So you bought yourself a new tablet. Pen tablets are all the rage in the design industry as an extraordinary asset for any designer or artist. Their incredible technology allows artists to have the comfort of traditional pencil to paper methods without all the fussy mess or extra supplies. Whether your new to tablets or just upgrading, getting comfortable with the handling and basics of the tablet is very important to its use.
Old Tablet vs New Tablet
My first tablet was an affordable UC-Logic version purchased at a computer show three years ago. The tablet is 5.5×4 in size with an accompanying ballpoint-like pen and holder. In fact, this setup often confused people at work who would reach for the nearest pen only to discover it had no ink. Although it wasn’t as stylish as the latest tablets on the market, it did its job despite the abuse it encountered. Three years later and you’ll see the pen is covered in teeth marks and taped together from a clumsy accident, which bent the metal securing the battery inside. Both the tablet and pen still work but it was definitely time for an upgrade.
My new tablet is a Wacom Bamboo much sleeker in design to my previous one. The pen is very solid with seemingly no chance of bending from my clumsy design habits, and actually took some time to get used to despite being a previous tablet owner. Firstly, the detection of each pen to the tablet differed slightly. I often found myself bringing the Wacom pen back to the center of the tablet for freer movement and better detection, whereas I had less restricted movement on the UC-Logic grid. However, the red tab at the bottom of the Wacom tablet is a much more convenient addition for portable pen storage by keeping both tools together at all times.
The biggest concern for new tablet owners is getting comfortable to the handling of the device. "How can I see what I’m drawing on the screen if I’m looking at the tablet," is the question I get asked the most from non-owners. So, here are four easy ways to break in your new tablet.
1. Use Tablet For Everyday Browsing
Programming yourself to use a tablet is similar to learning how to type without looking at the keyboard. For the most part you’re looking at the screen the entire time until you take the pen too far from the tablet. One of the best ways to get used to this is to first use your tablet for everything except digital art. Use it to surf the web, highlight text, and scroll up and down a page. Also get familiar with the button on the pen, which can be used to bring up a program’s normal options by right-clicking.
2. Experiment With Settings And Tools
One of the incredible benefits of using a pen tablet is the beautiful artwork that can be created. First make sure the tablet’s driver is properly installed in order to reap the benefits of pen pressure in Photoshop. Pen pressure can only be utilized while using a tablet, otherwise the brushes stay solid without the ability to taper at the end like a pen stroke. Experiment with the brush settings to create custom brushes for your next project. Though tablets are more widely known for their use as tools to draw with in Photoshop, take advantage of using other tools with ease such as the pen, lasso, and slicing tools, amongst many others.
3. Practice Your Signature
Our signature and handwriting is something that stays considerably constant throughout our lifetime. Because handwriting often results in quick, swift strokes, writing in Photoshop is an easy exercise you can do to get used to a new tablet. Practice your signature a dozen times or write a few lines of sentences in order to get comfortable with the tablet’s pen. When I first tried this, I was surprised to feel and see a difference in signature from the old to the new tablet.
4. Start A New Art Project
The best way to improve in any endeavor is to practice, practice, practice. Once you get used to the tablet the next step is to simply dive into a new art project. The first painting I created as practice with the Wacom tablet was a "Ladle of Awesomesauce." Though it looks rather simple, it actually took about 15 hours just because it was my first painting with the Wacom Bamboo. Now that I’m a couple of paintings in, I’ve realized the benefits of upgrading to the new device.
Breaking in your tablet can be a fun experience that enters you into a realm of possibilities with digital art. These simple tricks will make you comfortable with the unfamiliar handling in no time. Good luck!