15 Apps to Use With That Shiny Graphics Tablet

I recently acquired a Wacom tablet. I love using it, but being the software geek that I am I was eager to find some software to use the tablet with. Now, keep in mind that the tablet can typically be used as a mouse replacement and can be used with any program you desire. In fact, playing solitaire or mahjong with the tablet is a great way to get used to using a new tablet.

With that in mind, I tried to stick to programs where pressure sensitivity is used, or where having a tablet is exceptionally helpful, even without pressure sensitivity. I’ll cover the basics that you most likely already know of if you have a tablet, give you some freeware apps to check out and then show you some new and exciting apps that you might not have thought to use before.

 

Photoshop/Photoshop Elements

Photoshop/Photoshop Elements

Photoshop is a classic tool for designers and photographers, and as with all of their software, Adobe does a great job of incorporating pressure sensitivity into the application. Adobe Photoshop is designed in a way that makes using a pen tablet very easy and natural. They offer a multitude of controls – pen tilt, pressure and the finger wheel can control elements including (but not limited to) size, color, opacity and exposure.

Photoshop Elements of course offers these same options when paired with a graphics tablet. Quick masks and layer masks are another great function that a tablet can help with. Layer effects can be applied with sensitivity. Photoshop is a fantastic (but pricey) piece of software that works wonderfully with a graphics tablet, so much so that Photoshop Elements often comes pre-bundled with graphics tablets.

Price: $699.00 for Photoshop, $99.99 for Photoshop Elements
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5.8 or higher
Developer: Adobe

Nik Color Efex Pro

Nik Color Efex Pro

Nik Color Efex Pro is a great tool to pair with Photoshop and a graphics tablet. This app is an add-on to Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. The app offers a number of filters (dependent upon which software level is purchased) that can be applied in Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. The filters pair with the Photoshop brush, and the tablet can be used to “brush” on the filters. This allows for a more artistic approach to photo filters than you might find using traditional Photoshop tools. The app creates layers and masks automatically, so you’re able to truly experiment within Photoshop. It’s a great, well-designed tool that really lets you use the tablet for what it was designed for.

Price: $99.95 for select edition, $199.95 for full edition
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 or higher
Developer: Nik Software

Adobe Creative Suite

Adobe Creative Suite

Photoshop and Photoshop Elements are, of course, not the only Adobe software products that offer great ways to use a graphics tablet. Lightroom offers several ways to utilize a tablet. You can use the pressure sensitivity tools when editing individual photographs.

Your workflow can be greatly improved in Lightroom by using a tablet when editing, creating a slide show or organizing your library. Illustrator offers tools and options that seamlessly integrate with the use of a graphics tablet when taking on tasks such as digital illustration. The tablet can be used as a mouse pad and the pen can be of great use in speeding up video and music editing.

Price: Varies, dependent upon suite purchased
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5.8 or higher
Developer: Adobe

Corel Painter

Corel Painter

Corel Painter is a heavy-hitter in the world of digital painting and illustration. The software offers great integration for a graphics tablet. The RealBristle brushes are something that Corel Painter is really known for, and these brushes make great use of a tablet. Painter incorporates pen tilt as well as sensitivity, so whether you are using a pen, paint brush or chalk, Corel Painter will do well with a graphics tablet.

The newest version of Painter also offers some really cool new features that you won’t find in other dedicated painting apps. You can make kaleidoscope effects in your paintings for a unique creation. The app also offers great watercolor effects that are extremely realistic. You can even control the direction of the “wind” as the paint is “drying” for a realistic masterpiece.

Price: $349.00
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 or later
Developer: Corel

Sketchbook Pro

Sketchbook Pro

Sketchbook Pro is a great piece of software developed by Autodesk used for painting and drawing. It is available for a lesser price-tag than Corel Painter, although it doesn’t offer quite as many options. It does have great drawing tools though, including many well-known brush types and customizable markers, pencils, pens and airbrushes. You can use a tablet to draw basic shapes in the drawing mode, or add text thanks to a recent update to the software. Sketchbook Pro incorporates pen tilt and sensitivity options into all of the major drawing tools.

Price: Priced from $59
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 or later
Developer: Autodesk

Art Rage

Art Rage

ArtRage is an easy to use, stylish painting package for many different platforms. ArtRage’s big selling point is the natural usage of mediums and tools. This app offers an experience that is great for beginners, professional artists and digital artists (plus everyone in between). If you’re new to digital art, you can import a photograph to use as a guide in your digital painting.

