Last updated: 8/24/2016
Our Wacom Intuos Pro (small) rating: 5/5
I got a new tablet! This review is specifically for Wacom’s latest Intuos model, the Wacom Intuos Pro.
How I use a Wacom tablet
I use my tablet almost exclusively for illustration and digital painting in Photoshop.
If you want to use an affordable, professional grade tablet to draw, color, or paint on your computer, this review is for you!
Wacom Intuos Pro (small size) features
- Ambidextrous design – the buttons can be on the left or the right
- Wired or wireless! Charge the battery during wired use, then go wireless
- 6 customizable hotkeys
- 1 big touch ring – slide to smoothly adjust brush size or zoom level
- Small size is plenty big, fits in lap or on desk
Things it won’t do:
- Teach you color theory, anatomy, lighting, etc
- Put in the thousands of hours of practice it takes to be a decent artist
(Just throwing those last two out there, since a lot of people seem to think having a tablet automatically makes you a way better artist. Boy, I wish…)
My particular tablet is a “certified refurbished” model from Amazon, but it hasn’t got a scratch on it, smells brand new, and came packaged in all the plastic wrap and twist ties you’d expect in a new tablet. I’m suspicious as to whether it’s actually seen any use at all.
Unboxing the Wacom Intuos Pro
Wacom Intuos Pro comes in a nice cardboard box with a plastic carrying handle. I doubt it’s intended to be like, a regular tote for the tablet, but it’s a nice touch that gives the product a more upscale presentation and keeps it safe during transit.
Inside the box:
- Wacom Intuos Pro tablet
- Wacom Intuos Pro pen
- Pen holder
- Extra plastic pen nibs (inside the pen holder)
- Micro USB cord
- Battery (this goes in the tablet itself)
- Wireless adapter (this goes in the tablet itself to enable wireless use)
- USB Bluetooth dongle (for using the tablet wirelessly)
- Startup booklet and CD
- Three extra little plastic rings for customizing your pen (white, grey, red)
- A postcard (that black “Welcome” rectangle is actually a postcard)
Below: the Wacom Intuos Pro in “small” size. I think the small size is plenty big, even though I’ve owned and used the “medium” size.
You can orient the tablet either way (buttons on left or right). If you remember the buttons-on-both-sides design of the Intuos 3, you’ll notice your hand now gets to rest on a smooth (not button) surface.
Unlike earlier Wacom models, the USB cord is now detachable.
Intuos small vs. medium size
If you’re debating a small Wacom vs. a medium Wacom, here’s my opinion: I think Wacom’s medium size tablet (the entire thing is 14.9″ x 9.9″) is unnecessarily big, and I think the largest Intuos Pro size is just crazy overkill huge.
- Small Intuos Pro: 6″ x 4″ working area (see it on Amazon)
- Medium Intous Pro: 8.8″ x 5.5″ working area (see it on Amazon)
- Large Intuos Pro: 12.8″ x 8.0″ working area (see it on Amazon)
Reasons why I like the smallest tablet size:
- It’s easier to make space for on your desk or in your lap
- Larger tablets require broader motions, which become tiring after hours and hours of drawing/painting
- You can zoom into your digital canvas for more precision, you don’t need more physical real estate to get more precision
- It’s the most affordable
Don’t believe anyone who tells you bigger size = more professional; I’ve worked as an artist and in offices with dozens of artists, and the vast majority happily used the small size Wacom (some had Cintiqs).
Sure, get a bigger size if you really want it and are confident it’s right for you, but I don’t think you’ll feel constricted by the small size.
How it feels
The drawing surface is awesome: slick and smooth with no skips or lag. Wacom has always made quality tablets so there’s no surprise that the pen responsiveness is spot-on.
The real difference between this tablet and its predecessors (and other tablets in Wacom’s lineup) are the customizable hot buttons down the side of the tablet. I work so much faster with my buttons set up the way I like them, because I can hold the tablet with my left and right hand and never waste time lifting my arm to the keyboard. This is also much easier on my shoulders and upper back, which are prone to repetitive stress pain if I sag my left hand over the keyboard for hours on end.
Configuring the Wacom Intuos Pro
You can configure the tablet, pen, and button shortcuts on a per-application basis. If you plan to use your new Wacom with Photoshop, hit the + button on the right and add Photoshop as an application, then do your customization there.
Most of these settings are self-explanatory and everyone kind of has their own preferences, so try a variety of mappings if you aren’t sure what you like. I like to map the rocker button on the pen to “i” and “b” so I can sample a color from my canvas (i) and switch back to brush (b) quickly in Photoshop. I like to map the wheel to [ and ], which decrease and increase the brush size in Photoshop, respectively.
