How I Chose my Wacom Bamboo Tablet + Thoughts after 3 weeks of using the Wacom Bamboo Fun Pen and Touch

About a year ago I decided that, although I am not a professional artist, I was ready to take the next step and purchase a graphics tablet.  But as graphics tablets are a rather expensive treat (especially in a time of recession) I decided to spend a year saving for it.  I therefore had a looooong time to do my research. 

To all those who are trawling sites and forums sifting every single dreg of information they possibly can:

I have been there, I have done that, and I have got the T-shirt, or rather, in this case, the graphics tablet. 

My first problem was that I didn’t know anyone who had a graphics tablet so I didn’t really know where to start.  So after reading countless recommendations for “first tablet” “tablet for beginners” “tablets for amateur artists” etc. I found that overall the Wacom Bamboo series had the most recommendations. 

But here I encountered my first problem.  I found that the highest number of recommendations within the Wacom Bamboo series went to the Bamboo Create, the Bamboo Capture, the Bamboo Pen and Touch, and the Bamboo Fun Pen and Touch (small and medium versions). 

But nowhere could I find any people who reviewed the Bamboo Create AND the Bamboo Fun Pen and Touch!!

It seems silly that I did not make the obvious connection at the time, which is, of course, they are the same graphics tablet!!!  Yes, it’s true.  The bundled software may be different but the tablet and its features are the same. 

The tablet which I now own, the Bamboo Fun Pen and Touch or Bamboo Create, has the code CTH-670-S.  For all information on Bamboo tablets, their product codes and the meaning behind the codes, please see my previous post – Information on the Wacom Bamboo Series.

Anyway, to prevent anyone else from becoming confused by this let me make this clear now. 

NOTE: This is not official. These are my conclusions based on deductions I made from the Wacom website  (I can’t read Chinese so I could not verify the Chinese equivalents on the Wacom site) and other online retailers as well as various forums, reviews, sites etc.
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Aside from a few bundled software differences these are the various region equivalents:

Bamboo Fun Pen and Touch Medium (ASIA-PACIFIC, JAPAN, EUROPE)

= Bamboo Create (AMERICA)

Bamboo Fun Pen and Touch Small/Bamboo Pen and Touch (ASIA-PACIFIC, JAPAN, EUROPE)

= Bamboo Capture (AMERICA)

Bamboo Pen (ASIA-PACIFIC, JAPAN, EUROPE)

= Bamboo Connect (AMERICA)

Bamboo Manga (ASIA-PACIFIC, EUROPE)

= Bamboo Comic (JAPAN)

NOTE: I’m sorry to report that, as far as I am aware, the Bamboo Manga/Comic is not officially available in America.
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I would just like to mention quickly that I am using my tablet with a Macbook Pro running Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6.8).  I have also used it on Windows XP using VMware and it works fine on both systems with no compatibility issues at all.  In both cases you do have to install all the drivers first though.  I have used the tablet with PaintTool SAI (using Windows XP on VMware), GIMP and MyPaint, and it has had no problems with any of them.

I have also tried using Photoshop CS6, Flash CS6, Illustrator CS6, and of course all the software bundled with my tablet (ArtRage Studio Pro, Corel Painter Essentials and Photoshop Elements), and again there were no issues whatsoever.

Right.

So here’s my detailed guide on how to choose your first graphics tablet, what helped me find the one that suited me best, and what I think about it now I’ve had a chance to use it.

As I say, I wanted to save up for my first graphics tablet so I had about a year to collect information.  Everyone has their own ideas of what is important in a graphics tablet.  These are the factors I came up with (also mentioned in my previous post).

Money/budget, purpose, interests, portability, size, pen functions, touch functions, customisable buttons and bundled programs.

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Money and Purpose
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There are many other options available if you are looking to become professional or you have a lot of money to spend.  You should consider how much you are willing to pay and whether or not you are planning to upgrade in the near future.

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My Thoughts:
Personally I don’t plan to buy another graphics tablet while this one still works.  I only want one for digital art as a hobby.  So, as I didn’t have the inclination to upgrade later to a more professional tablet, or the money to spare, I chose the tablet range which seemed best suited to my needs, i.e. affordable but on the high end of the amateur graphics tablets spectrum.

NOTE:  I don’t want to anger any of the people who use this tablet professionally.  Of course I love my tablet but from the information I found online it seems that very few (if any) professionals use the Wacom Bamboo range.  Most seem to favour the Intuos range.
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Interests
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Your interests have a big role to play in which tablet you choose. 

Do you want to edit photos or draw/paint? 

Do you want to do all of the above? 

Are you more interested in Manga and Anime styles?

It’s good to have a clear idea which of your interests are pushing you to buy a graphics tablet.

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My Thoughts:
For myself, I wanted to be able to draw and paint accurately using my computer.  I was also interested in trying out all sorts of different digital art styles.  And although I know that many people can get really good precision with a mouse, I am not one of those people.  So I wanted the kind of easy precision on a computer that a graphics tablet can provide. 

If you are not sure, have a look at this chart provided by Wacom which helps you see which tablet they recommend for each interest.


As you can see the Bamboo Fun is recommended for everything as Wacom have tried to make it the most attractive (largest area + most features + most bundled programs).
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Portability
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Do you want something you can carry around easily?  Something that will fit snugly in a slipcase next to your laptop?  Or will your tablet live on your desk?

