2020-01-27

Which Wacom Graphics Tablet Should I Buy?

Even if you only perform a modicum of postprocessing on your images, there comes a time when the humble mouse just doesn't cut the mustard anymore. For general movements and edits, a mouse is fine, but if you want the ultimate in precision and control you can't beat a graphics tablet.

One of the longest standing and most respected in this arena is Wacom. From small, generic tablets to professional solutions, these things last a ridiculous amount of time, have plenty of accessories and all the bits that wear out, such as nibs and texture sheets, are easy to purchase.

There are clearly cheaper options on the market, but when it comes to overall functionality and longevity, there's a reason Wacom tablets have become the professional's choice. Here we will check out some of the most common models to hopefully offer you an insight into which best fit your budget and workflow.

Close up using the Pro pen and Wacom tablet


Introduction to Wacom

Wacom realised long ago that a graphics tablet solution needs to fit not just a variety of budgets, but also different ways of working. At the top end, there's the Cintiq Pro range, aimed at the professional user with luxury items such as interactive pen display, while the Intuos tablets has a solid set of functionality, but at a more affordable price.

The company also produce the Bamboo range of tablets, but these are more aimed at note-taking, rather than photo editing. Thus, if you're just starting out down the graphics tablet road, then the Wacom Intuos Small could be a good starting point, for instance. The latest edition to the family of tablets the Wacom One includes everything you need to get started including six months of free drawing software, so this could be a great starting point.


Using the express key on tablet for quick nav

Why use a graphics tablet?

A Good point you may say.
A graphics tablet or pen tablet is more efficient, faster and far more accurate than a mouse. With one waft of the hand, your cursor can travel right across the screen and most importantly, there's nothing more natural feelings than holding a pen in your hand. The pen also has buttons for mouselike clicking and a variety of nibs can be bought as replacements or to optimise the pen tip feel.

Sensitivity and pressure levels are a big factor when using a graphics tablet. Instead of just an on/off style of working with a mouse, effects such as painting can be applied gradually, which makes for a much more natural and artistic way of working. Holding a pen is also a more ergonomic way of working, much more natural feelings than many hours with a mouse. For work such as fine detailed retouching, a tablet is more of a necessity, than a nice addition.

The Wacom Intuos Range

This range is split into the Intuos and Intuos Pro range of tablets. The pro range has extended functionality, which will suit the working professional, but the Intuos has the same core functionality. You can read an in-depth review of the Wacom Pro in our blog here. Thus, if you are only doing small edits, then this range will suit you fine. It's also advisable to buy a tablet which isn't too small. Anything smaller than A5 will not give you enough workable space and you will soon be wanting for a larger model.

A good starting solution is the Wacom Intuos Pro Medium. The tablet has a large working area for most jobs and has been recently updated with better hardware. The drawing surface itself has a slight texture to give a natural feedback to pen strokes and even with heavy use, pen nibs should last at least a year, with spares included.

Part of workflow for post processing


Pressure levels have been increased on this version to 4096 with also a rubberised grip, similar to the Pro Pen 2. The Pro Pen has a few more features than you find on the regular Intuos, such as an eraser and tilt support. These could be a must have for the likes of illustrators, which may mean you need to jump up to the next model for this functionality. But, in many respects, the biggest divide between the Intuos and Intuos Pro range is multi-touch input. However, this isn't so much a deficit if you're using a laptop as Bluetooth connectivity can fill in the gaps.

Each tablet comes with a set of ExpressKeys, which can be configured for different types functionality. For instance, one of the buttons can be set for 'Cntrl/Z' undo or other types of commonly used shortcuts. The buttons on the pen can also be configured to many different shortcuts, either for general use, or specific to different types of software, such as in Photoshop.

