I want to buy my wife a Wacom in order to help her with her illustrations. I have been readin over the internet about various models. Among those Intuos4 and Bamboo looks good. However, I have seen people reporting that the nibs wear out real quick which will be a problem for me as I dont live in US, hence cant get replacement nibs every often. So, my major concern is sustainability of the pen and nibs. So, which Wacom model will be the perfect match for my needs?

  1. The budget is within 400$
  2. Size should be no smaller than 6" X 9"
  3. Requires minimal refill accessories.
  4. Would be better if its wireless Wired/Wireless doesn't matter.
  5. Should be compatible with Photoshop at least.

With the $400 budget you might be able to get Intuos A5 (Wireless is not that much more expensive than the normal version..) Intuos is awesome device.

( By the way.. Wacom devices usually come with Corel Painter or Photoshop elements which is a good thing to know and keep in mind. )

Then again, new bamboos have separate wireless adapter that you can buy around $60.

The new bamboos seem to still have "paper like surface" which is total crap if you ask me. I'm not saying that it is not like a paper surface, but the existence of paper like surface or any grainy surface for drawing tablets is just a bad choice as far as the pen nib's go if you ask me. (It could be a lot less grainy than it was before in the earlier generation bamboo's, but I would always go for the smooth if possible..)

Intuos has smooth smooth surface and you can buy different overlays for them. Like, transparent overlays that you can buy separately allows you to, put paper drawing under the overlay and basically use that to re-draw your older drawing.. Personally, when I had Intuos and the clear overlay, I never used that.. With Intuos you can use one pen nib for a long long time Especially the "Stroke nibs". "Standard nibs" wear out a bit faster, but still last quite long and my personal experience with "Felt nibs" is that they wear out really fast even with smooth surface.

Though as a third option I would throw in Inkling while keeping in mind that you can't color with it. Inkling is around $190 It's not super accurate and is meant for sketching mostly. So, it's a ball point pen with real ink that you can use to draw on paper. It has this receiver that you place on top of a paper and it records the drawing digitally. Works with Photoshop cs3+ and Illustrator cs3+. I heard that you are able to do some computer controlling with the pen, but I wouldn't really count on that much. I personally am planning to use it accompanied with my other tablets.. (when my inkling arrives) So, it might not be the right choice if you need to color the drawings.. Though some general coloring isn't so hard to do with mouse either.

The size can be pretty important thing. Generally I would say, buy tablet that has drawing area about the same size as your normal drawing area. It takes less getting used to.

As far as actual drawing goes, I wouldn't get A6.. for painting I would still use that. Personally I like A4 size. Which I think is quite ideal for most. A5 or often called Medium, can be quite good size especially if you have a budget and I would still use that for drawing.

So, basically Bamboo or Intuos, you can't make a wrong decision as far as the hardware goes. But I would definitely take Intuos. Especially if you're not feeling crafty.. (Read more below..)

If your wife is more used to traditional drawing techniques you might want to buy tablet that comes with Corel Painter.. (It has a large variety of different tools that imitate quite well the real life version of the tool.. like different paints and charcoal.. pencil.. etc..)

Pen nibs wearing out really fast is definitely a problem with the bamboo line (I don't know for sure if all of the older generation one's have grainy surface, but bamboo fun does.) It doesn't have smooth surface like Intuos has. I used 1 pen nib all the way in 2 days and almost didn't get it out afterwards cause it was so worn out.

But, the crafty guy that I am.. I bought thin transparent double sided tape and transparent overhead projector overlays (transparency doesn't really matter) and made my own smooth surface on top of the bamboo's own grainy surface. Now I've had one pen nib in use for about a year and you can just about see that it has worn a little.

I have to change the overlay at times cause it sort of stretches and next time I probably try printer overlays which are a bit thicker.

  • SO you're suggesting that by adding a smoother surface overlaying the existing will give me better nib life? – ShutterBug Dec 8 '11 at 10:07
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    @ShutterBug With Intuos that is not necessary. Intuos has very smooth surface and if you use the Stroke nib.. (which is the best one IMO) that will last really long time. With bamboo, yes.. I would definitely suggest crafting a smooth overlay on top of it. Forgot to mention that Intuos comes with a mouse that you can use on top of the tablet (doesn't use any batteries) – Joonas Dec 8 '11 at 10:20

Any Wacom is compatible with all the Adobe applications, Painter, and anything else that calls itself a professional graphics application, so I'd not be concerned about that.

Without knowing your wife's drawing style, it's hard to make a recommendation about size, but the wired Intuos 4 Medium is almost the size you're asking about and is fantastic to work with. The wireless version has a slightly smaller drawing area, and while it maybe offers a bit of extra freedom of movement, I've never felt restricted by the USB cord on mine. Either integrates beautifully with Photoshop, and you have the benefit of function keys that you don't have with Bamboo.

Intuos nibs are industrial strength, and you get a set with the tablet. Buy an extra set for safety. They're not expensive.

I can't comment on Bamboo, because I've not had the need for one and haven't used one.

  • Bamboo does have 4 programmable buttons. Not as good as the buttons in Intuos and in my opinion the buttons in bamboo are unnecessarily big, but still. – Joonas Dec 8 '11 at 9:59
  • I am also interested in Intous4, but the problem is the nib. Even if I buy an extra set, it will wear out within 6 months and I'll have to wait for someone to bring me another set from US! However, as @Lorello has suggested, if I use a transparent overlaying smooth surface, do you think it will fix the wearing out problem of the nibs? And also, is it possible to use empty ball-point pen or similar on it? – ShutterBug Dec 8 '11 at 10:10
  • @ShutterBug It is possible that you could use empty ballpoint pen after all the nibs are nothing but plastic nibs that fit inside the pen. However, Even if you would manage to do that, I would advice highly against that.. I'm afraid that it could ruin the surface of the tablet. I would suggest that you get extra Stroke nibs as those last a really long time. – Joonas Dec 8 '11 at 10:28
  • @ShutterBug More or less 5 stroke nibs = 5 years. – Joonas Dec 8 '11 at 10:34
  • I'm not a heavy user, but in nearly five years I think I only went through 2 nibs on my Intuos 3, and I'm still on my first one on the 4. They're very long-lasting. If your wife is a gorilla, leans hard on the pen all the time and draws non-stop, maybe you'd have a problem, but fashion designers aren't usually that brutal with their tools. :) No-one I know has gone through two nibs in a year, much less six months, and the tablet comes with 5, if I recall correctly. On your budget, you can buy five spare sets and still be under $400. – Alan Gilbertson Dec 8 '11 at 11:40

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