The Wacom Pen/Tablet That I Swear By

I’m gearing up for my Lightroom seminar in Seattle tomorrow, and I was thinking of just skipping the blog post for today because I’m freakin’ beat. I’ve been shooting sunset and sunrise all week, and busy days of driving or meetings in between. But as I unpacked my bag in the Seattle hotel, I saw my Wacom tablet sitting there. It reminded me that I wanted to write a quick post about it because which tablet I use and why is, oddly, one of the most asked questions I get during my Lightroom seminar of all things.

I’m Writing This From a Photographer’s Perspective
First off, my favorite tablet comes from a perspective of a photographer who’s editing photos. I don’t paint. I don’t draw (although I wish I did). I don’t have any formal or traditional artistic uses of Photoshop. I say that because I think the larger tablets lend themselves better to people who do have traditional art experience. Using a pen/tablet for them, is as much about the feel of painting and moving your hand in large sweeping motions. But if you don’t come from a traditional art background, then you probably don’t have those habits and feelings around drawing.

Bigger Ain’t Better (for me at least)
Here’s how I see it. Bigger isn’t better here. The larger the tablet, the more you’ve got to move your hand and the further it has to travel as you move from one side of your photo to the other. For me, I’d rather just move my wrist. And I’d like to move it as little as possible. So for me, a small tablet works best. I actually used to use a Medium sized tablet and I still have one in my office. But it’s a little too large to travel with, so I started using a small sized tablet for the road. It fits right in my laptop bag and is easy to move around. But the more I travel the more I got used to the small tablet. Eventually, I started using it instead of the medium sized one.

How Does it Work with Lightroom?
Wacom tablets work great with Lightroom. The main advantage is the pressure sensitivity you get when using the Adjustment Brush. Rather than just blasting a full sized brush at everything, you can press harder or softer to control how much of whatever adjustment you’re brushing on.

I Use A Tablet for Everything Because I Just Like The Overall Feel Of It
During the course of the day, I’ll not only have a lot of people asking which tablet I’m using on stage but I’ll also have people ask if I use a mouse when I’m not in Photoshop or Lightroom. I personally don’t. I just like the overall feel of using a tablet. For me, whether I’m retouching in Photoshop, moving sliders in Lightroom, surfing the web or writing a word document, I feel faster and more accurate with the pen and tablet.

So there’s my feelings on the tablet that I use. I think as a photographer, the smaller tablets tend to work better. I do know a lot of people that use the Medium sized ones too and, honestly, they’re not that much larger than the small. If you’re always at a desk and not moving around much, then a medium sized one is a good bet as well. Either way, I swear by my tablet and using a mouse these days just feels awkward. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great weekend!

  • Tom Peterson

    I agree about using the tablet and pen rather than a mouse. When I first got a Wacom tablet I figured I’d be using it for photography only (PS CS6 and LR4). With the addition of touch and gestures I use it for everything 99% of the time. Even writing this, the pen is still in my hand as I type. I’ve found that committing to the tablet to be the best way to get good at it.

    I use a dual screen setup and just programmed one of the keys to allow me to bounce back and forth between them.

  • Mary Fitzgerald

    I have a question regarding the use of a tablet. I am left handed but use my right hand for the mouse. I’m sure I would find it awkward to hold the “pen” with my right hand but can’t imagine changing my “mouse hand” to my left. Have you had anyone mention this before?

  • Dennis Zito

    Hey Matt,

    Hope you’re enjoying Seattle! I currently use a medium Wacom tablet, which by the way you recommended back when Intous 4 came out. I love it! I use mine every day for photoshop and lightroom stuff. Photographs mainly. I have a question for you regarding tablet and lightroom. For some reason, just the slightest movement on the tablet makes the slider in lightroom move way too far. I can’t get precise movement. It drives me crazy. I don’t have this problem when I use ACR in CS6. I have all the tablet settings set the same for ACR CS6 as I do in Lightroom 4.1. Any ideas how I can fix this slider movement? Brushes work just fine in Lightroom, but moving the sliders is nerve racking.

