I'm in the market for a new mouse. I had an ancient (cerca ~1998?) Logitech mouse that I really liked, but for reasons too boring to explain, it's time for a new one.

What characteristics matter most for use with photo editing?

The main thing that comes to mind as a possibility is the sensor resolution (DPI), but I have no idea what is desirable in this area. And perhaps there are others I haven't considered.

EDIT: Since it was asked in one of the answers, I'm a Linux user. I don't want answers limited to devices with superb Linux support. I'm a believer in using the right tool for the job. If the right tools don't work in Linux, I can change OSes for my Photo editing.


6 Answers 6


For photo editing and other drawing work I would prefer to use a tablet rather than a mouse. With a tablet you use absolute positioning, i.e. the cursor on screen always appears at the location you point to on the tablet; with a mouse, it appears at the location you move to. This makes it far easier to draw freehand. Tablets are also pressure sensitive, so you can use it like brush or similar tool that changes shape as you apply pressure. Wacom are the main supplier of tablets. They come in different sizes, with different features and prices to match. At 200 points/mm even a small tablet has more than enough resolution for anything you're likely to do. Some even have an LCD display built in, so it's as if you're drawing directly onto the photo. Prices are typically about 10 times higher than a mouse though.

Until you get familiar with the tablet, you may want to use it alongside a mouse, and use the mouse for normal Windows things. Your old mouse should tide you over until the tablet becomes second nature.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you. I had never really considered a tablet before. I probably won't buy one right now... I think a better monitor should be higher on my list than a graphics tablet. And I need a new mouse regardless. But I will research these, and probably put one on my future shopping list. \$\endgroup\$
    – Flimzy
    May 15, 2012 at 4:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ A tablet is a great complement to, but I would not consider it a replacement for, another pointing device (mouse or trackball). I have both a tablet and a mouse on my desk at home, and they both see plenty of use but for very different purposes. \$\endgroup\$
    – user
    May 15, 2012 at 9:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have to agree with Michael here. Tablets are great compliments for mice and the like, but they are less than ideal total replacements. If you do want to try out a tablet, one of the Wacom Bamboo tablets are nice, cheaper ones to start with. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    May 15, 2012 at 14:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ And FWIW Wacom tablets work painlessly in Linux. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Jun 1, 2012 at 14:51

I would recommend looking at a trackball mouse for photo editing. Personally I have a Logitech Trackman Marble Mouse and love it. The reason I love it is because I have very precise control of the mouse by just moving the tip of my finger. I also do not have to worry about desk space to move the mouse around and when I scroll across a screen I can do it very quickly and easily and not have to pick the mouse up 10 times etc. The Marble Mouse is controled by my index finger however there are also thumb controlled trackball mouses and it is best to go to a computer store to see what you like the best.

Once you get used to using a trackball mouse you will hate using a regular mouse. I know I do. As @hdhondt mentioned tablets like the Wacom are great for photo editing from what I have read and been told but I have no personal experience with them.

Edit - After reading @jrista answer I will add that the Marble Mouse does not have a scroll wheel and I miss that about my mouse, while it was not a make or break for me it might be for you. Also some trackballs do have the scroll wheel.

Go to your store and try them out. =>

Update - The day after I wrote this I managed to knock my trackball off the desk (for about the thousandth time) and it finally decided it had had enough. =< After using a regular mouse that I hated (I have much more control with the trackball => ) I knew I wanted a finger-tip controlled trackball with a scroll wheel. After searching I bought a Kensington Orbit Trackball with Scroll Ring. It is nice and I feel whole again now that I have a trackball back in use. =>

  • \$\begingroup\$ Another option I had not considered, and one that fits more within my guidelines for a short-term purchase, since it would replace a mouse. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Flimzy
    May 15, 2012 at 4:44
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Flimzy - Go to a local computer store and try them out but remember they take getting used to. You have to use it for a few days. Another thing the Logitech mouse comes with software so you can adjust the speed and other features of the mouse. Very useful. \$\endgroup\$
    – L84
    May 15, 2012 at 4:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Lydia: I'll be using Linux, so any bundled software will be irrelevant to me, I'm sure. But still good info for anyone else reading this :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Flimzy
    May 15, 2012 at 6:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you want a trackball with a scroll wheel consider L-Trac. I have not been as exited about a piece of quality hardware in years; this is one awesome trackball.... \$\endgroup\$ May 15, 2012 at 16:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wow. I am usually the only one at work with a trackball, so I am surprised to see so many users here. I own 6 logical trackballs, 4 in use and 2 spares because I find them so much more less stressful. My favorite has the ball under the thumb and that one has a scroll wheel which I find indispensable as well. The model is called Trackman Wheel: butyoudontlooksick.com/wpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Itai
    May 16, 2012 at 0:57

Start with a little humility...

