We love Wacom tablets for photo enhancements. Pressure-sensitive pens give you unmatched control and efficiency with common retouching tasks like cloning and painting layer masks. Intuos4, Wacom’s professional tablet series, was introduced last year and featured several innovative enhancements and conveniences. The new Intuos4 Wireless adds Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to move freely as you work. List Price: $399. Contact: Wacom, www.wacom.com.
Our number-one favorite upgrade of the Intuos4 tablets, both wired and wireless, is the addition of illuminated displays identifying the com-mands you’ve selected for your ExpressKeys. ExpressKeys give you instant access to shortcuts you use often and can be customized for each app you use, hence, the great utility of these glowing reminders. The default settings for Photoshop include the Hand tool (awesome) and the primary modifier keys—Shift, Alt/Option and Command/ Control—reducing your need for the keyboard. That’s the idea behind ExpressKeys.
Between the two blocks of ExpressKeys is the Touch Ring. This acts as a zooming or scrolling control, like a mouse wheel. It, too, can be customized, and has four modes for four different customizable actions. Toggle between the modes with the central button, and an illuminated indicator displays which of the four modes is active. The defaults for Photoshop include zoom (mode 1) and brush size (mode 3), both of which are handy for photo retouching.
By default, Wacom maps your pen gestures in Pen mode. In this mode, the tablet surface represents your entire screen. When you hover with your pen over the tablet surface, your cursor appears in the corresponding position on your screen. It’s direct and efficient—but initially disorienting for mouse users accustomed to dragging the cursor around. If you prefer to drag your cursor, you can set the tablet to Mouse mode, but we recommend Pen mode and a little practice to get the most out of the tablet experience.
Without the cable, the Intuos4 Wireless feels more mobile and self-contained. Though the traditional desktop pen stand is included, the Intuos4 Wireless also provides a snap-in elastic pen grip so you can keep tablet and pen together. Wacom specs an untethered working radius of up to 33 feet, but that’s largely dependent on the range of your computer’s Bluetooth module.
The Intuos4 pen is built around the Wacom Generation 2 Tip Sensor, with double the sensitivity of the previous generation. It can distinguish up to 2,048 levels of pressure for improved precision and a more natural “feel,” and can sense pressure as light as one gram. If you like technical details, you can read the white paper about Wacom’s pen technology at www.wacom.com/generation2.