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Wacom Intuos4 Review By Stephanie Of Obsidian Dawn
Here's a review of the just released Wacom Intuos4 Pen Tablets by our good friend Stephanie of Obsidian Dawn fame. She's a professional artist who uses a pen tablet in her work, which includes the creation of some enormously popular Photoshop brushes. You can see her work on our Obsidian Dawn Photoshop brushes page.
Intuos sure has come a long way over the years.
I can still remember when I purchased my very first Intuos tablet. It was a clunky, blue Intuos2. Of course, I didn't think so at the time. Back then, it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Now, I can't help but think how immensely archaic it was, compared to this magnificent piece of technology sitting before me. I speak, of course, of Wacom's Intuos4.
The first obvious improvement is the design of the Intuos4. It is thinner, sleeker, and has a dulled black surface on most of it, which will help to not show every single fingerprint like the shiny Intuos3 did. The movement with your hand and arm doesn't feel as "slippery" with this surface, either. It all feels very natural.
With the introduction of the Touch Strips in the Intuos3, there was one slight downfall. The keys were located on both sides of the tablet, and were quite easy to brush against and "trigger." I had the ones on the right side of the device shut off due to this problem with the design (I'm right-handed... those lefties out there had the same problem, but in reverse).
What a waste of what could have been some very useful keys on the right side of the tablet! However, Wacom has fixed this with the Intuos4. Two sets of ExpressKeys are all on the same side of the tablet. Which side depends on you. You can set the Intuos4 up for left-handed or right-handed use. For that matter, you can set it up for landscape or portrait use, as well.
These ExpressKeys, by the way, are immensely useful. Any of you that have spent much time in Photoshop know that keys like ALT, CTRL, the Mac key, etc. are all crucial to using the program with any kind of efficiency. You can set up these keys to be a keystroke, a modifier (SHIFT, CTRL, etc.), or any of several various functions. And you can have them be different in each program or the same in all programs.
Whatever you have the ExpressKey set up for will show up in a luminescent display beside the button. So, there's no more forgetting what you set your keys to. Unfortunately, you can't seem to copy these settings from one program to another, but this is only a minor inconvenience.
The Intuos4 TouchRing
As useful as the ExpressKeys are, they don't come close to the love that I have for the TouchRing. The TouchRing is located between the two sets of ExpressKeys, and can be used for various things. It defaults to zooming in and out. However, with a few touches of that middle button, it can be made to function so that it cycles between Photoshop's layers, changes brush size, or even the canvas rotation (only in Photoshop CS4+).
As a painter, I used to have some of those ExpressKeys set to "+" and "-" so that I could change the brush size with the tablet, taking up two very vital keys for something that is solved so effortlessly with this TouchRing.
For many of us, these features alone will make the Intuos4 worth it. No more switching back and forth between the tablet and keyboard. There should be enough buttons to cover just about all of your most-used functions, located right there on the Intuos4 tablet.
The Intuos4 is twice as sensitive as the Intuos3 was, with 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity. And let me tell you, it shows. Specifically, it took 10 grams of pressure for the Intuos3 to begin sensing the pen tip. The Intuos4 requires only 1 gram of pressure, and has so many more levels overall that it visibly shows when you paint a stroke. Pen strokes are much steadier and smoother.
The Intuos4 Pen
The pen has also been redesigned, but still works just about the same. It's cordless, has a pen tip on the front and an eraser on the back. However, the pen stand not only holds the pen, but also houses 10 extra pen tips for your use - just twist it open. Each tip feels a bit different, so be sure to check them out.
Wacom Control Panel
Not a whole lot has changed here. Setting your tablet and pen configurations are very similar to the way they have been in the past. The Wacom Control Panel provides application-specific settings for the ExpressKeys and TouchRing, as I mentioned previously. There is now a display toggle setting, for use with multiple monitors. It also features a "precision mode," which slows down the cursor motion for improved control.
When you activate it, it makes the pen much more sensitive, so that you move your hand a lot more but get less movement on the screen. It's great for getting into those small spaces and working with precise movements.
Bundled Third Party Software
Rather than a CD that contains the extra, bundled software, you will receive a key that allows you to download it from their website. Extra software available are Nik Color Efex Pro 3 WE6, Wacom Brushes 3, and two of the following: Adobe Photoshop Elements (Mac or PC version), Autodesk Sketchbook Express, or Corel Painter Sketch Pad.
It must be obvious by now that I'm quite happy with the Intuos4. The TouchRing is wonderful, having the ExpressKeys all on one side is a huge improvement, and the illuminated display makes using those ExpressKeys just that much easier.
The ability to program most shortcuts you'll ever need into the ExpressKeys, removing the need for one hand to constantly be switching back to the keyboard, makes this tablet worth it for me, regardless of all the other perks. A lot of the improvements are just in the basic "feel" of its use, and can't even be explained. So, you'll just have to check it out for yourself!
The sizes are a bit more ambiguous this time, so here's the active area of each:
Wacom Intuos4 Pen Tablet — Small ($229 SRP) — 8.2 x 12.2 x 0.5 inches - 1.5 lbs
ACTIVE AREA — 157.5mm x 98.4mm, 6.2" x 3.9"
Wacom Intuos4 Pen Tablet — Medium ($369 SRP) — 10 x 14.6 x 0.5 inches - 2.2 lbs
ACTIVE AREA — 223.5mm x 139.7mm, 8.8" x 5.5"
Wacom Intuos4 Pen Tablet — Large ($499 SRP) — 12.6 x 18.7 x 0.6 inches - 4 lbs
ACTIVE AREA — 325.1mm x 203.2mm, 12.8" x 8.0"
Wacom Intuos4 Pen Tablet — Extra Large ($789 SRP) — 18.2 x 24.5 x 1.1 inches - 7.8 lbs
ACTIVE AREA — 462mm x 304.8mm, 18.2" x 12.0"
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Photoshop CS3 Tutorial High Dynamic Range
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