My Wacom history
I got my first Wacom in 2003 (Intuos 2), my second one in 2007 (Intuos 3), and the Pro is my third Wacom tablet. The 2 got passed on to my sister and the 3 is still going strong (I now use it at my weekend place).
All of my Wacom tablets survived years of heavy use. The plastic nibs have worn out but the surface and tablet hardware itself have remained strong, and Wacom has continued to support (with drivers) even my oldest tablet. Because of this, I’m convinced Wacom tablets are more or less immortal, and I feel confident buying yet another one from their brand.
Why I don’t recommend Cintiq
Research Wacom tablets long enough and you’re bound to feel tempted by the Cintiq, a large monitor/tablet-in-one. The appeal, of course, is that you don’t experience the separation of hand from “canvas” with a Cintiq like you do with an ordinary tablet.
Some people swear by them, but I’m not one of those people.
- A sharp pain developed in my upper back and no matter how I positioned it, the pain persisted and worsened
- I didn’t like my hand blocking my work
- I felt guilty about “using it up” any time I used it as a normal monitor for say, gaming or writing
- It was heavy (newer models are lighter) but I only have an IKEA desk and I was convinced I’d come home to find my expensive Cintiq on the floor surrounded by a pile of particleboard
- I couldn’t bring it anywhere with me
Basically, the Cintiq felt like a step back from the small, comfortable Intuos tablets I can place in my lap and bring with me. This is why I don’t really recommend Cintiq. Your mileage may vary, but if you’re curious, most of the professional artists I know and have worked with are content to work on an Intuos.
If you’re in the Seattle area and wondering what to do with all the cash you saved getting an Intuos over a Cintiq, go to a TLC Workshop – these workshops are awesome and well worth the money!
Wacom’s new Intuos naming scheme
The first thing I noticed when shopping for my next tablet was that Wacom now offers a bewildering selection of entry level and mid range tablets.
These “entry level” tablets are the Intuos Draw, Intuos Art, Intuos Photo, and Intuos Comic. Prices vary because their feature sets and bundled software vary by tablet. They feature a dotted black drawing surface and four buttons at the top:
Wacom really diluted their line with these tablets, which I think mostly serve to confuse potential customers and add more research time to a Wacom purchase.
Even though these tablets are marketed towards a particular purpose (“draw anime!”, “edit photos!”), you’re not actually going to be limited to “just drawing” or “just photo editing” if you choose one of these tablets over another.
If you already have the software you want to use and you want to get one of these tablets, just buy based on color or features (such as the Intuos Art’s touch feature).
Intuos Pro vs. Intuos Draw, Intuos Art, etc
These are cute, but I think most artists will outgrow them quickly. If you intend to use your tablet regularly, it’s worth the extra cost to get an Intuos Pro.
- The Intuos Draw, Art, etc buttons are in an awkward location near the top. Also, you only get 2 per side, not six like you do with the Pro.
- There’s no touch wheel on these lower end tablets, and the touch wheel is awesome. You can map the touch wheel to a number of things, including brush size adjustment, which I’d be really lost without.
- The bundled software doesn’t do much for me either, since I use Photoshop. I think it’s better to buy an Intuos and then buy whatever software you want to use with it.
Artist Aaron Rutten has an excellent 5 minute video comparing these tablets, which is where I learned enough to know that I wanted a Pro instead.
If you really need the cheapest tablet imaginable, go with the Wacom Intuos Draw.
This is the tablet I’d get for someone if you aren’t sure that person will actually stick with a digital art hobby and just wants to give it a try. I’d definitely consider this tablet for a kid or a pre-teen. After all, it’s hard to argue with that price.
If your ambition is to become a professional artist, though, and you’re already working towards that goal and/or are in art school, I think it’s worth it to invest in the better tool and get the Intuos Pro instead.
Who should get a Wacom tablet
If you think you’d be better/faster with a tablet, you should seriously consider getting one. Illustrators, cartoonists, animators, photographers doing retouching by mouse would all benefit from a tablet.
I rarely use my tablet for “layout” work (like, I don’t use it if I’m making a mockup of what a website might look like) but I do use it for anything I would otherwise freehand.
My tablet completely replaced my old “draw on paper then scan” workflow, which was nice – saved me a lot of paper, pencils, eraser dust all over the place, and let me get rid of my scanner.
The bottom line
The Intuos Pro is awesome; I’m thrilled with it and happily using it to sketch and paint in Photoshop. This tablet is the best of Wacom’s current offerings: a step up from their low-end Intuos line (Intuos Draw, Art, Comic, Photo) in all the right ways, but not bank-breaker like the Cintiq.
If budget is a concern, check out Amazon’s refurbished version of the Wacom Intuos Pro. Mine came packed just like it was new from the factory and has no signs of use.
» See the Wacom Intuos Pro on Amazon.com «