Unfortunately, internet has very little information for graphic designers, although this profession is one of the most popular, combining many directions from simple 2D graphics to 3D modeling of games and movies.
In this article we will compare graphic tablets – the most important tool of any graphic designer, and determine which one is the best, and why.
What’s wrong with a mouse? What is a graphics tablet for?
For most areas of graphic design, the mouse is as comfortable as the stone.
I have nothing against stones, they have served as an excellent tool for our cave predecessors, but technologies are developing and more convenient devices for creating art appeared. And the graphics tablet has long taken the place of a mouse in the work of graphic designers, providing much more control and accuracy of actions. Due to the pressure-sensitive pen, it becomes more convenient to write, draw, manage a 3D camera in a more natural and familiar form.
TL;DR or the winner, without diving into the details
The most optimal tablets for all novice designers are desktop graphic tablets of the Wacom Intuos family.
They allow you to achieve an absolutely identical result, in comparison with professional models of desktop tablets and Wacom interactive displays, but do not include additional highly specialized features, such as a 3D camera for scanning objects (available on the top model of the MobileStudio Pro Tablet PC) or the ability to work without a computer. This allows the Intuos family to have considerably low cost, having only the basic functions for professional work.
Why do we consider the Wacom brand?
Virtually all graphic designers use Wacom graphics tablets. This brand is so popular that the word Wacom has become synonymous with the word graphics tablet, just as Google has already become synonymous with “searching the Internet.”
Taking into account personal experience and having studied hundreds of video tutorials / reviews / articles on different directions of graphic design, from the basics of drawing and photo editing to modeling objects in 3D and creating animations. I chose several objective selection criteria, which, for most designers, are the most significant, at work.
If you do not agree that these criteria are objective, when selecting the optimal graphic tablet, I will be glad to see your arguments in the comments and take them into account if your criterion has a real impact on the convenience of work or the result.
The necessary criteria for an optimal tablet (which has all the possibilities for professional work):
1. Low price – for most beginner designers this is the most important criterion
2. Limitless – the ability to work in absolutely any direction of graphic design (from drawing to modeling in 3D).
3. Immersion in work – ideal optimization and ideal recognition of casual touches of fingers and a palm while working with a stylus, for the ability to freely lean and lift a palm at any moment.
4. Speed and convenience of operation – the presence of express buttons, with the ability to individually configure the functions for each application.
5. Mobility – the opportunity to work not only from the main workplace.
6. Having a display on the tablet (many do not need it, but some designers prefer having a display)
7. Pen operating on the technology of electromagnetic resonance (does not require charging), and having a low threshold of pressing registration (Initial Activation Force).
What about more expensive Pro models?
The large cost of Pro models of tablet PCs, such as MobileStudio Pro, is based on the availability of a screen and built-in, productive hardware, so if you already have a computer, there is little need in buying a professional tablet PC with a screen and built-in computer. Although it allows you to work outside of the workplace without a separate computer, and its pen has more levels of
sensitivity, you will get an absolutely identical result with the help of Wacom Intuos and Intuos Pro.
The main differences Intuos Pro from Intuos:
– A professional pen that has more levels of touch sensitivity (2048 or 8192, instead of 1024, depending on
the model), and a sensitivity to tilt (not a particularly useful feature for most designers).
– 2 times the resolution of the working surface of the tablet (this gives better positioning on 4K monitors)
– a larger number of express buttons on the tablet and a larger number of interchangeable tips.
– Ability to work with pens of specific properties (Airbrush, sensitive to pen rotation ArtPen, etc.).
– the wireless connection module is included (for Intuos it is also supported, but is purchased separately)
All these additional features are nice, but not necessary. They will not improve your works all by itself.
Tablet PC MobileStudio Pro, in addition to improved characteristics of Intuos Pro, adds:
– built-in computer (with Windows OS) and high-quality display with high resolution, contrast and color settings (75% – 97% Adobe RGB, depending on the model), which allows work without a separate computer
– built-in fingerprint scanner
– 2 conventional cameras and a 3D camera Intel RealSense R200, allowing you to scan objects and recreate their 3D-model.
So, why is Wacom Intuos the most optimal option for most novice designers?
1. The Intuos family has the greatest number of pluses at a very low price.
2. Intuos has all the main opportunities for full professional work in any of the areas of graphic design.
As we have already explained above, the high cost of Pro Tablet PC models is justified by the screen and built-in productive computer. But for beginners, the highest quality result is important for the minimum price, and they already have a computer / laptop, so Wacom Intuos is, in this case, the most rational solution.
