View Full Version : A tablet, do I need one?

Servant Of Thor
05-25-2010, 10:25 PM
I have been thinking about purchasing one. What are the benefits, downfalls of a tablet, and what are some good models, so far all I know of is the wacom tablets. :?:

Aval Penworth
05-25-2010, 10:46 PM
If you are actually going to sketch and draw with it then it might be worth it. Because you can more easily get a freehand feel with a tablet, than a mouse.

But I and many others I know who have been using photoshop and other similar programs prefer using a mouse. I used to employ a few photo retouchers, one of them used a Wacom tablet, and got excellent results. But they mainly seemed to use a mouse.

I still have the tablet, but I never use it. Mainly because if i want to draw something, I draw it on paper then scan and edit it with the computer. I get a better freehand feel from pencil and paper and the tablet doesn't give me the precise control that I can get with a mouse.

I will now open the floor to the tablet devotees who, I am sure, can't wait present their re-butts:P

Servant Of Thor
05-25-2010, 11:19 PM
Cool, so what the learning curve on a tablet (a scanner is not practicle btw, I don't have one and have access to one rarely) cause I heard they can be hard to learn?

05-26-2010, 01:23 AM
I think I belong to the righ corner of the boxing ring where all the tablet devotees are standing :-)

In my humble opinion I must say that I never would stand working in photoshop without using a tablet (a wacom in my case). In other programs like CC3 I rarely use the tablet, it works just as well with the mouse, and sometimes better I think. All maps I've done here on the forum are made with a tablet and are drawn in PS, nothing is scanned. What you prefer is very much up to your self and what working method you like. But the tablet will open up new possibilities for you in completing things in PS that will be very hard to do without a tablet.

The learning curve is quite light I would say in learning to use a tablet. After some practice it works really nice.

Aval Penworth
05-26-2010, 01:48 AM
I agree regarding the learning curve of tablet use. When I first got the tablet I taught myself how to use it over the weekend. So if that is one of the things putting you off, don't let it. There are many more difficult things to learn, in this game.

05-26-2010, 03:15 AM
I'm hopefully getting my first tablet today (after working with graphics for 15+ years with a mouse) and looking very much forward to it. The reason I've bought a tablet is for being able to make more hand drawn stuff directly in photoshop and to start painting again - only this time digitally (although I also just purchased 4 canvasses as they were on sale with frame).

05-26-2010, 03:22 AM
On a personal note, I started off with a mouse while doing computer artwork (all forms, not just maps). I got great results, and still can. Then I got a tablet, and while I can work without it quite effectively, I rarely use the mouse for *anything* anymore (unless i'm not at home, and using my brother-in-law's computer). The learning curve was insanely easy to overcome for me, I just played a few solitaire games and such for a weekend, plus puttered around in photoshop, and booyah.

Overall my review would be along the lines of "Need tablet, no. i can work fine without it. Want the tablet? Heck yes, I love using it and can do more than I thought with it."

05-26-2010, 04:58 AM
I have invested many thousands of dollars over the years looking for the hardware or software package that will give me some sort of artistic ability. I have come to the conclusion that if you aren't happy with your freehand drawing skills then a tablet is unlikely to help you much. Another consideration is that using a tablet introduces a disconnect between where your hand is and where your eye is lookling. Some people can tolerate this, other can't (as always, practice helps to mitigate the possible issues).

I've owned several Wacom tablets over the years and they have all performed flawlessly. The Intuos 4 models are a little pricey but have many nice features. The Cintiq is very pricey but includes that fancy screen directly behind the tablet to mitigate the eye/hand disconnect issues (there is a teeny bit of lag that can be annoying, but it's usually not noticeable on a fast machine). Size is the big thing for a tablet. I have been more comfortable working with the 6x8 model because the physical unit is about the size of a tablet of paper (the drawing area is still 6x8 inches). Some folks like big desktop units that they don't pick up and hold. If you are prone to big sweeping strokes then the smaller drawing area will take some getting used to, but most folks find that they are usually only drawing in a small part of the media at any time and a smaller drawing area isn't a problem.

The only way to find out if a tablet is for you is to try one. It may end up like mine always do, sitting on the shelf until I need to do some major retouching work, but at least you'll know. Scanners are inexpensive and give pretty good quality (the CanoScan LiDE series, for example, is usually less than $100, not much bigger than a mid-size tablet, and only needs a single USB cable to operate), but they are still subject to the basic limitations of pen and paper. A digital camera can also be used to take pictures of artwork drawn on paper as well as to capture texture elements for doing drawings, but cameras work best for artwork when used with a carefully-positioned tripod and lighting sets (a frame with light and camera port makes for the most consistent results).

