I spend a good deal of my time thinking about and talking about analog tools, but I also spend a good deal of time using digital tools like computers, an iPad and an iPhone.
One of my go-to tools for work is a Wacom Intuos Pro tablet. Its a large pen-based tablet for image editing that is not necessarily a tool I would recommend to someone who was just dipping their toe into the digital pen world. However, for Christmas, I received a new Wacom Intuos Draw tablet for home use and I think it is a great starter device for someone who might want to try out a pen-based tool for computer work.
Even if you don’t think you’ll be doing a lot of image manipulation, a pen tool is a great way to help change up your hand position while working. I use my Wacom pen all day for tapping, selecting, clicking, highlighting and scrolling because I can hold the pen tool gently compared with how I might grip a mouse or trackball or other input device. I seriously believe I’ve saved myself from years of repetitive stress injuries because I use a Wacom pen on a daily basis because its such a natural, comfortable hand position.
Wacom has recently refreshed their digital pen tablet line. There is now the Intuos consumer-based products under the Intuos umbrella as well as the Intuos Pro. Technically, the consumer line offers four different packages which seem super-complicated but really boil down to two different units: the Draw unit ($69.95) which is just the pen-based tablet. Then there’s the Intuos Art/Comic/Photo units which include touch capabilities on the tablet as well are bundled with different software options depending on your interests.
The Intuos Draw tablet ships with ArtRage Lite software trial. The Intuos Art tablet ships with Corel Painter Essentials 5 ($199.95 for tablet + software), the Intuos Photo tablet ships with Corel PaintShop Pro X8 for Windows and Corel Aftershot Pro 2 for Windows and Mac. Macphun Creative Kit (Tonality Pro, Intensify Pro, Snapheal Pro, Noiseless Pro) is also available for Mac users ($99.95) and the Intuos Comic ships with Clip Studio Paint Pro and Anime Studio Debut 10 ($99.95). Some of the software offered are limited trials and may require upgrade fees for full versions after trial periods.
All the tablets have a working surface of about 6×3.7″ which works with well with most average laptops and doesn’t take up a ton of desk space.
There are four action buttons at the top of the tablet that can be set to specific actions based on application or globally in your preferences. There are also two buttons on the pen itself that can be set to be application-specific or universal controls for things like opt-click, cmd-click or anything else using the Wacom driver preferences.
You can set preferences for left- or right-handed so that it reacts accordingly and adjust the speed of tapping, clicking and pressure in the preferences as well. Overall, you can fine tune the tablet to work best with your way of working.
Many folks who end up choosing one of the Wacom tablets with touch sensitivity end up investing in a glove of some sort to keep their hand from triggering the tablet or turning off the touch capabilities to avoid accidentally triggering the touch capabilities. You can use one the hot keys as a toggle for the touch capabilities if this is a feature you want to use as an option on the Intuos Art/Comic/Photo or Pro models.
I do find that there’s a bit of a learning curve to getting comfortable with input on a pen tablet. When I first started using a Wacom, my co-workers took my mouse away and told me to give it two weeks. They said it would be frustrating initially trying to highlight text or click on an email but to use it to develop those motorskills and, if after two weeks of regular use, I didn’t get adept at using the tablet, I could go back and forth between mouse and tablet. But they felt strongly that with two weeks of daily use, I would be a convert. And they were right. I’ve never had or used a mouse since.
Under the cover on the back of the tablet is three extra pen tips as well which is a nice addition. I thought since these tablets were so budget-priced that Wacom might skip including them but they did not so you’ll have enough to keep you drawing, writing or editing for a good year, even with a heavy hand. There are also specialty tips that can be purchased to simulate different writing and drawing experiences. I usually just use the plain black professional tips and a replacement set of 5 retails for $4.95. A pair of smooth pliers will remove a worn tip easily and then just insert a fresh tip. I only need to change mine about once every 6 months to a year depending on abuse.
That’s a lot of options. But you know what? I got the Intuos Draw. The simplest one because it does exactly what I need it to do. I don’t need a bunch of extra software I may or may not ever use. I just wanted a good tablet to help edit photos in Adobe Photoshop, draw in Adobe Illustrator or experiment with apps purchased in the App Store like AutoDesk Sketchbook, Pixelmator and others. The Intuos Draw tablet provides a pleasing range of pressure sensitivity. While it does not explicitly list on the site, I expect the range of sensitivity is the same as the other tablets at 1024 levels of sensitivity which is honestly more than enough for most folks. My Intuos Pro at work has 2068 levels and its not noticeably more sensitive for most activities.
The biggest difference between the Intuos Draw pen and the Pro version is the size of the pen. The Intuos Draw pen is shorter than the Pro pens and does not include the “eraser” tip. I don’t think that’s a make-or-break feature since I’ve broken two Pro pens this year and replacing the Pro pens are about $80 each. I’d just assume use an undo step or erase tool in an app than flip the pen over to use the “eraser”. In all my years of using Wacom pens, I never really flipped my pen over anyway. The Intuos consumer line pens also do away with the silicone covering on the grip section which I find an improvement as well because the heat from my hand has caused the silicone to stretch and warp over time. Eventually I just have to tear the rubber off exposing an unsightly ridge anyway. One of my co-workers actually made a little felt cozy wrap to cover her pen for the exact same reason so I actually much prefer a plain plastic casing.
All four tablets can be upgraded to be wireless with an accessory kit for $39.95. This makes it great for working on the go or on the arm of the couch. Then when you are at a desk, just plug in the USB and it will charge while you are working.
Overall, I think the Wacom Intuos Draw tablet is a great investment and will be a solid performer for years to come.
Have you ever considered using a pen tablet?