Wacom Intuos3
Issue: Volume: 28 Issue: 5 (May 2005)

Wacom Intuos3

As digital content creators with a preference for such traditional media as pencil and paper, we’re always interested in innovations that enable us to work more naturally in the digital realm. For this reason, the latest generation of Wacom’s Intuos pressure-sensitive tablet caught our attention.

We installed the 6x8-inch Intuos3 on an Apple Power Mac G5 equipped with dual PowerPC G5 processors, each with 512kb of cache memory; 1.5gb of hard-disk space; 2.5ghz L2 speed; 1.25ghz bus speed; powered USB ports; a CD-ROM drive; Mac OS X; and an Apple Studio display.

When creating this image and others, author Dan Rodd employed the Intuos3’s expanded brush collection.

The tablet ships with an Intuos3 Grip Pen and Intuos3 five-button mouse, both of which have been redesigned to accompany this latest tablet. (For info on Wacom’s new 6D pen, see pg. 37.) The Intuos3 is bundled with several applications: Adobe Photoshop Elements 2 for digital photo editing and compositing, Corel Painter Essentials 2 to create natural-media art and organic effects, Nik Color Efex Pro 2 IE from Nik Multimedia for photographic enhancements and effects using various filters, and Wacom Brushes 2.

Although we dabbled in each of the software solutions provided with the device, we spent much of our time working in Adobe’s Photoshop and Illustrator and Corel’s Painter. We quickly became impressed with the number of brush choices available to us in Photoshop, thanks in large part to the Wacom Brushes 2 plug-in and Corel’s new Art Pen Brush Pack for Painter IX.

We encountered no problems during what proved to be a simple setup process. Hardware and software information was effective, easy to understand, and readily available. Soon after the Intuos3 arrived, we began creating and editing digital images.

As with its predecessors, the Intuos3 must be tethered to the computer during use. Yet, the cord was extended to a full 8 feet in length, while the surface of the tablet is flanked by ExpressKeys and Touch Strips. ExpressKeys can be customized with mouse clicks, modifier keys, and keyboard shortcuts, whereas Touch Strips are finger-sensitive areas conducive to scrolling and zooming. The 8-foot-long cord, ExpressKeys, and Touch Strips provided us the freedom of moving away from the workstation, but we need to be in close proximity to the display for instant feedback. And we’re likely to use more than the four shortcuts afforded by the ExpressKeys. Even with the Intuos3, we found ourselves doing all the hot-key combinations-in addition to a few more, like undo and save-with one hand on the keyboard.

Of all the new utilities in the Intuos3, the Touch Strips are the most efficient, effective, and helpful. We customized one Touch Strip for zoom, which proved to be a real time-saver. With a fingertip, we could zoom in and out and position the image precisely where we wanted it, in a way that key command shortcuts for zooming can’t. Infusing the other Touch Strip with scrolling capabilities, we gleaned even more productivity.

Immediately evident was the device’s increased pressure sensitivity. This latest incarnation of the Intuos tablet offers twice the pressure sensitivity, 1024 levels as compared to the 512 levels offered by the Graphire3 and Cintiq-a considerable upgrade. With the new tablet and bundled software, we could achieve more expressive brush strokes of varying thicknesses and with increased realism and depth.

The Intuos3 ships with a redesigned pen stylus, accompanied by three pen nibs. The Intuos3 Grip Pen, much more ergonomic than its predecessor, features a cushioned, contoured barrel and grip, as well as a programmable DuoSwitch and a multiposition pen stand. We enjoyed using each provided pen nib, especially the graphite-style nib. It offers just the slightest bit of resistance, which feels more natural, much more like drawing with a traditional pencil. Moreover, the quality of the pen nibs is superior to previous generations. Another update, the Intuos3 five-button mouse employs optics, rather than a ball, to ensure smoother and more accurate performance. It also offers a low-profile design, five programmable buttons, and a fingerwheel.

Of all the tablets and tablet PCs we’ve used, we prefer the Intuos3. It is more accurate than the Cintiq and more comfortable than the Graphire and past Intuos models. Its sensitivity is impressive, as are its ergonomics. Some things about the handheld screen of the Cintiq still are quite appealing, but the Intuos3 is more comfortable, pressure sensitive, and accurate.

Chris Hipp and Dan Rodd are professional illustrators well versed in a wide variety of digital imaging applications.

Wacom Technology www.wacom.com
Price: $220, $350, and $470 for the 4x5-, 6x8-, and 9x12-inch versions, respectively
Minimum System Requirements: Computer running Windows 98SE, 2000, Me, or XP or Mac OS X Version 10.2.6 and higher; a powered USB port; a CD-ROM drive; and a color monitor.