Ultimately, this is about as personal a decision as it gets. What it boils down to is what you are most effective with, what feels best in your own hands, whether the precision services your needs, and what offers "extra" functionality that you think you can and will use. The best way to figure that out is go to a local store and try out the mice that are there, preferably on an actual computer (if there are laptops set up, you should be able to get a store rep to help you do so.) I can offer my own experiences, and the reasons why I've chosen what I use personally, but don't let that bias you from what you think would fit you best. Mice with extra features might interfere with your own personal style of mousing, making life harder, not simpler. Despite my review below, it is really important that you find your own comfortable fit...if it helps you breeze through your post-processing work, and you never have to fiddle, fling, or fight your mouse, your probably good. :)

enter image description here

Enter Shameless Plug ;P

Personally, I use a Logitech Performance Mouse MX. It fits my style of "mousing" extremely well, and offers quite a few additional buttons and features that make life easier. I've made the choice to pair the mouse with a related keyboard, the Logitech Wireless Keyboard K350, as it compliments the mouse nicely with some similar features that allow you to duplicate some extra mouse button functionality.

A rather expensive set of choices, but the way I see it...you spend more hours than you really prefer processing your photos, and as you progress through the world of photography, you inevitably end up with more capable camera gear that produces better photos an alarmingly accelerated rate, the volumes of photos you have to process only grows...and grows...and grows. You should have tools that help you fly through the hours and hours of processing as quickly as possible without adversely affecting you...or your health. A good keyboard and mouse are, in my humble opinion, just as important as the thousands of dollars worth of photography equipment. Which makes $160 seem like...well, very little. ;)

So, the mouse.

I used a Microsoft mouse and keyboard for years. Always their best, as I've held the opinion above for quite some time. They were good, and worked well, but there was always something missing. As it turned out, there were always a few things missing. Logitech is like the Apple of the mouse and keyboard world. Their products are the best of the best, elegant in their design, simple in their use, but still tremendously powerful. When I finally purchased the Performance MX I was amazed, despite the fact that it was as much as both Microsoft keyboard and mouse in the past and I was a little daunted by the price. The ergonomics are stunning, it offers unparalleled sensor resolution and precision, has never required the purchase of new batteries (it uses a rechargeable that has a very long life, plus a switch to simply turn the mouse off if you're not using it), the momentum-wheel is a thing of wonder, and it has a bunch of extremely useful extras to offer. Both devices are wireless as well, eliminating desktop cable clutter.

The MX being a great mouse overall aside, there are two features that I truly love. The first is the "zoom" button and the "Mouse Sensitivity" setting. I'm sure everyone has run into the issue where they are trying to adjust a rather precise slider, knob, or other software gizmo, and you just can't seem to land it right on the value you want. You keep skipping past it because the mouse tracking speed you're most comfortable with is too fast. The Performance MX's "Zoom" button, configured to toggle the "Mouse Sensitivity" setting, is the perfect solution. The zoom button handily sits right next to your thumb, and requires a near-effortless (the near part is as critical as the effortless there...if it was truly effortless, you'd find yourself constantly in a state of dazed confusion about the behavior of your mouse) press to switch from a wild and unruly mouse cursor to a fine tool of ultimate precision. Adjusting that gizmo to the exact value you want is a no brainer when "zoomed", and it only takes another near-effortless flick of your thumb to put you back to "normal mousing mode" (yes, official terminology here). Both modes, normal mousing and zoomed mousing, have configurable levels of precision that you can configure between 100 and 1500 DPI. The adjustment might actually be the inverse of what you may naturally think (depends on how you think about it)...setting it to 100 means the highest precision, where as setting it to 1500 is the lowest precision. Either way, high precision is incredibly high precision, and works wonders.

(Note: The default behavior of the zoom button is just that, to "zoom"...whatever that may mean for the application you are using. You can switch it to the sensitivity option with the Logitech configuration tool. Despite that, I happily refer to the change of sensitivity as "zooming"...referring to a magnification of precision.)

The second feature that I truly love about the Performance MX mouse is the momentum-wheel. Most mice offer wheels that move in discrete steps, or even if they move smoothly, only adjust whatever it is you're scrolling in discrete steps. The MX has a dual-mode mouse wheel. A small toggle button near the wheel allows you to quickly switch between discrete mode and "momentum" mode. The former is the same as everyone else. The latter allows you to literally spin the wheel and let its momentum continue scrolling for you. Personally, I find the feature to be fantastic. When you are browsing through a broad set of tags in a tool like Lightroom, with potentially thousands of matching photos, it helps to be able to blast through them just at the edge of perception, and see what additional filters you might need. Momentum-scrolling through online sites like 500px and their new "Flow" mode can also be an intriguing experience, assuming the internet can keep up with the mouse. Zooming, adjusting sliders, spinning through action/command history lists, etc. all kind of take on a different tack with a momentum-wheel at your fingertip.

