To Wacom or not to Wacom?

My Wacom drawing tablet and pen are part of my design arsenal and I can’t believe I waited so long to have them!!   I hadn’t really played with one before and knew that they can be a learning curve...I guess I wasn’t so keen on putting a break on everything I was tirelessly trying to accomplish to get to grips with a new gadget which didn’t feel too natural in my hands to begin with.  Well, perseverance with a pinch of patience and a few Youtube tutorials later, I was hooked and didn’t look back.

There are so many advantages to using a drawing tablet - even if you don’t do much digital drawing or painting.  For a start, with the Pro version I have (small size model), I find myself using the 6 “hot keys” all the time which have increased the speed in which I get work done.  You can virtually set them to do anything you want so I decided to experiment a bit and after some trial and error I’ve configured them like this

1. Deselect (CTRL/CMD + D)

2. Duplicate Layer (CTRL/CMD + J)

3. Fill layer (ALT + DEL)

4. Image Size (SHIFT + CTRL/CMD + I)

5. Save for Web (SHIFT + CTRL/CMD + ALT + S)

6. Show Desktop

Basically, any frequently used Photoshop shortcut that requires 2 or more simultaneous key clicks using your left + right hand (I’m right handed) I can now do with the press of one hot key in my Wacom tablet.  This means I hardly ever need to put the pen down to make full use of my right hand.

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There is also a wheel in between the hotkeys which can be customised for other different functions but I haven’t bothered to investigate yet...maybe it’ll open me to a new world of possibilities but I must say, I’m pretty content with my current settings.

The pen the tablet comes with in the Pro version is fantastic and super sensitive (you can change its sensitivity of course) and the 10 additional spare pen tips it comes with a real great bonus too.  Within the pen itself you also have two buttons which again can be set to do whatever you want. I have mine set to “Undo” and to “Right Click” as these are probably the two most used functions for me.  I can also use the opposite end of the pen as an eraser though I don’t tend to use this as it’s faster pressing hotkey “E” on my keyboard.

Which brings me to my last point...one-key keyboards shortcuts in combination with a well customised Wacom tablet go along way to improving your productivity as a designer.  There’s not many commands within Photoshop where I’m still opening drop down menus...if there’s a keyboard shortcut, I’m using it.

So overall, I’m super happy with my Wacom and would highly recommend the quality of the Pro version which doesn’t come with any special program software such as Corel Paint etc like the cheaper “amateurish” versions do.  After reading less than complimentary comments on the feel of the pen after prolonged use on these cheaper Wacom models I decided on the Pro and I must say it has elevated my game to a new level.

The only less positive points I’d add to this commentary are that I’ve managed to scratch a small section of the glass surface of the tablet by what I can only think was applying too much pressure to the pen’s tip.  I realised that the rounded tip appeared damaged and its roundness lost which meant a sharp pointed tip which inevitably caused scratches. After changing to a different type of tip I see the same happening and I wonder whether it’s just me as I don’t remember reading any negatives in this regard?

Anyhow, Wacom isn’t the cheapest out there and I’m sure there’s equally good tablets that can do the job just as well but if you want to go with an industry standard, Wacom won’t disappoint and if you intend to elevate your design practice to the next level, the Wacom Pro tablet is your friend!