Tablet for painting?

I’ve been pushing this idea around for a while, to purchase a table to ease the pain of manual painting with the mouse. However there are many question marks that I would like to have clarified so I can make an educated decesion.

  • Now I’m painting using Gimp. How does a tablet change the creation process of a image texture? I’m not painting to illustrate but for detailing textures.
  • How do you use your tablet in the context of painting textures?
  • Is my assumption, that a tablet would make my work easier correct? Are there other alternatives?
  • What tablet can you suggest?

Are you talking about a drawing tablet with or without an LCD screen?

  1. It will allow you to use actual brushes more in the creation if your textures instead of relying on compositing images. Scratches, dents, dirt, little touches, etc will be easy to just paint in. You’ll manually be making changes you wouldn’t have otherwise attempted at all, or that you’d use a very complicated process for earlier. Also, masking will be much easier and faster.
  2. Isn’t this the same question? :stuck_out_tongue:
  3. Nope. None. Except using the mouse of course. Which is no alternative at all.
  4. There have been many threads on this already, one of them very recent, I suggest you read it. But in short: get a small or medium Wacom.

Yes and no. I wanted to know you use the tablet in your day to day business. Something like this:

  • Mapping out the UVs
  • exporting them
  • switch over to my tablet start painting this and that
    Stuff like this, while Question 1. was kind of abstract, I want to get the feel of the process how it is applied, might as well be by using a concert example.
    The point that I have problems to wrap my mind around is:
  • Do you use the tablet as an input device for Gimp/PS/… on your PC
  • Or do you do the work on the two different devices?
    I will check out the other threads.

It completely replaces your mouse if you’re doing it right :wink:

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I’m confused now, about what exactly you mean by tablet. Is it tablet as in Intuos, or tablet as in iPad?
An Intuos I would plug into my PC and paint in Gimp/PS… on my PC. An iPad is a different device, though I wouldn’t use an iPad to paint textures, unless you prefer to go sit in the park to do that.
Unless again, you intend buying something like a Cintiq which has a built in screen?

Personal workflow? It goes something like this:
Make messy hipoly. If this is a sculpt, I use the tablet for sculpting of course.
Retopo to something sane. I prefer the tablet for retopo, but mouse for general modelling. IMO tablet is not so good at making selections in Blender, but YMMV.
Bake AO/normal/displacement/cavity, etc
Composit bakes with textures in Gimp, tweak/paint with tablet until satisfied.

Since the tablet is just a glorified pointing device, you can’t use it without a pc (it has no internal cpu, or memory, or graphics, or screen… except the really expensive ones. Those have a screen.), so I’m not sure what you meant by working with different devices.

Edit: Oh, you meant an iPad or something like that. Don’t. Even if you cobble together some solution to use them as a pointing device or get a painting app for them they don’t have any pressure sensitivity and the precision is generally very bad compared to an Intuos, so they’re generally useless in graphics.

Edit2: There are some Tablet PCs with Wacom digitizers that might be ok for the job, but be sure to test them in person before you buy one. They’re quite expensive and rare.

Thanks so far. I might be back with more questions, once I looked around.

I have a Wacom Intuos 3 for my PC and also a Bamboo that I use with my laptop because it’s more portable than the Intuos. I use both mouse and pen all the time. I prefer the mouse for precise positioning of points such as verts in Blender or control points in vector graphics or the polygonal lasso tool in Photoshop. I prefer the pen/tablet for anything that requires smooth movement such as sculpting in blender or painting with a brush/eraser in Photoshop or the regular lasso tool. So in almost everything I do (in graphic work) I’m constantly changing back and forth between them.

Wacom (intuos 4) works good with both Blender and Gimp, but there is currently an bug in Gimp, with spikes of the pen movement.
(solved in upcoming release(s) and there are temporary version with fix available: [SOLVED] [GIMP] Pentablet + GIMP problem)

Downside of pen tablet:
No scroll wheel… so for 3D work it isn’t always functional.

Personally I prefer working with the tablet for painting only. (Inkscape/Gimp/Sculpting/…)

For the rest:
Pen Tablets really eases the load on your hand and increase performance/production.
A pen is easier to use due to it’s nature, it does influence the required angle of your hands less, resulting in more natural motions. With a pen you won’t need a mouse any more to make natural flowing angles and strokes.
It is like painting on canvas,. or using markers on paper,… much better!

