Friday, February 5, 2010

Wacom Intuos 4 Graphics Tablet

A few months ago I purchased a Intuos 4 graphics tablet for photo editing. After using a mouse for years I struggled with the new pen interface for a while. This seems to be the standard experience of all new users, and most say you must force yourself to use the pen and soon you'll never use a mouse again for graphic applications. Well I persevered and within a few weeks I found the pen felt very natural especially when using a brush to create a layer mask or applying localized adjustments.

 The Intuos 4 tablet is available in four different sizes, based on the active interface area ranging from 6"x4" (small) up to 19"x12" (extra large). All models come with a two button pen and traditional mouse which use electro magnetic resonance battery free technology. The tablets themselves contain a series of programmable buttons called Expresskeys for often used keyboard commands, and a four function iPod like Touch Ring which provides users with a variable type interface. The touch ring can be used to control brush size, opacity, image magnification or anything that has a variable adjustment setting.  The feature I like best  is the Popup menu system which provides an unlimited number of programmable drill down menus which overlays the screen of any application. All of the buttons, touch ring features and popup menus can be set so their functions change depending on the current active application also.

 The three larger models all have the exact same features, only the physical size and active area is different. The smaller model does lack one important feature which for me influenced my purchase decision. There are only six Expresskeys compared to eight on the larger models, however more importantly the smallest model lacks illuminated button displays. If you program the Expresskeys to change with each active application, remembering what they do could become confusing. There is a default key which displays the key functions on screen for the smaller model, but for convenience I went with the medium sized unit.

 As I said before my favorite feature is the pop up menu system which provides an unlimited number of shortcuts to application menu features replacing the need to use the keyboard almost entirely with Photoshop. I've programed the top pen button to access the menus and they are currently set up to access my most commonly used Photoshop and Lighroom functions.

Here are the menus I use for Photoshop so far (underlying key commands appear in Red):
Main Menu:


Adjust: I remapped some of the key shortcut commands in Photoshop to open an adjustment layer.




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