I personally have never used a Wacom tablet or stylus in my life. They always seemed like the most useful post-processing tool ever, but I never bit the bullet and tested the waters. However, after filming Elia Locardi edit over 40 images for his "Photographing the World" landscape series, I am confident enough to finally give it a try myself. Luckily my good friends over at Phlearn have laid out five of the most useful tips for making your Wacom tablet easy to use.
If you aren't already subscribed to Phlearn's YouTube channel, you are missing out on some of the best retouching education currently on the web. Aaron Nace is both an amazing retoucher and photographer, and his free tutorials always combine an interesting photo concept with really clever retouching and compositing. The first five tips Nace suggests when configuring your Wacom tablet and stylus include adjusting your pen's response to movement, changing the overall brush pressure sensitivity, programming brush size and hardness shortcuts, manipulating flow and opacity settings, and adopting the previous tips to other tools besides just the brush. Having someone like Nace to walk me through some of these Photoshop menus (many of which I have never seen before) is definitely going to make my transition easier than if I was just doing it blindly.
My Sink or Swim Wacom Challenge
Moving from a mouse to a stylus is a scary proposition. I'm not going to lie, I'm a bit worried about my stress levels next week when I jump head first into touchpad bliss. Some of my favorite retouchers like Pratik Naik, Julia Kuzmenko McKim, Aaron Nace, and Dani Diamond have all traded in their mouse pads for a pen and tablet system. I've heard countless times from my friends in the retouching world that they would not be the experts they are if it wasn't for the Wacom tablet. Their claims make sense too; if you could paint and edit your photos using a much more familiar "pen" instead of an awkward mouse, the creative possibilities would surely be increased at least 10 fold.
My worries about making this transition from mouse to pen is probably similar to the feelings people have when picking up an instrument for the first time. Anyone who has become moderately proficient at an instrument can make simple tasks look incredibly easy. Muscle memory is an incredible achievement of the human body, and breaking decade old habits can be so extremely difficult that many people simply give up. I hope to not be one of those people.
Since my daily responsibilities at Fstoppers requires me to answer dozens of emails, edit video in Premiere, build and design banners and graphics, and retouch traditional still photographs, I'm going to give myself seven days to make the transition. It's literally going to be sink or swim, and I pray for the sanity of my assistants who share adjoining walls with my office during this next week.
If you have made this transition already yourself, I would love to hear your stories, suggestions, and advice on how you made the Wacom tablet part of your daily workflow. Do you use the pen for every task including browsing online and navigating your operating system, or do you only use it for retouching? The thought of using a pen for retouching skin in Photoshop sounds like a dream come true, while using a pen for editing video in Premiere seems like a potential nightmare. My official start day is going to be Saturday, August 15 so please wish me luck.