Tablet advice for Lightroom
February 24, 2011 11:28 AM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of getting an Intuos 4 tablet for my photo work (Lightroom, Photoshop). Obviously, it's the bees knees for Photoshop--anyone using it with Lightroom (where I do most of my editing)? Which version to get? Thinking the medium or the slightly smaller wireless version--do they have enough real estate for effective use with a 23/24" Apple Cinema Display? Lastly, are there any rumors about an impending refresh? The wireless version was released over a year ago, and the wired versions were released almost two years ago.

Right now I'm using the stock Apple mouse for my photo work, which is not enjoyable.

99% of my photo work is in Lightroom. Does LR 3 play nicely with Intuos 4 tablets? Is is useful?

What size should I get? I have a lot of Amazon gift certificates (and there are refurbs on the Wacom site)--cost is not a prohibitive factor.

Alternatively--Cintiq? The 21" is way out of my price range, but I could swing the 12"--but the 12" has been out for a long time, and gets mixed reviews (tracking, color, viewing angles). Any Cintiq refreshes imminent?

Computer is a 2008 8-core Mac Pro.
posted by Admiral Haddock to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Quick note: the new Intuos 4 and bamboo tablets have a textured surface that degrades the pen nibs. Part of the appeal of tablets for me was the ability to make art without any consumables--so having to buy new pen nibs made me unreasonably angry at the product. I still resent it. A lot. There are various hacks I've seen posted to replace the drawing surface or cover it with something smooth so that the nib doesn't wear down. I haven't tried any yet, but likely will at some point.

I don't use lightroom and can't provide anything specific to your situation, but in my mind, there is no reason to not buy the largest tablet you can afford. Larger tablets allow for more natural, large, sweeping motions that use the whole arm.

I've seen people state a preference for smaller tablets for a variety of reasons I can't recall right now, but none were compelling to me.
posted by jsturgill at 11:40 AM on February 24, 2011

Best answer: I always advise to get the biggest / best tablet you can squeeze into your budget.
posted by jjb at 11:43 AM on February 24, 2011

Best answer: I do photo retouching professionally and I like the medium sized tablets. The small ones work fine (I have a small one I bring to location shoots) but it takes some practice to use it effectively and not hit the edges all the time. The larger ones seem like they are better suited for actual drawing rather than clone stamp/mask making/etc. for photos. The 6x8-ish ones are the sweet spot for me and what I use the vast majority of the time.

FWIW I do not really find any of the fancy featured expensive ones to really be worth it for photo retouching, so if you are not doing any illustration just stick to the basic models.
posted by bradbane at 12:00 PM on February 24, 2011

Best answer: I'm using a medium Intuos4 on a 23" Cinema Display and there's plenty of room. I don't use Lightroom but I haven't had any conflicts using it with the rest of Adobe's graphic applications.

I personally prefer the medium sized tablets because the large ones take up so much space on my desk that I have to push the monitor further away than I want. Also, the large ones require too much arm & shoulder movement to get the cursor all the across the screen for my lazy self. Obviously, it's down to personal nitpicky preferences here: if these are the sorts of things that are likely to bug you, make some paper mockups sized to the tablet dimensions (don't forget the huge outer bezel) and see how it fits to your workstyle/desk set-up.

I also hate the textured surface of the Intuos4, less because it's wearing out nibs but because the drag interferes with the sort of effortless movement that's the primary reason I use pen input. I cover mine in a sheet of slick plastic (the stuff used for overhead projectors). Static cling keeps mine in place but doublestick tape would work too, if you're more vigorous arm-waver. The tablet is able to detect the pen even through multiple layers of paper (I just tossed a 60 page magazine over it to test it and there's no signal interference) so don't worry about a thin sheet of extra plastic getting in the way.
posted by jamaro at 12:17 PM on February 24, 2011

Best answer: How much work do you do with the brushes in LR? That's about the only benefit I've found using a tablet over a mouse in LR. If you still jump to photoshop, then go for the tablet, definitely.

I use both the smaller 4x6 and 6x8 in various situations, and both work fine for the photo retouching I do. When I'm 90% in lightroom, I rarely find myself reaching for the tablet, but as soon as I need to go to photoshop, I reach right for it.
posted by fnord at 12:36 PM on February 24, 2011

Best answer: I use my 12x8 Intuos4 primarily in Photoshop and Illustrator for illustration and design (so I can't comment specifically on LR). I prefer the larger tablet since it's a closer approximation of the size of whatever I have on screen. As far as requiring too much arm/shoulder movement, you can set your own active area on the tablet. I'm most comfortable with mine set to about 7x11 but you can go to 6x8 or smaller. Arguably a waste of money to use less than the full tablet, but at least you're not in danger of hitting the gutters all the time, or having your hand perched uncomfortably on the tablet edge.

Regarding nibs, my tablet came with 8 or 9 spares, and I've only worn through 2 or 3 after a year of daily use (~7hrs/day). I agree that the textured surface wore down my first nib very quickly. However I work/draw with my hand touching the surface and it has worn the surface down to a shine, so the texture is no longer an issue.

My bigger beef is with the Intuos4 stylus. They seem to like to break down. Out of about a dozen new tablets in our studio we've had to send back at least 3 styluses over the past year because they malfunction and get stuck in selection mode.
posted by Kabanos at 1:04 PM on February 24, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, all--this is very helpful. I think I'll cut some cardboard to size to see which model would play nicely on my desk--probably the medium or the wireless.

Does anyone have any experience with the wireless version? I like the ideal of going untethered, but at the same time, connection issues would drive me seriously batty. On the other hand, I've heard some complaints about poor soldering of the USB cable to the circuitboard that gives me some pause.

Thanks also for reminding me about the textured surface--I read about that elsewhere, but forgot. I don't mind replacing nibs, but I don't want to go through a million of them (though my use is probably less than some of yours). I did read about someone using very fine steel wool to smooth out the surface, which seems like a pain in the ass, but maybe worthwhile.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:14 PM on February 24, 2011

Response by poster: Update: I got the medium Wacom Intuos 4 wired tablet. It's great--I'm really enjoying it. I'm still working out the right settings for Lightroom. If anyone has any good settings, please share!

I am definitely seeing some wear already on my first nib, though, after about 10 solid hours of work.

Thanks for all the advice!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:24 AM on March 4, 2011

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