Using a Tablet with Illustrator

When I first considered getting a tablet I wanted to know was how well it would work with Illustrator. My research did not turn up a lot of results, so I thought I would share my own experience with you. Illustrator is my favorite Adobe program, most of my designs start there and are disseminated down to Photoshop or InDesign. My main concern with Illustrator and the tablet was how it would work with the pen tool. It actually took me a few months to feel comfortable using the tablet, at first I found my mouse much quicker. However, since I invested in the tablet (and they are not cheap), I was determined to use it.

I am currently using the Wacom intuos4 medium. The size (8.8″ x 5.5″) has worked out well for me. At first I was afraid it would be too small as my art background trained me to use my whole arm while drawing. This size is a nice in between not too small and not too large, I could stand to have a larger one. Budget wise, this one has worked out nicely for me. The tablet adjusts to your screen size so you quickly become accustomed to the relative size of what you are working on verses your screen.  A lot of people are concerned with the disconnect with looking at the computer while drawing on the tablet, this hasn’t been much of an issue for me. Once I started using the tablet my eye hand coordination kicked in and it started feeling more natural. I can see myself upgrading to a Cintiq tablet where I can draw directly on the tablet and it acts as a monitor at the same time.

To get back to my pen tool obsession, I first tried to use my tablet just as I would a mouse. As you can imagine that didn’t return great results. In order to get the full benefit of my tablet I had to start using the brush and pencil tool to draw and color my designs. I started using different brushes to vary my strokes and created some custom brushes that used my tablet’s nifty features (like pressure sensitivity). I still tend to press little harder than is probably necessary. The nibs on the pen seem to wear down faster than they would if I used less pressure.

The tablet has been an excellent purchase for me, so I would say if you are on the fence go a head and make the plunge. It has saved me a lot of time on projects and made some of the tedious work go by faster. There is also a lot of experimenting with techniques you can do once you have your tablet. It is a tool I cannot see myself going without ever again.

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