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I recently got my first tablet and am interested in tips and resources for using it. Some for example say to hide mouse and force yourself to use the Tablet instead.

For those that have taken that approach what shortcuts and keys do you use?

Even desk layout might be beneficial. Perhaps part of my problem is Mouse I use with right hand from habit but I'm left-handed so tablet I use in my left hand. For brushes I'm getting a little better but still very awkward, and if I try to use it for anything else I just get frustrated by not having say scroll wheel to zoom in or an easy way to pan. These things probably exist though and I just need some guidance on how to better setup the workstation and tablet.

Right now my setup in Photoshop is bottom button does Step Back and top button does Flip foreground and background colors. Haven't even attempted to use it in Illustrator yet.

I'll probably submit this to be a Protected Wiki like some of our other resource questions since it may be a little open-ended.

Here are some current related questions. The first one is most similar but since its a few years old, and got comments of being too broad it seemed better to make a new question.

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First, there's no right or wrong way to set things up. It really all comes down to what you prefer. And it may take a few weeks to discover what works best for you.

I often tell new tablet users to put their mouse away for a week and use only the tablet for everything. This helps acclimate you to the stylus when you've been accustomed to a mouse.

What follows are merely my preferences. I use 3 monitors and currently have an "large" intuos tablet. I am also right-handed so, clearly, your set up may need to be altered for left-handed use.

I set my tablet at an angle off to the right, kind of where a mousepad would be. The keyboard is slightly off-center to the left, but not much.

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I use my tablet as my only input device and have it mapped across all 3 screens. I literally haven't touched a mouse in years other than to install an OS and then the subsequent tablet drivers.

I know many users feel there's no benefit to a tablet unless you're drawing/painting. I would disagree. I can work for hours on end with absolutely no hand cramping issues or fatigue due to pushing around a "soap on a rope". If you've ever pulled an all-nighter with a mouse, by morning your fingers and hand just feel tense. That's not the case with a stylus. At least not ever for me.

Many (many) years ago I actually saw a doctor about a big lump on the back of my right hand. It was painful and sore with any shoulder, arm, wrist, hand movement. Turns out it was what he referred to as a "ganglion". A ball of nerves that have essentially seized up due to strain. This was entirely due to using a mouse too much. I'm not saying that'll happen to anyone else. However, I had to learn to stretch the arm, wrist, hand, more if using a mouse for long periods of time. Since getting a tablet, that's never even been a slight or remote issue.

Using the stylus is just more natural to me than any other input device and I don't know why I'd ever want to use an inferior device just because it's seen as "standard". So for everything -- Illustrator, Indesign, Photoshop, Mail, Browsers, Finder -- I use my tablet as an input device.

The only issue I have with this maybe the drivers. Sometimes Wacom drivers aren't the best. They used to always be perfect, but in recent years the drivers have created some headaches. So I suggest always retaining old driver files. It's often been the case the past few years where I've needed to revert to older drivers to overcome some horrendous bug in a new driver.

As for the buttons, I'm not very big on using the buttons on the tablet. I'll use the radial touch input for tracking videos as a scrub wheel, but other than that I really don't use the tablet buttons. But that's my preference. I've never been one to use only the tablet. I've always had the keyboard close so it's never been imperative to me to move as many functions to the tablet as I can. Some users prefer to put the tablet dead center in front of them and move the keyboard out of the way. I simply swivel to the right a bit if I need to.

The stylus toggle button I have set the same across almost all applications. I set the bottom to be Command and the top to be Control (Mac user - I'd set the top toggle to Right-click on a 'Doze system). These are often the two most used things on the keyboard for me.

  • For most Adobe apps, I set the toggle to Command and Option, rather than control.
  • For Photoshop, specifically, I set the bottom toggle to be "pressure hold" rather than command.
  • And I set the top toggle to be "check mail" for my mail client.

But other than that I leave them at command and control.

I'm a big believer in consistency breeding faster work. The less I have to think about where a panel is or what a button does, the less I focus on how to do something and the more I can devote to what I'm doing. So I try and keep the input to the applications relatively consistent - all panels on the right monitor, and tablet buttons the same for the most part.

Other items - Never used a scroll wheel so I don't miss it. The spacebar on the Mac scrolls browser windows - I use that. You can use the radial touch input on Intuos tablets to scroll/zoom. I just never do. In almost all applications, holding down the spacebar will pan, so again, I use the spacebar.

This is just what works for me. I make absolutely no claim it's "correct" or right for any other user.

  • All panels on right monitor? Could you show screenshot? Like say in Photoshop you would move the panels? Or do you just move the entire Photoshop and then extract the picture you're working on to the middle or left monitor? – Ryan Mar 24 '15 at 17:59
  • I leave the Toolbar the control bar and the document window on the center monitor. Then all panels are open and arranged on the right monitor. I never need to use the Window menu to open a panel, they are all in view. I do this for every application (never use Adobe's Application Frame). How the panels are arranged is really up to you. But having them open does a great deal for application continuity and work speed. I don't want to get into "show your desktop" which is really a stretch as "on topic". – Scott Mar 24 '15 at 18:17
  • @Scott how have you mapped the three screens? When I use two screens my tablet acts like I have one big screen with combined size. It's hard to use and I loose area on the tablet itself – Peacekeeper Jan 9 at 17:47
  • @DanielaJagher As stated in my answer, I map my (large) Intuos tablet to all 3 screen. Which means the tablet is basically using 1/3 of its surface for each monitor. I've adjusted so essentially my (right) hand intuitively knows where the monitors are at on the tablet. I use my tablet 100% of the time. Haven't touched a mouse/trackpad/etc in years (literally) other than to install the Wacom Driver after a fresh OS is installed. I know many only break out the tablet for Photoshop, or to draw/paint, but that seems silly for me. It's much more natural for me to use the stylus all the time. – Scott Jan 9 at 19:59
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In my opinion, they are great for illustration and photo editing, and are 100% worth it. For something like UI design or logo design, it probably is not worth going out and buying one (I don't see the benefits of using it in Illustrator).

To get better, hide your mouse and use only the tablet. It's really the best way to do it. Also, fool around with the brush settings to see what kind of effects you can get just by tilting and rotating the pen.

  • While I appreciate this. I'm more looking for suggestions about shortcuts, workflow, what to set the buttons as. Something a bit more practical than "hide your mouse" which already exists in those other questions. If you've got more specific tips/suggestions please edit and let me know! – Ryan Mar 24 '15 at 15:37
  • It really depends on what you are working on. I switch my hotkeys and palettes around all the time, depending on what I am going. Sometimes the keys switch between different brush presets, and other times different tools. Diving into it is the best way to figure out what doesn't work, then just switch the hotkey to something new. – elliottregan Mar 24 '15 at 15:42

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