Wacom for Beginners – Which Tablet Should I Buy?

When I was starting out drawing digital cartoonists, I asked myself “What’s a good Wacom for beginners?” – the answer was simple: “I’ve got nooo idea”. With so many tablets for sale in today’s market, it can get confusing for people who want to start digital cartooning.

So which Wacom should you use? For beginners, even the cheapest of Wacom’s tablets will do a great job. However, I am going to go through four of Wacom’s product types that are commonly used for digital art:

  • The Intuos (Pen Tablet)
  • The Intuos Pro (Pen Tablet)
  • The Cintiq (Pen Display)
  • The Mobile Studio Pro (Pen Computer)

 

A Pen Tablet is a blank, responsive surface that the artist draws on with a stylus. Whatever the artist draws will appear on their computer monitor. The tablet needs to be connected to a computer

A Pen Display is an actual flat screen monitor that the artist draws directly onto their digital artwork – combining a tablet and monitor into one! The Pen Display needs to be connected to a computer.

A Pen Computer is a portable display with a built in computer – Here Wacom is being really fancy, because Pen Computers combine the tablet, monitor AND computer into one device! Yussss!

These devices range from cheap (a hundred bucks) to exorbitantly expensive (thousands of dollars). Let’s talk about them!

 

Wacom for Beginners Option 1:

Wacom Intuos  (Entry level for beginners)

This website is aimed at beginners wanting to get into cartooning, so I am going to give the most attention to Wacom’s el cheapo entry level tablet – the Wacom Intuos.

Yes, this is Wacom’s budget option, but if I had to describe the Intuos tablet in two words, it would be:

‘Good’ and ‘Enough’

Yup, the super cheap Wacom Intuos tablets are good enough. Seriously. They have many of the great features found in the more expensive models, such as:

 

Pressure Sensitivity

This is one of the most important features needed to create good illustrations. Pressure Sensitivity means that the thickness of your brush strokes will change depending on how hard (or how soft) you push down on the tablet while drawing. There are 4,096 pressure levels available on this model – I think that’s pretty impressive.

Two Buttoned Stylus

These are two customisable buttons ergonomically placed near the bottom of the Wacom stylus – kind of like a left click, right click setup.

Express Keys

These are buttons that have been built in to the tablet, which you can customize to suit whatever keyboard shortcuts you need to help you with your drawing. Personally, I like to disable these keys as quickly as possible. I reeeeallllly don’t dig this feature cos when I’m drawing, my big, fat hand often ends up pushing a button that I didn’t want pushed L Poor me.

Track Pad

This is when you can pretend that your Wacom tablet is a laptop trackpad – impress your friends and family by dragging your finger over the tablet while going “whoosh! look at me! I’m a mouse!”… Okay, serious now: I disable this feature as well. Not a huge fan J but if you think this is something you would find useful, then it’s included for you to enjoy!

 

Compared to the larger and more expensive Wacom tablets, the Intuos tablets only come in two sizes: small and medium.

  • The drawing area on the small Intuos is 152mm x 95mm (6.0in x 3.7in)
  • The drawing area on the medium Intuos is 216mm x 135mm (8.5in x 5.3in)

 

Now if you’re worried that you won’t be able to create large artworks with these sizes, simply zoom out whenever you need more room to draw and the intuos will have you covered.

 

Alrighty, let’s summarise!

 

Who should use a Wacom Intuos?

The Wacom Intuos tablets are perfect for anybody who is new to illustration and would like to test the waters to see if digital illustration is a hobby that they would like to pursue.

The Good:

  • The Intuos models are low price and therefore low risk – if you decide that digital illustration isn’t for you, then you’re only out of pocket $100.
  • Includes all the important features such as pressure sensitivity, two buttoned stylus, express keys and trackpad functionality.
  • Even the cheapest of Wacom’s tablet will give you great results

The Bad:

  • The resolution is not as accurate as the more expensive models. The Intuos models have a 2540 LPI resolution, which is considerably lower than other models. I sometimes find myself having to attempt a line several times because it just isn’t as smooth as what I have experienced with the Intuos Pro Medium.

Ooh… speaking of Intuos Pro Medium… Let’s talk about the Intuos Pro range next!

