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I bought my Wacom tablet a couple of years ago without a lot of thought as to the type or size that I needed. I purchased the Intuos Pro (PTH-451) small tablet from Amazon. I still absolutely love my Wacom and I’ll explain further how it has enhanced my life, given me peace and serenity and so much love in my world. Well maybe not all of these things, but you get the idea>. My Intuos is DOPE and SMASHES IT! (Can’t you just hear Peter McKinnon now?)

This is not the original, but was just seconds before the shot that was used and edited.
The final result after a lot of fine editing.

A mouse is a mouse is a mouse, which by any other name, is still a mouse. Once hailed as THE tool for navigating around the screen of a computer with a slight flick of the wrist,  you were off opening and closing program and tabs, highlighting text, moving and deleting anything. What once took many of us a lot of time to feel comfortable utilizing something resembling a brick in the hand, we became proficient in whizzing our cursors around the screen. But movements and comfort using a mouse, especially in miniscule and precise type of motions, as sometimes required when photo editing, and that block in the hand soon became very sluggish and awkward.

The Wacom comes with a pen. Only old folks know the days of using a pencil in school and the progression to a pen and cursive writing. We also know what a typewriter is and what paper white out is and how it’s used. Youngins don’t have much experience with these tools, using computers and handing in their assignments from their ink-jet printers. Have you asked a thirteen or fourteen year old to sign their name lately? I have and was astonished that of three, two of them didn’t know what a signature was or how to do it, cursive writing. They truly are the computer era. The world of hobby photography is mostly composed of us older persons, with a lot time and money in our golden years, and the knowledge of how to hold a pen!

Now we have the instrument (pen), we need an interface, which is the tablet. There are many different sizes and I never knew how lucky I was that I bought the small size. You see, it was cheaper at the time, markedly cheaper. The tablet surface represents the computer screen, and the larger the tablet the more surface area one needs to cover to represent the screen. Think about that again – the larger the tablet, the further you have to reach with the pen in your hand to the four corners of the tablet, which represents your screen. A smaller tablet means shorter and more efficient strokes when editing. Mind you, I am not, nor have I ever been an artist, nor have I been trained that way. My movements tend to be smaller because my experience has only been with this tablet. However, I imagine an artist, who might be used to bigger canvases for instance, might find larger tablets more enticing for naturally longer and bigger strokes. I just know, that after many hours, sometimes eight at one go, of editing, I am glad that my arm has not had the extra distance to travel while being mid-air!

There seems to be three models of tablets Wacom suggests for photoediting. The Intuous, the Cinq and the Mobilestudio. Perhaps incorrectly, but I believe the Cinq was the first of the models, followed by the Intuos and most recently, the Mobilestudio. A little research into the models and some light was shed on which might offer a reasonably priced tool for the enthusiastic hobbyist of photography. The Mobilestudio appears to be a computer as well as a functional tablet with a starting price around $2500.00 USD. The Cinq, closely follows with a price tag for older models, starting around $800 USD. This leaves the Intuos as the choice for most hobbyist photographers, with entry level of less than $100 USD with the Pro around $250.00 USD.

So the Intuos and Intuos Pro have some decided differences that are worth consideration. The Intuos, which is definately an entry level model, is basic in functions and what it offers. It still works just like using a pen, or more probably, a pencil, in that it is sensitive to the angle and force applied when using the pen. Lighter touch results in a thinner and lighter line while a heavier hand results in a darker and heavier stroke. You might wonder why one might want this when editing photos, but once you enter the arena of purchasing a tablet, if not already there, you are more than half way to photoshop and photoartistry. I can assure you, even the simple task of masking, burning and dodging, all become more efficient and precise when using the pen and tablet as opposed to the mouse. The Intuos has some programmable buttons across the top, which also serves as a resting place for the pen. I must admit I love the idea of this resting place. I could not tell you how many times I have walked around the home, only to realize I put the small, black pen down somewhere and I can’t find it! I wish they would make it florescent green, or have a Find My Pen app, like with Iphones and it would “chirp” when I activate the app. No, instead I loose the pen multiple times a week and curse the black colour of it everytime I go searching. But I digress. The one problem I see with the buttons across the top of the tablet, is that they are across the top of the tablet! That  means if you are editing with the pen in your right hand, you will have to stop to reach across the screen to access the buttons. However, beyond this, I actually think the Intuos is all a person needs, and if you are or were ever trained as an artist and require a bigger surface area, then the larger Intuos tablet won’t break the bank. The button problem will be further explored in the next section, which might actually not be a problem in the end for some.

The Pro, offers the same as the Intuos with an enhanced button menu. The buttons, found down the left or right side of the tablet allows for two handed operations. As one draws with the right, one can be navigating buttons on the left at the same time. For instance, a button could be assigned to zoom into the screen, or increase or decease the brush size. As you work, say on dodging a spot, it is easy and doesn’t interfere with the pen movements in one hand as the other hand pushes the button to change the brush size or zoom in. It effectively allows for a two handed editing process which greatly increases production time. As well, the Pro offers a central circular button, all programmable in different directions. A flick to the left, right, top or bottom can change brush hardness, type of brush or any other setting. But the truth is, I rarely use a two handed operation. For the most part, I find I use Photoshop short cuts and buttons and such when editing, more then the tablet buttons. So the benefit of placement of these buttons and a circular button, may not be worth the extra cost.

Overall, it was hard and there was a steep learning curve to switch from a mouse to no mouse at all and just using the pen. The Intuous Pro can be customized to work different with different programs, Windows, Lightroom and Photoshop for instance. In a follow-up post, I’ll go over the settings I have found the best for use across all these applications and inside each one independently.

Oh and I almost forgot – the Intuous Pro comes with a pen holder. But I forget all the time to drop it in the holder, instead wandering off and eventualy misplacing it. I’m thinking an orbit locator might be my next purchase!


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