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wacom intuos4 professional pen tablet

Innovative Game Changer


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intuos4 tablet & pen


Early fall, 2010

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By Eden Maxwell

Feel The Love

If you’re a designer, photographer, or painter using a professional Wacom pen tablet, then you have already proven to your own satisfaction its value as an essential part of your daily toolkit. If you haven’t yet made the digital leap from a mouse to the precision and organic feel of a Wacom pen, then you’re in store for a game changing experience that will further unleash your creativity. Once you begin working with a Wacom Intuos4 pen tablet, you won’t look back.

Also, if you’ve been an Intous3 tablet user and thought that the next generation model can’t be that much better, then you’ll be pleased to learn that the Intuos4 is a very much improved pen tablet specifically designed and enhanced your workflow. Featuring a distinctly natural feel, the Intuos4 tablet offers users unparalleled performance, and superb ergonomics—making this tablet well worth the investment.

While technology can easily jade us these days, the Wacom intuos4 tablet (also available in a wireless version) deserves our attention as a superbly engineered piece of equipment. In the realm of function and design, the Intuos4 pen tablet is perfect—so feel the love!

Inspired by suggestions and comments from Wacom professional users, the feature-rich design is sleeker, more versatile, and best of all—you now have more control over adjusting its features in the control panel (located in system preferences) to suit your needs.

Having an intuos4 tablet is an indispensible companion for your Wacom supported applications—such as Corel Painter, onOne Plug-in Suite 5, Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop CS5 with it’s new mixture and bristle brushes. You can, for example, while painting or retouching easily control precision, brush size, hardness, and opacity.


The medium Intuos4 tablet (the model I’m working with) is by far the most popular. This tablet provides ample workspace for most users. 

Intuos4 is the most ergonomically comfortable Intuos tablet to date. The slim-profiled tablet has gently sloping, easy glide palm rests that provide support for working on all areas of the tablet. To prevent such hand-related issues as wrist strain and carpal tunnel syndrome, resting your hands is essential.

Surprisingly not everyone takes the time to investigate the tablet’s customizable built-in features—namely the Touch Ring and ExpressKeys. For example, it’s simple to set up the Intuos4 ExpressKeys to activate your own unique, timesaving shortcuts and modifiers in each of your applications. The idea behind all these customizable functions is ergonomic accessibility. Once you begin exploring, you’re certain to find shortcuts that will improve your productivity.

Once you’ve set up and cusyour various functions, don’t forget to use them. Yes, it’s true: habit die hard. So, overcome your old ways by using your new shortcut tools; soon they’ll be part of your daily workflow, saving you both time and hand strain.


The finger-sensitive Touch Ring, much like an iPod controller, provides intuitive on the fly control over scrolling, zooming, brush size, canvas rotation, layer selection, or any command you’d like to assign. A central toggle button allows you to control up to four different functions in each application. As a handy visual cue, an OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diodes), lights up to indicate the currently selected scroll ring mode.

To achieve similar control, the Intuos3 had touch strips, which were a good idea, but a bit clumsy, as users would often inadvertently touch them, launching an unwanted command. With 4 functions, the Touch Ring is a major improvement over the previous 2-function touch strips. With the Touch Ring, you can keep working while making adjustments with your free hand. Lefties have not been left out of the loop here, either.

Note: The innovative, ambidextrous design of Intuos4 allows you to maximize the productivity of both your hands. By locating all of the ExpressKeys and the Touch Ring on the same side of the tablet, they are all in the perfect position for use with the hand that is not holding the pen. Simply rotate the tablet 180° degrees and change a single control panel setting to adjust the tablet from a right-handed to a left-handed configuration.


ExpressKeys have been revamped to include more options while making the buttons more accessible and easier to use—putting less strain on your finger dancing. There are a total of 8 Express keys organized into 2 columns of 4 buttons.

You can easily set up your ExpressKeys to activate your own unique, timesaving shortcuts and modifiers in each of your Wacom supported applications. For example, the same ExpressKey can have one assigned command for Painter and yet another for InDesign. Another great plus is seeing your ExpressKey settings change (if that’s the case) in the illuminated display areas as you switch between applications.

Setting up your ExpressKeys preferences to invoke keystroke shortcuts used by the host app is productive and effective.


The Intuos4 standard Grip Pen features a new contoured cushioned barrel designed to minimize grip effort, reduce stress to your hand and wrist, and otherwise emulate the natural feel of your favorite writing instrument. With 2048 levels of unprecedented pressure sensitivity and 60 degrees of tilt recognition, the pen represents a significant improvement to feel, responsiveness, and performance.

Offering precision and control with only a single gram of pen pressure, the new Tip Sensor technology behind the pen is impressive. By pressing harder or softer, the new Grip Pen captures the subtlest nuances of pressure, giving you a creative tool for dynamically adjusting exposure, brush size, line weight, opacity and more.


Painting and calligraphy especially require the unique gesture of the artist and the artisan—and that gesture is captured beautifully and faithfully with the Intuos4 Art Pen ($99.95, includes stand plus extra nibs), one of the many tablet accessories available from Wacom.

Although the standard Grip Pen is great for many uses, if you’re going to paint, design, or do other detail graphic work, you might want to up your performance ante with the Intuos4 Art Pen. It provides the pressure and tilt sensitivity of the standard Grip Pen, plus 360 degrees of barrel rotation sensitivity

Combining these features with a chisel-shaped nib makes the Intuos4 Art Pen the most realistic tool for emulating brushes, markers, and calligraphic pens. Rotating the barrel in supporting applications such as Corel Painter or Adobe Photoshop creates a unique organic effect—for example, lighter, heavier, or unusual-looking intuitive strokes.