There are some other handy features as well. Of course, you have your standard back and forward buttons, in addition to the zoom button. Another one I like a lot that has saved me time is the Application Switcher button. Handily situated right beneath your thumb, a light press invokes a MacOS X Expose-style task switcher. Just point to the window you want, click or press the App Switcher button again, and it comes to the front. I never really cared much for Expose when it was first introduced as it required you to move the cursor to a corner of the screen to activate, and again to deactivate (assuming you didn't want to change apps after all.) Being able to activate an app switcher with a dedicated mouse button makes expose-style application switching so much more convenient, quick, and otherwise effortless. Every button on the mouse is configurable, and you can choose what, from the available actions list (which is rather large), each button does.

Finally, a handy feature of Logitech's newer offerings is the Unifying wireless receiver and software. A tiny little wireless USB nub universally supports their Unify devices, and a single configuration tool supports every Unify device. Each one you buy includes its own nub, but you simply have to register each device with the one you already have to make it function with that computer. If you do buy a keyboard, mouse, and perhaps trackball, each one will include a wireless USB nub that could then be plugged into a laptop or other computer. One simply need take your Unifying hardware to another computer, register them with the local nub and software, and your good to go! Pretty handy for when you might need full mouse support with a laptop at home, or even want to use a more fully functioned keyboard and mouse with a laptop on a trip.

Not much to say about the keyboard other than its just about as awesome as the mouse, with more custom function buttons, and a wicked look. ;) The two belong together.

'Nuff said!

Well, I think I've said enough. Tough to get better than the Performance MX and K350, in my opinion. They completely encompass quality, functionality, ergonomics, and style, and are relatively cheap compared to pretty much...any piece of camera gear. ;-)

You should indeed make sure your mouse and keyboard choice fit your style of use. Personally, I love extra configurable buttons, as they simply give me more options to optimize my workflow and improve efficiency. If you are the type of person who enjoys simplicity, Logitech still has a lot to offer there. Their quality is hard to beat.

enter image description here

P.S. When you get that fifty-page email from that family friend about her stupendously excellent mothers day, complete with 50,000 photos...don't worry...just momentum your way through it!

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 - Never thought I would see an answer about mouses that was that long (and had images) => Nice Answer \$\endgroup\$
    – L84
    May 15, 2012 at 4:53
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Lynda: What can I say. I love my mouse! :D \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    May 15, 2012 at 4:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does the resolution 'zoom' button implemented in hardware, or in the driver? In other words, does it change the info sent from the mouse to the computer? Or is that always sent at the maximum resolution, then downsampled in the driver when the 'zoom' is activated? \$\endgroup\$
    – Flimzy
    May 15, 2012 at 7:54
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Flimzy: The mouse uses what they call darkfield laser tracking. Its pretty high resolution, 1500 DPI natively, that can pick up small details 5 microns in size. It works on pretty much any surface, including glass. The mouse is always tracking at maximum resolution...when you use a less precise mode, the driver discards a certain amount of tracking information and only reacts to some of it at fixed intervals. When you are in high precision mode, its truly high precision. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    May 15, 2012 at 14:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ I use the same keyboard, but that mouse is just horrible ergonomics for my hand. I use a Microsoft mouse with the Logi keyboard. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    May 16, 2012 at 2:04

I see pieces of what would have been my answer scattered in other really good answers.

I thus will not get into detail on which one mouse/trackball/tablet you should pick, but instead try and help with a few criteria and suggestions coming from my own habits.

First of all, if you are used to a mouse, you want to keep having one.

I'm on a computer 12h/day and I have a few light symptoms of mouse-keyboard related pains. My first criteria is thus ERGONOMICS.

Concerning the mouse, a very important point is its size - go to the shop and try a couple of them: it really should fill you hand as much as possible, so that you don't tire your fingers by holding them on weird positions. Mouse wheel, side buttons, side wheels etc. can help if your hand find them easily. You will get very quickly used to an inertia-enhanced mouse wheel - that's definitely a big big plus.

I personally dislike the fact that it's difficult to find good wired mice nowadays - I never had any issue with a cable, but I do have issues with batteries/recharging, and with some wireless!

But at least the proprietary Logitech wireless works very well - much better than standard Bluetooth which I would stay away from.

I never tried gaming mice (eg. Cyborg R.A.T.7 or the Razer Naga) - I find them really too expensive.

There exist alternative options to a mouse, as you have been reading. You don't tell us what your OS is, which might limit your choices, but you can roughly find:

PS. I put links mostly to Logitech products because I've been using/trying almost all of them, and on the average I find them well built, well conceived, and with a good price/quality/feature price. But by no mean they are the only ones!

