Wacom Buyer’s Guide: What tablet do you need?

Wacom Buyer’s Guide: What tablet do you need?



Wacom is the world leader in the industry of graphics tablets, owning 85% of market share. The Japanese giant produces three fabulous product lines that cover the needs of beginners, practitioners and professionals in the fields of drawing, painting, animation and photo retouching, to name only a few. Tablets will improve the precision and productivity of a creative professional working on a software such as Adobe Photoshop. Hooked up to a computer (or wirelessly connected through Bluetooth for the Intuos4), the tablet has an active surface on which the user can use Wacom’s sensitive pen to control his mouse. The full extension of its sensitivity can be experienced in a creative program.

Wacom offers three lines of products: Bamboo, Intuos and Cintiq. Although they might look alike, they offer different features and target different audiences. Which one is the right one for you? Find out by reading the descriptions below:


Bamboo Pen and Touch
Bamboo Pen & Touch82$ at Amazon
Size: Small (Touch: 4.9″×3.4″ – Pen: 5.8″×3.6″)
Sensitivity: 1024 pressure levels
Color: Black
What makes it special: The Bamboo Pen and Touch is the first tablet of Wacom’s line. It’s the smallest but also the most affordable. With the Pen and Touch, you can draw, doodle, take notes and edit images. You can also drop the pen and use it as a touchpad for your computer, an alternative to your mouse. This versatile tool has customizable buttons on the side and because of its small size it’s easy to carry around. It’s as sensitive as its cousins, the Fun and the Craft. It connects through USB and comes with Adobe Photoshop Elements 8.0 for Mac and PC.
Who should buy it: The Bamboo Pen and Touch is the perfect tablet for artists new to digital art and who would like to explore the possibilities of painting on Photoshop, Painter or Gimp without spending too much. It’s also a great choice for photographers who’d like to edit/enhance their photos, as well as for anyone who’d like to experience the feel of a pen in their hand instead of a mouse for handwriting.
Conclusion: It’s the perfect tablet for every artist, hobbyist or semi-professional who’d like to get something good for an affordable price.


Bamboo Craft
Bamboo Craft116$ at Amazon
Size: Small (Touch: 4.9″×3.4″ – Pen: 5.8″×3.6″)
Sensitivity: 1024 pressure levels
Color: Silver
What makes it special: The Bamboo Craft is a tablet that, just like the Pen and Touch, can be used with your fingers and/or a pen. You can use it to draw, doodle, take handwritten notes and edit photos. It has the same sensitivity as the other Bamboos. It uses a USB connection. So what makes it special if it looks the same and has identical features? Well, the Bamboo Craft is targeting scrapbookers; it comes with Adobe Photoshop Elements 8.0 for Mac and PC, a DVD featuring 26 scrapbooking lessons from Jane Conner, a free photo album from Shutterfly, a free online store from Café Press, free online training with DigitalScrapbookPlace and a one-year subscription to Scrapbooking & Beyond Magazine. Not bad. But is it worth it?
Who should buy it: The Bamboo Craft will appeal to scrapbookers because of its special bundle. If you are not a scrapbooker, it would be useless to spend the extra 30$; get a regular Pen and Touch instead.
Conclusion: It’s exactly the same as the Pen and Touch. It has goodies for scrapbookers, otherwise the regular Bamboo Pen and Touch is a better deal.


Bamboo Fun
Bamboo Fun160$ at Amazon
Size: Medium (Touch: 7.5″×5.1″ – Pen: 8.5″×5.4″)
Sensitivity: 1024 pressure levels
Color: Silver
What makes it special: The Bamboo Fun combines the Pen and Touch advantages as well so that you can use either your fingers to navigate your desktop or your pen to draw, doodle, paint, write or edit photos. With its bigger size, it will give you more precision, matching your screen size and resolution more accurately. More space also means broader brush strokes if you are an artist, which is great. It uses USB connection and comes with Adobe Photoshop Elements 8.0 for Mac and PC, a free photo album from Shutterfly and a free online store at CafePress; the best features the Craft and regular Pen and Touch have to offer.
Who should buy it: Bigger is better; in the case of tablets, it’s true. Artist, photographers or scrapbookers who own an external monitor that is 20″ or bigger will really enjoy this Bamboo. It is the biggest of the line and worth the price.
Conclusion: The Bamboo Fun is the biggest of the Bamboo series. Its bigger active area will give its users more room to draw, write and paint, especially if they own a monitor. But if you work from a regular laptop screen, perhaps you could stick with a Pen and Touch.


