Picking the Right Wacom Tablet
January 18, 2009 8:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for the right Wacom tablet and drawing software.

I'd like to buy a usb tablet, but I'm not sure of what to get. I've been looking at Wacom tablets, specifically the two Bamboo models. Are either the normal or the 'fun' tablets good enough for drawing? Or do I have to get an Intuos tablet to achieve any real results? I've read reviews, but I haven't found much in the way of reviews using the Bamboo models for serious art.

My goal is to find a method to draw digitally where I can replicate my work with intaglio printmaking, as well as draw and ink comic-like art.

And what software should I use with the tablet? Except for the normal Bamboo tablet, Photoshop appears to come bundled with all Wacom tablets. Photoshop is good, but it's a bit convoluted in my opinion. Is there a better drawing and image editing program out there? I was testing Acorn the other day, and I like it, but I'm unsure whether or not it's good enough.

I'd like to keep the price down as much as possible. I'd rather not spend more than $200, unless it's absolutely necessary. I'll be working on an Intel Macbook if that impacts what size tablet to get.
posted by Camel of Space to Technology (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Most of your questions will be better answered by others, but if you want to keep costs down, I would suggest looking for a refurbished product if you can find one. I have a refurbished Graphire4 which I am happy with (but I am not a serious artist).
posted by grouse at 9:10 PM on January 18, 2009

Hey Camel,
I'm using a Graphire 4 as well, just learning atm. You could try Autodesk Sketchbook, $100, very intuitive. Trial is available here.

posted by Duke999R at 9:35 PM on January 18, 2009

I got a $100 Bamboo Fun, and despite its name and size, I've gotten pleasing results using it and Photoshop. I'm not a professional, but it seems very responsive to me, and I haven't run into any problems with feeling confined while I'm drawing.

Photoshop hasn't gotten in my way, either. Generally, I just pick the pen tool and go, occasionally clicking the side button on the stylus to switch brush size and flipping to the other end to erase.
posted by ignignokt at 10:09 PM on January 18, 2009

I got a $99 Bamboo Fun for my daughter for Christmas. Within 1 hour, her drawing just using MS Paint/Paint.NET improved dramatically ("night and day" difference).

It's not the best tablet out there, but it is cheap to try - if you start getting good results, you will probably want to upgrade to something better.
posted by jkaczor at 11:28 PM on January 18, 2009

I just bought my $89 silver Bamboo Fun about ten days ago, and I am passionately in love. The small size doesn't bug me at all, and it's nice and mobile if you're using a laptop. Bamboo Fun doesn't come with Photoshop, but Photoshop Elements, which is like Photoshop lite. Also comes with Corel painter.
posted by changeling at 1:19 AM on January 19, 2009

Less than $200 of Wacom will be fine IMO. Wacom tablets are like MS Word - they were suited to professional use many years ago, and every advance in them since then is gravy, not necessity.
posted by -harlequin- at 9:28 AM on January 19, 2009

FYI, Wacom is running a limited time rebate on the small Intuos.
posted by chairface at 2:48 PM on January 19, 2009

there's a key issue about wacoms you should consider when thinking about your workflow. there are two main ways (ok, there are thousands, but these are the two that wacom designs for) of using a wacom tablet:

1. secondary input device: alongside a keyboard in a traditional workstation environment (monitor, keyboard, mouse), either replacing or supplementing a mouse

2. primary input device: as an independent input device centered directly in front of the artist, held in the artist's lap, on a slanted desk in front of a monitor, on an easel.

The wacom intuos series really excels in case 2. the surfaces have keystroke-assignable buttons down either side, as well as a touch ribbon for scrolling/zooming, etc. This lets you assign undo, save, pen size +/-, zoom, color picker, etc. to these buttons so you never need to leave your tablet. With the bigger tablets you'll find this is pretty important, since you won't want to be freeing up both hands to type some keystroke on a nearby keyboard.

So really consider if you want a keyboard to be in front of you or if you want your drawing surface in front of you. That's going to dictate what you end up with. I have an intuos4 6x8 which can fill both roles pretty well. Sometimes it feels a little small on a 30" monitor, but anything bigger would take up too much desk space. And yes the intuos are really worth the price...the weight and feel of the pen makes a huge difference to me. I never use the eraser, fwiw, and I don't know anyone who does.
posted by Señor Pantalones at 1:38 AM on January 21, 2009

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