Posted on Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 No Comments
This weekend I bought the Wacom Intuous Pen and Touch Small Tablet. Wacom is a company that makes drawing tablets that allow you to draw directly onto your computer, via a tablet with a paper-like surface. They make a variety of tablet sizes and types that will suit anyone from a hobbyist to a professional designer. I didn’t need anything super-fancy, so I got the standard Intuos Pen & Touch model. And I have limited desk space, so I got the small tablet.
This was my first time using this kind of drawing device, so I thought it might be useful to share my experience. I’ve wished for and wanted a digital drawing interface ever since I was about 12. How amazing would it be to draw something directly into your graphics software? No need for scanning, which introduces all kinds of annoyances like dust spots, plus you can manipulate everything right on the computer. And layers! So often have I wished I could paint a background layer and protect it from being messed up by foreground elements. Well here we are in the future where this technology exists and is cheap enough for regular people to buy.
I decided to go ahead and get one of these tablets because I’m getting into font design. I wanted to be able to draw a letter directly into Photoshop (or some software, not yet sure) so that I could import it into a font editing program. I’ve also been into drawing & painting ever since I was little, and always wanted to do digital paintings but never liked the bother of painting with a mouse.
Out of the box this tablet came with:
The pen has two buttons on the side that you can use as mouse clicks. You can assign them to any function. The top of the pen acts as an eraser, but you can assign that to something else if you want. It’s pressure-sensitive, so the harder you draw, the thicker the line you get. The little nib, which is the part you actually draw with, is replaceable. I don’t yet know how long it will last before it wears down. The extra nibs are located behind a little trap door in the back of the tablet.
I noticed that the included USB cable was only 3 feet long. This is alright if you’re connecting to a laptop. I work on a desktop computer, and the computer itself is on the floor off to the side of my desk, so I needed something longer. I bought a 6′ USB extension cable for it, and that works fine.
The little manual says that when you plug in the device, it should automatically download and install the driver. That didn’t happen for me, so I put in the CD and went through the standard installation process. During that, you can select whether you’ll be using the pen left or right-handed.
For some reason I was under the impression that it would come with a couple graphics apps, but my installation CD made no mention of that. I subscribe to Adobe CC, so I didn’t need any extra software anyway.
Using the Tablet
It was very easy to start using the tablet. I tried it with Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, and both recognized it right away.
The big thing that you have to get used to is the fact that you’re drawing on a surface in front of you while watching your screen. This wasn’t hard to pick up. Anyone who is used to using a mouse shouldn’t have any problem with it, since it’s a similar concept.
I was afraid that I would put my pen down on the tablet but have no idea where it would show up on the screen. But that’s very easy. All you do is hover the pen over the tablet, and a circle shows up on your screen in the corresponding position. Then, that circle just moves around the screen as you move the pen. If you have a particular brush selected, the pointer becomes that brush style.
The palm-rejection function has been working well for me. When you rest your palm on the tablet, it doesn’t take that into consideration, so you’re free to draw where your pen touches the surface. However, I did decide to turn off the touch feature. You’re supposed to be able to use swiping and pinching gestures, but that didn’t do anything for me. I probably just didn’t do it correctly or something, but it seemed like it was interfering with the pen, so I just switched it off. You can do that with a switch on the top-right of the tablet.
The only thing I would warn people about is that if you want to create digital drawings, you’ll need to be familiar with some image editing software. Photoshop is great to use, and I’m sure something like Paint Shop Pro would be fine as well. But if you’ve never used anything like that, you’ll be lost when it comes to using different brushes, layers, and things like that.
The tablet is small, about half the width of my keyboard. Any bigger and it would be hard to cram everything in front of me on my desk. I don’t really need a huge tablet surface because I can always move the digital version of the paper around and draw on any particular spot. I guess the only reason you’d need a larger surface would be if you wanted to make large sweeping motions. You can also zoom in or out of your document, allowing finer control or larger lines that go across the whole page.
You can use the tablet like a mouse if you want to. It has 4 buttons on the top that you can assign to any function, like Ctrl or Shift, for example. You can use the pen to tap anywhere, and use the pen buttons for your left and right-clicks. I haven’t been using it for that. I draw with my left hand, so my right hand is free to use the mouse. When I was drawing I would use both hands like that — for example, I’d use the mouse to pick a color or brush, and then use my left hand to go back to drawing.
Overall, this thing is really cool. I’m very glad I got it and I think I’ll be getting a lot of use out of it (whenever I have some free time to draw, that is).
To get accustomed to using the tablet, I drew this:
I based it on this stock photo, after I adjusted her hand position:
It was VERY AMAZING to be able to set this up in layers. Things like the hat, face, hands, clothes, and the cauldron are all in their own layers. That allowed me to work on one area independently without drawing over other areas. So cool.
And yeah, I realize that drawing isn’t perfect, but I didn’t plan on spending forever on it 🙂
Update: This tablet completely stopped working after about a month, and I’d barely even used it. I tried everything I could to fix it, and I even contacted Wacom customer support, and they couldn’t fix it either. I ended up having to just toss it. Really disappointed in this.