Graphics tablets are an alternative input device that give you far more control than a mouse or trackpad. As an ergonomic solution for artists and designers, graphics tablets let you “draw” with a stylus or pen, almost as if you were sketching on a piece of paper. Used in conjunction with software that supports graphic tablets, you can create digital drawings, graphics and sketches that are much truer to your artistic sensibilities and dexterity than you could with a mouse.
When shopping for a graphics tablet, there are a few key features to keep your eye on:
Size and Dimensions
Depending on your needs, bigger is better. It gives you more workspace and more room to make detailed drawings. But there are some drawbacks to bigger graphics tablets, the overriding one being price. The bigger the tablet, the bigger the price tag, so it makes sense to have a sense of what your budget is before choosing a graphics tablet size.
Next, you should consider how much desk space you have. Most graphics tablets specifications refer to the drawing area of the pad. How much physical space it takes up on your desk will invariably be a few inches more. Read the box carefully and make sure your desk accommodates the graphics tablet.
Lastly, you may want to consider the aspect ratio. Most screens are either 4:3 or 16:9 (widescreen). While it’s not a requirement that your screen’s resolution match the proportional dimensions on your tablet, it could be handy if you intend to edit in full screen mode, or dedicate an entire monitor to your workspace.
Pen/Styles and Accessories
The pen is important—it should be feel natural and comfortable in your hand, and it should be easy to maneuver across the pad. If it’s a tethered pen, make sure that you can change which side it is tethered on, according to your handedness and any odd angles you might be coming in at. If it’s a wireless pen, be sure to factor in how heavy it will be with a battery. You may be surprised at how light it is in the store, only to realize that it’s a extremely weighty in real life use.
The basic function of pens and styluses is to draw, but fancier ones will have additional buttons that can act like mouse buttons, or they’ll have erase sides. Many digitizing tablets come with additional perks and features on the tablet itself, such as buttons, pen holders and LCD displays to tell you what the custom buttons are assigned to. Look for the features that will be helpful to you while staying within your budget.
Pressure sensitive graphics tablets, when paired with the right graphics editing software, can give you more versatility and control. For example, the thickness of the line could change depending on how hard you push. Look for a graphics tablet with a higher pressure sensitivity. This will also help you avoid broken lines and “dead spots.”
Dropping a few hundred dollars on a peripheral may seem like a lot, but consider this: many of these come bundled with high end pro software. For example, the Wacom Intuos4 comes with Photoshop Elements, which will cost you $60 to $70 off the shelf. Pay close attention to which, if any, software the tablet comes packaged with. If it’s a good one, it may be worth it to spring for that more expensive model.