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Review: The Wacom Intuos Pro is a workflow-boosting machine

Review: The Wacom Intuos Pro is a workflow-boosting machine

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Wacom Intuos Pro
$299.95 | Wacom.com

When it comes to precision photo editing, a tablet may be the tool you never knew you desperately needed. Although the Wacom tablet has long been a favored tool of graphic designers and digital artists, it’s also an excellent piece of editing gear for photographers.

The Wacom Intuos Pros allows you to return to your roots of putting a pen to paper to create an image - a tactile experience that many younger digital artists may be out of touch with. If you’ve spent a number of years editing with a mouse or trackpad there will undoubtedly be a a bit of a learning curve when it comes to using the pen, but with a little bit of practice you will likely find this device speeds up your editing process and make tools like dodging, burning and clone-stamping much more precise.

Key features

  • 338 x 219 x 8mm / 13.2 x 8.5 x 0.3 in
  • 1.54lb / 0.7kg
  • Wacom Pro Pen 2 with 2 programmable buttons
  • 8192 pen pressure levels (up from 2048)
  • 8 Customizable ExpressKeys
  • Built-in Bluetooth connectivity and USB connectivity
  • Pen stand with 10 replacement nibs (tips)
  • Choose between 'standard' or 'felt' nibs for added friction
  • Mac and Windows compatible

What's new

The Wacom Intuos Pro tablet is thinner and lighter than its predecessor, so it occupies less real-estate on your desk. Despite this, the active area is larger thanks to a slimmer bezel and he surface plate can be swapped for a variety of different textures depending on your preferences.

The Wacom Intuos Pro is designed to imitate a large piece of paper

The new version utilizes the Wacom Pro Pen 2, which comes with a weight base (shown below), and is slimmer than version 1 – It also features two programmable buttons and 8192 pressure levels (up from 2048). Wireless Bluetooth connectivity is also new to the Wacom Intuos Pro.

Design

The Wacom Intuos Pro is designed to imitate a large piece of paper. The user chooses the orientation of the tablet and how it will map to their computer screen – this makes it a great tool regardless of your computer setup or dominant hand. On one side of the tablet you will find eight customizable express keys and the touch ring. The power switch and the touch functionality switch are located on the side of the tablet near the express keys and the optional USB plugin is on the opposite edge of the tablet.

The Wacom Pro Pen 2’s stand stores additional nubs. The pen itself has two customizable buttons – flip it upside down and you can use it as an eraser. The tablet itself has rubber grip on the bottom to keep it in place, and its slim profile makes it easy to travel with or store away when space is limited.

In use

It had been a number of years since I’d used a tablet for photo editing, and I can confirm that the learning curve was certainly there. But after a bit of practice with the pen and tablet I found the process of retouching scanned negatives in Adobe Photoshop to be more precise, faster and less taxing on my wrist than it would have been if I were using a mouse. Put another way, the difference between retouching with the Wacom pen vs. the mouse is like hand-writing a note with a fine tipped Sharpie vs a paint roller. The eraser is precise as well. I found it to be particularly helpful when creating multi-layer image compositions.

The vast degree of pressure responsiveness in the Pro Pen 2 is something I really appreciated, especially when it came to dodging, burning and light retouching. Press hard and the results are more pronounced, use a lighter touch and everything is more subtle. If you are particularly heavy-handed you can adjust the overall sensitivity of the pen.

The difference between the Wacom pen and a mouse is like hand-writing a note with a fine-tipped Sharpie versus a paint roller

The buttons on the side of the pen make it easy to control the brush size. At first I found myself accidentally pressing them as I edited, but I eventually learned to slightly rotate the pen while I worked to avoid this problem.

Also of note is that I observed no noticeable lag time between tablet and computer screen when it was connected via USB. The Bluetooth connection also seemed quite good, though I did notice a little bit of latency when using the paintbrush tool for extended periods of time.

Of course, Photoshop is not the only application the Intuous Pro is good for; I also used the tablet to work on images in Adobe Lightroom. And while it was useful for cloning and healing, I found it to be a little unwieldy when making adjustments to the slider. Ultimately I think I still prefer utilizing the mouse and the keyboard shortcuts that have been burned into my muscle memory for Lightroom work.

Bottom line

If you’ve never used a tablet and pen setup – or if it’s been a number of years since you’ve picked one up – the Wacom Intuos Pro will take some getting use to. Give it time though, because if you are doing a lot of image retouching, image compositing or light graphic design work, this editing accessory will certainly boost your productivity. And the customizable functions will make it appeal to a large variety of users. In all, we think that this tool can help take your editing workflow and the final image results to the next level.

What we like:

  • Pen delivers precise results
  • Pressure sensitive tip
  • Lightweight and travel friendly
  • Highly customizable
  • Excellent to use with Adobe Photoshop

What we don’t like:

  • Somewhat laggy Bluetooth connectivity; not a huge problem for light retouching jobs, but could become problematic when making large scale image composites that require a lot of painting.