A graphic tablet is a square stylus pad which plugs into the USB port of a computer or laptop. The graphic tablet comes with a wireless pen and mouse that never need batteries or charging – which is a real relief for anyone who has struggled with charging battery run wireless mice.
A graphic tablet is designed to be able to permanently or temporarily replace the traditional mouse. You can use them for all the navigational reasons that you use a mouse, or you can use the pen on the graphic tablet to write longhand directly onto the computer. (Skip to Makes & Models)
A personal favorite of this site, obviously, is the artistic implications which come with the graphic tablet.
The graphic tablet works directly with any version of Adobe Photoshop, including the newest version: CS4. This allows you to simply plug it in and draw directly on the pressure sensitive pad. The pressure sensitivity allows an artist to put minute details in their digital works.
To the left is a comparison drawing. The entire image was done in Photoshop with a 5 pixel brush, but the left side was done with the mouse and the right side was done with a graphic tablet.
With the pressure sensitive pad, the graphic tablet allows each stroke of the pen to come to a point or to end thick, whichever you prefer. You can draw finely or thickly without having to change the brush, which allows you to write and draw more naturally, which really affects your art for the better.
Makes and Models:
Wacom is the leading making maker of the graphic tablet for the inexpensiveness and durability of their product. Below is a list of a few of the more popular brands and a few details to help you choose the tablet that is right for you.
Bamboo & Graphire Series
There are currently three available Bamboo pads:
Bamboo– designed more for writing than illustration
Bamboo Fun – designed specifically for graphic work
This series is great for the amateur users as it gives the benefits of a graphic tablet while still remaining inexpensive.
The Graphire series tablets have been largely replaced by the Bamboo series, but are still considered a great device by many.
The Intuos series is marketed specifically to professional graphic designers and artists. These are less expensive than the Cintiq series, but maintains the highest specifications of any Wacom device. The Intuos4 (the newest of the Intuos series) is currently the best graphic tablet on the market, with more pressure sensitivity than any of the others.
The Cintiq series are a series of graphic tablet and LCD screen hybrids. They are extremely high quality, professional level screens ranging upwards of $1,000. The Cintiq has more levels of pressure sensitivity and a higher screen resolution than the popular Tablet PCs currently on the market.
The video to the left is a short demonstration of the Cintiq series graphic tablet and LCD screen hybrid.
Alternatives to Wacom:
Amtek, UC-Logic, and Adesso
Check our online store for a wide variety of graphic tablets, including the new tablet PCs.