Setting Up a Graphics Tablet

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Setting Up a Graphics Tablet

I've noticed a lot of people here have tablets that they don't know how to use, and we're looking at doing some challenges to help you all get some practice. But that has a major prerequisite...those of you who own a tablet need to have it set up so you can start learning to use it!

If you haven't installed the driver and software yet, here are the pages to download them for the two most common graphics tablet manufacturers:
Wacom tablets:
Click on "Pen Tablets" and then choose your model from the "Select Product" dropdown list to find the correct software for your tablet. Download and follow the instructions to install the software.

Huion tablets:
Scroll down just a bit and choose your tablet model from the first "Product Model" dropdown, then choose your OS from that dropdown, and select "Drivers" or "Manual" from the second "Product Model" dropdown. Download and follow the instructions to install the software.

My tablet is a few years old--a Wacom Bamboo Pen and Touch. That said, their configuration program hasn't changed a lot over the years, so I'm including my settings here to help anyone who has a similar one. Mine auto-installed under Start Menu>All Programs>Bamboo>Pen Tablet Properties.

When I open up the Pen Tablet Properties app, I'm given a window with 5 tabs: Pen, Pop-up Menu, Tablet, Touch Speed, and Touch Functions. (Your tablet may lack a touch function, in which case you might only have 3 tabs.) We'll walk through each of these tabs as we go.

"Pen" Tab
My settings are pretty much default: Eraser Feel is set in the middle, I've turned off the Click Sound by unchecking the box, my longer side button is set to Right Click, my short one to Pan/Scroll... with a medium speed chosen in the popup selected there, and my Tip Feel is set in the middle. My Double Click Distance is also set in the middle, and my Tracking has Pen Mode selected.

Clicking the Details button next to Pen Mode brings up another window, and you'll find this window important no matter what your computer setup is. If you use a multi-monitor setup like I do, you may not want your tablet to map to all screens (the default); mine is set to Monitor 1. I've unchecked the box next to Force Proportions; since my monitors and tablet are approximately the same shape, it's not necessary, and I found it annoying to only be using part of the tablet's sensor area even when I was using it with an old-style 4:3 monitor (the more square ones, from before widescreen was the standard). Tablet area is set to Full. Click OK to close out of this window and go back to the main Pen Tablet Properties app.

The last thing on the Pen tab is the Advanced button at the bottom; clicking it brings up another window where you can select whether your side buttons activate just by pressing the button while hovering over the tablet, or if you have to push the button and then tap the pen to the tablet. The second setting is better for not accidentally popping up a context menu when you're in the middle of drawing something, but I've got mine set to Hover Click anyway. Make your choice, then hit the OK button to close out of this window.

"Pop-up Menu" Tab
This lets you create a purely custom pop-up menu for your pen/tablet; I don't use this, though it could be great to set up one that lets me access Photoshop tools from it.

"Tablet" Tab
This tab lets you set up your tablet's orientation and what the functions of the buttons next to the sensor area are. Mine's set up Right Handed, so I've selected that; obviously you'll want to use Left Handed if you write with your left hand. My ExpressKeys (my tablet has 4, though other tablets may have more or fewer) are set to Touch Toggle, Back, Right Click, and Keystroke (Ctrl-z in the box, hit OK, type Undo in the Name box, hit OK).

"Touch Speed" Tab
Pointer Speed is in the middle, Pointer Acceleration is set low-medium, Double-Tap Time is set at System default, and Scrolling Speed is in the middle.

"Touch Functions" Tab
This tab allows you to configure which touch gestures are enabled on your tablet. It's quite possible to use a touch-enabled tablet as a giant trackpad or phone/tablet sensor for your computer monitor if you check all these boxes. I have them all checked so I can give my hands a break from the mouse once in a while. You may wish to uncheck them all while you're first learning, as accidental touches can be frustrating.

Speaking of accidental touches, it's really helpful to use a drawing glove that covers the side of your hand, both to prevent accidental touches registering and to let your hand glide over the graphics tablet's surface if your hands get a little sticky. However, I don't have a 2-finger drawing glove, and didn't originally have the $15 to buy one because budget's always tight on disability; I cut the toes and heel out of a favorite cute sock that had holes worn in the toes and heel and pulled it onto my hand with my thumb through where the heel was. That worked just fine for me for a couple of years, and gave me a spare so that I could wash them regularly; I still have them stashed in the zippered binder that is my "traveling studio". Now I use a $12 pair of open-fingered compression gloves purchased from Amazon; they help my arthritic hands ache less and still protect me from accidental touches and sticking to the tablet.

