Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Look at the Wacom Intuos 4 Tablet

In prepping my upcoming Painter 11 title, I've been creating some graphics relating to the Intuos tablets.

Here is how I've currently got my Intuos4 set up. I've included a shot of the tablet surface so you can see how the OLED displays work:

Intuos4 UI

I've got 2 variations for brush resizing: The TouchRing is set up to resize in 2-pixel increments (a 1-pixel setting is good, as well). This control works well for fine detail work where small brush size changes are desired.

The OPT + CMD (Win: ALT + CTRL) button is used to invoke the adjustable brush size indicator. This is used for large brush size changes.

As you can see, I'm currently limiting the use of the TouchRing to 2 functions: Brush Resizing and Undo/Redo. I use these so much that I doubled them so that I'm only one click away from either function. And, to be honest, there aren't a lot of continuously variable controls available in Painter. Another option would be zooming. Painter 11 now restricts zooming to standard increments (5/10/25/33/50/66/75/100/200/300/400%. etc)—which is a good thing in my opinion. These zoom increments provide the best resized image quality as they are integers that minimize the jaggies at these zoom levels.

Here's how I have my Intuos3 set up:

Intuos3 UI

This layout uses the same controls as the Intuos4, just mapped according to the Intuos3 surface.

I arrived at this layout after a lot of adjustments over time.

Because the Intuos3 doesn't have built-in labels, I created some that I applied to my tablet with 2.5" clear packaging tape.

You can download a correct-sized PDF of my labels here:

John's Intuos3 Labels.

I've got both left- and right-handed versions on the sheet.

Regarding the pens, the Intuos3 pens are not compatible with the Intuos4. Right now, the Intuos4 version of the 6D Pen is not yet available, and it will be an added expense for Intuos4 owners when it becomes available.

The extended pressure range is very noticeable and offers significant sensitivity enhancement. Those extra levels provide a much more tactile stroke and control at thin mark-making widths. There is a "Precision Mode" available (if you want to assign a key to it) that temporarily increases the tablet resolution. The effect is one of slowing the pen stroke down for very fine control.

The Intuos4 can be set up for left or right hand orientation. I'm left-handed, so I have the control surface on the right side of the tablet. There are 2 USB mini ports so that you will always have the cable located at the upper left or right edge of the tablet, which is the way you'll want it. The OLED displays flip for whichever orientation you've chosen.

Another feature that I've not yet gone into depth is the Radial Menu. This is a configurable onscreen menu that is triggered by a button on the tablet surface or the pen barrel. These menus float over any current onscreen imagery.

Here is the default Radial Menu:

Intuos3 UI

The top menu is the initial menu. It can be set up to have functions in all 8 pie slices.

The menus with the arrows near the center have a secondary menu, shown at the bottom of the above image.

Again, all of the commands can be programmed. In theory, you can have any number of sub-menus. Theoretically, most of Painter's commands could be organized in the Radial Menu's organizational structure.

Here's a look at a simple Radial Menu that I set up with some Painter commands. I invoked it over a painting so you can see how it looks in a working environment:

Intuos4 UI

Overall, I think the Intuos4 is a significant evolutionary step for Wacom. The configurable OLED labels point the way to future products. The enhanced pen sensitivity is very obvious—at least in Painter.


1 comment:

  1. Hey John, this is "that Scandinavian upgrade sucker". :-) I'm now taking your excellent Painter X course at, and stopped by your site to see if you had any plans for Painter 11 -- an upgrade which I bought tonight (I've been on 8 forever) -- and yes indeed, I'm glad to see you're planning a Painter 11 course, too, which I'm looking forward to. And since I've been eyeing the new Intous4, I was happy to read your blog post on that. Thanks for all your continued great Painter-community work!