The Tablet Truth
With the iPad taking over newsrooms world over, let us take a look at a different kind of tablet: the graphics tablet. Also known as a digitizing tablet, graphics pad or drawing tablet this is an input device that permits drawing just like one would draw with a pencil and paper. More bland uses include entering handwritten signatures while creative license allows one to create absolute masterpieces that would wake the Renaissance masters from their graves to paint divine masterpieces once again using this amazing tool.
Ordinarily consisting of a flat surface upon which you are invited to “draw” an image using an attached stylus or pen-like tool, tablets sometimes have a bunch of buttons attached for auxiliary functions. The image is displayed on the screen rather than appearing on the tablet itself. Some tablets however, come as a fully functioning screen that interacts directly using the stylus.
Often used by artists as a general replacement for a mouse as the primary pointing and navigation device, the use of tablets is ubiquitous in the digital artist community. Out of experience, I’m going to suggest Wacom models for different types of users.
- Amateur: All you amateur designers and illustrators, don’t dig deep ipockets. Without investing much you can get a Bamboo (512 levels of pressure sensitivity and a resolution of 1024 lines per inch), available in 3 different sizes albeit with the same specifications.
- Professional: If you’re a pro or want to be one, you probably havebudget but you don’t want to compromise on quality. Your best bet would be the Intuos models with the latest offerings sporting 2048 pressure levels and includes tilt sensitivity.
- Uber cool: If you’re already a rockstar designer and want to productivity, look no further than the Cintiq series. Hold your horses, these ‘tablets’ are actually pressure sensitive monitors and you can draw directly on the screen!
Using a patented electromagnetic resonance technology, Wacom tablets provide power through resonant coupling thus alleviating the need for batteries or power cords. Resulting in a longer and essentially maintenance free lifespan this makes the tablet bigger and heavier than other technologies. Most tablets sport a USB interface since almost all computers support USB. Being hot swappable is an added advantage. Bluetooth is a wireless option for connecting a graphics tablet to your computer as in the Graphire Bluetooth, which can connect to your computer without wires. Popular sizes match up neatly to the 4:3 aspect ratio but wide-format graphics tablets are said to better correspond with the aspect ratio of widescreen monitors though not necessary because software takes care of the mapping.
Relief from RSI
Tablets users cite relief from occupational overuse syndrome related injuries like repetitive strain injury (RSI). Carpal tunnel syndrome sufferers also benefit because operating a pen is more natural and tends to involve the movement of the entire arm instead of just the wrist.
A tablet will work in any software even as a mouse replacement. Most of them work under PC, Mac and even Linux. Many graphics softwares take advantage of the pressure-sensitive features and tilt controls offered. Tablets can be used alongside a mouse with no problem whatsoever. Coordinating movements and tapping instead of clicking works like magic even for most new users and the ability to configure the pen buttons for double-clicking and/or right-clicking makes the process easier. So get one today and say goodbye to the ancient pen and paper.