Wacom Intuos Art review
Active Area: 152x95mm, Pressure levels: 1,024, Charging type: USB, Weight: 290g
Wacom's drawing tablets have been split into two very different camps in recent months. At one end of the scale, you have the £200+ Intuos Pro and Intuos 4 range for professional graphic designers, but those looking for something a little more hobbyist or consumer-friendly are left with just four choices: Wacom's Creative Pen and Touch tablets which have been split into the Draw, Photo, Comic and Art.
All four Creative Pen and Touch tablets are exactly the same, but each one comes with a different software package. The Art (reviewed here) comes with Corel Painter Essentials 5, for instance, but the Draw only comes with ArtRage Lite, which isn't quite as flexible or sophisticated as Corel's offering. Meanwhile, the Intuos Photo comes with Corel Paint Shop Pro X8 and Corel Aftershot Pro 2 (or Macphun Creative Kit for Mac users), making it the better choice for those who want to edit photos, while the Comic comes with Clip Studio Paint Pro and Anime Studio Debut 10, giving you more options for cartoonish art styles than the Art or Draw.
As a result, which Intuos Creative Pen and Touch tablet you pick will largely rest on which bits of software you think you'll get the most out of. In this review, I'll be focusing on the Art, but anything hardware related could easily be applied to all four Creative Pen and Touch models.
I tested the Small version of the Intuos Art, but it's also available in a larger Medium size. I was surprised by how spacious the Small version was, though, as I always felt like I had enough space to draw, and my hand was never hanging uncomfortably off the side. Likewise, the point grid pattern on the main drawing area also makes it very easy to understand where you are on the screen, and the pressure-sensitive surface felt natural and intuitive to draw on.
It supports multiple monitor setups, too, but controlling more than one display across a single tablet naturally restricts how much space you have left to play with. When using the tablet with two monitors, for instance, you're effectively dividing it in half, so each pen stroke was often more exaggerated than I was expecting. It didn't take too long for me to re-adjust my drawing style, but you may want to consider opting for the Medium Intuos Art if you have more than one screen.
It's a shame the tablet isn't better made, as its plastic rear will bend and flex under pressure. The stylus also feels very cheap and plasticky, and I would have hoped for a higher level of build quality at £70. It does, however, offer plenty of additional controls to help justify its price, so at least you're not always reaching for your mouse and keyboard every five minutes.
^ The stylus can be stored in the small loop of material at the top of the tablet, so you never need to worry about losing it when you put it away
These include four buttons above the main active area, which act as Shift, Alt, Ctrl and the Windows key, and there are two buttons on the pen which double up as right and left mouse clicks. The latter buttons could do with a bit more tactile feedback, but it's a small complaint overall. You can also use the tablet for multi-touch gestures, such as pinch-zooming and panning, and there's a switch on the top edge of the tablet to enable palm rejection so you can rest your hand on the tablet without making accidental marks on the screen. There's even a Kensington lock for added security.
You'll also find three replacement nibs housed underneath the easily removable rear panel, and it's here where you'll find ports to attach one of Wacom's extra wireless accessories as well, such as its wireless dongle, wireless battery kit, or wireless module. Sadly, none of the tablets are wireless by default, and you'll need to spend another £35 for Wacom's wireless kit, but the 1.5m USB cable should provide plenty of flexibility for connecting it to your PC or laptop.
^ Replacing the nibs on your pen is easy thanks to Wacom's easy nib-removal tool located underneath the rear panel
Software-wise, Corel Painter Essentials 5 provides a decent starting block for new digital artists, but its main drawing and painting mode is nowhere near as capable or as versatile as Adobe's Photoshop Elements or GIMP's free open-source software. The photo-painting mode is quite novel, as this lets you apply artistic effects on photos and images saved on your PC, but I'd recommend using GIMP as your main drawing program if you want something a bit more flexible.
Build quality issues aside, the Wacom Intuos Creative Pen and Touch series are great entry-level drawing tablets for their respective prices. Admittedly, you'll probably be better off getting the £50 Intuos Draw and downloading GIMP rather than paying extra for the Art's bundled software – or even use the money saved to buy something more advanced like Photoshop Elements 14 – but the tablet itself is very simple and easy to use and provides you with everything you need to start getting more creative with your digital artwork.