A show of hands out there: who think that pen tablets are for people who know how to draw? Go ahead, it’s okay, don’t be shy. I was in the same boat as you toward the beginning of these year. I began thinking about how it might possibly help my editing, so I started watching some videos online of them in use.
Don’t get me wrong, if you are able to draw, you can do some amazing things with a pen tablet. If you need proof, just do a quick search on YouTube. Now I, on the other hand, can’t draw at all. Get this; I took a class in school that was called, no joke, “I can’t draw but I wish I could”. It didn’t help me much. So why would I purchase a pen tablet? Click on through and I’ll tell you.
The thought of using a pen tablet all started for me when I felt like I was working harder than I needed when editing with a mouse (or even a trackpad). Think about when you’re doing anything in your editing software where the tool itself in the software is supposed to act like a brush in your hand. Things like dodging and burning, refining a mask, creating a selection with a lasso-like tool, or how about using the brush tool? All of these things were quite laborious for me when using a mouse.
The mouse has been around for so long and has been considered the tool for navigating a graphical user interface that people just don’t question how wrong it is to use for things like editing. Editing software companies sure didn’t design their software with mice in mind (otherwise the brush tool would be called the cursor tool…probably).
Even though I can’t draw at all, I can trace a line much easier with a pen in my hand than a mouse. And if you think about it, unless you’re creating an image from scratch (IE, drawing or painting), that’s really all you’re doing is tracing using many different tools.
When deciding to purchase a pen tablet, I decided right away to choose a Wacom as they have been the pen tablet company for some time now. From a consumer standpoint, they have two lines: the Bamboo series and the more expensive Intuos. I decided to go with the Intuos as I’ve read they are built much better with programmable buttons along the side, and they offer more pressure sensitivity (think: brush strokes that get larger the harder you press and vice versa).
I purchased the least expensive Intuos4 Small Pen Tablet and, to be honest, I’m surprised I still have it. I enjoy using it so much that I thought I would have upgraded to a larger one but just haven’t gotten around to it, plus they aren’t the cheapest things in the world.
The Intuos has grown on me so much that I use it as my mouse more often than my Magic Trackpad.
One thing that will take a bit to get used to and was frustrating in the beginning is that by default, the active pen area on the tablet is a virtual version of your screen. What I mean by that is there is no “moving the cursor, picking up the mouse, moving it, dropping it back down, and continue moving the cursor”. If you want to click something in the top right hand corner of the screen, you have to touch the pen to the very tippy-top right corner of the active pen area. It feels weird because you hand is completely off the tablet but you get used to it rather quickly.
Other notable features are the ability to use it either right or left-handed, changeable tips to the pen to mimic the feel of different pens or pencils against different media, and the customizable buttons. You can use the included software to customize the heck out of the buttons. You can even setup the touch wheel in the center to do 4 different things, changeable by clicking the button in the middle of the wheel.
The title of this post reads “Review/tip” and I wrote it that way on purpose. If you are one who edits photos in a software program such as Photoshop, Lightroom, Corel, even GIMP, you would benefit from using a good pen tablet. As I stated earlier, don’t be turned off by your drawing skills. Once you use something like a Wacom Intuos4 Pen Tablet for your photographic editing, you’ll wonder how you ever edited without one.
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