Professional artists will appreciate the familiarity of the tools, and will particularly enjoy the realistic way that paint and tools are used within the program. ArtRage has great focus on how tools are used, and how the pigments would act in real life. Digital artists are able to give their artwork a more natural feel due to those same reasons. ArtRage incorporates pressure and tilt sensitivity into all of their tools for the most realistic digital painting experience possible.

Price: $29.90 for Studio, $59.90 for Studio Pro
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or later
Developer: ArtRage

Studio Artist

Studio Artist

Synthetik Software’s Studio Artist app offers a unique experience. Synthetik creates software that incorporates both science and art. Studio Artist offers a variety of features, and does offer full incorporation of pressure and tilt sensitivity for all brushes/tools used in the program in manual mode.

The most unique feature of Studio Artist is the “automatic or assisted drawing mode.” In this mode, a picture or video is imported into the software. This is where the scientific portion of the software comes into play. The software is able to generate a replica of the source media, based upon the style or effect selected by the user. You can also utilize the “assisted” drawing mode, which allows the artist to be guided in creating a replica of the source media. There is, of course, a manual mode that can be utilized as well.

Price: Free trial, $399.99 for full license
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4.10 or higher
Developer: Synthetik Software

GIMP

GIMP

Most likely, you have heard of the GIMP software. GIMP is a freeware, open-source alternative to Adobe Photoshop. It’s a great image manipulation tool that offers thorough (if buggy) graphics tablet integration. The software is full-featured, and while it doesn’t have quite everything Photoshop does, it’s getting closer and closer as the software is developed. GIMP offers in-app options to utilize pressure and tilt sensitivity for the brushes and tools in the program. Thanks to the open-source nature of the program, there are also a number of add-on scripts and tools that allow the user to delve even further into the capabilities of the graphics tablet.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X + Apple’s X11 environment
Developer: GIMP Administrators/Open-Source

Inkscape

Inkscape

Inkscape is also free and open-source. Inkscape is a vector-based drawing program similar to Adobe Illustrator and Corel Painter. It offers the same pressure and tilt sensitivity options found in the other softwares. A very popular feature of Inkscape is the calligraphy tool. Utilizing the graphics tablet when using the calligraphy tool creates some truly breath-taking results. While the calligraphy tool can be used with just a mouse, getting the fast sweeping strokes required in calligraphy can really only be obtained with a tablet, making it a great tool to incorporate into your Inkscape workflow.

Price: Free
Requires:
Developer: Inkscape Administrators/Open-Source

Maya

Maya 3D

Autodesk’s Maya 3D is an animation software application that offers tools for animation, modeling, simulation, visual effects, rendering, matchmoving and compositing. Using a graphics tablet in this 3D animation app will do you no wrong. The software utilizes a graphics tablet to really improve precision and accuracy. The standard tilt and pressure sensitivity options are solidly incorporated into the software.

There are a number of pen-enabled toolsets to help with workflow, whether you work in design, advertising, television, film, advertising or game creation and animation. The software is extremely pricey, so it’s unfortunately only ideal for those working in an industry that really requires such a tool.

Price: Priced from $3,495.00
Requires: Mac OS X
Developer: Autodesk

Mudbox

Mudbox

Autodesk’s Mudbox software is a 3D sculpting and digital painting application. This software enables the creation of ultra-realistic products, whether it is character creation, environments or even props. The software is intuitive and well-designed. Not only can graphics tablets be used for all standard tools in the program, with many offering increased options for graphics tablets, there are also a number of stencils and brushes created specifically for use with a graphics tablet. This is a great app for anyone interested in creating 3D artwork, and having a graphics tablet only makes it easier.

Price: Priced from $745
Requires: Mac OS X
Developer: Autodesk

Blender

Blender

If you’ve got a graphics tablet and really want to try 3D sculpture and animation without spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars, Blender is a great freeware alternative to expensive programs like Maya and Mudbox.

Unfortunately, three-dimensional digital art is not something I have a great deal of knowledge about. That being said, Blender seems to offer a great deal of features for an extremely low price (free!). Creations ranging from simple character creation to full-blown 3D animated movies can be created using this app. The application offers a number of features that incorporate pressure and tilt sensitivity, making for a simpler and more intuitive user experience. If 3D is something you’re interested in, definitely check out Blender for a great way to try for free. I know I will be!