Intuos, as well as Intuos Pro, gets half-score on point 5 for the ability to work not at the main workplace, because if you have a laptop or tablet computer with OS and USB input, you can also work anywhere by connecting your Intuos / Intuos Pro.
What about sensitivity levels? Pro models have 2048 or 8192!
Choosing a tablet only by the number of sensitivity levels of the pen is not worth it, it won’t make your art better.
The only thing in which 8192 levels of sensitivity (in Wacom ProPen2 pens) give you an advantage over 1024 levels, is an improvement in sensitivity when drawing very thin strokes, or when you make strokes with a large range of variation, i.e. If you want to have more sensitivity when drawing a stroke with a variable width, for example, from 1px to 250px.
But in reality, such control over the width of the stroke is never needed, usually the width of the brush varies in the range up to 20px – 50px at each time, and 1024 levels of sensitivity gives more than enough control of pressing.
What about cheaper NoName brand tablets?
Save 15%, but don’t get the ideal optimization on all operating systems and discover a lot of bothersome bugs, repulsing any desire to create art after a couple of days of torment. It just does not make any sense.
Even the nearest competitor – Microsoft Surface pro, before the appearance of the 4th model had several problems with the pen (visible parallax, high IAF, curve line during slow outline) and optimization.
What about the iPad Pro, Surface Pro 4 and similar?
I’ve included iPad Pro and Surface Pro 4 in comparison, because some people wonder how much they are comparable to Wacom.
Although iPad Pro and Surface Pro 4 don’t have full-fledged work opportunity in the 3D design, they are quite suitable for 2D design / animation. (Surface Pro 4 is weak for full-fledged work in 3D, even in the most expensive bundle, and iPad Pro doesn’t have OS and programs for working in 3D).
Why these models? They are most worthy options from the category of tablet computers up to $ 700 for work with 2D.
For most designers, neither iPad Pro nor Surface Pro 4 can be called the most optimal graphics tablet, as they are too expensive for many novice designers and are not suitable for designers working with 3D (modeling, sculpting, 3D animation, rigging, creation and testing materials for games / movies / advertising / science projects etc).
In addition, there are several other disadvantages related to the convenience of work, such as slippery glass surfaces (unlike Wacom devices, where the surface has a texture that is similar to paper that most designers prefer), and the lack of individually customizable for each application, express buttons.
Is it really as easy to draw without a display?
Yes, drawing without a display is not really any difficult. Many professional graphic designers don’t see the need for a display. And for those who prefer to work on a tablet with a display, but already have a productive computer, they can choose the family of interactive displays Wacom Cintiq.
Wacom Cintiq has all the advantages of Intuos Pro + quality display, but unlike MobileStudio Pro, they need a computer to work with (connection via USB and HDMI).
“Tablet differences in the Wacom Intuos family”
If you decide to choose Wacom Intuos, I will save you time on comparison.
They go in 2 sizes:
small (working area 152 x 95 mm)
average (working area 216 x 135 mm)
Exception for Intuos Draw, it comes only in small size and doesn’t have a touch layer (but you can rotate and zoom the canvas / 3D camera – it’s done like when using a mouse – by clamping the customized express button (or shortcut) and moving Pen)
Each of them can be used to work in all existing programs. The difference between them, in fact, only in the attached bonus – a license that allows you to purchase one of the programs for free:
Wacom Intuos Draw: ArtRage Lite
Wacom Intuos 3D: ZbrushCore
Wacom Intuos Art: Corel Painter Essentials 5
Wacom Intuos Comic: Clip Studio Paint Pro and Anime Studio Debut 10
Wacom Intuos Photo: Corel PaintShop Pro X8 and Corel Aftershot Pro 2 for Windows, as well as Macphun pro package (tonality pro, intensify pro, snapheal pro, noiseless pro) for Mac.
Diagonal of the tablet
In fact, there is not much difference, and it’s all about preference. The average size is usually convenient for everyone.
If you have a huge screen (more than 27 “), it’s better not to choose a small sized tablet, because working with small details will be a little more difficult (the ratio of the tablet to the diagonal of the screen should not be too large).
There is no perfect solution for everyone at the same time, but if you are a beginner designer with a small budget and don’t know which graphics tablet to choose, but want to get an excellent result and the best first experience with a graphics tablet – the best choice is Wacom Intuos or Wacom Intuos Pro. If you have a 4K display, a higher resolution of the working surface will simplify the work with very small strokes.
I hope this article will clarify the differences between graphic tablets and at least help novice designers.
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