    Have a Great time in Seattle!


    • Matt Kloskowski

      Hey Dennis – I’m not sure. I don’t have the slider problem so it’s hard to trouble shoot. Have you tried contacting Wacom? They’re really good about customer service.

  • dougsundseth

    I notice you’re using the Intuos. I like the Medium Intuous 4 that I have at work but I’ve thought of buying a Bamboo for home, since I don’t really need the tilt detection. Are there any other big negatives that you know of for a photographer?

  • Dave Blackwell

    Matt…could you post how you have the express keys setup for Photoshop & Lightroom on the Intuos tablet. It would help some of us just starting out on the tablet to use it like those of you longtime tablet users and not to stumble around “reinventing the wheel”…so to speak.

    • Matt Kloskowski

      Honestly, I don’t use the express keys. I just like the feel of a tablet and pen. I forget what the keys do when I set them up so I’ve just stopped using them :)

  • Mike Bowen

    Thanks for the great seminar today, in Seattle. It was me first Kelby course and went very well. I wish it would have been longer. Thanks for answering me questions about camera profiles and presets. Hope you enjoyed your time in the Northwest. It was also great meeting you in person.

    • Matt Kloskowski

      Hey Mike. Thanks so much for coming out to the seminar. I had a blast and it was a great crowd. No problem on the questions :)

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  • Christin McLeod

    I can’t tell you how glad I am to have come across this review. I’ve been researching which size to get and everyone has their own opinion, of course, but they’re all conflicting. It has only served to confuse me more. But I’ve been to your seminar and I love your work and watch your videos on Kelby Training and NAPP, so I feel I’m getting an informed review…finally!. I didn’t even know if the other people were photographers. My mind is at ease and I’m so excited for next Tuesday when I will be the proud new owner of a small Intuos5!!! Thanks a million, Matt!

  • Witta Priester

    Hi Matt, Is there somewhere to download an Intuos 5 tablet setup for Lightroom 4; it could be a great starting point. Thanks

  • Sandeep Sulakhe

    Hey Matt , thanks for this article. Just what I was looking for.

    I have a question about the size. You suggested the small size wacom for photo editing to avoid large hand movements. However won’t that lead to cursor jump(and maybe reduced accuracy) if used on a large monitor with high resolution? I read about it in below article, and it has got me in a fix because I had more or less finalized on getting a small inutos pen & touch.

    • Matt Kloskowski

      Hey! You’re very welcome. Glad it helped. Go with the Small. If you research enough you’ll paralyze yourself into not making a decision. I have the largest Apple display they make and it’s plenty accurate.
      Good luck! :)

      • Mark Verlaecke

        Hi Matt! Thanks for this comment. You just saved me about a week of research time :-D

  • Illona Haus

    thanks, Matt. as a full-time pro, i spend up to 10-12 hours a day editing. i’ve had a larger Wacom for the past five years but have gradually stopped using it because of the size … just floundering across too much real-estate. on the verge of moving to the smaller Wacom and am encouraged to hear your findings. thanks for sharing!

  • Göran Elmertoft

    Thanks for the tip. My mouse is soon in the garbage.

  • Stephen Soukup

    Matt. The link for your fav tablet is no longer working. Which one do you prefer now in their new lineup as this post was a little while ago. I have LR5 and Elements 12. Dont want to spend too much but hear a tablet is great for phot editing. thanks

  • Indulis Bernsteins

    I have to agree re the small tablet- I bought the medium but it takes too much arm movement to do many things on the screen (e.g. going from top LR menu bar to filmstrip at bottom of screen). I have remapped my tablet to only use a portion of the pad area, and it works a lot better. So, if you are a photographer, the small tablet is the one to go for I think. Medium and large are better for other types of work.
    And yes, it is worth the money, the difference from using a mouse is incredible!