More artists, designers, and photographers are switching from mouse to tablets. There are huge advantages to using tablets with Photoshop – creating strokes and Curves easier, painting with pen pressure to vary brush size and opacity, and using the extra buttons. How does the Wacom Intuos5 stack up? Read this review to find out!
The Intuos5 introduces multi-touch surface, ExpressKeys, and optional wireless capability. Unlike the Intuos4, the Intuos5 does not have an OLED display. Wacom replaced this with the ExpressKeys which are touch-sensitive buttons that show an on-screen menu when you place your finger over it. This sounds like a downgrade, but it’s actually designed like this so that you can keep your eyes on your work. The pen is the same.
Design and Build Quality
With its minimalistic stealth black design, the Intuos5 looks great with anything. Everything around the drawing surface has a soft rubberized. The ExpressKeys button on the side of the tablet are bevelled so that you can access them by feel. It’s ambidextrous design lets you rotate to suit your left-handed or right-handed configuration. This might just be the most attractive tablets available. Asides from its looks, the build quaity is excellent with no flex of the tablet any way you hold it. It feels durable in your hands and weighs just enough to rest comfortably in your lap.
The pen is identical to its previous version, the Intuos 4. It has 2048 levels of pressure, 60 degrees of tilt sensitivity, some buttons, and interchangeable nibs. In the hands, it feels light without feeling hollow. It’s thick rubberized grip (a little bit of a dust magnet) allows you to better control your strokes. The eraser tip feels loose but is perfectly fine when you use it. Unlike other brands of pen tablets, the Wacom pens don’t require any batteries.
The pen stand looks great and does a great job holding the pen. It sits perfectly and has a weighted base to prevent it from wobbling. The grooved top lets you place the pen horizontally so that your workspace can look more zen and artistic.
The pen stand has a surprise that many people who buy this tablet usually miss. Inside the stand holds 10 nibs and a nib extractor. You can use the metal ring to remove the nib from your pen and replace it with another nib to simulate different media. It comes with plenty of standard black replacement nibs as well as three gray felt nibs, one flex nib, and one gray spring nib.
The tablet surface has a slightly different texture than the other Wacom tablets. It’s slightly smoother than the Intuos4 so that your nibs don’t wear out as fast while keeping the paper-like feel. It has four LED backlit corners to show your active area leaves some space around it so that you can end your strokes without hitting the surface edge. While the surface is still prune to scratches (as expected with any tablet), it doesn’t have a plastic protective cover that you’d find on many other tablets. Mine has a few scratches but they’re only slightly noticeable and it doesn’t affect my drawings. The surface is replaceable should it be damaged. However, because the surface has integrated touch electronics, you have to send it in to Wacom to replace it for you for a “nominal fee”. If you’re concerned about scratching your tablet, you can place a screen protector or paper over it and it will still work.
On a multi-monitor setup, the surface covers all of your monitors by default. You can set up a button to have it toggle between different displays but there were many times when pressing the button did nothing. I’m also experiencing a bug where if I lock it to one screen (i.e. the middle screen of a triple-monitor setup), my pen can move just 1 pixel too far to the right which makes the cursor go to the next screen. If you’re using a triple-monitor setup and want your tablet to cover all three screens, I highly recommend you go for the large version.
Photoshop supports gestures and you can use the Wacom Intuos5 gestures to do common things such as pinch to zoom, rotate to rotate view, and three-finger swipe to move. Place your finger over the tablet buttons and a HUD will appear. This lets you keep your eyes on your screen and away from the tablet. The touch is very responsive – just as responsive as you’d get from a trackpad or tablet like the iPad. But because of its size, it’s more tedious to use than a laptop’s trackpad. Increasing the pointer speed setting helped a lot. It’s also smart. If you have the pen nearby, the touch will turn off automatically and back on when the pen is away from the tablet.
The Touch Ring is my favorite part of the tablet. Press the middle button to switch between the different modes and use the ring to zoom in/out, cycle through your layers, increase/decrease brush size, and rotate. These settings change depending on the application you’re using and it already comes with a default profile for Photoshop. For things such as rotating your canvas in Photoshop, the Touch Ring worked much better than the touch gestures. On the Touch Ring, it rotated smoothly – felt exactly like using the old iPods.
All of these buttons, Touch Ring, and touchpad settings can be customized.
Conclusion – Should you ditch your mouse for a tablet?
Whether you’re an artist or a photographer, you’ll enjoy using the Wacom Intuos5. It’s the best tablet that you can get. The tablets looks professional and is well built. The precision of the Intuos5 is amazing with 2048 pressure levels and 60 degrees of tilt sensitivity.
A pen tablet has huge benefits over a mouse. The most obvious is the ease of drawing with a pen; you can create strokes and curves much easier than a mouse. The next benefit is the varying stroke thickness and opacity that you can apply with pen pressure. This also lets you use special media brushes in Photoshop CS6 such as the Airbrush which does not work well without a pen tablet. The Intuos5 also gives you access to extra buttons on the tablet and pen that you can customize. The TouchRing is extremely useful and it’s become a habit whether I use a pen or mouse.
Many people say that once you use a tablet, you can’t go back to a mouse. For me, I still prefer my mouse more for general work but there are times (such as retouching) that I would switch to a tablet. With the Intuos5, I can use the pen to retouch skin with varying opacity while keeping a finger on the Touch Ring to adjust the brush size. Some people live by the tablet, some use it occasionally, and some leave it sitting on their desk to collect dust. One thing we can all agree on is that you really have to try it to know if you like it.