By Jonathan Leo
Back in my days as a competent 3D/2D artist, I was enamored with the power of my old Intuos Wacom 2 tablet which I still use occasionally. Having tried out the recent medium-sized Wacom Intuos Tablet 4, digital sketches of ephemeral magnitude are made possible by budding artists and veterans alike thanks to its well considered upgrades.
Not for the Casual
But let's get to the dark side of quality first: the medium version will set you back by S$600 bucks, with the large and extra-large costing a whopping S$800 and S$1300 respectively. Unless you're planning to pursue your digital drawing hobby/lifestyle for a long time, the price is a deterrent for the casual sketcher. Having said that, you are nevertheless paying top dollar for high levels of functionality and top-notch tablet-sketching action on a gorgeous sleek board.
The Sketch Test
Setting it up is about as hard as sketching a stick figure: just put the driver CD in your computer and plug in the tablet when prompted. Everything else works its magic there: the preferences options let you customize the sensitivity levels of your rubber grip sleek pen, as well as your hotkeys and Touch Ring buttons. You can configure said hotkeys and Touch Ring buttons to use common Photoshop shortcuts like Ctrl + Z (for Undos) or just single inputs like "E" or "B" (for Erase and Brush respectively).
While the eight buttons have their options highlighted, the Touch Ring is a little ambiguous; you'll have to memorize some of the hotkeys you have assigned, as the four inputs do not have any tags to differentiate from one another. Color-coded backlights would be a good place to start.
Running a recent version of Photoshop lets you take advantage of the pen's high pressure, enabling you to create a wide variety of strokes for the paintbrush or sketch tools. In this day and age, any artist worth his salt would upgrade his or her current Photoshop/ Illustrator/ Corel Paint program, which begs the question why Wacom still bundles entry level programs like Photoshop Elements and Corel Sketch Pad. It ends up being a novelty at best. Perhaps offering plug-ins or new brushstrokes compatible with both Photoshop and Corel Paint would be more appropriate or better yet, reducing the price of the tablet without the bundled software.
The Wacom Tablet is not meant to be a substitute for a mouse when it comes to daily activities like internet surfing, but the pen does a competent job. The tablet has a Pen Flick feature where a light flick activates a specific browser command: flicking left and right lets you go back and forward respectively through webpages. The flicks you perform has to be incredibly light and gentle though; hard flicks just highlights text and make you accidentally click on unwanted options.
The Wacom Intuos 4's beauty, simplicity, and ergonomical strengths prove time and again that Wacom knows exactly what dedicated artists-to-be and veterans require. Just remember that it's a hefty investment that requires setting aside your own desire as an artist to do some hard-headed cost benefit analysis.