Well, not quite like painting on canvas. It takes a great deal of practice to start hitting the lines you want with a tablet since you can’t see where you’re drawing and therefore can’t use your hand-eye coordination like you would with paper. It’s like drawing with a blindfold on, taking it off between the individual strokes you make. That’s the reason I always make an initial sketch on paper with pen and markers before I scan it in and take it into GIMP. I’d probably love a Cintiq, but I can’t afford one, lol. But a tablet is still a huge step up from a mouse.

Its better you will like it. I do not miss the scroll wheel at all wacom has a scroll pad thingy. It does take a little time to get use to. Your amazing if you can draw with a mouse.
One thing about Wacom is parts. For wacom 3 I can find screen cover ( but many things work, paper glass, plastic) . My pen it 70 dollars US and you cant take it apart to dry after Hannah the destroyer puts it in your coffee.

As all above said it depends on Your needs and true painting/sculpting skills. I use Wacom Intuos4 M currently, mostly for painting and photo processing, although I’ll use it for sculpting soon, recently used the mouse to get familiar with the process. Some things need practice with the mouse first and then You will switch to the tablet. Every artist findsown way of developing their work. You may read that subjective review to find some answers.

It’s just an extra input device. Keyboard, Mouse, and Intuos 4 Tablet are on my desk. If I’m drawing, painting, or sculpting I’ll use the keyboard with the tablet. For modeling, uv mapping, animating I’ll use the keyboard and mouse. I use whatever one makes sense for what I’m doing at the time.

Here is a demo - not all tablets let you use your finger like this one does.


Here’s my complete answers for you, though these are just my opinion:

1. With a tablet, you are better able to control details on texture that feel more organic. One good example is scratches and scars on a diffuse map for on a character’s face, which can look rather rigid if you use a mouse in trying to create (unless you’re just that good with a mouse, but still, it’s a whole lot more natural and easier to use a tablet). A tablet not only makes the creation process feel a whole lot better, but it also can save you a lot of time (how many times have you had to redraw that letter “P” on a sign texture with a mouse? Get it done once with a natural pen tablet). Though, a bit of a caution: when you buy a tablet, don’t expect it to be exactly like drawing with a real pen–it’s not a true 1:1 experience to actual pens, for the most part.

Basically, it’s a tool that offers to mimic a wide variety of tools, including pens, pencils, markers, charcoals, etc., and as such a universal tool, it’s got its own bit of a learning curve. It’s truly a tool of its own class, has its own feel, and may take a little time to adjust to using a tablet pen (and it might even take a little tweaking of the settings to get it just right for you). Perhaps the greatest advantage to a tablet is being able to express broad brush strokes or arm movements, even on a smaller tablet. The hand’s in a much more natural position for drawing forms with your arm with you need it. Speaking of hand position, the pen tablet is much more ergonomic than a mouse in painting textures, and you’ll feel that better relief on your wrist immediately. Once you get used to using it, and you’ll start to get a pretty good feel for it after about an hour or two, you’ll probably wonder how you ever did without it.

2. I personally use my tablet pen in a variety of ways in context to texture painting, but to give some examples, I often use the pen tablet as an airbrush in my painting program to get basic general areas covered and depending what it is I’m actually trying to create as a texture, I’ll use masks to act like stencils for my virtual airbrush and then use a fine brush to act as a fine-tipped paintbrush for finer detail (and this is one area where the pen tablet truly shines). Sometimes I use my eraser tip on my stylus pen set as another brush setting that I frequent use (many pen tablets come with an pressure-sensitive eraser tip). It’s really up to you how you use your pen tablet for creating textures, but it all feels much more natural than with a mouse.

3. Yes, I can say that a pen tablet will definitely make life easier for you–even if you’d still prefer the mouse for some things. Once you go with a pen tablet, it just becomes second-nature to you, and you’ll find plenty of ways to make it useful for you without even thinking about it. Again, there’s simply no match to a pen tablet in terms of a means that gives you the closer feel of working in natural media.

Are there alternatives? Yes, there are. In fact, I’d say that your best option is options. I myself still use the mouse for some things (especially when I purposely want that mouse-drawn look), sometimes I use the controllability of Bézier curves to perform curve-based operations such as stroking lines and creating outlines (which I tend to use the mouse more than my pen, but I do sometimes use my pen for that), and sometimes I use imported stuff such as scanning in an image or using a royalty-free texture from a website (which I sometimes edit using my pen tablet) as the base of some of my operations. The beautiful about using a pen tablet in your workflow is that even with the pen tablet plugged in, you can always just put it down and use your mouse when you need it.

