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Getting Comfortable With a Graphics Tablet

Wacom Intuos Pro Pen and Touch TabletI recently had a CorelDRAW Unleashed Training Session with someone and the most important thing I was asked to teach was how to get the most from a recently purchased Wacom tablet. Most of you already know that I feel Everyone Should Have a Wacom Tablet, Here Are the Two Best Options. There is a short learning curve when going from a mouse or trackball to a tablet for the first time.

Now that I’ve completed this training session, I wanted to pass along a few of the things we worked on together. Maybe the most important is the way you hold the pen. I hold it almost exactly like I would hold a ballpoint pen with my index finger just below the buttons on the barrel of the tablet.

The tip of the pen is the “left mouse button” so you only tap the tablet when you want to click. When moving the cursor, hover the tip of the pen just over the tablet without touching. Use the buttons on the barrel of the pen to right-click or double-click.

As you get started, hide your mouse. You won’t learn until you force yourself to use the tablet exclusively. Even for a few hours is good. If you are using it with graphics software, draw with it! Do the tasks you would normally do. It will probably feel weird at first. Heck, it took me a few days to get used to my first tablet. Once you get used to it, you won’t want to go back to a mouse!

Strangely enough, playing a game like Solitaire is one of the best learning tools. Microsoft included Solitaire many years ago to help users learn how to use a mouse. It also helps with a tablet. Find other fun things you can do on the computer to help get yourself adjusted.

Don’t stare at the tablet, watch your screen instead. Think of the rectangular area of the tablet as a virtual screen. But since there isn’t anything displayed there, there is no reason to look at it. Yes, the higher-end tablets have a series of buttons. To be honest, I’ve never used any of them. Seriously. Could you program them to do some helpful tasks? Sure! At first you just need to focus on using the tablet to point, drag, click and draw. Once you have that mastered, then you can consider using the buttons to do more.

If you have a tablet gathering dust somewhere, hopefully you’ll give it another try by following some of these suggestions. Those who have never used a tablet should seriously consider getting one. It costs a little bit to purchase and takes a day or two of adjustment. After that, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without one.

About Foster D. Coburn III

Foster D. Coburn III is the author of thirteen books on CorelDRAW, the latest being CorelDRAW X6 Unleashed. He has been a contributor to numerous magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site and many more, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics and Web conferences.

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One comment

  1. Using a tablet instead of a mouse has solved my carpal tunnel issues. Tips:

    1. I remapped the space on the surface to be about 1/3 of the whole. This means I can navigate my whole screen with very little movement.
    2. I put some signmaker’s vinyl on the surface. I like a smooth feel instead of the resistant paper-like surface my Wacom Bamboo had come with. My older Graphire was smooth, I got used to that. Plus – it’s easier on the pen tips.

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