I've been using the Wacom Intuos pro tablet for quite a while now so I thought I would share my views on it with you all.
So what is a graphics tablet ? Should you use one ? Do you even need one ?
Graphics tablets are simply a way for you to use a pen instead of a mouse or a track pad.
They provide a far greater level of precision in your editing workflow and whilst they used to be for the sole use of graphic designers and digital artists they have found their way into the hands of many landscape photographers and with good reason.
The control you have with a mouse can be fairly sketchy as best, a pen is far more suited to the precision and the dexterity of a hand, after all you learn to use a pen from day one in school and carry that on for the rest of your life.
The main advantage to these tablets is that they can be set up to be pressure sensitive so you can define the exact amount of coverage of an area as you desire, simply put if you are using a pen on paper and you push harder you get a thicker line, the same applies to a tablet only too a far higher degree.
Imagine if you are dodging and burning a picture and you know just how subtle these things need to be, the ability to vary the pressure and get the very lightest of strokes over an image is a really valuable tool in your arsenal.
Now I realise you can simply vary the opacity or the flow of your brush and achieve the result with a mouse but the pen will do it with a far greater degree of precision.
The Learning Curve
When you first try and use a tablet its going to be hard, very hard and to be honest you would be forgiven for wanting to throw the thing in the bin as it just feels a bit alien BUT if you use it exclusively for around a day or two days it will suddenly feel totally natural and you will wonder how you have ever lived without one.
Some people will learn faster than others but you will get it if you push past the initial frustrations and stick with it.
My advice is to stop using the mouse completely for a week so you can really hone your skills on the Wacom Intuos Pro, everything from photoshop to web browsing, just make it your go to tool and the skill set will come far quicker than if you chop and change.
Once you have mastered it you can quickly flick between the two to operate different tasks.
The Wacom Intuos Pro comes in several different size options which I tried out to see which suited me best and in the end I opted for the medium sized version which sits just right on my desk and is roughly the size of an A4 sheet of paper so its a natural feel for pen work.
Bluetooth technology links your Wacom Intuos pro to your computer and it has a long lasting battery but it can also be wired directly to the computer via a USB cable which is how I choose to set mine up.
The pen itself has a new slim design and two programable buttons on it which you can custom set to an almost infinite range of controls, I myself have one set to "Undo" (CMD Z mac) and the other set to "Right Click"
The pen itself can simply be dabbed to simulate a normal left click so these were the best settings for the pen for me personally although you might opt for something different that suits your own workflow better.
The pen can also be flipped upside down and used as an eraser if desired although I don't find myself using this option very often but it is a handy feature to have.
There are 8 individual express keys on the tablet itself (Medium size, different on other sizes) which you can set up as programable hot keys to utilise whichever functions you want, I did this to start with but quickly found myself forgetting what I had set each one too so after a while I found it easier to simply use the hot keys on the keyboard for any of these actions.
This in my opinion is the best way to use a graphics tablet, simply for drawing on while the keyboard sits right next to it and gets used for hot key short cuts.
There is also a very handy scroll wheel on the Wacom Intuos Pro which can bet set to increase or decrease brush sizes for example or to zoom in or out of an image quickly. Again this has four programable options of which you can set to your own choice.
A very neat little touch on the Wacom driver software is the fact you can set it for each individual program you use, so in photoshop I will have it set to my own choice of workflow but if I'm using another program such as in design then the buttons can be programmed with different functions, and again maybe web browsing will be set as another completely different set of functions.
There are infinite possibilities in regards to how the is tablet set up and I love things that have this high degree of flexibility to fit around how I like to customise it rather than being stuck with what the manufacture decides is best suited.
Once you have used your Wacom Intuos Pro for around a week you will soon have decided on the best configuration to suit you.
At the time of writing the RRP of the Wacom Intuos Pro in size Medium is £299.99 but they do often seem to be on special offer somewhere and I have seen them for as little as £199.99 before, so a good search of the internet could find you a bargain.
This might seem like quite a high cost but I genuinely believe once you have got used to one you will feel it is worth every penny as it will simply transform the way you work through an image and the level of control you have over it will justify it.
The Wacom Intuos Pro comes in a beautifully well packaged box which looks like a very high end premium product and gives you confidence that you have purchased a well made quality item.
The pen itself comes with a base to sit in while not in use and if you undo the bottom of this base you will find a selection of 10 different nibs for the pen to give you different effects and coverage due to the different friction levels they offer and shapes, although I have to say I tend to stick with the default one it came with so far but its nice to have a few spares and options for different projects.
Setting the pen up is very simple and straight forward, once you have turned on the pressure sensitive tab in Photoshop and you have adjusted the shape dynamics, transfer rate & smoothing to your tastes you are ready to go and I recommend having a bit of a practice by signing your name with the pen and learning how the varying levels of pressure effect the transfer to the screen.
You can set the pen up so it will increase in surface area when pushed harder (signature gets wider) or to increase the flow with pressure (Opacity of flow applied to the signature, it gets darker) when you have done this you will soon get the hang of things and the pen will start to feel much more native to the workflow.
Now you're all set up with the pen I recommend opening a picture, adding a curves adjustment layer and then using the pen to create masked areas with varying pressure to allow you to get used to the effect and understand just what is going on with it.
The tablet itself can be set to either portrait or landscape orientation to fit in with the image you are editing or simply just to make it more suited to your desk space.
You can set the surface area of the table so the area of which you move your hand to cover the whole screen can be made fairly small so it's far easier to navigate.
Usual mouse control settings can be applied as well such as tracking speed etc....
These are all very personal settings so I will leave you to find what suits you best with a little experimentation and trial and error.
There are seemingly infinite possibilities for setting up the tablet so I won't go into them here as its a very personal thing to each user.
The Wacom Intuos Pro has been an absolutely invaluable tool to my landscape photography post processing workflow and I simply couldn't imagine going back to a mouse only.
The precision and control it gives the user is mind blowing and such a massive advance over a simple mouse.
The learning curve can be steep and difficult but once mastered it is worth every bit of frustration you have had with it and I don't think you will ever look back.
In terms of post processing I would say this has made the biggest difference in my workflow for years and I would imagine most of you will feel the same once you have mastered one.
The medium size is perfect to travel with as its smaller than most lap tops and the bluetooth connectivity is pretty good, there can sometimes be a tiny bit of lag but its pretty rare and If you use it with the USB cable instead then you shouldn't suffer anything, plus your device is always charged, That said the option to work wirelessly is highly desirable to some and the Wacom Intuos Pro does it very well.
Wacom have done a great job with the Intuos Pro and I highly recommend it for landscape photography post processing, I simply wouldn't be without mine.
If you are serious about improving your post processing work then this really should be on your shopping list for the future, you won't regret it.
Build Quality 9/10
User Experience 10/10
TOTAL SCORE 94%
*This item was purchased with my own hard cash and is an independent review which has been in no way influenced, just the honest feelings of a fellow landscape photographer.