Wacom. Can’t live with them. Can’t live without them.

The Wacom tablet. What is it, you might be wondering? It’s the tool that can turn your photos into a creation of art. Or it can be a drawing tablet where you create your digital pieces from scratch. In any event, it is a tool to further your creative endeavours, whatever they may be.

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I first heard about this tablet through the online course, Photoshop Grunge Artistry done by Michael Sebastian. He has a module in the course where he talks about the necessary tools in his life for producing art with his photos. He expounds upon the usefulness of his for fine detail editing and how he loves and can’t live without this tablet. Really? That good? Yeah, well since I haven’t really started the course yet, and don’t really work in Photoshop, I think I’ll pass at this time.

Well, fast forward a few months and I attended a workshop for intermediate and advanced Photoshop users. Yeah, somehow I missed the beginner tutorial and didn’t want to let on that I barely recognized the interface on the computer as Photoshop. But what caught my attention, was the demonstrator, and about 1/3 of the class participants, all had a Wacom. Different models and sizes, no less, but tablets. There were Bamboo, Intuos and Pro. Most of them medium sized. I asked everyone about their experience with Wacom and each person talked about how detailed they could get with editing their photos, compared to a mouse. Each said they would never go back to a mouse.

I was fascinated, but what really caught my attention, was the lecturer himself. Billed as a ‘Master’ level photographer and competitor, he is also a judge of many competitions throughout the year. He put up one of his winners, a stunner. It had layers of sand, partly submerged in the foreground with the ocean in the background. He explained that he took his Wacom tablet and ‘dodged’ (made lighter) the top edge of each ripple of sand in the photos, while ‘burning’ (made darker) each valley between the ripples in the photos. I looked again at the photo and all of a sudden, the entire photo just seemed to be ripples and edges of sand. That was when I realized the potential of using a Wacom instead of a mouse. I also had a great appreciation of what makes a winning photograph, the time, the dedication and the detail required. I thought he should be a winner just for the hours and effort put into the photo!

So, it made no sense what-so-ever that I should get a Wacom. At least not at this time. You see, I really don’t use Photoshop very much. You see, I bought the camera and equipment, enrolled in online courses and workshops to learn the basics. How to use my camera; how to compose photos; and how to edit them in Lightroom (the photographers catalogue and editing program.) I approached the learning, practicing and trying as I went along. Then I bought the plug-in programs, OnOne, Nik and Topaz, furthering my editing options. I did not need, nor did I want to, play in Photoshop.

Although there are a ton of demos and videos teaching everything Photoshop, I just wasn’t interested. Yes, the odd time I would need to know how to make something disappear in a photo or replace a boring sky with some good clouds. I would just Google and watch the shortest demonstration to do it that one time. Photoshop just seemed way too complicated and not very user friendly. I just didn’t want to go through a steep learning curve again! And it didn’t make any sense that I would enroll, in two, not just one, photo artistry courses that revolve around using Photoshop. But I did. I thought the creations the students were doing with their photos and compositing (merging of different components of two or more photos into one photo) was just so cool. I had tried some on my iPhone and was falling in love with the idea and ability that I could create. That I could be artistic.

And so I bought the Wacom Intuos Pro. Small. Only because of price and not for anything else. But I have to say, I’m glad I got the small in the end. So, here I have this thing, this tablet, and I really don’t know what it can do or how to use it. And I have to use it in Photoshop, and I couldn’t even find the short cut on my desktop to launch Photoshop! That, is what I call a juxtaposition outside of photography! And this is where the love hate relationship begins.

I was not interested in watching tons of videos and such for the Wacom, so I plugged it in, Bluetooth that is, turned it on and leapt right in. I took my mouse and put it behind me, out of reach. Then I grabbed it back and did some movements to get me started. And then I put it behind me. Then I grabbed it back and used it to do something. And hence this went on for about six hours.  “I hate this thing,” I thought. “I can’t do a thing with this stupid pen.” But the next day, I was determined to CONQUER this tablet. I approached it much like a video game. I WILL win! And with that, I unplugged the mouse and into Lightroom I went to edit a photo using this tablet. I spent the next ten, yes ten hours, editing one photo in Lightroom and in Photoshop. You can program all the buttons yourself and essentially the pen takes the place of a mouse in all your computer programs. I had programmed one button out of the three to close the program I was currently working in. Great when you’re in the desktop. I think you know where this is going! I was half way through a great composite in Photoshop, when I went to press the move button and hit that damn close button, you know the one. Dammit! Without hesitation, or a question asking if I was sure, or a question asking if I wanted to save my work before quitting, just like that, Photoshop packed right up and left the screen. Edit and all. Five hours of work, gone. I hate this thing! So, ten hours later, I finally had an edited photo for my blog that I was happy with.

Summer's coming
Here’s that photo. My very first. Used three photos for the composite in Photoshop.

This began the journey of my start with the Wacom. Just jumping in is not the way or manner I would suggest anyone try out a new tool or piece of gear. It takes longer and can be frustrating. But I am a hands on person. I just won’t talk about all the expletives I’ve used during the short time I’ve had with the Wacom! I’m only a little more clear about how it works and what it can do. I’m a little more encouraged to go into the foray of Photoshop and am thinking of starting that course real soon. I am able to make the pen go straight all the way up the screen now with a slider, which I couldn’t at first. So, I’ve gone beyond my hate of the tablet and am more appreciative. Actually, maybe that’s too much too soon. Let’s just say I’ve reserved judgement right now. I’m neither here, nor there. I’ve actually boxed up my mouse and put it away. I’m finding general use of the pen easier and can now even highlight, copy and paste text. THAT took an infinitely long time to figure out lol. Overall, I haven’t reached that ‘can’t live without it’ stage yet. Maybe with more use, and familiarity of Photoshop. I’m sure there will be an update post about this in my future. For now I remain a hesitant user.

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