Graphics Tablet Buying Guide
A GRAPHICS WHAT?
A graphics tablet , pen tablet, or digitiser, is a small board which enables you to use a "stylus" (pen) as input to your computer. You use the stylus to draw or write on the tablet with the same actions you would use with a normal pen, and your work appears on the screen (nothing appears on the tablet itself). There are many different uses for a graphics tablet, some of which I will outline below, before giving advice on choosing the best tablet for your needs, as well as tips on how to use them.
With the rise in popularity of digital photography, people are searching for ways to make their photos more interesting. With a graphics tablet you can write and draw on your images and with the right software airbrush and enhance your photos for that magazine-cover feel! (What pimples? What wrinkles?)
No more gluey fingers and expensive scraps of paper everywhere – create your entire scrapbooking layout on the PC and simply print it out! You can insert your digital photos, draw your own images and put handwritten messages directly on your photos or page. Your album will be unique and professional!
DRAWING, PAINTING & ILLUSTRATION
A lot of printing companies these days give the option of printing your photos or artwork on canvas. Forget the mess and expense of traditional mediums; you can emulate just about any kind of paint, pencil or crayon with modern software. The harder you push with the pen, the darker you draw. You can set the pressure sensitivity of the pen to change colour, pen size, opacity and many more options from within compatible drawing software. Below is an example of a few brush settings you can achieve with Photoshop CS and a quick sketch done with a WACOM tablet.
Relieve "Death by PowerPoint" by taking advantage of a standard feature of Microsoft Powerpoint – annotating live notes onto a presentation. Highlight important points, add extra information on the fly, and draw anything to help your presentation have more of an impact.
Can't type? No worries. Office XP comes standard with handwriting recognition tools so you can scrawl away on the tablet and have it appear as typed text onscreen. Or, you can insert your handwriting as-is – perfect for putting your signature at the bottom of letters and documents.
The simplest use of a graphics tablet is mouse replacement. Holding a pen has a much more natural feel than holding a mouse, and is a lot less stressful on the wrist. If you find you're getting RSI from frequent mouse usage, swap to a graphics tablet and you'll find things a lot easier.
No more scrounging around for paper for the kids to draw on – they can practice their letters, draw and even paint with no paper, no mess and no fuss. Better for the environment and better for anything that usually gets covered in paint (and whoever has to clean it up!).
CHOOSING THE RIGHT TABLET
There are different tablets designed to suit different budgets and uses. For mouse replacement, those on a low budget or with space restrictions, a smaller tablet (4" x 6") will be quite suitable. For drawing and photo editing as a hobby, a medium sized tablet (6" x 8") is a better option. Because the screen area is mapped to the tablet, the higher the resolution you run on your monitor, the lower the quality your tablet will achieve. Therefore, if you have a large monitor or want the highest possible quality, get a larger tablet (9" x 12"). Also, keep in mind the shape of your monitor – if you have a widescreen monitor, you’ll need to get a wide format tablet to match. Check out our store to see all the sizes we have available.
WACOM tablets come in three different flavours: Bamboo - mainly for mouse replacement, this is a small, lightweight tablet with extra functions designed to work in Microsoft Vista. Bamboo Fun / Graphire - good for hobbyists or those on a budget, a basic graphics tablet that will get the job done. Intuos - the professional range of tablets with all the bells and whistles - including pen tilt sensitivity and extra programmable express keys.
Make sure you take the time to choose the right tablet, consider what you'll be using it for, how often you'll be using it, and how much you want to spend. If you buy a tablet that's not suited to your needs, it's likely to sit unused in the cupboard.
HOW TO USE YOUR TABLET
It does take a little while to get used to using a graphics tablet, as they operate differently to a mouse. You hover the stylus above the tablet to move the cursor around (as if you're pretending to take notes in class but aren't actually writing anything), and press down to click or draw. There are buttons on the side of the stylus for right and double click.
Using a mouse, when you run out of room on your mouse pad you pick up the mouse, move it to the other side and start again, pushing your cursor further along the screen. With a graphics tablet, the edges of the tablet correspond exactly to the edges of your screen, so if you put the stylus down on the right of the tablet your cursor will appear at the right of the screen. It is a little difficult to break the habit of "pushing" the cursor like you do with the mouse but bear with it, once you get used to it you'll wonder how you did without one!
If you have any questions or there is something here I haven't covered, feel free to send me an email!