How much do pen tablets really help?

I saw someone else’s thread in this forum asking advice on what kind of pen tablet to get and it got me thinking about them, especially with 2.43 coming out with sculpting and similar features. How much are you really limited if you don’t have a tablet? Are they worth the hundreds of dollars that they cost? What exactly can’t you do without them?

I frickin love my tablet.

http://zombiedog.spindash.net/monastarymount.jpg
http://zombiedog.spindash.net/konsept.png
http://zombiedog.spindash.net/dinge1.JPG

And for a demonstration of why it’s good with sculpt mode.

http://zombiedog.spindash.net/cliffs.jpg

they kinda bother me, i can’t adjust to watching the screen while drawing on the table, so i’m either gonna wait for a long time and try and get my hands on a cintiq, or i’ma try and make my own. http://www.makezine.com/blog/archive/2006/11/diy_wacom_cinti.html

This might be obvious, but for drawing tasks they are fantastic. If you draw a lot they are well worth the money. For everything else, the mouse is easier - might not be the case with a cintiq.
If you get one, keep your mouse at the ready.

I use it a lot too. Hell, using a mouse for the GIMP feels unatural to me. I havn’t had the possibility to exploit it completely (sharpconstruct tablet support for sculpting and so on) due to lack of time but even for drawing and photoshoping they are great

Pen tablets are a pointing device, just like mice and joysticks. So to answer this strictly: there is nothing a pen tablet can do that a mouse can’t do. But, are they worth the several hundred dollars? I think so. I spent years learning how to draw with a stick in my hand. When I practice drawing (away from the computer) I do it with a stick in my hand. Hell, half of what I know about drawing is stored in my fingers rather than my brain. My pen tab lets me leverage that muscle memory when I’m drawing on the computer.

If you just use Blender, pen tabs don’t have too much of an advantage (yet): vert pushing is vert pushing. But once you get into drawing programs (and Blender is adding painting style features)… well, what BlackBoe and RobCozzens and Edeehem said.

I think you can paint with a mouse if you have the patience. Here’s a painting I did with a mouse only:
http://www.eyephoriadesign.com/fullsizemedia/specialtree.jpg

But I got a tablet later and it does feel more natural than the mouse. So, I say try one of the cheaper tablets first, so you can try it and see for yourself if you like it.

I couldn’t do without my wacom graphire for 2d painting. I miss especially the pressure sensitivity when I have to use a mouse. In Blender the tablet is ok for texture/image painting and sculpting, but I get completely spastic if I try to use it for modeling or animating.

roofoo: That’s an amazing painting for mousework. I think my wrist would be in a sling for months if I tried to do that with a mouse now.

Yeah, one of the advantages of a tablet is the pressure sensitivity. You don’t really get that with a mouse…

If you can draw something good with a pencil it might be good for you. I have two of them, none connected, guess why.

Care to send them my way?

Being able to control brush thickness and/or opacity with the pen pressure should be enough to see the huge advantage. I don’t believe anyone goes back to a mouse after having used a tablet.

Talking about 2D only here.