Falling back in love with Wacom

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Wacom tablets are designers digital pen and paper. They’re not for everyone. You’ll probably see illustrators with them more so than graphic designers due to the ease of rendering and digitising the intricate details of illustrations. Graphic designer do use them on occasion though.

This past week I rediscovered my love for the Wacom tablet when I dusted it off for a quick illustration for a 90s inspired event poster I was working on (coincidentally it was this project that inspired Monday’s post). I wanted all the illustration to be as hand-drawn as possible. Only I did not have access to a scanner in the office at the time, otherwise I would have inked the illustration the old fashioned way.

But the tablet did the job – possibly even better.

When I draw freestyle on paper with sharpies the bleeding of the ink makes for an uneven image trace when scanned into Illustrator. Even when playing with the levels in image trace do not always give the desired look you’re looking for.

Though I went through a phase many years ago of hand-drawing everything at the height of the hand-drawing trend, I grew and evolved as a designer. I played with different styles, and continue to, and the Wacom got put on the back burner. So to dust it off this past week has been incredibly refreshing.

Sketching and planning designs feels like less of a chore. Not only have a fallen back in love with my tablet, but I’ve fallen back in love with doodling and sketching again.

So, thank-you Wacom for always being there when I needed you. I deeply apologise for hiding you away for so long. But you’re out of retirement now. Let’s create some great things together.

Of course if my love story does not convince you a Wacom tablet is a great tool to have in your arsenal as a designer, then maybe these three reasons will.

Clean lines

The project for this week screamed for hand-drawn illustration. But it was asking for clean lines, fluidity and crisp joins. Drawing straight into Illustrator using the pencil tool setting gave me all the control needed to create the clean lines I was looking for.

Many years ago when I got my Wacom I used to draw directly into Photoshop or use the blob tool in Illustrator. But over the year’s experimentation has led to finding the settings that work best for me and the projects I’m working on. If you want to freestyle draw but are worried about ink bleeds, then try a Wacom tablet.

More control

Unless you’re working on a personal project, a lot of the time we as designers do not get full control of the project. However, using a Wacom tablet has allowed me to feel in control completely this week. Maybe it was because I was in a world of my own happily sketching away this week, or perhaps it was because the Wacom was replicating exactly what I would have sketched on paper.

The control with the Wacom gives you pressure sensitivity so it’s as realistic to drawing with a brush or pen that you’ll get digitally. This gives you complete control of the line weight and realism of your designs.

Cuts out a stage in the design process

Following on from wanting control as designers, sometimes we do not always have the time to go through all the motions of our usual process. If you sketch, trace, refine, ink, scan and then digitise by redrawing with the pen tool, this process can take a whole day – depending on the intricacies of your design.

If you sketch directly into Photoshop with a Wacom tablet, refine, trace and ink then you’re pretty much ahead of the game than if you were using paper. You don’t need to redraw when you digitise because you’ve immediately got a digital copy that can be rendered either in Photoshop or Illustrator. Time saved.

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