated version includes Bluetooth. The pen that comes with it now, the Pro Pen 2, has over 8192 levels of sensitivity with pressure and tilt response. The one I have only has 2148 level of pressure sensitivity. The tablet part is also much thinner on the newer model.
The Wacom Intuos Pro Medium retails for $349 at B&H, or you can shop for it on Amazon.com as well.
Using the Intuos Pro Pen
The Intuos Pro comes with a lot of default settings, but you can change them so the tablet and pen will work the way you want. There are four buttons on the pen. Clicking the nib is like doing a regular left-click. I have changed the settings on my pen, so the two buttons on the side now do a right-click (the bottom one) and middle-click (The scroll wheel on a PC mouse is also a button you can click. If you middle-click a link it will open it in a new tab. If you middle-click a tab it will close. It is very handy, and one I use a lot.). The one at the top of the pen has the factory default setting of erasing, but I’ve changed mine to double-click.
You can change how fast to double-click, or how much pressure you can use. It is all there for you to set up exactly how you want. It is good to play around with it so you can try different things. As you get used to using it you may find that you want to change other things as well.
I’ve been using a tablet for years now and when I purchased the Intuos Pro I decided I would use it for everything, so I threw away my mouse. I now use my tablet as my mouse whether I am processing or not. I have gotten very used to typing with the pen stuck between my thumb and hand. In fact, I almost find it difficult to type if it isn’t there. It has become like an extension of my hand and I will often find myself in the kitchen making a coffee with it still attached.
My family don’t like it because they can’t use my computer with it. I have a mouse in a drawer for them now.
Why use a tablet and pen?
If you get frustrated by trying to do details with a mouse, then the Intuos Pro could be exactly what you need. A tablet and pen allow you to do fine detail work that you can’t do with a mouse or your finger unless you are really good with them. A mouse frustrating for me and would shout a lot, which, in the end, was why my husband agreed that I needed a tablet. I haven’t looked back. Now with the pen, I can trace around curved lines, or get into small spots to change things easily. I couldn’t live without a tablet and pen anymore.
Wacom come into their own for post-processing work on the computer. Whether you are using Photoshop or Illustrator, or another program where you require a lot of control over what you are doing, you will find the tablet is perfect.
Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 512GB
The Mobile Studio Pro another tablet style unit from Wacom except it looks more like what we have come to expect from a tablet. It has a screen and you can use it independently from your computer. It is a computer itself, and you can run Windows on it as well as Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. This model has Wi-Fi and works just like a regular tablet.
You can use it as a tablet or as a laptop, although you would have to get an external keyboard if you don’t like the keyboard on the screen.
With Bluetooth capabilities you can pair other devices with it easily as well. So getting a Bluetooth keyboard is a really good option, especially the one by Microsoft that folds in half and is easy to carry around.
It doesn’t have the usual ports for connecting devices and uses USB-C. That will soon become the standard, but for now, you will not be able to connect any others to it. You can get adaptors for USB > USB-C.
Pros and cons
PRO: Without a doubt, the best thing about this particular model is that it is exactly like drawing in a sketchbook. You are working straight onto your image. It is great to be able to move it around and work the angle that is needed for your image. Your hand can get in the way sometimes, so being able to turn it is a definite bonus.
PRO and CON: It does have touchscreen capabilities, and that can be great for browsing the internet and using other programs. However, for processing images with the pen it was very frustrating with the touchscreen on. You put your hand somewhere and then something else would go off, or get deleted. In the end I turned the touchscreen feature off when I was processing the image, but turned it back on when I was doing everything else.
CON: You do have to think a bit differently when using a tablet, especially if you are used to using keyboard shortcuts. I use them all the time, so when working on an image I have one hand on the keyboard, and the pen in the other. You have to find other ways of doing delete, save, etc. I was told by Wacom Australia that you can set up shortcuts on the tablet. For the short amount of time that I had the MobileStudio tablet, I didn’t worry about it, but it’s good to know. As previously stated, you are also able to use an external Bluetooth keyboard if you wish.
PRO: The Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 512GB is perfect for anyone that travels a lot and wants to work on their images on the go. You can take it anywhere and with a battery life of 4-6 hours, you have plenty of time to do what you need. I took it with me when I met friends for coffee so I could work if they were late. It’s small, isn’t very heavy, and will fit anywhere most laptops do. I also used it to edit images while I was watching TV.
CON: It does come with a hefty price tag as it retails for $2499 at B&H (with the 512gb hard drive, smaller ones are available for less as well – 256gb is $1999 and 128gb is $1799). If you want the larger 15″ model, then you will need to pay an extra $500.
Different tablets available
Wacom offers a wide range of tablets so you can choose from a small one, up to very large ones. Most of them work as mentioned here. They aren’t as expensive as you may think (they start at about $199 for a small one) so if you want to try one out you should be able to find one that fits within your budget.
The new ones have screens built-in and work like similar to other tablets (like an iPad). You use the pen directly on the screen so you can see exactly what is happening to your image real-time. They are a lot more expensive, but if you really want to get serious it could be just what you need.
There is another version for those that want to process on the go. So if you are traveling a lot, you can use it as your laptop and for processing your photos. There are also much bigger ones that sit on your desk and work in a similar way.
Whatever level you are at, they have a tablet for you.
If you are serious about your photography, or more so if you are serious about editing your photos, then a Wacom Tablet is an essential tools that can help you to make fantastic images. They have a massive range available, so you will have to decide which one is right for you.