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Putting pen to tablet


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Putting pen to tablet

4 Aug 2020 9:44AM   Views : 443 Unique : 282


Thereís nothing like getting to grips with a new technique or an unaccustomed piece of equipment for making you think Ė usually beginning with Ďwhy doesnít this thing work the way I want?í

Iíve owned a Wacom tablet for around ten years, and I havenít used it much: I edit with a mouse (though that may be about to change). When I bought it, I did less work on images than I do now, though I still do very little by most standards.

And once again, I am being gently bullied into action by my fellow Critique Team member, Chase, known to her friends as Janet, who does an awful lot of work to bring her still life images together. Therefore, she knows far more about the technicalities, conveniences and comforts of using that tablet.

So, as with my blog on Levels, this isnít a definitive Ďthis is how to do ití guide, but an exploration of issues that probably donít affect seasoned users, and may not have occurred to those who have never bought a graphics tablet.

The first thing is that it feels unfamiliar. My tablet (itís a Wacom Graphire 4) is big and clunky, physically, and the pen is also rather large. I enjoy the physical act of writing with a fountain pen, and the Wacom pen is light but thick by comparison. Itíll feel OK to those who are used to a Mont Blanc piece of jewellery, but itís so different from my slender Cross device. Time will tell whether it is comfortable.


Because of its age, the Graphire has no drivers for Windows 10, and so much of the customisation that you would normally have isnít available. Thereís no pressure sensitivity, no clever shortcuts. Itís like a ballpoint. I hate ballpoints.

But it will allow me to draw lines as I would with a pen or brush, for which a mouse is tricky. Try signing your name with a mouse on Photoshop to find out what I mean.

If it works well, Iíll be updating to a more modern device, I suspectÖ For the moment, I need to practice using it, and work out where to put it (currently, on the left of my keyboard) and how to orientate it. And, despite advice from one YouTuber to throw my mouse away, Iíll not be doing that yet.

All tips and suggestions are welcome, though I reserve the right not to go along with all of them. My aim is to find my way to use the device, as my aim with writing on paper was to find a comfortable personal script: I hated the Marion Richardson script that I was taught at primary school, with no looped letters, and the unbalanced lowercase letter S. My teachers expected strict adherence to the model Ė in looking for an example, I discovered that Ms Richardson herself saw it as a base for people to develop their own style.


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
4 Aug 2020 9:44AM
I had to find some MR script on the web. Here it is:
PaulCox Avatar
4 Aug 2020 10:58AM
As I mentioned in your blog from yesterday about AutoCad, we used to input data with a digitiser which allowed us to very accurately Transfer an older paper drawing onto the computer, then change it with an overlay to input CAD commands. Technology is a wonderful thing.
I also still remember in Junior School the Blackboards with two red and two blue lines, and the exercise books with the same lines printed down the pages, a,c,e,i,m,n,o,r,s,u,v,w,and x all were between the red lines, all other letters had to go either up to the top blue line, or down to the bottom blue one, except for ďfĒ which had to go from top blue to bottom blue. So sorry if this is boring but you do stir a lot of memories in my single brain cell, Oh, and yes writing must be with a Fountain Pen. The single brain cell is now thinking letís find out about a modern tablet input for my Mac, which could be interesting. Paul.
chase Avatar
chase Plus
18 2.6k 684 England
4 Aug 2020 1:33PM
First tip...don't chuck the mouse away !

Pen tablets are so convenient and much more delicate to use than a mouse.
What with learning how to use layers, masks etc and a tablet, my compliments John !
dark_lord Avatar
dark_lord Plus
19 3.0k 836 England
4 Aug 2020 2:52PM
I used a graphics tablet regularly at one time but never replaced it when I got a new computer (Windows 10 issue, as you've found out) though to be fair what I've been doing doesn't need the benefit of a tablet. That could change, though...
saltireblue Avatar
saltireblue Plus
13 14.8k 92 Norway
4 Aug 2020 3:25PM
I have been using a Wacom for the past two years or so for all work on images. I leave the mouse well alone.
As you say, John, it feels very unnatural at first, but I started using it at a time when I had a couple of hundred images from a gig to process, so figured the fastest way to get used to it was to jump straight in at the deep end on a large project. It worked, and I quickly found the optimal way to hold the pen which works for me.

One important thing I found - the correct height for using a mouse ( in relation to shoulder and arm muscles) isn't necessarily the ideal height for a pen. I have the Waom on the pull out shelf where a keyboard normally sits, and the keyboard on the table above it. The height of the chair arm is adjusted to provide ultimate support. I am right-handed, so the keyboard is off-centre to my left so that my left hand does all the keyboard shortcuts.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
4 Aug 2020 5:32PM
I've definitely got some fine-tuning to do, Malc. My Victorian/Edwardian oak table doesn' have a pull-out shelf, though...

I might have to move my computer if there really is a problem. But I never felt the need for a different level in the office, where my time was split between working on paper (with that Cross pen, the last 30 years) and on screen with keyboard and mouse...
saltireblue Avatar
saltireblue Plus
13 14.8k 92 Norway
4 Aug 2020 5:55PM
You may well find that height adjustments aren't needed, John - it is very individual. It was because of the height of my desk top that I had to make adjustments. It's a bit like finding a comfortable driving position in your car, seat up/down, back/forward, steering wheel in/out/up/down...
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
4 Aug 2020 9:05PM
That makes perfect sense, Malc.

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