Sunday, December 28, 2014

New Wacom Intuos Tablet

I'm now using my new Christmas gift from Julie - a medium Wacom Intuos Creative Pen & Touch Tablet!

As an architect, I love to draw.  And after so many years, I'm used to having a pen or pencil in my hand, even in this more modern, technological age where most things are done on the computer.  But up to now, when it came to working on digital art, I've only had a mouse ... so that's what I've used.  Actually, I think I've become pretty good at drawing with a mouse, even in raster programs like Photoshop and Gimp.  

A few weeks ago when Julie and I were talking about clipart, I mentioned that drawing on a tablet would probably be much easier than using a mouse. We looked them up on Google and the Wacom tablets seemed to be the most popular.  So Julie, who doesn't have a lot of patience, :-) took me to Best Buy to get me a tablet as a Christmas gift.

Once in Best Buy, it took a little while to find the tablets - they obviously are not big sellers like the iPads, iPhones and TVs!  But there was a nice little display along the side wall in the computer accessories section with a few different types of tablets.  I thought I would only need a small tablet to get started but Julie insisted on buying the medium size - she thought I would be more comfortable with the larger size and from what she could tell it would most likely be easier to use for drawing.

So, we got the tablet!

Here is the box, unopened:

I think the packaging looks pretty good - very clear to see what you're getting with a colorful, creative display of art (and the goofy-looking Wacom logo!).  I slid off the white outer packaging to find clean, black inner box with a friendly "Welcome" greeting:

The center flap opened up to reveal the tablet and pen:

The tablet was protected with a thin white padding and the pen was secured on the side with two round, black spongy holders. I took out the tablet and below it was a small, black cardboard box and a USB plug.  So I unpacked everything and here's what I had:

I opened the black box and inside was a thin quick start guide and a CD with drivers.  There were also a few promotional sheets: an Intuos welcome page inviting me to visit their website (with some legal terms and conditions), an advertisement, and a Shutterfly advertisement offering me a free 8x8 20-page photo book.  However, when I read through the details for the Shutterfly offer, I saw that the expiration date was November 27, 2014.  Hmmm, that's not good, since it's already December and the expiration date has passed.  Oh well.

I proceeded to get the tablet plugged into my computer to complete the setup.  Once plugged in, the computer automatically downloaded drivers, so I didn't need to copy them from the CD.  I was even prompted to install the software bundle pack that was included with the purchase.  It was called the Creative Starter Pack and included a 90-day membership for Autodesk Sketchbook Pro and a 30-day membership to  I don't know about you but I never like getting trial memberships or software that I then have to purchase after a period of time.  The bundle also had Autodesk Sketchbook Express and ArtRage Studio software (not just a trial!), so I installed those thinking I would at least experiment with them to see if I liked them.

Once I got through that, the online setup went to the Setting Up Your Tablet section ... and saw 5 videos, the first to show you how to configure and personalize your tablet.  I clicked on the video and it loaded what looked like an embedded YouTube player, but all I saw was static on the screen with a message saying "This video does not exist."  The other videos worked okay, but the one I wanted to watch wasn't working.  

I then moved on to complete the tablet setup only to find that the pen didn't seem to be working on the tablet.  The mouse I had still was able to move the cursor, but not the pen.  The online User Manual has a Troubleshooting section, but the only response to a non-working pen seemed to say there was a problem loading device drivers, but they had downloaded just fine.  I wasn't sure whether I could use both the mouse and the tablet at the same time, so I unplugged the mouse ... still no luck.  So with the mouse unplugged, I decided to just re-boot the computer to see what would happen.  After the computer re-started, I had couldn't move the cursor at all - no response from the pen on the tablet.  So I plugged the mouse back in and was able to move the cursor with no problem.

Hmmmm, what to do next.  Well, I then went to the Start menu (Windows 7 Professional) and into Devices, and saw the tablet was listed.  So I clicked on the Intuos icon and the status said "This device is working properly."  Well, not what I was expecting since the pen still wouldn't move the cursor.  Both of the lights on the tablet were functioning as they should, so I knew the tablet was working.

So, I did what any frustrated person would do - went back to the Wacom website and clicked on Support.  There were a few choices (like referring to the User Manual or watching technical support videos or reading the technical FAQ's.  You could also e-mail them your question, but it says they will get back to you within 48 hours.  Then, over to the right side of the Support web page I saw their Contact Support phone number.  Well, that would certainly do it ... however, today is Sunday and the Support Team is only there between 6 and 6 Monday through Friday.

Waaaaah!  I want to use my new tablet now!

What to do, what to do.  After re-starting the computer yet again, I went into Google and typed in my problem.  Lo and behold, the Intuos "Setting Up Your Tablet" video was listed - direct on YouTube.  So I went there and watched the video that I couldn't see directly from the Wacom Intuos website.  Well, the video wasn't much help, but the guy did give me the idea to try and download the device driver again.

So, I re-loaded the driver (which appeared to be the same exact thing I previously did), this time once the driver was loaded a Tablet Properties window opened up.  And after adjusting the properties, the tablet worked!
I'm still not sure why the pen didn't work immediately upon setup, or why the Tablet Properties window did not come up when I first loaded the driver, but now it was working.  Yay!

Here's the now-functioning tablet:

After playing with it for only a few minutes, I could tell I was really going to like it.  The pen glides very smoothly on the tablet, and through the Tablet Properties, it is easy to adjust the pen settings so you can modify how the line on the screen can vary based on the pressure you put on the pen.  And you can have both the mouse and tablet plugged in at the same time - when you have the pen close to the tablet, the pen just takes control over the cursor.

I've now done a bit of drawing on the tablet and I really like it.  Time to get drawing again!


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