I actually have... one of each item (except the vertical one)! They all sit around my (Microsoft ergonomic) keyboard.

I keep using the mouse for most part of the day.

I find the trackball being less tiring for my delicate wrist and fingers, but also less precise. I use it when I need a rest but want to work some more, mostly.

The Logitech Touchpad is not as nice as the Apple Magic TrackPad, but it's actually not bad at all. Again, though, i find it less precise than a mouse, and I use it sparingly for image processing/graphic tasks, more for normal browsing.

The tablet is definitely the most precise tool and the one I favor when I'm really into some photo processing/editing (though I'm still learning and don't do that much yet) or in general using graphic applications.

It takes, as @hdondt and @MichaelKjioling say, some time to get used to it and in any case it will never be a replacement, only a complement.

Of course I understand budget can be a big issue! Especially for the tablet - the other devices can be had for decent prices (Logitech in particular often runs special offers--that's when I got my gadgets).

So once more, start by getting yourself first a good mouse = one that feels good in your hand, looks solidly built, and if possible has a nice inertial wheel. @jrista suggestion of the Logitech Performance Mouse MX is definitely one of the best, along with the Gigabyte M8000Xtreme in my opinion.

Then try a tablet. Look at the other options especially if, like me, the mouse is too hard on your arm.


You might want to take a look at these:


I will join @jrista's superlatives regarding Logitech's products. Generally I agree with his review of the Performance Mouse MX.

However, as an actual owner of the MX Revolution, the Marathon m705, the VX Nano and the Anywhere MX (the first two are desktop mouse size while the last two are "portable"), I can say that the best one is the VX Nano. The problem is that it is not manufactured anymore. Then, the next choice would be the Anywhere MX. As for the other two - I found out that the one feature that they are lacking in order to be comfortable for me is... a good rest for my thumb!

It looks like the "missing substance" under your thumb, which is also the place for a wheeled shaped button, prevents me from tightly holding these mice, and it becomes tiring after a short while, which is not good for precise image editing.

I have a mid-to-large size palms and I find the compact ones just perfectly sized for prolonged work hours. The smaller size, and the ability to work on one AA battery (Anywhere MX) or two AAA cells (VX Nano) makes them much lighter than the desktop variants and aid in the precise motion of the mouse. This, in turn, becomes an advantage when manipulating images at the pixel level.

The Flywheel is the best advance in the mice world since the transition from the ball to the laser. However, my experience is that it is less important for the task of image editing. However, I can see @jrista's point about this.

Regarding the K350 keyboard - I don't have a personal experience with it, but one look at the image is enough for me to know that using it will drive me nuts - this is because of the arrangement of the cursor and ins/del/home/end/pgup/pgdn keys. As a programmer for many years, who spends many hours a day interacting with the keyboard and mouse, it is the classical layout that works for me, like in this model.

To summarize - I join the recommendation to actually go and try several models before settling on the chosen one. My reservations with jrista's recommendation are really a matter of personal style and preference not a matter of a specific product drawback. Remember that the mouse and keyboard will serve you for more than image editing, and that it is the whole experience that you need to consider when making your tradeoffs.


If you decide on a trackball then get the best; L-Trac

I have a large Wacom tablet and true it's good for drawing and digitizing but I find it cumbersome to use and IT'S NOT A GOOD pointing device so you end up using a mouse and the tablet. If you do a lot of digital art that requires brush-strokes then tablet is probably what you need but get ready for a huge learning curve. I have 2 large dual monitors and I HATE using the tablet as a pointing device in this environment. I think if was to get another tablet I would get something MUCH smaller so that I don't have to move my arm 1 foot in each direction. Lot's of arm moving with tablets....

I just recently did some research and finally ordered the L-Trac mouse. This is because I do a lot of GIS cartography, Illustrator and CorelDraw type of work and my wrist is killing me using a regular mouse.

This is a SERIOUS "Made in the USA" product. Each individually tested. This mouse is BIG and the trackball itself is substantial, smooth and heavy (about the size of a pool ball.) Unlike other similar mice this one also has a scroll wheel.

I have only had this mouse for a week and I must admit that adjusting to a trackball is not easy but I don't think I could go back anymore. I can fly through menus and all over my screen much faster than with a regular mouse and I barely move my hand which is resting comfortably on this mouse. I chose this particular product (not cheap) because it is designed for precise pixel-level movement. The mouse is advertized as perfect for AcutoCAD work. Well, my overall mousing speed has increased but in the area of fine pixel level adjustments it is slightly slower. I have only been at this for a week though and am getting better every day. I have no problems using Photoshop. In fact this is where I am already faster but I have not yet tried any serious brushing. The best part is that my wrist does not hurt at all and unlike any other pointing device this one is super fun to use...

enter image description here


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.