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Is A Graphics Tablet Really Needed?

June 23, 2010

It’s another one of those questions that I hate, but for my work, absolutely.  Here in the screenshot image of one of my ballerina portraits. The hair was a bit of a misfit, and there was a nasty little gap where the hair fits the top of the head. So I used a graphics stylus set to 2 pixels to do some underpainting and paint in some strands. With a mouse, there’s no easy way to do it because of the lack of control, but with a stylus and tablet, my job was done in a few short minutes.

So the second most hated question – Which tablet? I’m almost unqualified to answer that. Why? Because much to the amazement of the computer geek friends, I’m still using the old 1998 4×5 Wacom Graphire tablet, and it’s still kicking.  Over the years, I have become so accustomed to this old thing that for a few years I used it exclusively with no mouse. For everything, especially spreadsheets. When I got back to 3D a little more seriously, I did have to break down and buy a new mouse with a thumbwheel, because the thumbwheel is used frequently in 3D programs for a quick zoom.

I did try out a large Cintiq tablet over at an ad agency I do some work for, and believe it or not, the large size was very uncomfortable for me. I use some tools as if by rote, and the large tablet somehow seemed very foreign and inefficient. When I first got the the little Graphire way back when, I hated it. But I forced myself to use it nonstop for a week, and for awhile there, I rarely used the mouse for anything.

The tablet, even in the very small versions, comes in handy for a number of things, like marking up photos for proposed retouch, signatures on documents, and oddly enough, it’s the best for me when I work on spreadsheets and databases. With the short reach on the 4×5, I can get things done pretty quickly. Bigger doesn’t always mean better.


One Comment
  1. Michael Brown permalink
    June 23, 2010 4:45 pm

    I agree with you on tablet size. I don’t think there is any real reason for getting a large one, unless you want to trace large drawings or something. I don’t use my tablet much but, as you say, they are just about indispensable for some things. When I bought my tablet I got the smallest Wacom makes, and whan I am not using it, i.e. 90+% of the time, it doesn’t get in my way as much as a large one would.

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