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Geek Candy
Artsy Fun with Tablets
by rob

Wacom Intuos3 9x12 USB Tablet
Wacom Intuos3 9x12 USB Tablet
How artsy are you? Are you a sketcher or doodler?

I've drooled over tablets for as long as I've had a computer. The idea of digital drawings interested me but using a mouse to create freehand drawings was nearly impossible. As much as I love using my Logitech LaserMX to move my cursor around my two screens, it's just not the same as a pen.

A perk here at Random Access is the ability to get new products, and I couldn't resist getting my hands on a Wacom 9"x12" Intuos3 tablet. Wacom, the industry leader in tablets, builds upon the low-end consumer Graphire3 series with the addition of tilt and pressure sensitivity, programmable ExpressKeys and Touch Strips.

ExpressKeys and
ExpressKeys and
Touch Strips
The ExpressKeys, the flat keys in the upper corners of the tablet, can be programmed to switch tools, run actions in PhotoShop or activate any key combination. Right next to the ExpressKeys are the Touch Strips used to scroll or zoom in and out of your document. If you set up your tablet just right, you may not need your keyboard at all when creating your masterpiece.

If you've never used a tablet before, the major difference between mouse and pen control is absolute positioning. This means that the working area of the tablet corresponds with your desktop area. If you put the pen in the upper right corner of the tablet, your cursor will appear in the upper right of your monitor. Since most of us are used to moving a mouse and then picking it up to move it again, your cursor will seem to jump to unexpected locations on your screen. The absolute positioning will take some time to get used to. One thing that helped me to stop trying to use the pen like a mouse was this: take the tablet off your desk, scoot back and place the tablet on your lap. (You can even put your feet up on your desk and act really important.)

Tablets come in a range of sizes (4"x5"”, 6"”x8" and 9"”x12") and as the tablets get larger, they get more expensive. But bigger is not necessarily better. When looking to buy a tablet, think about how much workspace you can devote to it. Are you going to tote it back and forth from school?

If you're a digital painter, digital photographer, or just someone who wants to let their creative side out, you'll do everything better with a tablet. Oh, and I'm a doodler.

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