There aren’t many things photographers unanimously agree on, but the desire to improve post-processing results and reduce the time required to do it is one. With so much of a photographer’s time spent behind a computer, anything that not only expedites but enhances the experience is welcomed with open arms, and using a Wacom pen tablet is one such thing. For Capture One, using a Wacom Tablet can be a real boon, and here’s how.
Why a Wacom Tablet
The purpose and utility of a pen tablet is an obvious one: it’s an input device that brings to a computer interface the familiarity and natural experience of using a pen and paper, and that allows you to interact with your images in a way nothing else permits and heightens the user experience.
Wacom tablets have had the misfortune of being almost exclusively associated with Photoshop, but they can transform how you post-process in many applications, including Capture One. Unlike Lightroom, Capture One has powerful layers and layer masks, and refined local adjustment tools that all take advantage of today’s pen tablets.
For those of you not yet using Capture One, this is an excellent time to download a full free trial to follow along. And for those current Capture One users, this is by no means an exhaustive list; think of this as a quick start guide where you can copy sample settings and get a glimpse at what’s possible.
Capture One and Wacom Tablet Quick Start
It warrants bringing attention to the fact that natural feeling of using a pen aside, the benefits of speed and a more efficient workflow are achieved through customization of the tablets and pens, and they can be tailored to suit. As you begin to use one, you will naturally find what works best for you and your workflow, but here’s a sample to get you started immediately.
What you see above is a look at the precise settings I use for Capture One with my Wacom Intuos Pro Medium.
The Pen buttons are set to have the top button for Undo, and the lower button is effectively like a Right Click. While you can set them as you like, there is a benefit to having the lower button set as described, as holding it down and tapping the pen on the tablet brings up the Brush Settings Dialogue (see below), and I have found it is the fastest way to adjust brush parameters like Size and Hardness. You hold the button, click and drag, then let go, and you’re set.
In fact, these same Pen settings can be kept for Photoshop, and holding the button down and moving the pen on the tablet in Photoshop allows you to adjust the same parameters as in Capture One, just a bit more fluidly.
With these settings alone, you can get some of the best out of the marriage of Capture One and Wacom tablet, and for many, this is as much as they need or want.
While not required, the customization that can be achieved with a Pro tablet like you see here can be beneficial and always nice to have. The real benefits come in the form of the scroll wheel, the programmable hotkeys, and the fact that the tablet can be flipped for either right hand dominant users or lefties.
The Scroll Wheel
On the Intuos Pro, the wheel can be programed to do a myriad of functions from scrolling, cycling layers, zooming, adjusting brush size, and rotating. There's a center button within the wheel, which lets you quickly cycle between four of your designated choices. Within Capture One, it's most commonly used for zooming and changing brush size. Here's how that looks:
With eight programmable hotkeys, the tailoring options for the pro models are high, and this is probably where most value of the Intuos Pro models come in for Capture One users. They are perfectly placed for dual hand control of the tablet and can take much of the use away from the keyboard, allowing you to focus entirely on the tablet and the monitor.
From here, you're also able to bring up the Radial Menu, to which you can program any number of other functions in Capture One, and the menu can be pinned on screen, allowing for really quick function application. For those who struggle to remember keyboard shortcuts, this can be a dream and often used for creating new variants, switching between monitors, and more. Click to enlarge the sample below:
The above are just sample layouts, and it may take some time to figure out just how you like it. It is at this time I would also feel it necessary to say that if you have not used a tablet before, prepare yourself to hate them for the first few days. This is perfectly natural, and everyone who swears by them now went through this. But push through, and there will be no looking back.
Which Tablet to Get
Which tablet you use depends on how much customization you require and how you like to work with your keyboard. My familiarity with the keyboard shortcuts means I am used to and work faster using my keyboard and Wacom tablet in tandem, using the tablet for the brushwork/mouse-work and the keyboard for most other things.
Working this way, you can buy the least expensive Wacom Tablet ($79 on B&H) and work well, but there are benefits to getting the Pro models if you like to have even more shortcut options at your fingertips and have trouble remembering them all.
The Wacom Intuos Pro lines have touch capability so they can be used as trackpads; they have programmable scroll wheels and virtual hotkeys too, as well as Precision Mode for refined touches, built-in Bluetooth for easy wireless capability, and double the pen pressure levels. The latter, however, matters little, as it’s extremely hard to feel a difference between 4,096 pressure levels and 8,192 levels. Below, you'll get a look at settings should you use one of the Pro models. Wacom has just released their new Intuos Pro Small, which is the model that is probably the best value and size for photographers.
I would also recommend avoiding larger tablets for their cumbersome size and higher price, particularly as when using them for photography, it’s recommended you map the screen to a small portion of the tablet so that your wrist can do the movements instead of your whole arm. (see image above)
For those of you wondering about the Wacom MobileStudio Pro and Cintiq, we won't go into much detail here, but suffice to say, they do work well with Capture One if pen computers are your preference, and the MobileStudio Pro is particularly unique for its ability to capture. That said, for the lion's share of users, they are not necessary.
To be sure, Capture One's auto-masking and luminosity masking features go such a long way to helping to make selections and working quickly, even better in many ways than Photoshop, but for the extra mile, and for those who do a lot of work or have a Wacom already, it's a joy to use.
We'll continue to cover other accessories like Palette Gear and Loupedeck+ for Capture One soon, so check back often, and you can learn more in the Capture One Learning Hub, and you can download the latest version of Capture One here.
If you're looking for a quick and effective way to learn all the nuances of Capture One, check out The Complete Capture One Editing Guide.