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 or later
Developer: Blender/Open Source

Music Unfolding Midi Controller

Music Unfolding – Midi Controller

A growing trend in the music industry is utilizing a pressure-sensitive graphics tablet for music creation. There isn’t a lot of software out there at this point that completely utilizes the capabilities of a tablet in music creation, particularly for Mac.

One app to try is Music Unfolding’s Midi Controller. This app is dedicated to creating music and uses the tablet in innovative ways. Features such as key, volume and control can be changed using pen tilt and/or sensitivity. This is an exciting direction that pressure sensitive tablets are heading in, and I’m personally thrilled to see more and more audio and music creation/editing applications begin to incorporate tablet usage.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X
Developer: Music Unfolding

Autograph

Autograph

Graphics tablets can be used for not so creative purposes as well. If you need to realistically sign a digital document or email, a tablet can be of great help. This applies to personal and office/corporate usage.

Autograph is an application that was originally built to allow the capturing of signatures using the a mouse or trackpad. The software has updated to incorporate tablet support. The application allows you to capture a signature on the tablet, and then seamlessly place it in documents and emails. It’s a very useful application and a great way to use a tablet outside of the creative world.

Price: $2.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Ten One Design

Ink2Go

Ink2Go

Something we’d all often like to do that isn’t so easy to do with just a mouse is annotate digital documents. Ink2Go is a great piece of software that allows the user to easily annotate PDF and many other documents. This software lets you write, draw or highlight any content being shown on the computer. It works with webpages, slideshows, video, documents and even the presentation mode of Keynote and Powerpoint. Of course all annotations can be done using only a mouse. However, incorporating a graphics tablet can be great for writing and drawing on the documents. Using a tablet provides the opportunity to have an experience much more like annotating a document in real life. While there aren’t tablet specific tools offered, replacing a mouse with a tablet pen can provide a much better experience in this and similar applications.

Price: Free 15 day trial, $19.90 for a license
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: Eye Power Games, Ltd.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, software that truly incorporates graphics tablets and utilizes them to their fullest ability tends to be on the pricey side, as does most graphic design software. That aside, I’m curious about your favorite apps to use with a tablet? Any new and unique uses out there? I’m curious to hear all you have to offer.


  • http://transblawg.eu Margaret

    There’s a monthly payment to use http://www.skritter.com online – spaced repetition software for practising Chinese characters, works best using a Wacom tablet to write the characters.

  • Justin

    I’ll add another – OmniGraffle. I do large database diagrams and with my medium Bamboo Create wireless, my productivity goes up at least fourfold. It also comes in real handy in Aperture/Pixelmator for photo retouching.

  • martin74

    where is iDraw?

  • Chris

    Sculptris is a great alternative to Mudbox, especially for beginners. It works with a tablet, too and it’s free. :)
    http://www.pixologic.com/sculptris/

  • http://thebird-feeder.com Ben Carlsen

    I use TabletDraw (http://www.moosoftware.com/tabletdraw.html). Drawing feels so much more natural than with any other program I’ve used. Trial version is only slightly limited. Full version only costs $35.

    • Heather Weaver

      Thanks for this! I can’t believe I’ve never used it/heard about it before or I definitely would have included it … I already love using this program! It does feel really natural. Definitely considering a purchase.

  • sheala

    useful for animation apps like Pixen, Anime Studio 5 or Toon Boom.
    It’s great to be able to program the Wacon buttons and streamline workflow.

  • CoffeeDude

    ZBrush is left out…

    • http://www.3187mohit.com Mohit

      Zbrush is my favourite for 3d sculpting.
      this little rascal has been used in “AVATAR” what else proof does anyone need?

  • http://www.socialfactory.co.uk iPhone Development in London

    Guys, I think these are the most commonly used tablets Apps, may be these are the ones that run the best !

  • http://chrisnorthcross.com Chris Northcross

    So glad you mentioned Studio Artist. A tablet isn’t a must with it, but it does make things a heck of a lot more fun.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  • http://www.blogster.com/wqwqqepwq Officine Panerai blog

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  • Beverly Lian Xi Ru

    Is Pain Tool Sai a good choice for drawing with a tablet?

  • bharat

    how to make graphics design for computer science student’s

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