This is a review that I wrote for Craft Critique. It appeared on that blog last week.
Several months ago, I began digital scrapbooking. I kept reading about this Wacom Tablet thing that people were raving about. And then a gal I scrap with brought her laptop and tablet to a crop. She let me try it out. I felt like a three-year-old learning to hold a pencil for the first time, but I was hooked!
I bought a Wacom Intuos 3 Graphics Tablet (6x8), which retails for $329. It is compatible with both Mac and PC (including Windows Vista). The box contains the following:
- Intuos3 6X8 pen tablet
- Intuos3 Grip pen
- Intuos3 five button mouse
- Pen stand
- Replacement nib set: 1 stroke nib, 1 felt nib, and 3 standard nibs
- CD with Quick Start Guide
- CD with tablet driver software for installation
- Software DVD, which includes Adobe Photoshop Elements 4, Corel Painter Essentials 3, and Nik Color Efex Pro 2 IE.
I have never used the mouse, the replacement nibs, Corel Painter or Nik Color Efex Pro. But, I use the tablet and pen every single time I open Photoshop.
Here’s how tablets work (regardless of the size or model): The pen tool becomes your mouse. Whatever you do with the pen and the tablet, your mouse does. But the really cool part is that the tablet is smart. If you pick up the pen and move it through the air to another area of the tablet, the mouse will follow! You do not need to drag it across the surface of the tablet.
My second favorite feature of the pen and tablet are the programmable buttons. You can program a series of keystrokes into each button. For instance, instead of having to choose “Layer>Arrange>Bring to Front” or type in the shortcut key strokes (“shift-open apple-closed bracket”), you can simply program one of the buttons on either the pen or the tablet and press it instead! This has made my life so much better! I am able to work more quickly and more efficiently, because I have programmed my most used combinations into my tablet.
This brings me to my only complaint: I wish that there were more programmable buttons. I recognize the ridiculousness of this request, but it doesn’t keep me from wanting more. They’re just so cool!
Beyond the fact that I enjoy using the pen tool and tablet, I have been able to do some very cool things that would have been very difficult, if not impossible, with a mouse. Check out these layouts…
Above: I drew the frame and the title. It's so great to be able to integrate your own handwriting into your digital work. Below: The pen allowed me enough control to create the unique (and very handmade looking) hearts on this layout.
Let me add that I abuse my tablet. I drop crumbs on it. I travel with it (cram it into a backpack). I drop it. And yet, it still keeps ticking! I wouldn't advise abusing your tablet, but I wanted to let you know that it has taken a beating and survived.
The bottom line is that I cannot imagine doing any digital work without a tablet. If you're at all serious about digital scrapbooking, a tablet is a very good investment. They have less expensive versions, including the new Bamboo Fun, which is only $79.