Wacom’s new Intuos Pro graphics tablet is the thinnest since the company started selling graphics tablets many years ago. Wacom sells its professional line of tablets most often to graphics designers and photographers, but I managed to put it to good use with mocha Pro and Motion as well. The experience led me to try to use the newest Intuos Pro with Final Cut Pro X, my goal being to use it as a poor man’s control surface. For my tests, Wacom kindly sent me a large Paper Edition model.
OK, so the Wacom Intuos Pro is not meant to be a control surface. Tangent Wave panels, for example, are better suited for the job if only because they are dedicated to it. But up to a point, you can make your Intuos Pro act like a decent dedicated surface with the benefit of wireless as it’s Bluetooth 4 compatible. The trick is to spend an hour or so creating an application-specific settings file in the Wacom tablet panel of the Mac’s System Preferences.
But let me first tell you of my experiences with the Intuos Pro Paper Edition in more general terms.
Graphics and photography and the new Wacom Intuos Pro Paper Edition
The newest version of the unbelievably thin Intuos Pro has eight buttons that can be programmed and a Touch Ring that can have up to four different assignments. The Wacom Tablet panel lets you add applications to its settings list and assign a huge number of possible actions to each button and Touch Ring assignment. These include keyboard shortcuts, modifier keys, mouse clicks and a bunch of hard-wired actions, such as scrolling, zooming and application switching.
Wacom’s On-Screen Controls are HUD-like floating panels that you can recall on the screen wherever you wish by assigning a tablet or pen button. The feature is no longer limited to the radial interface, with now having the ability for you to create as many of these On-Screen Controls as you wish and even nest one into the other.
Touch — multi-touch even — is still supported by the newest Intuos Pro. Fortunately, it now can be activated and disabled using a button on the Intuos Pro’s side, which is far more efficient than having to go to any kind of on-screen menu, no matter how well designed it may be.
I tested the Wacom Intuos Pro Paper Edition with Mac apps Corel Painter 2017, Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, OmniGraffle Pro 7, DxO Optics Pro 11, Perfectly Clear Complete v3, Alien Skin Exposure X2 and Celemony’s Melodyne audio manipulator. With most of these apps, I had to paint — from masks to brush strokes and music notes (!). Only with Affinity Designer and OmniGraffle did I create vector art.
What immediately struck me with all these applications was that the new Wacom Pro Pen 2 allows for much more subtle variation in strokes than the older pens. Not all of the above apps support the 4096 pressure levels the pen is capable of, but those that do were very obvious in their more subtle feedback as I varied my strokes and paint blobs through pressure.
I don’t think the users for whom this matters will ever need even more levels as the current pressure variation feels exactly like the real thing. What also feels more like the real thing, is the new Intuos Pro’s surface. The standard one is a bit less smooth than the previous models, but if it’s not coarse enough to your liking, you can now buy and easily replace the surface by another one (a paying option). That should really make your tablet/pen combination behave the way you want it to.
The tablet’s lack of thickness makes the illusion of drawing on paper even stronger. It’s incredible that Wacom has succeeded into making it as thin as it is — even with the anti-skid rubbers, the tablet is the height of half a Rhodia dot pad.
The Intuos Pro is Bluetooth 4 compatible, meaning you can hook it up to any modern PC or Mac, or an iPad even. On my iMac, I needed a Bluetooth 4 dongle to make it work, but if you don’t want to spend another Eurocent on an old Mac, you can connect the tablet with its USB-C to USB-A type cable. The cable is not the same as ordinary USB cables. It’s less flexible than it used to be, but oddly enough it’s better than the ordinary USB cables you can buy. The connector is made in such a way that the cable always lies flat on your desk. It also supports ambidextrous usage, i.e. left-handed people simply connect it the other way around than right-handed people.
The design of the complete Intuos Pro, including box, pen stand, pen, tablet, etc, by the way, is gorgeous. There’s no other word for it.
The Wacom Intuos Pro Paper Edition is for sketching
Paper sketching is great and simple to set up. There’s a “paperclip”, which is a long clip that attaches to the top of the tablet and where you hold sketching paper. You can use whatever paper you like (not too thick, though), but a few Wacom sheets are included in the box to get you started.
Sketching is done with the Finetip Pen. You can work on A5 paper with the Medium model and A4 with the Large model. As you draw with the Finetip Pen (there’s also an optional Ballpoint Pen), the tablet captures your strokes as an editable file that can be opened in Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Designer or OmniGraffle Pro.
When the Wacom Intuos Pro Paper Edition is connected to the Mac through USB and Wacom’s Inkspace app is running, you can synchronise, store and export sketches in several file formats, including layered raster and vector formats. The tablet will store up to 200 multi-layered or 1000 one-layered drawings when it’s not connected to a Mac. As soon as you connect the tablet, Inkspace will synchronise with it and download your saved sketches — very efficient!
Inkspace only supports PDF and SVG as vector file format, but only SVG files can be edited in full. There’s another trick you can do with sketches and Inkspace: sketch on-screen in real-time. On my system, it didn’t work and it’s also not explained how it works exactly on the Wacom website, but my guess is that it only works when your tablet is connected via Bluetooth. I was wired all the time while trying out the Intuos Pro so that would have made this feature unavailable to me.
[EDIT May 12] Image formats include a PSD option, which is layered. I totally forgot about that in my original article. Here’s the significance: when you sketch and tap the touch ring twice after having added part of your drawing on the paper, you’re not saving the drawing, but adding a layer to it. Now, when you’re done and have tapped once on the touch ring, the layered drawing is saved and you can open it in Photoshop or Affinity Photo. You’ll instantly see the layers in reverse order as you drew them!
This is, of course, a major oversight on my behalf, because it’s probably one of the most important features of the Paper Edition / Inkspace tandem.
The Inkspace app requires you to subscribe to at least a free account for synchronisation and more.
The Wacom Intuos Pro for video editors and compositing artists
As I said in the beginning, the large Intuos Pro has eight buttons that can be programmed and a Touch Ring that can have up to four different assignments. The Wacom Tablet panel lets you assign a huge number of possible actions to each button and Touch Ring assignment. By carefully assigning these actions to the tablet’s buttons and Touch Ring, I created a Wacom settings file that can insert a clip on the Final Cut Pro X timeline, play it frame by frame forwards and backwards using the Touch Ring and doing all kinds of other useful stuff using Wacom’s On-Screen Controls.
Of course, buying an Intuos Pro purely to command Final Cut Pro X around would be mildly stupid, as the tablet is meant to do a lot more. Staying with filmmaking — in Motion you can manipulate 3D cameras and objects in very precise ways using the new Intuos Pro Pen 2.
Even with the more commonly supported 2048 pressure levels, you can create much more accurate masks and track shapes in apps like mocha Pro, After Effects and Motion. A pen lets you draw those with a higher precision than you can with a mouse. And if there’s any form of animation you need to create, Wacom’s Intuos Pro will also offer you more tactile control than a mouse.
A Wacom Intuos Pro Paper Edition will cost €599 for the large size tablet.