Setting Up A Wacom Tablet Tutorial

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Welcome to this beginners how-to guide concerning the basic setup of your Wacom Tablet no matter what size tablet (i.e. 6x11 which is wide and 6x8 being the standard size) or monitor screen size ( i.e. a 16x9 wide screen or a 4x3 standard) that you are using, even laptops.

To get things started after you have installed your software from Wacom, click on your System Preferences in your Dock, then select the Wacom icon from the Other menu (see below).

Image:System Pref.jpg

After selecting the Wacom Tablet icon, the first thing you should do is setup the Pen. Why? Because it will be used throughout the whole setup process and makes life a lot easier (trust me) so let's configure the Pen that came with the Wacom Tablet.

Here is what you should see (below) on your screen depending on which Wacom Tablet you own (at home) or use at work.

Image:Pen Setup.jpg

Okay, doing great so far! Next let's select the Grip Pen (or select the Pen that your Tablet came with) within the Tool Bar (see blue highlight above). As you can see the Grip Pen has been selected in the Tool Bar which allows you to start adjusting the options for the Pen. Next, make sure the Pen tab has been selected (see blue highlight Pen button above) and let's see what we have. Setting up the Pen requires a base understanding of what it has to offer and what it can do for us. Let's get started by looking at our hands and choose what hand we create with (are we right or left handed?). If you click on the Options button, you will get a choice as to what hand you wish to use with your tablet (see below). We will leave the Side Switch alone for later use, no worries.

Image:Left Handed Setup.jpg

Now that that's taken care of let's get back to the Pen by selecting the Tip Feel. To understand this selection just remember when a pencil tip is soft, such as the Tip Feel, it will allow your line, brush stroke or anything to become wider and the sharper a pencil tip is, firmer the Tip Feel, the more control and smaller the line and brush stroke will be. Sounds confusing? Not at all just remember, soft = wide and lighter, hard = thin and controlled with the Tip Feel. Okay, you made it through that like a champ! The next step will add more options and seem more like using a real pencil or brush than just a digital stick that looks nice, really.

Let's look at the next setup below.

Image:Customizing Pen Tool.jpg

To get to the above, select the Details button within the Tip Feel selection box. A drop down menu will appear giving you some nice adjustable settings. First select the Sensitivity anywhere from soft to firm and find the spot you like best. Remember you can always come back and fine tune to your liking. Now at this point you could click the OK button (highlighted above) and go to the next step or fine tune the Click Threshold setting below the Sensitivity slider. I would recommend setting the Sensitivity and leave the Click Threshold until you see how you like the actions of the Pen as you can always return to this setup page and make adjustments to your liking.

On to the next…Below we meet the Eraser (highlighted below).


As you can see (above), the Eraser is really the same setup as the Pen only at the other end of the…well, Pen. Also if you want to assign a shortcut of sorts, since MOST programs contain an eraser within their own tool bar, some of you might want to change the Eraser to something say…more productive or useful (see the drop-down box above right). If not the same rules apply to the Eraser as the Pen Tip Feel, firm = precise control yet a thin area of coverage, soft = a light touch and gives a broad/wide stroke. I really like the Eraser as just that, an Eraser but it's up to you.

Last thing for the trusty Pen (for beginners that is) I promise!

Side Buttons, where are they located on the Pen and what to do with them: Setting the duoswitch to your favor means just finding what works for you and your workflow. Each button (the long plastic handle/switch located near the base of the Pen) has an option and will perform a certain function based upon the settings you choose. My best advice is try different things and see what magic works for you and each program you will use the Pen and Tablet with (why do I feel magical, Penn and Teller you say, never mind, been a long day). Just select the Pen, scroll through the drop-down menu and assign all the shortcuts your heart desires.

Image:Pen Side Buttons.jpg

All this from one Pen! Well how about getting to the Tablet since it came with the Pen anyway?! Okay let's go get the Tablet.

Below is the greatest thing for creative types aside from having a Mac…A Wacom Tablet and the knowledge of how to set it up to work with any monitor that you have or will have, enough said.


Mapping your tablet (as shown above) is easy. Go to the Mapping button (blue highlight above) and choose the Orientation you want (you can change your tablet to match your screen so it will turn to portrait mode if your monitor has this option as well). Keep the Mode selected on Pen (as shown above). Next, I would think that most would keep the Screen Area selected to Full, unless someone has a 12x12" or larger Tablet and a 30" monitor in which case that's an impressive shoulder technique! This part is the most important part that most people don't think about doing and just deal with it. No need any more, select Tablet Area and make it fit your screen! See the drop-down menu above, select Portion and map out your needs. Why would someone do this with the Tablet Area? Let's look at my tablet for example, it's a 9x12" Intuos3 and works well with my 20" iMac, however I don't always use the whole tablet area when drawing (my arm thanks me for that!). So what I do is adjust the area according to my needs for a certain project(s) canvas size. This means less arm movement (for the large stuff) and I can cover an area better and faster without always pushing the Pen all over the whole tablet. Speaking of options…it's now your tablet so do what will work best for you and your workflow as this is more like guidelines (Pirate code if you will).

Did you say zoom? Yep, most if not all of the newer Wacom Tablets have ExpressKeys on one or both sides of the tablet now. This is a great time saver for both left and right handed people (sorry, the platypus is exempt). Zooming in and back out again several times during smaller, more precise sized creations such as drawing or editing a photo can help out greatly and those eyes will love you for it. Take a look below at the Expresskeys and your options (again none for the platypus).


The way to get there is an easy road, select the Functions (highlighted above in blue) in the Tool selection and wander through the Modifier drop-down menus until you have shortcuts that fit your needs and/or your favorite program(s). This really saves time and is great to apply shortcuts or hotkeys which is a plus! Don't forget to assign the keys on your opposite hand so you don't have to put your pen down or at the very least, stop using it even for a moment. Last tip; once you select an Expresskey change it to a Keystroke (like above) then you can apply hotkeys (even F1-F16) to it in the drop-down box. Remember each ExpressKey side is independent and easy to program for your needs or program(s). Okay, very last tip; the Touch Strip (long single thin strip next to the ExpressKeys) allows you to zoom in and out or use them the same way as the other ExpressKeys. Sure you could disable them if you feel you must just think twice before changing these since the Touch Strip is your Zoom.

Wait just a minute, you made it almost until the end so before I go…How to add an Application (see below) you deserve it!

Image:Add Application.jpg

All this info but nothing to use it with? Say it ain't so…well don't worry this will be easy to add Applications so that you can hone your skills using your Wacom Tablet and your new knowledge with. This can be done at any time so let's start from the beginning. First select your System Preferences from the Dock, then select the Wacom Tablet icon from the Other menu. Now select from the Application Box all the way on the far right side the Add (plus) sign and choose Browse (highlighted above) from the drop-down menu. If you know what Application then just fill-in the Application in the space under Selected Application, click the OK button and you're all set. To delete an Application just do the exact same steps for adding but after you have Browsed or selected the Application, click on the minus button to delete the Application you no longer want.

So there it is, just customize your Wacom Tablet to your needs and add one or more of your favorite Applications and watch your workflow take off. Have fun and enjoy this Setting Up A Wacom Tablet Tutorial. I hope this helps with the basics and continues to inspire you and your creativity now and in the future. Thank You and Take Care,