Graphics tablets

So as part of my ongoing hobbyist game programming I’ve realised I need to source some artwork. I’d prefer to draw it entirely myself as that’s the most rewarding thing, but using a mouse is just horrendous. Looking at the array of available graphics tablets it seems that Wacom and Trust are the two major brands.

Normally I’d go ahead and make a purchase based on reviews, comparisons, and which one appears to have the most shiny features, but this time I’d prefer advice from people who use one. Do entry level tablets provide a decent pen to screen ‘translation’ of what you’re drawing, or do I need to spend more? What features should I look for? Is it worth getting bundled software, and if not, what software is good to use with one? What size should I get?

Outright recommendations for a specific make/model are good too!

I’ve had a Wacom Intuos3 for about 6 years now. It’s 6x8 and, zooming in and out on things, I’ve never felt I needed anything bigger. Using a pen takes a little getting used to when you’re used to a mouse, but it really does feel natural. Every point on the tablet matches a point on the screen–that is, if you poke your pen to the top-left corner of the tablet, the cursor jumps to the top-left of your screen. Poke in the middle, and the cursor jumps to the middle. It’s weird at first but entirely natural for drawing and painting.

The pen and eraser are pressure-sensitive to a very fine degree. The pen is also tilt-sensitive, which gives you some interesting brush control in Photoshop. It also came with different nibs for the end of the pen that each had a slightly different tactile feel–I think I use the “pencil” tip these days.

I think the only software mine came with was drivers and a configuration utility. I use the configuration utility to map the tablet buttons to key combinations (ctrl-z, etc.). Otherwise, I mainly just use Photoshop. The tablet also came with a mouse that works on it, but I’ve never bothered to use it much.

For what it’s worth, I bought a $40 tablet from for just about the same reason. I’ve been working on a game with my son and thought a tablet might make it easier to do our own artwork.

It does take some getting used to. The pen feels a bit cheap, but the tablet itself has good resolution and is responsive. I bought the 10x6 and it maps to the screen very nicely. It detects when the pen is close to the tablet surface, so you can hover to move it around like a mouse, then tap to click. To get the pressure sensitivity to work in Illustrator I did have to google around, and I wound up installing a wacom driver first, then the monoprice driver.

In practical use it has helped us quite a bit. I’m a crappy artist but I definitely like it better than the mouse. My son likes sketching on paper and then tracing it with the tablet. My daughter also started using it for more traditional art, and likes it enough that I’m thinking of getting her a “better” one.

Yeah don’t get a big model, I have an A4 Intuos3 (whatever that is in inches) and that thing is very big (A4 is the active surface, there’s a lot of additional space around it) and clumsy to handle. As for brands, I think Wacom is the only one with the battery-less pen technology, so I’d get a Wacom, even if it’s a entry level model.

As for software - Artrage rocks. I think they even have some bundles with Wacom.

Corel Painter is another good software choice, and is about half the price of Photoshop. It can’t do everything photoshop does, but it does have very robust brush and media functionality.

Definitely go wacom, they’re the industry leader for a reason, but unless you’re planning on doing professional work on it, the basic model should be fine for pretty much all your needs

Thanks guys, I appreciate the advice. I’m currently deciding between a Wacom Bamboo Pen & Touch and a Wacom Bamboo Fun Pen & Touch. The difference appears to be colour and bundled software, which is worth considering as I don’t own any professional imaging software. Whether I need any is debatable as I’m not a professional artist!