A tablet opens a lot of techniques that you can't really do well with a pen and paper, but they aren't for everyone.

05-26-2010, 08:32 AM
I used to use a mouse but then I picked up a tablet (not for maps originally, but because I wanted to draw again and improve my art and I thought having something connected to the computer I'm always sat at might motivate me more). Now that I've got a tablet though, I'll never go back to using any kind of image editing software with a mouse, I just love it so much.

I did get that initial disconnect waldronate mentions, but found it quickly dissapeared once I got used to it. I used to play a sketch game called BrokenPictureTelephone (it's dead now though sadly) and after a few months of that, it felt like using a regular pen.

If you're doing any sort of drawing, maps or otherwise, I think they are definately worth it. If you're unsure but still want to give one a try then go for the Wacom Bamboo. It's cheap and still nice (a friend of mine picked one up after I got my tablet).

05-26-2010, 08:39 AM
I prefer to do my drawing with pencil on paper and scan it. I rarely use the tablet to draw the same way I do with real media. The tablet is fun for doing quick sketchy things but I have yet to learn how to control it exactly how I want it. Could I get by without one? Easily. If I wanted to get real serious and do professional work then it's pretty much required but I'm not that serious about anything.

05-26-2010, 11:54 AM
I find my tablet indispensable for painting in Photoshop. Also, I have some difficulties with tendinitis in my mouse-driving hand, and simply changing my primary input device has helped quite a lot with that. The big downside to it for me is the lack of a middle mouse button. I've configured a button on the tablet's surface to fill that role, but it's still difficult to navigate in Maya, which requires middle mouse for quite a few tasks. Also, any time I have to manipulate something on my secondary monitor, I still have to grab the mouse, since the Wacom is mapped only to the primary screen.

As far as getting used to it, I played a few hours of Neverwinter Nights with the thing, and now it's even more natural to use than the mouse. It's a little strange, though: I have a widescreen monitor, so horizontal movement is more dramatic than vertical movement. That takes some getting used to.

The biggest advantage I find in Photoshop is the ability to use pen pressure to control line width. That allows me to get very nice tapers for things like rivers. Some people like to use pressure to control opacity or flow from their brush. This allows for a much less mechanical look in painting than is possible with a mouse. The primary disadvantage for me is space. I am short on USB ports, so any time I need to plug in my external hard drive, I have to unplug something else. I suppose a USB hub would take care of that, but desk space is also at a premium. The tablet takes up quite a lot of territory when I have it out, and I have cables running everywhere for far too many devices. Someday I'll have a real workspace and a good-sized desk with some reasonable cable management. For now, though, adding the tablet to my mess just makes the spaghetti a little bit worse.

Anyway, the only thing that makes my mouse superior to the tablet in any way is that middle mouse button issue I already mentioned. In all other ways, I consider the tablet the better choice.

edit: Oh, and I wouldn't consider any brand other than Wacom at the moment. They're miles ahead of their competition in terms of quality, compatibility and support.

05-26-2010, 11:56 AM
I've had tablets for maybe eight years, so i'm well used to them. At work (being the art/tech guy) and at friend's homes i've had a chance to play with a good cross-section of wacom tablets. Currently i have a bamboo, and am perfectly happy with it.

I don't use them for clicking through options or menus, a mouse is better for precise clicking IMHO.

A tablet helps with freehand drawing on screen, but it blows away the mouse when you are using a pressure sensitive tool. For instance in good applications like photoshop, illustrator, or GIMP you can paint/draw with brushes that get wider the harder you press with the stylus, or brushes that fade to become highly transparent with a light touch. A mouse can't do anything like this.

Wacom has some sort of patent on their technology. I've never heard of a professional or semi-professional who used another brand.

What you can get away with is using Wacom's cheaper or older tablets. Unless you have ingrained habits of drawing with your whole arm (which would only be the case if you normally draw on something much larger than a regular sheet of paper), i've found that larger and more expensive wacom tablets offer negligible advantage. Some of the higher end ones also track the stylus' tilt, but i haven't found that nearly as compelling as pressure sensitivity. Similarly the basic technology is well established, newer models offer little advantage unless you have a preference for a certain configuration of buttons, which seems to change with the versions.

05-26-2010, 12:17 PM
If you search for threads with "tablet" in the title you will find a number of such discussions, including this one: http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?552-Mouse-vs.-tablet

Which is reaaaalllly long, but provides much good info.

-Rob A>

Servant Of Thor
05-26-2010, 06:00 PM
Cool, so I guess i'll just have to try one out, as soon as I get the money. Thanks guys!