 

Wacom for Beginners Option 2:

Wacom Intuos Pro Range (Professional Level but reasonably priced)

First thing’s first: This is currently my favourite Wacom product.

If the Wacom Intuos is good enough, then the Wacom Intuos Pro is flippin’ fantastic! As mentioned above, I find that the resolution on the entry level Intuos is a bit low. However, the Intuos Pro has double the resolution at 5,080 LPI. In other words, your desired brushstrokes will be quicker and easier to achieve.

This tablet also has double the pressure sensitivity with 8,192 pressure levels – yes, that’s a pretty number, but I find myself writing home about the 5,080 resolution more than anything else 🙂

Now I’ve already mentioned pressure sensitivity, the two buttoned stylus, express keys and track pad…but I’m yet to mention tilt support! Now I wouldn’t say that tilt support is as important as pressure sensitivity – but I will describe it as being more like the cherry on top. There are some brushes in graphics programs (like Photoshop) that will simulate natural brush properties – and tilt support will allow for the user to get the most out of these brushes. For example, if you’re using a brush that simulates a pencil, you will be able to tilt your stylus to shade in a greater area – just like a real pencil.

The Intuos Pro is more expensive but it is also definitely better than the Wacom Intuos in achieving more accurate brushstrokes.

Also, for what it’s worth, the Intuos Pro just feels like a very high quality product – the finish, the colour, the appearance and the weight always makes me feel that I’m playing with luxury!

 

Who should use a Wacom Intuos Pro?

The Wacom Intuos Pro tablets are perfect for more experienced digital artists who require high levels of accuracy and control in their illustrations

 

Wacom for Beginners Option 3:

Wacom Cintiq Range (Professional and raaather expensive)

In recent years, many professional cartoonists, illustrators and concept artists have made the switch to Cintiq tablets. These tablets are actual display monitors that the artist is able to draw directly on to. As a result, the Cintiq is quite a big step up in price from the Intuos Pro.

Some artists struggle to draw on a regular tablet while simultaneously looking at the image appear on their monitor. The Wacom Cintiq fixes this problem because the tablet IS the monitor, so you’re drawing directly onto your artwork!

 Who should use a Wacom Cintiq?

Artists who struggle to draw on a regular tablet while looking at their monitor. However, before you drop a whole lot of money on a Cintiq, I suggest you practise getting used to ‘drawing blind’ while looking at your monitor – it may eventually become second nature!

 

Wacom for Beginners Option 4:

Wacom Mobile Studio Pro (Ooooh laa dee dah my tablet is a computer too!)

Okay this is getting too fancy now – the purpose of discovercartooning.com is to help beginner cartoonists, but here I am talking about the super duper Bruce Lee 5000 drawing machine. Yes, these are very expensive. But if you don’t own a computer or laptop, then you may find this option useful.

Mobile Studio Pros don’t require connection to a computer and each model comes with the following:

  • Solid State Drive
  • Graphics Card
  • RAM
  • Intel Core

Sizes and speed vary depending on price.

 

Who should use a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro?

Artists who don’t own a computer could use this as an all in one device. It is essentially a Windows 10 computer. Also, artists who need to travel a lot would find this to be the best option to fit in with their lifestyle.

 

Conclusion:

Are you new to cartooning and digital art? If yes (and after all the stuff you’ve just read about fancy tablets), then I seriously recommend that you start with the humble Intuos tablet. It may not be as exciting as the other models, but it has everything you need to create great cartoons.

 

If you find yourself two years later still using it every day, then feel free to commit to an Intuos Pro, Cintiq or even a naughty little Mobile Studio Pro!

Or maybe you’re cashed up to the max – in that case, buy whatever you want right now! However, there is one thing that I haven’t mentioned yet – the secret that will make you a better cartoonist…

 

Practice. I always say this – drawing a little bit every day on a scrap Post-it note or an old envelope will work wonders for your development. Study other artists, learn the fundamentals, practise shading, contrast and get confident with your line work. Practise drawing a little bit every day. After a few months, you will be able to create great cartoons on ANY Wacom product!

 

Happy Drawing!

Malcolm Monteith

Melbourne, Australia

 

 



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