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Review: Wacom Intuos3 Tablet

A review by The Big Picture's art director.

Big Picture

If you use a mouse, there is a better option: the new Intuos3 tablet series, from Wacom. Available in three sizes"?4 x 5, 6 x 8, and 9 x 12 in."?the Intuos3 is a great alternative for day-to-day use, as well as more complex actions.

For this review, Wacom provided us with a 6 x 8-in. unit. Set-up right out of the box was easy; there are no power cords or extra parts that can get in the way"?one wire connects directly into the USB port on the back of your computer. After connecting the tablet, installing the software (in my case, for OS X) also was simple, and took only a few minutes.

Once the driver is installed, you're ready to go. You can access the control panel for the Intuos3 and adjust the pen pressure, pen tilt, program the pen, map the tablet to the screen, and many other options.

New features

One of the Intuos3's new features: the adjustable ExpressKey buttons on the tablet area. These buttons default to keyboard options such as control, option, command, and the space bar keys. The ExpressKeys require a little extra time to get familiar with if you are already in the habit of using those keys on the keyboard, but they are a good feature; as you become more familiar with them, you can easily use the ExpressKeys for shortcuts that you're familiar with in everyday use"?copying selections, changing brushes, printing, etc.

Located next to the ExpressKeys on the tablet is the new Touch Strip, which is very useful when you need to quickly zoom in to work on fine details, and then zoom out to view your entire document. It's also great for scrolling when you're browsing the Internet. Yet, this great tool can also be frustrating because it's so sensitive. While I was working, I would occasionally rest my hands too close to the TouchStrip and would inadvertently and abruptly change my document view; I would have to take the time to get my view back to the way it was before. Once I became more familiar with this option and just where to rest my hands, this posed less of a problem.

Redesigned pen and tablet area

Other new features on the Intuos3 include:

  • A redesigned pen, which Wacom has increased in size for a more comfortable feel. It still has the programmable buttons that can be set by the user, as well as the eraser option on the top of the pen.
  • A redesigned tablet area that eliminates the option of lifting the plastic cover for tracing"?an example of "improvement by deletion," since the cover could tear or come away after lengthy use.
  • A graphite look that's very clean and sophisticated compared to earlier versions. Wacom also has included a few tutorials on the accompanying CD to help you get started"?particularly helpful if you work with Adobe Photoshop and other design programs. One great tutorial of note is how to use brushes within Photoshop; the tutorial shows you how to take advantage of the pressure-sensitive pen, and explains different options with the brushes themselves. (The tablet also comes with a wireless mouse, a nice addition if you're just not comfortable using a pen for everyday use.)

Advancing your workflow

Wacom's Intuos3 tablet series is a great option if you are feeling frustrated drawing complex curves in Photoshop or simply if your hand is cramping from using a mouse all day. It's so versatile that it can be used in a variety of ways that will assist you in your workflow.

Street prices on the Intuos3 tablets: $199.99 (4 x 5 in.), $329.99 (6 x 8 in.), and $449.99 (9 x 12 in.). The Intuos2 line of tablets is being continued for customers seeking serial connectivity or larger sizes (12 x 12 and 12 x 18 in.). (Wacom: www.wacom.com)

Jaxon Cook is art director for The Big Picture magazine.

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