Wacom Intuos tablet setup

Configuring your Intuos3 or Intuos4 drawing tablet preferences and properties.

Wacom Intuos3 Tablet

Hardware Setup Tutorials

Monitor Calibration | Wacom Tablet Setup | Workspace Ergonomics | Color Management | Airbrush Equipment

All Tutorial Text & Images - Copyright © 2011 KHI, Inc.

Wacom Intuos3 or Intuos4 drawing tablets are designed to provide a "digital" approximation of drawing with a pencil and paper, although there are some significant differences we will discuss in this lesson. With proper setup, the Wacom tablet experience is very similar to actual drawing, and with the numerous adjustment features in the tablet's setup preferences ('Properties' in Windows) you can tailor your tablet to your exact drawing style. This lesson uses an Intuos3 4x5 tablet as an example, but these settings translate to all other Intuos tablet sizes.

Wacom has greatly simplified the setup procedure of their next-generation tablets, making setup a quick and painless task when compared with the older Wacom tablets. One of the most welcome features is the easy crossover of your mapping preferences from application to application. Gone are the days when you would have odd mapping differences when jumping from one application to another.

Wacom Intuos3 Preferences Window

The table's preferences (properties) window can be found in your 'System Preferences' window (Mac: Apple icon) under 'Other,' or on a PC you would look for 'Wacom Tablet Properties' in the Startup menu. In the 'Wacom Tablet' window you will find your specific tablet (or tablets if you are using two or more), the 'Tool' selection box, and the 'Application' box. By clicking on each of these you will be able to set the individual button functions and tablet mapping area, as well as configuring the mouse and pen buttons, and adjusting the pen-tip pressure sensitivity settings.

Befor you add any new applications (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.) to this window's 'Application' box you should set all of the tablet parameters for 'All Others,' then transfer the pen and mapping attributes to each additional application. From here, you can make customized settings for each unique application, tailoring the table to your individual needs.

Before You Begin: Correct tablet positioning

Once you find a comfortable location for your tablet you will want to affix it to the work-surface in order to maintain its exact position in relation to your monitor, aligning them to each-other along the same parallel plane. This is critical to learning, and mastering the necessary eye/hand coordination between your monitor and the tablet. If the table is moved or rotated even slightly you will need to relearn the necessary eye/hand coordination. You can affix the tablet to your desk with double-sided tape or museum putty. See Workspace Ergonomics for more on correct monitor/tablet positioning.

Intuos Mapping setup

Although it is very useful to have application-specific settings for the tablet 'Function' buttons and pen buttons, you will want your 'Mapping' settings to be exactly for all applications. The reason for this is obvious, as you do not want to be re-learning your screen-to-tablet eye/hand coordination each time you switch from one application to another. Additionally, if you have more than one application open you don't want an annoying cursor jump when clicking on the inactive window that is just beneath the active one. By clicking the 'Options' radio button you can set the table to right of left handedness, changing the orientation of the arrow cursors.

The Intuos tablet's 'Mapping' settings are used to control the relationship between the usable area of the tablet surface and the active area within your monitor or monitors. This relationship is critical to learning proper eye/hand coordination, and maintaining the correct aspect-ratio (4:3, widescreen, dual monitors, etc.) between the monitor (or monitors) and tablet. Each time these settings are altered you will need to re-learn your eye-hand coordination.

Intuos Mapping Setup - Defining Tablet Area

The only adjustment that should be used in this window is the 'Tablet Area' setting (above, left). If you are using a small tablet such as the Intuos3 4x5 you may want to leave this at the default setting of 'Full,' especially if you are using dual monitors. I prefer using a very small section of the tablet surface as this limits wrist and hand movements. The 'Screen Area' setting should be set to the default setting of 'Full,' and the 'Force Proportions' radio-button should be checked to maintain the correct aspect-ratio of your monitor.

By using Wacom's "Click to Define Tablet Area" tab (above, right) to set the tablet's active area, you will actually click the pen tool in each of the four corners that will correspond to the monitor screen's outer-most corners. This will permanently assign the active area of the tablet, and establish the eye/hand relationship between tablet and monitor. You can also define the active area of the tablet by manually setting the numeric value of the coordinates.

Intuos Pen Settings & Tip Pressure

The Grip Pen's 'Tilt Sensitivity' and 'Tip Feel' settings are used to prevent accidental inputs that are mistakenly created by lightly touching the pen to the tablet's surface while moving your hand around. With these settings (screenshot below) you can adjust the pressure-sensitivity cutoff point, thereby preventing accidental these inputs.

Setting the pen tip's 'Sensitivity' and 'Click Threshold' is a very important step if you elect to use Wacom's pressure sensitivity features. You would set these by clicking the 'Details' radio button to open up the Sensitivity/Threshold box. Personally, I don't use the 'pressure sensitivity' feature to control brush size or paint opacity because I prefer to have more exacting control through Photoshop's brush attribute settings. Wacom's pressure sensitivity feature takes some getting use to, but it can be advantageous when painting large areas, or using the burn and dodge tools when photo-retouching.

Intuos Pen Settings - Tip Pressure & Click Threshold

If you tend to rest the pen tip on or near the tablet's surface while moving your hand to a new spot, you may need to set the on/off sensitivity to a higher pressure level. You can check your normal amount of pressure input by observing the 'Current Pressure' bar, and the relationship between a light click and full pressure.