Intuos4 Wireless
Intuos4 Wireless367$ at Amazon
Size: Medium (Active Area: 8.0″×5.0″) – Also comes in Small, Medium, Large and Extra Large sizes for wired version.
Sensitivity: 2048 pressure levels
Color: Black
What makes it special: The Intuos4 is the best screen-less tablet ever built. Twice the sensitivity of the Bamboo, artists will really feel as if they are drawing or painting on canvas. This tablet includes 8 customizable ExpressKeys with illuminated displays so you can see what each key does. It doesn’t have the touch feature like the Bamboos, but its awesomeness alone excuses this missing feature. Its pencil comes with a bundle of 10 replacement nibs with different textures and feel. The Intuos4 also has a finger-sensitive Touch Ring that can be used to zoom in or as a click-wheel. Its sensitivity is so great it begins with as little as a gram of pressure. Although the wireless version, which uses Bluetooth, comes only in medium size, the wired version that uses USB connection comes in several sizes depending on what kind of monitor you have. And though I own myself a wired medium since its release, I would advise the wireless version; just as good, minus the annoying cable. It weights 1lb more than a Bamboo (2.2lbs total with battery) so it is fairly light.
Who should buy it: Most tablet users don’t need the extensive sensitivity the Intuos4 has to offer. It’s a wonderful tool for artists or photo editors who need lots of precision and space. The price is much higher than the Bamboo Fun which competes in size, so one should ask himself how he is going to use his tablet: Do you need extreme precision and sensitivity? Are you a professional photographer or digital painter? If you answered yes, you won’t regret investing in an Intuos4.
Conclusion: The Intuos4 is the best screen-less tablet on the market. It’s ultra-sensitive and simply a great tool for professionals. If you can invest more for a pro tool, do it. If you just want to take it easy and have fun with your tablet, you might want to take a look at the Bamboos instead and save your money.


Cintiq 12WX
Cintiq 12WX910$ at Amazon
Size: Big (Active Area: 10.3″×6.4″) – Also comes in 21′ format called the Cintiq 21UX.
Sensitivity: 1024 pressure levels (2048 for the Cintiq 21UX)
Color: Black
What makes it special: The Cintiq 12WX is a tablet that integrates a wide-format LCD monitor. With its 1024 pressure levels, it has a feel similar to the Bamboo except that it is bigger and it gives you the unique advantage to draw straight on the screen. The Cintiq’s monitor can be used as a mirror of what’s on your computer or as an extension of it. It can also be used as a stand-alone display (assuming it’s hooked to your computer first). Users can put the tablet on their lap or on a desk at a comfortable angle thanks to its stand. The screen resolution is 1280×800, comparable to a 13″ laptop. The Cintiq has sensitive customizable ExpressKeys like the Bamboo and the Intuos. It supports DVI, VGA and USB connectivity, and it comes with a Video Control Unit. Note that the Cintiq also comes in a bigger size: the 21UX. This massive tablet is more sensitive (2048 pressure levels just like the Intuos) and has a much bigger active area (17″×12.75″). However, it is bulkier and heavier; while the 12WX weights 4lbs, the 21UX is 22lbs. It’s a tool you cannot really manoeuvre easily, especially if you like to work with the tablet on your lap. It’s also more than the double of the price of the 12WX.
Who should buy it: The Cintiq really is la crème de la tablette. Its users are mostly creative professionals that fancy working straight on the screen. If you look at the specifications though, they are not better than the Bamboo or the Intuos. What differentiates them is the integrated monitor. Do you need it? Go to a store and try it, would be my advice. It’s a cool gadget but only you will know if the investment is really worth it.
Conclusion: The Cintiq is a fantastic tablet with an integrated monitor but has the same specs as the Bamboo and Intuos. Will it make you more productive to be able to draw straight on the screen? If so you might want to consider it. If you’re not sure, Bamboos and Intuos are always excellent options.

New: Read about the new Cintiq 24HD


I personally own an Intuos4 and I’m in love with it. It’s my third tablet; I’ve been a Wacom tablet owner since 2003. After 8 years of use, I can say with confidence that Wacom offers the best tablets. None of my tablets ever broke or experienced technical issues. Yes, I’m a big fan and I think it’s the perfect tool for a digital artist.

Some users may take longer than others to get used to the feeling of a tablet, so don’t panic if after a week you still feel you lack precision. While it took me a few hours to feel comfortable with my Wacom, some fellow artists have told me before it took them over a month to get comfortable with theirs. My advice is to practice and just have fun with it.

If you have any question about Wacom tablets, feel free to ask by leaving a comment. It will be my pleasure to provide you with more information.

About the author

Tina Mailhot-Roberge is a graphic designer, illustrator and co-founder of Veodesign. She holds a BFA in Design from Concordia University, Montréal. She loves to help people and wirte about arts, design, web and technology. Find her on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.