Since I also have a tablet and experience using it, I hope it's okay if I share my settings since some of them are different from Holly's.

My current tablet is a Wacom Intuos BT M, purchased earlier this year after my old Intuos 2's stylus finally died.

My Tablet Properties window has four tabs: Tablet, Pen, Mapping, and On-Screen Controls. This tablet does not come with touch options (that may be exclusive to the Bamboo line). There is also an "Application" ribbon across the top where I can customize the settings for specific applications. On this ribbon, "All Other" will be the tablet's default settings, and then you can add other programs where you change what the settings do for that specific program only.

The "Tablet" tab:

This tab allows me to set up my ExpressKeys at the top of my tablet. On this model, they are mechanical keys (they click, and I can press them with my fingers), but on my previous tablet they were touch-based and only worked with the stylus. My current model has four ExpressKeys; my previous had six. I haven't changed the keys for "All Other" programs, but have set up custom ones for both Photoshop and Illustrator (such as enabling one key to input "ctrl-S" and another to "ctrl-Z"). This tab is also where my tablet's battery monitor is, since mine is Bluetooth-enabled. Since my PC doesn't have Bluetooth, however, I keep the tablet plugged in all the time.

The "Pen" tab:

This tab is where I set my pen's settings. The new Intuos pens don't have an eraser (a rounder tip at the "wrong" end of the stylus), though my old one did. The "tip feel" lets me change how sensitive the pressure on the stylus is, for drawing lines of varying thickness, for instance. "Tip double click distance" determines how fast you have to tap twice in a row to register a double click rather than two single clicks. To the right of the pen diagram, you can customize what the two side buttons do; I've set them up to match what my old Intuos's side buttons did, which is double click for the long button and right click for the short.

The "Mapping" tab:

Unlike Holly's settings (and my previous Intuos), this is its own separate tab for my current tablet. I have a double monitor setup, so this lets me determine how much of that setup is mapped to my tablet. I only use the tablet on the left monitor, so I've mapped it to just that area, since stroke length can get weird if you try to map to the whole width of the double monitors. If you check "Force Proportions," then a proportional amount of tablet surface will be active for whichever monitor you select. For instance, if I select my right monitor, which has an older 4:3 aspect ratio, then my tablet, which has a 8:5 aspect ratio (same as my left monitor), will be constrained to that amount of working surface area. You can customize what portion of the tablet surface you use with the "Tablet area" drop-down. Below the tablet diagram is the checkbox for "Use Windows Ink," which uses some of Windows 10's built-in tablet settings. This tab also has the pen vs. mouse mode, though I don't have a mouse that came with this tablet, and never used the one for my old tablet anyway, so I leave it on "pen" mode.

The "On-Screen Controls" tab:

I have not changed things on this tab. I probably could look into these more, as they appear to provide more involved settings for dedicated artists. My previous Intuos didn't have these, but it was really old (purchased in 2002 or 2003). Some of these settings may be in the Properties by default, but only used by larger, fancier models. Beginners shouldn't really need to change anything in this tab.

Additionally, there are three buttons at the bottom of the Properties window. "About" gives you info about the control panel and driver versions. It also gives you a "Diagnose" button, which you can use to try to figure out if your tablet is having problems and what those are. "Options" is where you set whether your pen buttons work by clicking while hovering or clicking and tapping. I keep "Hover Click" enabled because it's what I'm used to. It also lets you check or uncheck the setting that adjusts pressure compatibility for older applications, and where you can disable all your tablet buttons if you need to (maybe your cat keeps stepping on your ExpressKeys and accidentally doing things in your program). Finally, the "(?)" button opens the Wacom help menu in your browser.

This is exactly what I hoped this thread would become, Amanda--a repository for setups for the various tablet brands out there! You've got the newer Wacom software for the Intuos tablets covered nicely; now we just need to get a Huion setup in here and we'll have a solid resource for getting new tablet users set up and ready to start drawing. smiley