This one is for Wacom Tablet Users – 3 Great Tips!

12 01 2011

If you have been to any of my workshops, then you know that I utterly encourage the use of pressure-sensitive tablets like the Wacoms for post processing.   If your not using one, chances are you haven’t been shown how to use them properly.

I thought I was reasonably decent with the tablet, but a few days ago I watched a Kelby training movie by Corey Barker on “Using the Wacom Tablet With Photoshop”.  Boy did I learn some very cool tricks.  Here’s just a few tricks that will turbo-charge your tablet-driven post production effectiveness.

Tip 1 – This was my favorite tip.  Program the button on the pen to adjust brush size and hardness.

If you are like me, you probably left the button on the pen to the default of launching the brushes menu.  It used to piss me off everytime I bumped it, and I never changed my brush sizes via the menu, always with the bracket keys (or touchstrip).    However Corey showed me a way better way of adjusting your brush size and hardness in Photoshop (works in CS4 and CS5).

Try this out…..

Open Photoshop and open any document.

Select the brush tool,  now hold down the <Cntrl>+<Option> keys down on your Mac (if you have a PC, list it on eBay and go and buy yourself a Mac now)

While you holding down <Cntrl>+<Option>  move your pen (or mouse) left and right….. This adjusts your brush size!

Cool eh?  Now move it up and down…. this adjusts your brush hardness…. Is that not WAY COOL!!!!

Now, here’s what you want to do.  Program that annoying little button on your pen to be <Cntrl>+<Option>, and then you can adjust your brush properties by clicking it, and dragging your mouse around.

To program this on your Pen do the following.

a) Open up the Wacom tablet driver  from your System Preferences.

b) Make sure that your tablet is selected in the first row,  Your pen is selected in the tool row, and Photoshop is selected in the Application row

c) Select the pen button to bring up the programming for the pen

d) I adjust the bottom part of the pen button and disable the top part of the button.  Select “Modifier” for the bottom part of the pen button

e) select <Cntrl>  <Option> and <Click> Check boxes

Thats it, give it a try.

Tip 2 – Make the Eraser Useful

I never use the eraser (because I’m typically painting on layer masks with white and black brushes),  so I never used it, but Corey showed me a great tip to make this useful.  I am often toggling between Photoshop and Lightroom,  so what I did was to program the eraser to be a toggle straight back into Lightroom (would also work for Bridge etc.).  To do this click on the Eraser button  and select “Open Run” from the menu choices and then browse to your Lightroom (or Bridge) application.

Tip 3 – Program up your Express Keys and your Touch strips.

I’ve been programming up my touch strips (left zooms in and out,  right cycles through blend modes), and also my Express keys (lots of goodies on there that I use regularly like Space Bar, B for brush, X to toggle Black and White, Option key, etc.   Don’t be lazy, use them thoughtfully.

Not using a Wacom tablet?

You don’t know what you are missing.  Seriously, I can not process images properly with just the mouse anymore,  it DRAMATICALLY speeds up your effeciency and effectiveness in post production.  The tablet is not a substitute for the mouse (I still use the mouse), but the secret lies in unlocking the pressure sensitivity along with Layer Masks.





11 responses

13 01 2011

Great tips, and funny timing, I already have a tablet but yesterday I start to thinking in upgrading to a wacom, so is great to see the level of control that you could have, only one alternative instead of selling your pc and spending an insane amount of money in a mac, you could use +

13 01 2011

ctrl + alt

13 01 2011

Hey Allan

yeah, I was joking regarding the upgrading to the Mac. I just couldn’t be bothered trying to work out the PC key equivalent.

I’d highly recommend upgrading to the Wacom. Especially the new Intuous 4 tablets, they look sweet with the programmable labels etc.


14 01 2011

Hey Brent, even if you don’t have a tablet I’m pretty sure that the key combo and left mouse click does the same thing if you have a GPU enabled video card (if you can see the check box in Photoshop preferences you’ve got one). You get some other good value tricks if the GPU is enabled too.

30 01 2011
Jimmy Gunawan

Simply hold Alt + drag Right Mouse Button (RMB) to change brush size. You can also assign [ and ] to your Wacom Intuos touch strip.

I am on a PC and yet love my iPad. Skipped on Mac :p can’t afford it, too pretty — no worries, I understand Mac users.

5 04 2011

Great blog. Spent a bit of time reading it and then came across this post. Useful, informative and helpful! Thank you.

Personally, I use my eraser on the back of my Pen all the time. I’ve never programmed anything on my tablet to the ‘Open Run’ option. I’ll give it a go.

By the way, get an Intuos4 🙂


12 04 2011

Hi Brent

Yes I know Im also joking some times I like to mess a little with mac fans

I follow your advise and buy a wacom intuos, and you are right they are amazing, is the best piece of hardware that I buy in years I never want to work with anything else again. thank you

16 04 2011
David Keating

Thanks for this post Brent. I’m always on the search for better ways to use my Wacom, and this post taught me a few new tricks.

31 05 2011
Flemming Bo Jensen

Hi Brent! I am back in Copenhagen for a spell, and finally able to work with my Wacom Intous4 tablet again, next time I am bringing it on the road! Can’t live without it.

Anyway, I remembered your post and just wanted to say thank you, tip no. 1 is faaaantastic!!!! Use it constantly!

27 09 2011
thomas alicoe appiah

Hi i seriously need a pen tablet on ma Lappy so i will be able to do ma sketches as i do on paper bht this time on computer.Do any of you know the best tablet for that………………..

Alicoe from Ghana.

27 09 2011
thomas alicoe appiah

Hi i am seriously in need of a pen tablet for ma Lappy so i will be able to do ma sketches as i do on paper bht this time on computer.Do any of you know the best tablet for that………………..thanks!

Alicoe from Ghana.

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