The Intuos4 Art Pen ships with the following accessories: 10 replacement nibs (standard and chisel), a nib puller, and a weighted pen stand that also pulls double duty for storing your nibs. Of all the nib styles, my preference is the tactile feel of the chisel-shaped felt nibs—they’re acceptable but not supple enough for my taste.

Note: The Intuos4 Art Pen works with Intuos4 generation tablets only.

It’s true. The Intuos4 Art Pen delivers fine-tuned control as promised.

Still, my favorite digital pen tool harkens back to the Intuos 6D Art Pen that unfortunately works only with the Intuos3 tablet. Besides rotation, pressure sensitivity, tilt and bearing, this pen also features a hefty chisel-shaped felt nib (more like a felt marker and my favorite here, too). And, on another tactile level, I liked the feel, heft, and shape of the 6D Art Pen. Of course, my preference is subjective—and over time I've gotten use to the feel of the Intuos4 Art Pen, which also features two side buttons that you can customize to invoke various commands and keyboard shortcuts.

Note: The Wacom models, Bamboo and Graphire, do not support tilt, bearing, or rotation. The Intuos4 and Cintiq support tilt and bearing with the standard Grip Pen.


The customizable shortcut and modifier keys are now in lights.

With Intuos4, remembering your shortcut settings is no longer a problem. You need only glance at the tablet. Each ExpressKey is equipped with an accompanying illuminated OLED display, providing a reminder of the key’s application-specific function—its current key assignment. This feature resolves the problem of having to recall what shortcut you assigned to which key.

Whenever you assign or reassign a key, any change automatically and instantly updates on the illuminated display; this means that you know each function before pressing the key–which was not the case with the Intuos3 tablet. You can also assigned programmed shortcuts for all your Wacom supported apps—and as you use each app, the illuminated display reflect the assigned shortcuts; this is a very handy well thought out feature, as you might have different shortcuts assigned to the same key for different apps; note also that illuminated display brightness can be adjusted to taste from the Wacom control panel.

On Medium, Large and Extra Large Intuos4 tablets, illuminated displays provide a visual cue to each assigned key’s function. On the Small tablet, you must press the default ExpressKey to display the settings on screen.


The completely redesigned five-button Intuos4 Mouse scroll mouse remains a workhorse, and is an alternative to the pen for those who might prefer mouse input for certain tasks. I use the Intuos4 Mouse for most desktop functions and the pen for painting and photo editing.

Using the same cordless and “battery-free” technology as the pen, the Intuos4 mouse tracks smoothly and seamlessly across the surface of your tablet. The mouse design is contoured and feels comfortable in your palm.

The mouse includes an integrated middle button, a rolling finger wheel, and two additional buttons that can be used for quickly scrolling up and down. The buttons can be customized for a variety of functions and actions in the Wacom Control Panel. This wireless mouse has been very easy on my wrist and fingers.

Note: The Intuos4 Mouse works with Intuos4 generation tablets only.


These onscreen tools are also very handy. The uppermost ExpressKey is assigned by default to Show Settings, which displays all the assigned ExpressKeys and Touch Ring commands at a glance.

The Radial Menu is a circular pop-up menu that provides quick access to common editing commands such as cut & paste, navigation, email, the web, media control functions, and more. The Radial Menu is assigned by default to second from the top of the upper row ExpressKeys. When you press that key button, the Radial Menu appears centered at the screen cursor position.

Included in the medium Intuos4 package:

1) Intuos4 medium pen tablet
2) Intuos4 Grip Pen
3) Intuos4 mouse
4) Pen stand
5) Ten replacement nibs (five standard nibs, one flex nib, one stroke nib, and three hard felt nibs)
6) Nib extractor
7) 2.5m USB cable
8) Quick Start Guide
9) Installation CD (includes tablet driver software and electronic user manual)     


An ingenious gateway between human and machine, the intuos4 pen tablet system offers creative opportunities that go beyond traditional media. It’s nothing short of impressive how naturally responsive both the Grip and Art pen mimic its old school analog counterparts.

Over the years, I have moved from painting with traditional tools to harnessing the power of the computer. This important game changing transition would not have been possible without my Wacom pen tablet. I’m not comparing traditional tools to the Wacom tablet; my perspective is that my intuos4 is yet another art tool added to my studio.

For those still on the technology fence, here’s an apt post about art-related tradition that I lifted from my blog:

One of the reasons I love working with Corel Painter 11 and the Wacom Intuos4 drawing tablet is that I have the option to create, destroy, and create again without losing anything in the process—which is a universal constant where everything is propelled to balance the equation. This was, in fact, the equation Einstein had in mind when he pondered the still elusive theory of everything.

Tradition is good; mindless dogma is not. Remember, when Leonardo discovered the wonders of working with slow-drying oils over fast-drying egg tempura, he immediately embraced the new technology.

Do no less than Leonardo and adopt the new technology of your time—get the Intuos4 Professional Pen Tablet.»

Wacom Technology


Price: Intuos4 Pen Tablet, $349; as of this writing (early fall, 2010) you can get the Intuos4 Pen Tablet bundled with Corel Painter II for only $399.




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