Tuesday, April 1, 2008

How I Learnt to Stop Worrying and Love the Tablet

I finally got round to buying a tablet. Everyone I know who has one swears by it, and even my Photoshop tutorial book made snide comments about we mousers. And even after over four years of owning a mouse (I used a trackball before, actually), I still found it clunky for the fine work.

I was truly hoping to get a reconditioned tablet, but they seem to get snapped up faster than freebie dresses in Victoria City. So, I went ahead and swallowed seriously and repeatedly, then considered the idea of actually buying it at retail.

Well, it must still be spring, because a certain gentleman shopped, found and ordered it for me :)) Perhaps he was simply tired of hearing me agonize over it.

A verrrrryy long week after, this came in the mail, with an amazingly terse instruction manual (helpfully bilingual in Portuguese):

I wish I could say it was all sunshine and long walks through rose gardens from there, but in fact, it was a pain in a blessed half to use at first. Those of you who read the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy might recall a section where the two headed man is trying to use a radio that changes stations with the merest twitch of the arm--thereby requiring one to hold Stock Still whilst listening to the show one is listening to! Well, that was the first two days on the Wacom. That, and I wasn't clear on what part of the ergonomic button to click to achieve right clickedness. PLEASE tech manual writers, do take a class on writing. I am all for the modern Hemingwayish "get to the point" style of writing (at least for other people :P) but, one must include all necessary information.

But I forced myself to learn, and yes, it is amazingly precise for painting on textures. I find myself doing less of the "clip/paste/distort" method of texture creation and more simply brushing on colours left and right. Eyedropper, grab a pixel, then I proceed to imagine myself a later day Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun. The before ignored airbrush has become a staple of my repertoire.

In short, after a tumultuous first week, we have achieved a certain level of love :)

Oh, final tidbit--there are a surprising lack of practical tutorials out there on tablet usage. Perhaps it is simply because they are so prevalent that graphic artists think of explaining it as akin to explaining how to use a charcoal pencil. Or perhaps it's because one can't really explain much beyond how to turn it on and customize the buttons. Instead, one must simply dive in and work with it. As a wise Muppet once said, "Try not. Do or do not, there is no try."

But...I found a lovely little videogame for practise :D


One simply has to draw a circle about floats of the same colour, then they merge and become a bigger float, and so on until only one big float of each colour remains. One's circle must have only floats of one colour to work, so precision and speed are rewarded (that, and there is a timer!).

Simply put, it is a game MADE for a tablet pen. 15 (*cough* or so) minutes twice a day for a week, and now it feels as natural as a mouse to me.

Thank you Ferry Halim, creator of wonderfully fun, non-violent flashgames!


Audrey Fothergton said...

I bought the tablet about three weeks ago and foolishly thought it was going to work like a real pen.
I can see there is so much more to it.. and like you, I am still trying to come to grips with those buttons!

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