How To Set Up A Wacom Tablet For Photoshop

Every digital artist needs some kind of graphical tablet and drawing software. For most of us, that will be a Wacom tablet and Photoshop. However, just plugging in your tablet into your computer and starting to draw will most likely not give the results you want. Both Wacom tablets and Photoshop offers many different features and a lot of optimization. Knowing how to set up your Wacom tablet settings might make or break your first digital drawing experience.

Since most of us started using paper and pencils, we would like to have the same kind of experience using Photoshop and a tablet. Here are some top tips by Wacom itself to properly configure your tablet and Photoshop brush settings.

Programming Your Wacom Tablet Pen

After installing all the drivers needed for your tablet and installing Photoshop, open your Wacom tablet settings in the system preferences menu. It should look similar to the image below. For now, you can ignore all the other settings and just look at the pen itself.

As you probably noticed already, the Wacom tablet pen has a forward and backward button that can both be programmed differently. Feel free to modify these two buttons to the two actions you use the most, to save yourself time.

Since you will be using the right click quite often, it’s best to keep it as one of the buttons. To get the most out of the Wacom settings, we recommend programming the other button as the undo button. Such that every time you make a small mistake in Photoshop, you don’t need to go to edit and click undo manually. Instead you can just hit the second button on you Wacom pen.

To do this, click on the button and select keystroke. Clear whatever is already saved there and replace it by hitting option, command and z on your keyboard. Save it and you are ready to go!

Photoshop Brush Settings

Understanding Pressure Sensitivity and Using It Effectively

If you bought a Wacom tablet, your tablet can probably register 1024 or more different pressures. This sounds awesome right? If your answer is no or you don’t know, it’s time to learn how to actually put those pressure to work.

As I already mentioned, when using the brush tool in Photoshop you probably want the same feeling as working with real paint and brushes. This means that you can change the size of your strokes by pressing down the brush harder or softer on the paper. Meanwhile, pressing harder will also release more paint and therefore give a more saturated color.

You can achieve the same effect with Photoshop and drawing pad if you properly set up your Photoshop brush settings and use the pressure sensitivity or you tablet. To open the brush settings in Photoshop, go to the “window” tab and open “brush.”

There are a ton of options you can play with later but for now we will just deal with Shape Dynamics and Transfer options.

Photoshop Brush Settings Size and Opacity Jitter

With Shape Dynamics turned off, no matter how hard you push down on your tablet, the resulting line will be the same size. But turning on Shape Dynamics and setting control to “Pen Pressure”, you can adjust the size of your brush by simple pressing down harder or softer. You can even select a minimum diameter if you don’t want your lines to end in a point when lifting of your pen from the tablet.

If you turn on the Transfer option as well, you can control the amount of ink you use with pressure as well. The Transfer option has an Opacity Jitter as well as a Flow Jitter which might look similar at first but are actually very different. We’ll discuss the difference later on in this guide.

The best results are achieved by turning both of them on and playing a little with the jitter settings and the minimum diameter setting the get exactly what you like.

Difference of size and opacity

Know Your Keyboard Shortcuts

Photoshop had many options hidden underneath their tabs and settings. It’s best practice to program some of the most used functions and tools to the button on your pen and tablet as mentioned above. However, while setting up a Wacom tablet with Photoshop, there are only a limited number of buttons on the tablet and pen themselves you can program. For the remainders, you might want to remember their keyboard shortcut.

While drawing or editing you constantly need to change the size and hardness of your brush. Of course you can do this manually by selecting a different brush or with a combination of controls.

A very simple way to do is by holding down control, alt and right clicking and then moving horizontally or vertically. Horizontal movements will adjust the size while vertical movements will change the softness. You might not realize at first but this can save you a bunch of time over the long run.  Mac users can do the same trick by pressing control, option and clicking.

Difference of Flow and Opacity

Before we quickly mentioned that there is a difference between the Flow Jitter and Opacity Jitter in the Photoshop bush settings menu. Since the Opacity Jitter is the first option on the list, people often ignore the Flow Jitter. Even though the Flow Jitter might give a more natural effect to your digital paintings.

The main difference is that opacity doesn’t build up. That means that if you keep your pen in contact with the tablet, everything will be colored with the same opacity regardless if you go over the same area multiple times. Only after lifting off the pen and pressing down a second time, will you see any build-up of opacity. This results in very clear transitions that often gives a very unnatural feel.

Difference of Opacity Jitter and Flow Jitter

There you have it; the basic on setting up your Wacom tablet and adjusting the Photoshop brush settings to match your needs. Of course, as you work on different projects, or even within the same painting, you will constantly need to use the above mentioned tips and trick and adjust the setting for the situation you are dealing with. And not forget to constantly keep experimenting with new settings to get the most out of the combination of Photoshop and tablet.

Check out the full video by Wacom below.

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