Class 1 - Week 10 - Choosing a Tablet

The first question you might ask yourself is "why do I need a drawing
tablet?". The answer is that you don't. You can get by just fine without
one, and most animators do. But using a mouse all day, every day is
detrimental to the health of your wrists, and can lead to some pretty
serious problems, like repetitive stress or carpal tunnel, which might
shorten your career as an animator if left to worsen. Which is why you
see traditional animators like the 9 Old Men animating into their 80s but
new cg animators retiring early due to wrist injuries. This is why using
a drawing tablet which uses a pen instead of a mouse, is helpful in
alleviating and preventing those kinds of injuries. And as a bonus, it
allows you to draw on your computer, which is pretty awesome!

So now that we know that, what tablet do we choose from? Beau and I have
found that Wacom tablets are the most reliable and have the best quality
of all the brands, so we'll stick with them, namely the Bamboo, Intuos, and
Cintiq tablets for this post.

There are 3 things that you need to keep in mind when purchasing a
tablet. The first is, of course, your price range. You want to be sure to
get the most for your money, and also spend that money on something
you'll be using for a good while. The next thing you want to think about
is the size of your desk and work area. There's no point in buying a
large tablet if you don't have the space to use it properly. You'll also
need to consider your monitor size. The larger your monitor, the more
sensitive the tablet becomes, since it has to cover more screen distance
in the same amount of tablet space than it would with a smaller monitor.
So in general, the bigger your monitor, the bigger your tablet. And
thirdly, what do you plan to do with the tablet? If you only plan to use
it for navigating around your computer and doing small doodles, there
really is no need to get anything fancy, but if you want to do some
serious drawing and digital painting, then it would be worth your while
to get something a bit more robust.

Bamboo Tablets

So let's start by taking a look at the most affordable of Wacom's
tablets, the Bamboo series. These are great tablets if you're a beginner,
hobbyist, or just want a tablet to replace your mouse. They range from
small to medium sizes so they're easy enough to use in small spaces, and
since they're the most affordable of Wacom's tablets, it's the best bet
if you aren't sure if a tablet is for you. The downside though is that
since it's a smaller and less expensive tablet, it doesn't have the
amount of customizable buttons or the same level of pressure sensitivity
as the other tablets, which means you may find it lacking if you're
trying to do more detailed or precise work.

Intuos Tablets

Now let's move on to the middle range tablets, the Intuos series. The
Intuos tablets are probably the most used tablets in the professional
circles, mostly due to their wide range of sizes, from small to extra
large, their high pressure sensitivity and good number of buttons, as
well as their general affordability. It's probably the best bet if you
want something robust that can offer a wide range of uses, from basic
navigating to high detail painting. The only downside really is that you
need the space for the larger Intuos tablets, and the price range goes up
fairly high, depending on the size you get.

Cintiq Tablets

Finally, we'll take a look at the cream of the crop, the Cintiq! These
tablets are unique in the fact that not only are they drawing tablets,
but they're monitors as well! That means you "draw" directly on the
screen, which is pretty awesome, instead of having to get used to the
hand-eye coordination of looking at your scene and drawing on a tablet.
And if you have the desk space, you can use the Cintiq as a second
monitor. It has the same kind of sensitivity as the Intuos. The downside
to the Cintiq though is its price for one thing, they definitely don't
come cheap, and they're also fairly large, which isn't the best solution
for a small work space. Due to the large size, they aren't as portable as
the other tablets which you can easily unplug and take with you to
another computer.

In the end though, the decision on whether or not to buy a tablet, and if
so, which kind, rests with you. It's all about personal preference,
space, and of course, affordability, so be sure to give it plenty of
thought beforehand. You can get more detailed information about the
tablets and their specifications by going to

Setup Tips & Tutorials

Here are some great tutorials on how to set up your tablet for working
with Maya.

Wacom's Youtube Channel

This is Derek Ozbourne's workflow video on how his tablet workflow. It's
about 43 minutes long, so be sure to make some time to watch it. The only
issue is that the audio cuts out from 12:27 - 12:44.

The most important thing to keep in mind when changing from a mouse to a
tablet is to just keep at it. While you may find using a tablet a bit
unwieldy at first, it won't take long before your workflow is back to
full capacity. Plus your wrists will be thankful for the break as well!

And that's about all I have for this week. Thank you for taking the time
to read my post. I hope it's been helpful, and as always, if you have any
comments, questions or suggestions, you're more than welcome to send
either Beau or me a message on AM.

1 comment:

  1. I recently switched to a Monoprice tablet after having used an intuos3 for several years- A full arm and a leg cheaper, and there's no real spec difference besides needing to change a battery once every month or two. Highly recommend.