4. Right off the back, I’m personally going to recommend the Wacom brand of pen tablets, which are undoubtedly the most popular and trusted brand, and also since I own one, though I’ve heard some good reviews about Genius brand tablets. As it seems you’re not looking for a whole lot more demand from your tablet as in doing other things than just texture painting, and I don’t know what kind of a budget you’re dealing with, I would recommend you check out the Wacom Bamboo series, specifically the Bamboo Create priced at $199 USD. Bamboo Create features 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity, multi-touch input (touch the pad with your finger in conjunction of using the pen to perform common commands), feel pretty natural to draw on, has more work area than the smaller Bamboo Capture (priced at $99 USD), and should be more than sufficient for your texture-painting needs.

Other brands such as Genius might offer you a good deal for less (such as the MousePen M508, which is a pretty nice tablet for $79 USD). If you’re wondering I many prefer Wacom, it’s because of their patented pen stylus technology that is always cordless, battery-free, available with tablet models that feature up to 2048 levels of pressure (the standard’s at 1024 levels), and uses a slimmer contoured pen stylus design. It’s up to you on what’s sufficient for you, and sometimes you can find any of these tablets at discounted prices with shopping online. Though, I say, if you are considering and willing to get a Wacom Bamboo Create at $199 USD, you’d might as well bargain for the even better Wacom Intuos4 Small tablet priced at $229 USD, which for about $30 USD more, you can have 6 fully-customizable ExpressKeys and a handy TouchRing which I constantly use with mine.

I hope this wasn’t too long for you, and I sincerely hope this helps! Cheers! :wink:

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Well, to be honest, not everybody likes the feel of the tablet. Many professional photo editors include tablets in theirs workflows, and on the other hand many use just mouse. The best option for you would be to find someone with a tablet and find for yourself if it’s comfortable for you.
But my answer to anyone, who is wondering about getting one would be: go for it. I’m not a digital painter myself (well, I’m trying to get into drawing now, but that’s irrelevant, I guess :wink: ), I prefer mouse for many tasks (especially dealing with the vertices), but I use it every day.

The one important thing you would like to look at is tablet’s size. For most people A6 is enough. If you want to use it just for texture editing, you’ll be okay. People, who say that A5 is the absolute minimum, usually do a lot of digital painting, so they benefit from the bigger working space.

What to get? You’ll do great even with the cheapest Wacom (Bamboo Pen A6, that is - in some areas called Bamboo Connect), but the lack of the mousewheel can sometimes be difficult to overcome - see Gimp (in Blender you can zoom with ctrl+middle mouse), so Bamboo Capture is a good choice.

My advice is to not purchase a tablet bigger than A4 format. I made my worse purchasing mistake when I bought a Wacom Intuos 4 XL ! Before, I had a small A6 Graphire 2, but is wasn’t compatible with Win7. I had read in some magazines and forums that this large format was necessary to edit frames on full HD video footages… The result is that this tablet is so big that I almost never use it because it takes too much room on my desk and isn’t practical at all !

The intuos 4XL is probably a wonderful tool for a digital painter or professionnal photo editor using it as its main tool, but for a 3D artist using it only for drawing or retouching textures from time to time and needing to use in parallel shortcuts on the keyboard, it is a waste of space and money !

With the additional specific mouse, I spent around 1000 Euros for this tool that would have been better used in purchasing an A4 format. I would have saved around at least half of the price and would have a much usable tool !

So, beware of the advice of some professionnals on forums and magazines !

  1. You will be much faster!

  2. Painting layer masks, painting scratches/splotches, darken/lighten up some areas, …

  3. Wacom Intuos – no question :wink:

Thanks a lot for all your advice and diverse input.

Well, had it not been for 4. I would have guessed you were some salesman of Wacom :wink:

No idea. My previous one simply didn’t work under Linux.

Cintiq is expensive, but generally the holy grail of tablets. Intuos is less expesive. That’s it. Other than that they work the same.

You never get used to it. You will always draw better when you can see what you’re doing. That said, it isn’t that much of a handicap. This is subjective. It’d be a good idea to borrow a tablet from someone for a day or two and try it for yourself.

The tablet can sense the pen and move the cursor, but it only draws when the tip touches the surface.

After about 5 years of daily use the working surface of my Intuos 3 is perfectly smooth.

After 5 years I’m still using the same Intuos 3 pen I got in the box, but I’ve had to buy a new set of nibs and rubber grip for the pen. The Intuos pens don’t need recharging as they are not battery powered.

Few applications use tilt. Corel Painter, Photoshop and Mypaint do. I don’t know of any others. The buttons and touch elements are a function of the driver and can be remapped to keystrokes so they’re useful in any app.

I’m still using my Intuos 3 and have no plans to switch anytime soon unless it breaks down.