Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wacom Bamboo, 3rd Generation

Time really flies - has it been almost 2 years since I began my journey into learning more about sketching? Even though I only spend about a quarter of an hour a day - as well as a weekly trip for life drawing sessions (this has stopped due to time constraints) - I've seen well warranted improvements over the hundreds of hours spent.

On a whim about two weeks ago, I decided I want to dip a little into digital painting. A tablet makes sense here, and a Wacom tablet is in order then, but the prices of intuos was a major turn off - £250 for the M sized tablets I see littered around the desks of artists at work?

Ouch inducing for a newb! The alternative choice is Wacom's entry level tablets, the Bamboo series, that clocks in at £49. The Bamboo Pen Tablet (CTL-470) is the cheapest of the bunch, and features just a pressure sensitive surface with no frills. It does come with a license for ArtRage 2.6 though.

In use, I can't say it's better than an Intuos or not since I've never really used an Intuos, but it compares well, or maybe better to the Graphire I used to use. One thing I've noticed, is that after learning how to sketch on a pencil, I had a far easier time with the Bamboo, versus back in the day when I could *not* draw - the graphire was a pain to use.

In practice, the Bamboo is well built, and while the feel is far from that of the Intuos (£49 vs £150 for the similar sized Intuos S) and lacks buttons, for the hobbyist it is great. One minor gripe I have is that it uses one of the odd micro usb connectors, different from the types we connect mp3 players and portable drives with - another cable to keep track of.

On OSX, it plugs in and works out of the box. The installation CD leads to a web download of some apps as well as the Bamboo driver. So far, I'm still figuring out how to paint, with ArtRage and Pixelmator. The later, is to me, a pseudo photoshop for twenty quid. Imports .abr brushes, and the menus, panels and layers just work for me.

The issue I found here was the response of the pen did not work for me out of the box - and caused me quite a bit of frustration as I messed about with the pressure settings in Pixelmator to get it to work. It ended up to be a setting in the OSX's Bamboo Control Panel for the pen's stiffness - a stiffer setting worked far better for me.

Tried it on my Ubuntu box, but gave up after a quarter of an hour fiddling with drivers and all. I have much better things to do than figure out software - like harmony and all that jazz. If only OSX didn't have such a crappy interface - I really, really dislike the Finder in Snow Leopard, and the way resizing windows works etc just plain sucks. It's too bad, since I really enjoy how applications and stuff just works. Much prefer to spend my time doing/learning stuff than compiling drivers, seriously. That's me getting old and whiny.

So, to wrap this up, I think for the price the Bamboo is a great buy, and perhaps down the road in a few years, I may upgrade to an Intuos.

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