Setting up of the tablet on your computer is straightforward, with a simple install process of the software and drivers. This is also an area where Wacom stands tall, as it's a given that the tablets work seamlessly with all types of image software. The Pro versions allow a lot more customisation over the pen and tablet, such as the pen pressure profile curve, rather than just pressure sensitivity on the regular Intuos models. The Pro Medium also has extra resolution when used on dual monitors to get that extra level of precision.

Therefore, if you're a beginner, this is your first graphics tablet and you use a laptop, then the Intuos Pro Medium is a good solution. This tablet can be applied to photographers and video editors, but regular illustrators may want to jump up to the next models for the extended features. In total, the Intuos Pro provides added extras till support, multitouch input, higher resolution, stronger build quality and access to more accessories.

Another tip is to try and use a cable rather than relying totally on wireless connectivity. We've never experienced any latency or delay with wireless, but for added peace of mind, there's nothing like being hardwired into your computer.

The Wacom Cintiq Range

The Cintiq and Cintiq Pro range of Wacom tablets are a step up if you want a fully professional, graphics tablet solution. The Cintiq range is more a response to cheaper model offerings, while the Cintiq Pro range is the all singing and dancing functionality you could need as a professional.

These models are are a step up in price from the Intuos range, as they feature their own built-in screen for direct editing. The Wacom Cintiq 16 is a good start point here, which features a bright, 16-inch screen and extended functionality.

There's also added extras such as a a compartment for all the cable plugs and a small compartment for storing spare nibs which also doubles as a pen holder. A Pro Pen 2 is supplied as per the Cintiq Pro range and with 8,192 levels of pressure, with no visual lag and plenty of precision for minute detailing. Although the screens are heavy duty, it's advisable to buy a screen protector for extended use.

Wacom Cintiq in use on desk with Pro pen


The downsides here, is that there are no built-in shortcut buttons with the Cintiq. The express menu can be used, but it's nowhere near as convenient as simply pressing a few buttons. However, there is an optional Wacom ExpressKey Remote if you require this functionality.

The Cintiq Pro range have the most rounded professional features, with screens going up to 24 and 32 inches, which some models even have their own built-in processors. These solutions are aimed at the high-end professionals or CAD users who have mission-critical deadlines, but are also the most costly. If you want the ultimate experience from a modern graphics tablet, then these are the industry-standard.

The big difference between the regular Cintiq and Cintiq Pro range is mainly in the quality of the display. The pen interface on the regular Cintiq is of high quality and has a rounded set of functionality, it just doesn't feel as 'pro' as the higher version. However, the smaller price point may be beneficial to the likes of schools or smaller enterprises who want the same functionality as the pro models, but at a more effective price point.

Conclusion

Wacom are still considered the industry standard in graphics tablets, as they are simply built to last and have a solid set of features straight out of the box. While they still may be considered slightly more expensive than the rest, the Wacom range is considered to have the best build quality and most solid functionality out there.

The Intuos range is a good starting point to access the basic features and functionality. While the Cintiq range is for the most rounded, professional solution, which also allows you to draw directly on a screen. The build quality of the Wacom range is one of its calling cards and can't be underestimated when a seamless workflow is needed and for longevity.

Desirable and durable and extremely time saving tablets


Which solution you choose will ultimately come down to your budget and regular workflow, but it's also worth bearing in mind not to dive straight into the cheapest solution. This will mean the smallest of working areas and the least functionality, which is fine for general office work, but you will soon outgrow it for regular editing work.

If you've never used a tablet before, they will take a little getting used to, but the learning curve is small and the benefits will soon shine on the work you produce. The benefits aren't immediately obvious until you have started to work with a graphics tablet on a few projects. It's only then that the more intuitive workflow becomes apparent.

Both of our stores have the full range of Wacom tablets, with plenty of accessories like the Flex Arms to replacements such as pens and textures. If possible, try out some of these tablets in real life, so that you can get an overall feel for the size and workings of each model.

Check our previous posts if you love Photoshop post processing or want to learn more about do's and don'ts of Photoshop.

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