06-01-2010, 11:02 PM
Don't worry SOThor, I'm in the same boat. One day I will get a tablet myself. Until then I have to use my digital camera. Unless I can get one of these stupid scanners I have here to work worth a dang.

06-02-2010, 04:19 AM
Almost got a tablet last week - but the "#&&# postman didn't read the adress label properly and returned it to the company *sigh*... so now I have to order it again...

Steel General
06-02-2010, 06:30 AM
Need a tablet...no

Would like to have one...yes

06-02-2010, 09:17 AM
I toyed with getting a tablet for years, not wanting to spend the money because I don't consider myself much of an artist, but eventually I picked up a cheap one on MacMall. I agree with jwbjerk, the pressure features alone make a tablet unbelievably valuable when working freehand in Photoshop. I don't really have any drawing ability, and I certainly can't draw anything with a mouse. I'm also still learning when it comes to mapping in Photoshop, but I'm happy with what I've done so far. I would not have been able to do most of it without the tablet. I have a 6x9 intuos and would recommend it.

06-02-2010, 02:36 PM
I have a tiny little Bamboo and I can't imagine life without it at this point. It was the cheapest I could find, and doesn't pay attention to tilting the pen, but I have to agree with the previous posters. The pressure sensitivity alone is vital to trying to do things like taper rivers.

06-08-2010, 04:33 PM
Joey: "Whoa, what's complicated? You spin the Wheel of Mayhem to go up the Ladder of Chance; you go past the Mud Hut; through the Rainbow Ring to get to the Golden Monkey; you yank his tail, and BOOM you're in paradise pond!"

Yep, got my tablet today, and looking forward to practicing tomorrow - just went through the tutorial, which was mostly a waste of time ... but now I'm happy happy happy :)

06-08-2010, 05:52 PM

06-08-2010, 05:56 PM
Grats Tilt, hope you enjoy it :D

06-09-2010, 01:01 AM
thanks - looking very much forward to learning how to use it, and I'll return to the thread with an evaluation :)

06-09-2010, 04:02 AM
I finally might be breaking down and getting myself a tablet - I am looking at a Wacom Bamboo of the 5 x 8 size. If I get one, I'll be sure to post my first "hand-drawn" map using it.


06-09-2010, 04:28 AM
yep... still have a few days to get a Lite Challenge in .. so I'm thinking hand drawn.. that'll do it :)

06-10-2010, 07:20 AM
So, my first tablet work ever... http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?10697 for this months competition...
I'm still trying to get use to it... and use the mouse for all the non-drawing stuff (which I probably shouldn't), I think I'll try to see if there somewhere in settings are a setting for using the pressure to control opacity instead of brush size... I think that would be more usefull (other than for rivers of course) :)

06-10-2010, 11:53 AM
Open the Brushes palette (F5). In the Shape Dynamics, under Size Jitter, turn Control to Off. Go to Other Dynamics and under Opacity Jitter set Control to Pen Pressure.

06-10-2010, 12:46 PM
cool thanks :)

06-10-2010, 07:56 PM
I'm comfortable with a mouse and not very artistic. I rely heavily on filters and step by step techniques to produce results opposed to knowing how to draw anything freehand. Therefore, I suspect that a tablet wouldn't do much for me.

If I *were* artistic though, I suspect that the pen pressure feature would make all the difference in convincing me to get one. I've read a number of blog posts by artists that use them and describe various things you can do with that feature. That's the one thing about tablets that has always stood out for me. If I were to get one, I'd look into that more fully. I suspect some tablets deal with pen pressure better than others.

06-11-2010, 02:27 AM
now I've only gotten a small one, but you can get some that not only responds to pressure, but also tilt of the pen (yep, I said tilt) ;)

06-11-2010, 02:36 PM
I'm comfortable with a mouse and not very artistic. I rely heavily on filters and step by step techniques to produce results opposed to knowing how to draw anything freehand. Therefore, I suspect that a tablet wouldn't do much for me.

That sounds much like me. And then I picked up a used tablet and discovered i can be artistic!

-Rob A>

06-11-2010, 03:08 PM
I'm comfortable with a mouse and not very artistic. I rely heavily on filters and step by step techniques to produce results opposed to knowing how to draw anything freehand. Therefore, I suspect that a tablet wouldn't do much for me.

That sounds much like me. And then I picked up a used tablet and discovered i can be artistic!

Same here. I have been able to do things with a tablet that I never would have been able to attempt without one. I'm looking forward (with a sense of both hope and fear) to doing more work, including a couple city maps, with my tablet.