I recently made the move from editing with a mouse to using a Wacom. While the learning curve was big and it took a bit of getting used to, I can’t see myself editing with a mouse again anytime soon. Apart from the stylus just feeling more natural in my hand I have found my editing has sped up dramatically. The great thing with using a stylus and tablet is it’s just like colouring in or drawing with a pencil, so my dodging and burning of images as well as making selections in Photoshop has become a lot more accurate. Over the last few months, I’ve noticed a few things and thought I’d put them down in a blog in case anyone else has recently bought a Wacom and is battling with setup or getting to know their new device.
I bought the smallest Wacom Intuos tablet and opted for the Bluetooth version, but now that I’ve used it for a few months I don’t think the Bluetooth version is really that necessary, 99% of the time it’s plugged in anyway.
Below are a few things I’ve noticed about the Wacom:
1. Your Wacom stylus doesn’t need a battery, unlike a mouse
What’s great about the stylus is it doesn’t need a battery, unlike a mouse. So the only thing you need to worry about replacing is the stylus tip, and when you buy a Wacom it comes with three spare tips in the stylus body.
2. Express keys on the Wacom tablet are completely customisable
Each of the four express keys on the tablet itself can be customised for each application. I have set mine up for Lightroom so that I can make selections, and toggle left and right between images. Each key is set for left and right, setting a red label for each image and the last key is used to flag images
3. Ergonomics/feels more natural. Like holding a pen or pencil
It took me a bit of getting used to but once I had set up my stylus and worked with it for a while it became much more natural to use when editing than a mouse. I went back to a mouse when I had forgotten my Wacom at home and the mouse felt completely foreign in my hand, like trying to edit with a brick!
4. Just like the tablet itself, you can completely customise the stylus to your liking.
The few changes I made were:
- I set the pen pressure nearly to maximum
- I disabled the one button
- I assigned a set of shortcut keys to the other button so with one click I could adjust the size and hardness of the brush I was using, in both Photoshop and Lightroom, This is particularly useful because it means you can do everything from the same place, you don’t have to keep switching between the stylus and the keyboard when retouching
5. The stylus tip is pressure-sensitive
Similar to shading with a pencil, the pressure-sensitive tip can make layering/edits softer and more controllable, unlike a mouse. The sensitivity of the stylus tip is great in terms of opacity when it comes to retouching.
In Photoshop, when using the brush tool, with a Wacom, you have the option to adjust the opacity of the brush based on how hard you push down with the stylus. In the beginning, I found this to be quite frustrating because it wasn’t what I was used to when using a mouse, so I turned it off. Now no matter how hard you press or don’t press, the opacity of the brush stays constant.
6. The area of the Wacom tablet is identical to your screen
Another advantage with a Wacom is the area of the tablet is identical to your screen so if you hover the bottom corner of the Wacom the pointer on your screen will be in exactly the same place.
Even having the smallest Wacom on the market I found the working area to be too large, so you can adjust how much of the Wacom area you want to use. I set mine up to use about the area of a business card to mirror my screen. That way you don’t have to move your stylus around much to get around the screen.
How I set up my Wacom for use in Photoshop and Lightroom
- I set my workable area to something roughly the size of a business card.
- Tip Feel: I set to about 70% hard
- Tip Double Click Distance: I set to off. This is particularly useful when using the clone stamp tools in Photoshop
Lightroom specific settings:
- First button: I set to “6” the shortcut for the red label
- Second button: I set to “p” the shortcut for the flag tool
- Third button: I set to left arrow
- Fourth button: I set to right arrow
Photoshop specific settings
- The top button on the stylus: I set to Control + Option (when wokring on a Mac) this is useful for adjusting the brush size and hardness but clicking the button and dragging up and down (for hardness/softness) or left and right (for size)