Setting the Pen Tool's 'Tilt' angle will adjust the pen's angle cutoff point to your individual pen-holding style. This setting will prevent accidental inputs that can be made by inadvertent hand gestures when the pen is held at an extreme angle in relation to the tablet.

Intuos Pen 'Side Switch' Buttons

The pen's 'Side Switch' button remains a two-way actuated (toggling) button on the Intuos3 and Intuos4 tablet. The pen tool's side buttons can be set to control several different application-specific functions, such as macro keystrokes or modifiers, by using the pull-down menu for each side-switch (below). If you select either 'Modifier' or 'Keystroke' a new window will appear and you can type in the desired key command.

You will want to use these buttons for the most common of keyboard/keystroke tasks. By pressing the top of the button or bottom of this button you can control two different programable functions. Using these switches/buttons can be a major time-saver, and once you get in the habit of using them you will never need those key commands again.

Intuos Pen Side Switch Buttons

While in Photoshop, I use the upper button to hide selections by assigning the keystroke command of 'Command>H.' Hiding the selection's distracting 'Marching Ants' is a very important feature in Photoshop, making it much easier to see what you are painting, and how the selected area relates to the surrounding, unselected areas while painting or adjusting color and contrast.

I use the pen's lower button as a 'Modifier' setting while in Photoshop, setting it to emulate the "Shift" key command. The Shift key is one of the most used keys in Photoshop, especially when you want to re-select an area or add to the selection area. The Shift key will also constrain any pen movements to horizontal, vertical, or 45ยบ diagonal lines. While in Adobe Illustrator, I have this button set to zoom out, as this is a very commonly-used task.

When I am in the 'Desktop,' or 'All Other' applications mode I have the lower button set to double-click. The whole idea of using different button settings for different programs is to save time by having these highly-accessible buttons set to do your most repetitive tasks. Your choice of settings will undoubtedly be different than mine which is why Wacom has made the button settings customizable for each users needs. By clicking the 'Options' radio button you can check the 'Side Switch Expert Mode' which gives you yet another way to use the pen buttons.

Intuos Comparison

The 'Tip Double Click Distance' adjustment slider-bar controls the Pen Tool's sensitivity to double-click inputs and their proximity to the icon, link or object you are clicking on. If your aim is good, set this towards the 'Off' side of the bar. The default setting for "Double-Click Speed" is the midway point between slow and fast.

Wacom Intuos Express Keys

In the upper-left corner of the Wacom Intuos3 4x5 tablet you will find a set of 'ExpressKeys' function buttons and a scrolling 'Touch Strip.' The 6x8 or larger tablets (Intuos4 Medium or Large) have express keys on both sides. On the new Intuos4 Small version the 'Touch Strip.' is replaced by a Touch Wheel that is similar to the iPod, and there are two additional buttons. All four function buttons are customizable, but the touch strip can only be set to on or off, however you can adjust scrolling speed. If your tablet is in close proximity to the keyboard these may be redundant, therefor I would set them with complicated key commands that require the pressing of three keys at once, or two keys that are far apart.

Intuos Express Keys Buttons

Using the preference settings discussed in this lesson will help you maximize the comfort and functionality of Wacom's Intuos3 and Intuos4 tablet. Thankfully, Wacom has simplified many of the 'advanced' settings, making them less confusing and easier to use. Without a doubt, Wacom is the only game in town, but they are not resting on their status, continuing to make subtle improvements to their already outstanding tablets.

Another side benefit to the Intuos line of tablets is that they are nearly indestructible, and very reliable. Even after thousands of hours in service my older tablets still function well. One of my older Intuos2 tablets finally did give up, with a slow decline in its precision, but this was after three years of daily use.

Wacom Cintiq & Techno Cintiq Setup

Calibrating your Cintiq & Techno Cintiq Interactive Pen Display Preferences or Properties

Wacom's Cintiq tablet line enables you to draw directly on its built-in screen, and this may be a perfect solution for those who are having trouble mastering the awkward eye/hand coordination of two disconnected objects - monitor and tablet. This is obviously a more expensive unit due to its built-in monitor, but the Cintiq is the closest thing to actually drawing on paper.

Because the Cintiq is also a display it must be calibrated just as you would with any other monitor. First you would go to your table's preferences (properties) window which can be found in your 'System Preferences' (Apple icon) under the category 'Other,' or on a PC you would look for 'Wacom Tablet Properties' in the Startup menu. Then click on 'Calibrate' and select your Monitor (Cintiq 12WX, 21UX, etc.) in the window's pull-down menu, then calibrate the tablet to the LCD display by clicking on any random reference point. This will align the pen and display. Note: If you use the Cintiq without calibrating it first, you will notice that your pen is not necessarily aligned with the on-screen target point.

Cintiq Display Calibration

Then you would adjust and set all of the Grip Pen and Express Key functions just as you would with the conventional tablet. The additional benefit of the Cintiq tablet is that there are no orientation issues with respect to the positioning of the tablet, keyboard and computer monitor, and the Cintiq is great when used with a laptop computer.

In this case, it all comes down to cost, personal preference, and patience with the learning-curve on a conventional drawing tablet. The Cintiq 12WX 12-Inch pen display requires a significant amount of arm movement due to the tablet/display size, and this could cause ergonomic issues. This would be doubly true with the super-sized Cintiq 21UX 21-Inch tablet, but there is a greater level of precision with the larger Cintiq due to its large-scale relationship to the digital file. Still, zooming in with a small tablet accomplishes the same thing, but there is something really cool about actually "drawing" directly on the digital image.

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