I just bought a wacom tablet hoping that my editing will now be 1000x faster. But I found that it does nothing. Before I return it, can someone explain to me why the tablet is superior to a mouse?

The only advantage I find is that it has pressure sensitive input. But for some reason for my portrait retouching, I don't really need to change the strength all that much.

If it's just a matter of inputing strokes, it's the exact same speed using a pen or a mouse. What am I missing here?

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ Like any tool, you need some time to develop your skill with it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 17:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ phlearn.com/use-wacom-tablet might help you past your initial issues... \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 20:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Gesture controls, hot buttons and pressure sensitivity but if it doesn't feel organic or if those features aren't enough to inspire you not to return it then it probably isn't the tool for you. \$\endgroup\$
    – sparecycle
    Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 21:19
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Apparently you've never tried to draw something realistic in MSPaint using your mouse. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 21:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please see definition of "question begging." The tablet might not be better in your case. \$\endgroup\$
    – moorej
    Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 17:02

3 Answers 3


What kind of retouching are you doing ? only using the different buttons/sliders in Photoshop (or equivalent) or are you "drawing" stuff like masks, making hand-drawn selection, or actual painting ?

A tablet is a tool that you need to learn to use; and learning is not something that is instantaneous; take your time.

A tablet is a great tool when someone is used to draw with a real pen/pencil the movement is natural.

(IMO) The control is much more precise with a tablet pen than with a mouse.

The main difficulty when using a tablet is that by habit when we use a pen, our eyes are on the paper and in particular on the point where the pen touches the paper; when using a tablet, our eyes are focuses on the screen (*) not at the pen itself.

Anyway, if we do not like using a tablet don't use it.

(*) unless you use a wacom touch sensitive screen (I think)

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ (*) Yes. Wacom Cintiq. \$\endgroup\$
    – inkista
    Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 18:17

Two words... Pressure Sensitivity. A digitizer tablet allows you to control parameters of brushes based on how hard you press down. This is a huge advantage that a mouse can't replicate in terms of control over your work. Note that this also takes some configuration to figure out how best to maximize and may involve having to refine your touch up technique to make use of it. For very basic touch up technique, it might not make a big difference, but being able to adjust the size and amount of feathering from pressure is very key to making quick, accurate adjustments.

The added precision and absolute addressing is also worth it in the long run as it is far easier to make smooth curves with a digitizer, but that takes some practice to get used to. It also makes moving around the image faster as you can move very precisely to a given location once you are really comfortable with the tablet. (Until you are used to it, you are still basically moving the stylus until you get where you want instead of being able to go straight there.)

In general, you shouldn't expect things to be faster right away with a new input device. If you haven't used a digitizer before, it takes quite a bit of getting used to. You need to develop the ability to relate the movement of your hand on the tablet to the movement on screen. Once you get used to them, it is far faster, more accurate and more powerful than using a mouse, which is why most people swear by them.

As a simple test, if you really want to see the difference, try writing your signature with a mouse versus using the digitizer. It's something where you can make the movements without having to rely on relative position on your screen, so it will give you an idea of what it gets to be like with experience.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It ain't learnin' the tablet that's hard, it's unlearnin' the mouse that made your hand stupid. \$\endgroup\$
    – user28116
    Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 22:37

Absolute Positioning

If you have a retouching operation that requires many small changes on the same screen (clone or healing brushing dust spots from scans used to be such an operation) then the absolute positioning nature of pen input can make it easy to hit all the points on screen relatively fast with hardly any prior experience.

I haven't been dust spotting many film scans lately so I almost never use my old Graphire anymore.


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