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How to Choose a Graphics Tablet that Fits Your Needs

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The first time I tried a Wacom tablet is only comparable with the day I discovered Photoshop, bought my first laptop, tested an Apple computer or I met my girlfriend for the first time - geek joke, honey. But, why are Wacom tablets so special? In this post we'll review the advantages of these tablets.

Choosing the Correct Tablet

  1. In my opinion, it must be a Wacom tablet.
  2. The most relevant technical specification is pressure sensitivity. The more, the better.
  3. Smaller tablets are better, cheaper, easier to fit into your desktop, and they work just like the bigger ones. I would only choose the big model if you're going to use it for CAD.
  4. Think about the use you'll give to your tablet. If you want if for painting, coloring and photo manipulation, it will be 100% useful. For drawing, only Cintiq models are really good, and for designing, you need no more than a mouse.
  5. There are second hand markets or brand new old models. They are really worth checking.

Amateur Tablets (80-200USD)

If you're not a professional designer or illustrator, but you'd like to go deeper into design without investing much money, the perfect choice is the Bamboo, available in 3 sizes with the same technical settings.

Professional Tablets (200-800USD)

If you're a professional or want to be one, you have a tight budget but you want good quality, then I would go for Intuos models. Intuos 4 has 2048 pressure levels, and even Intuos 2 and 3 with 1024 pressure levels are perfect and easy to find on Ebay, brand new or second hand.

Tablets for Rockstar Designers (1000-2000USD)

If you're already a set up professional and you want to increase your productivity, then you need the crown jewel, the Cintiq series. These are not tablets, but rather pressure sensitive monitors. You can draw directly on the screen.

My Experience

My first pen tablet was an Intuos 2 I bought 6 years ago, when I still was a Psychology student and I was starting to color in Photoshop. I had some doubt about purchasing it because I didn't have any resources, but my girlfriend convinced me to buy it on a whim, without knowing that she was driving me to take the first step to professionalism. Its design was terrible, it looked like a cardboard box with a very cheap pen, but it worked really well. Even after 6 years of use it still works perfectly, just like the first day.

SOSFactory Evolution

With my tablet I increased my productivity, and as a result, my quality. What used to take me endless sessions of work in the past, now I could do it in a few hours.

Intuos Evolution

I bought my second tablet about 3 years ago. It was an Intuos 3. The main difference was the incorporation of the Express Keys, and I've never considered them useful enough to replace the keyboard. To be honest, I bought it because these tablets were really beautiful, specially if we compare them with previous versions, although functionality was still the same.

My Desktop

My last acquisition is a precious Wacom Cintiq 21UX. From the moment I bought it, I forgot about pencil and papers and now I make my sketches directly in Photoshop. I must say that I haven't noticed a meaningful advance in coloring, but it's much better when it comes to drawing, an unresolved matter for tablets.

Now, I use my Intuos 3 only when I travel, and I find it very difficult. Moral: Don't try the Cintiq if you can't afford it.

In the video below, you can watch my Cintiq at work.

Here is another example of me coloring with a tablet.

And here you can compare Cintiq and Intuos series, the task is drawing lines at once while joining the points:

Intuos vs Cintiq

My next acquisition will be an Intuos 4 A6. We'll see if those extra pressure levels really make a difference.

Reasons To Choose a Wacom Tablet

1. No Batteries

Wacoms uses an electromagnetic resonance technology, no batteries are needed. Plus, there's a notable saving in maintenance, and we can avoid many issues since the pen is lighter and more comfortable to use. No wires, of course.

EMR Wacom

2. Best Value for Money

There are cheaper options, but not better. If we compare the technical specifications, we'll find that, at the same price, Wacom models offer similar or better performance. If you have a look to any comparison of pen tablets, you'll always find Wacom in the first position.

Wacom prices

3. Support

Wacom has a forum where the company employees or any other user will answer to your questions. Plus, their web is translated up to 15 languages, and there you can download drivers for any of their products.

Wacom tablets

4. Variety

Wacom offers a wide range of products at very affordable prices, from the Bamboo, which starts at less than 100USD, to the Cintiq series, that reach 2000USD in some high-end models (IVA not included).

5.- Acknowledgement

Wacom has been a regular winner in the Red Dot Awards for many years. The Red Dot Awards are similar to the "Oscars," only for industrial design.

Wacom

6.- Market Share

Wacom has stated to have a market share of 95,4% in the Japanese market and 86% in the foreign market. So they are likely to be around for the long term.

7.- Compatibility

Wacom tablets work under PC, Mac and even Linux.

8. The Most Sensitive

The new Wacom Intuos 4 have smashed the 1.024 pressure levels of the best pen tablets in the whole market, rising the threshold of maximum pressure levels.

Wacom tablets

9. Accessories

Wacom graphic tablets include some replacements, a pen and a mouse. If you find that's not enough, you can buy more replacements or pens with different functions from their online shop.

10. Second-Hand Market

Searching on Ebay you can check that even second-hand tablets still keep a good price. So you have the chance of selling your tablet when you want to update your old one to a newer version.

Alternatives to Wacom Pen Tablets

Conclusion

After many years looking for good alternatives to Wacom tablets, I've given up. There are cheaper options, that could be a good choice for beginners, but nowadays there aren't any companies able to seriously compete with Wacom. I would really like to see an Apple tablet which could match Wacom's performance... Until that happens, we'll always have the option of making ourselves a home-made Cintiq.

Wacom tablets have worked very well for me. They've held up, offer great functionality, and have helped me improve my digital artwork. Good luck selecting your own tablet.

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