So, how do these two input devices work with the tablet? Well, without going into too much detail, it’s all about electromagnetic resonance technology where the transmission and reception of radio waves between input device and tablet offer both a means of generating power (through resonant coupling) and communicating information. Put simply, a grid of wires under the tablet’s 127.6mm x 92.8mm active area is actually powering the pen and listening for its position, as well as receiving information from the pens in-built pressure circuitry. To throw in a few figures to get a further appreciation of the technology, the grid has an impressive coordinate resolution of 80 lines per millimetre, an accuracy of half a millimetre and a positional report rate of 100 points per second.
Well that’s the end of the science lesson. In practice, it’s clear to see how the technology and these figures ensure that the pen’s motion is smooth and uninterrupted. That said, if you’re like me and have used a mouse for most of your life, be prepared to spend some time unlearning what you have learned, and retraining your hand-eye coordination in order to become proficient with the pen. In the end, it doesn’t take too long to adapt to the tablets small active area, as well as drag-selecting text, and tapping the pen in order to click. As for pressure sensitivity I found the pen needed too much pressure to reach full saturation, but this was at its default setting and you can always adjust the tip feel from soft to firm in the Wacom control panel.
Furthermore, I have to say that using the pen was a little more comfortable over long photo-editing sessions than a mouse. In fact, I was actually moving my whole arm rather than using just my wrist and fingers, which in the long run may well reduce the chance of developing RSI.
I used Adobe Photoshop for most of my testing, and found no compatibility problems, but if you don’t have that Wacom supplies a copy of Procreate Painter Classic to get you started. The tablet also comes with a transparent photo frame which can be removed allowing you to slip a picture underneath it for either tracing or tablet personalisation. The driver CD even carries a selection of appropriately shaped sheets to print and cut out just for this purpose.
All in all, I was a little tentative when I first starting using the Wacom Graphire3 Classic pen tablet, but I eventually mastered it thanks to Wacom’s excellent software and documentation. You could argue that the tablet’s active area is too small, but you do get used to it and for the price you can’t really argue.
Once you’ve been re-educated, the Wacom Graphire3 Classic pen tablet can certainly prove to be a fabulous tool for the graphic artist and photo editor, and for those where mouse related RSI might be an issue, it could well be a valid alternative.