FreshArrival » Blog Archive » Wacom Bamboo Tablet.

Wacom Bamboo Tablet.

by Chris Coyier

Back in college I remember we had big ol’ Wacom tablets at every computer in the graphics lab in a little slide-out drawer underneath the table. I was a bit afraid of them at the time, since I didn’t fancy myself as much of a pen-and-pad artist. But over the past few weeks I’ve been testing the new Wacom Bamboo tablet and I believe I’m a convert.

The thing I want to stress the most is just how natural it feels to control your cursor with your pen and the tablet. I liken the experience to the first time I played the Wii. On the Wii you can control and navigate menus with a cursor just by pointing the controller around and it takes about half a second to get used to how it works. Same thing with the Wacom tablet, just move the pen around a little bit and you are instantly comfortable with how it controls. There are many different settings to tweak the control. Most notably is Pen Mode vs. Mouse Mode. The former maps the size of the tablet onto your screen, so tap the upper left of the tablet and your mouse is moved the upper left of the screen, etc. The latter allows movements on the tablet to simply influence where the cursor should be moved, so if you tap the upper left the tablet and move right, the cursor will simple move to the right of wherever it currently is. I prefer Mouse Mode as it is less jumpy, but there are merits to both.

Besides the nice slightly textured tablet surface, there are four buttons and a scroll area on the unit. The four buttons are configurable by a control panel. I set mine up specifically for cutting clipping paths in Photoshop, with one of the buttons as the Space Bar for panning around, one of the buttons as the Command Key for moving points, one of the buttons as the Option Key for moving around handles and the last button as “Back” (as in web browser “Back”). It has been working out beautifully. The scroll area is finger sensitive (the tablet is not) and can be set up either to zoom or to scroll. I have mine set up for scrolling for web purposes. The pen itself also has a few configurable buttons right on the side of it. It seems like there could be some useful settings for this, but I found myself accidentally pressing them too much so I turned them off.

pensettings.png

All Wacom tablets are primarily built for graphics applications like Adobe Creative Suite. There is a bit of a learning curve as far as having the tablet actually increase your productivity and make you a better artist, but it’s not too bad. In the span of only a few weeks, my tablet has a permanent home on my desk and will be picked up every time I switch to the Pen Tool or the Brush Tool inside any Creative Suite program.

Wacom tablets aren’t just a glorified way to control your mouse though, they actually provide a new input that is completely unavailable to your keyboard and mouse, pressure sensitivity. The Bamboo sports 512 levels of pressure sensitivity. This allows you to control all kinds of different things within Photoshop, for example opacity, flow, and scattering.

penpressure.png

I have heard some complaints about the tablets not working particularly well through USB hubs. Mine even had some trouble at first through my hub but now seems to be fine…not sure how that happened. They are also reports of the pressure sensitivity being a bit flaky and going in and out.

The Bamboo actually comes in three different setups: the regular black Bamboo in small, the Bamboo Fun small, or the Bamboo Fun medium. The Fun models come in different colors as well as with a wireless mouse. Both are of equal quality. You might be surprised to see how economical these tablets have become. Amazon is selling the Bamboo at a discounted $58.74 right now, click below for the link.

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2 Responses to “Wacom Bamboo Tablet.”

  1. Matt Says:

    I bought a Wacom a year or so ago, 4X5 incher. It’s really nice, I just wish I had more time to play with it. Honestly though, I think I paid a whole lot more than the price you just linked.

  2. Paul Bunker Says:

    i got the wacom bamboo for x-mas. but the back button goes back twice whenever i click it. and i have to repetedly click the eye icon to get it to stay off or on in photoshop. and dropdown menus are a pain! :( i have a love hate relationship with my tablet today. but i hope to find a cure for my issues.