Wacom Tablet|Why, How, What?

At least once a day I see someone post on Facebook asking about using Wacom tablets for photo editing and digital art. My Wacom Intuos Pro is probably my most used digital art tool, so I always respond to these posts with long, enthusiastic, detailed replies. Just makes sense to put it all into a blog post don’t you think?

Why I love my Wacom

Imagine trying to paint a portrait using a rock instead of a paintbrush. Now that I’ve been using a Wacom for a while that’s exactly what it feels like when I try to work with a mouse or even worse a track pad. Even using my finger on an iPad feels super cumbersome now. The pressure sensitivity is AMAZING and something that just isn’t possible with a mouse. I also love the tilt sensitivity when using Corel Painter. The hot keys not he sides of the tablet also save me a ton of time. Instead of having to reach for the keyboard I can just program my favorite shortcuts for each program I use into the hot keys.

I bought my first Wacom, an Intuos 3, used in 2010. That thing was moved across the country 3 times and went on many cross-country plane rides with me as well. It has been dropped, stepped on, smashed, thrown (thanks kids), spilled on, and even had a triangular piece of the top surface about an inch long broken out of it. That thing still works perfectly! My main reasons for (finally) upgrading to the Intuos Pro a few months ago were wireless connection and I wanted a smaller size because I have an incredibly cramped workspace. I am now currently using the Intuos Pro size small on a 21.5″ iMac. My old Intuos 3 is still seeing love at a friend’s house as her homeschooled daughter is now learning to use it!

How to choose?

Well before you can make a choice on which tablet to buy you have to understand the differences. there are three basic categories of Wacom tablets. Intuos, Intuos Pro, Cintiq, and Cintiq Companion Hybrid. I’ll give you a quick rundown of each. The prices listed were current at the time of writing. You can click the hyperlinks (affiliate links) to get the most current price on Amazon.com.

Intuos– $97

The Intuos (formerly called the Bamboo) has 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity, no tilt sensitivity, and four express keys. There is only one size option, 8.25-by-6.7 inches, and it can be set up for left or right-handed use. The Intuos comes with a USB cable computer connection or you can purchase an additional wireless adaptor kit for ~$40. There are several variations of the Intuos such as art, photo, comic, etc. They are all exactly the same tablet with different software bundles. Just pick the one that has the software that is most appealing to you.

Intuos Pro– $248-499

The Intuos Pro (formerly the Intuos) has 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, allows for pen tilt recognition, eight express keys, and a multifunction touch ring. This tablet also includes touch sensitivity that allows you to use your typical muti-finger touch functions that you would use on a track pad or other computer tablet. This option can be toggled on and off as you wish. The Intuos pro comes with the wireless capability built-in and charges via USB cable attached to the computer or a wall adaptor.

There are three size options. The most common recommendation is to pick your size based on approximately 1/3 of your main editing screen. Another thing to take into consideration is your personal drawing style. If you tend to use large, loose full arm movements you may want to go one size up. If you use a smaller more controlled wrist motion then you will be fine sizing down.

Cintiq– $799-1995

The Cintiq is a beauty! It has the same pressure sensitivity levels and tilt recognition as the pro, but your editing screen is show right there on the tablet. This make precise detailed works of art a breeze. You can choose between a standard or HD screen. The HD screen options also include the touch screen abilities. There are two sizes, 13″ and 22″. Which you choose is going to rely heavily on your personal editing style. Since the screen is projected right there on the tablet the ratio doesn’t really matter. It’s all about how big of a work surface you want to have.

Cintiq Companion Hybrid– $1649-2499

The Cintiq Companion is the Rolls Royce of Wacom tablets. When you plug it into your computer it functions exactly as the Cintiq does. When you disconnect it you have a fully functioning tablet running of Intel processors with a Windows operating system. You are able to run the full adobe product suite just as you would don a laptop computer. I am totally drooling over this like you can’t believe. Unfortunately it’s not in the budget…yet!

Great info, but what do I need?

If you are only doing basic photo editing and simple Illustrator graphics then you should be just fine with the Intuos. If you are doing more art pieces, such as sketching or painting then you are going to want the increased pressure sensitivity and tilt recognition of the Intuos Pro. Upgrading to a Cintiq or Cintiq Companion will all be based on your desires. If you are constantly on the go and can afford it I would definitely recommend the Companion.

I hope this helps you out and I would love to hear your reviews of each tablet if you have them. Why do you love them? Any tips on picking the right one? Anything I missed here? Please feel free to share in the comments!