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My Thoughts:
I wanted a graphics tablet to use at home.  As I say, I’m not a professional artist and I don’t want to carry my tablet everywhere (or anywhere really).  My tablet lives on my desk, unless I’m sketching in which case I generally lean it against the desk or my knees.  So on the whole I wasn’t so bothered about how portable the tablet was.
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Size part 1: Practicality
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Size does of course have a big part to play in portability.  If you want to shove it in a rucksack or something every day you might want to consider the smaller option.

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My Thoughts:
I never use my tablet without my Macbook Pro, and I never take my Mac anywhere unless it’s in my laptop bag.  And, as my tablet is so thin and light, if I already have my Mac in my laptop bag I hardly notice it.  In fact I really don’t notice it at all.

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Size part 2: Usage
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In terms of actually using the tablet there seem to be many conflicting views regarding size.  Many people feel that as a starter tablet small is fine.  Others suggest that having the extra space is always a bonus.  Having read many many different reviews, opinions and comparisons online, here are my overall summaries.

1.) People buying tablets for photo editing should buy a smaller tablet. 

General consensus is that this allows extra fine detail and editing with less arm/wrist movement.

2.)  People buying tablets for drawing and painting should buy a larger tablet.

General consensus is that this allows greater artistic freedom because of a larger surface area.  It also stops your hand getting cramped. 

NOTE: I forgot a very important fact!  Please remember that the size of the tablet is NOT the size of the active area.  Just because the tablet is the size you want does not necessarily mean you will have the working area you want.  To check these sizes either go to the WACOM website or have a look at my previous post.

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My Thoughts:
I have nothing to compare as I have only ever used a medium tablet, but to be honest I can’t really imagine using anything smaller.  In my personal opinion, I think it’s a bit like the difference between using an A5 and an A4 sketchpad.  Both have their merits and their limitations.  I prefer using A4 or A3 sketchbooks so I get on well with the extra space of the medium tablet.  I think that the smaller tablet would have left me feeling a bit squashed and my hand a bit cramped.

FOR FURTHER REFERENCE:

To give you all an idea of the physical size of the medium tablet I have taken a few photos of my tablet next to a 13″ Macbook Air, which you can see in this post.  This is of course the same for all medium tablets although colours will vary.
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Pen functions (part 1)
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All tablets in this range come with a pen which has two customisable buttons.

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My Thoughts:
I use these buttons A LOT.  I have mine set on default which is right click and a setting which lets me scroll through my recently used colours.  This is super useful if you are doing something like painting.

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Pen functions (part 2)
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Of this range the only two tablets that come with a pen which you can flip and use the other end as an eraser are the Bamboo Fun Pen and Touch and the Bamboo Manga.
I read on the Bamboo website that with all tablets other than the Bamboo Pen it is possible to buy a pen separately which includes the eraser function.  But I personally can’t confirm this.

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My Thoughts:
I have to say that I don’t use this function as much as I thought I would.  But it is handy sometimes to carry on without changing from brush to eraser and back.
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Touch functions (part 1)
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As I mentioned in my previous post, you can use all tablets (other than the Bamboo Pen tablet) as a trackpad.

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My Thoughts:
Admittedly I don’t use my tablet as a trackpad unless I’m drawing or painting.  It can be useful though.  It has very good reception and the scrolling is great.

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Touch functions (part 2)o

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You can also use the touch function to paint with your fingers.

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My Thoughts:
In terms of using the touch part to paint digitally I haven’t tried as I’m still getting used to the pen but I like having the option available for future artistic experimentation.  I do use the touch capabilities to turn and resize my canvas.  This is very handy.

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Customisable buttons
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Again as mentioned in my previous post, all tablets (other than the Bamboo Pen) have 4 customisable buttons.

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My Thoughts:
I have never actually used mine but I imagine they can be useful.
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Bundled Programs
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A lot of people already have all the art programs they want.  But if you have never wanted to fork out for the ridiculously overpriced art programs, this is a way to get them cheap.  For a list of bundled programs please see my previous post here.

NOTE:  To all Mac OS X users, the programs bundled with the Bamboo Manga tablet are WINDOWS ONLY.  So unless you have Parallels or VMWare or similar don’t bother getting this one.

UPDATE!!

So there have been a few changes since I last checked the Wacom website and now there is direct confirmation of compatibility between the bundled Anime Studio software and Mountain Lion (OS X 10.8.x). 

Screen shot 2013-06-30 at 16.39.17

I have not seen any other Mac OS mentioned regarding this so I can not comment on whether or not it is now compatible with any previous Mac OS. 

I also have not seen any information as to whether any of the other software such as Manga Studio Debut 4 and Open Canvas Lite, which was specifically Windows Only before, will now be available to Mac users. 

Still, I feel that there is a distinct possibility that if the Anime Studio software is available for Mountain Lion then the Manga Studio software should also be available for Mountain Lion as well. 

As I say, when I picked up the box for the Bamboo Manga a year or so ago, the fact that both these programs were Windows Only was clearly highlighted on the back of the box.  However, things may have changed for the better.  Let’s hope so.

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My Thoughts:
I never wanted to pay the humungous piles of money needed for most art programs  but I’m not so stupid that I’ll pass up a good deal when I see one.  To get a tablet and several art programs in one go for a quarter of the price of the actual programs seemed like an excellent idea to me.  Yes, I know that these aren’t the full programs, but, seeing as I get along fine just using the free and open source art programs, having an extra art program boost is fine for me.  I did wonder about getting the Bamboo Manga tablet for the programs but as they are Windows only I decided against it.
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To Summarise…..
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I really do love my new graphics tablet and I would recommend it to anyone.  Is the Fun Pen and Touch medium (Create) really worth the extra money you pay to upgrade from the Pen and Touch or the Fun small version (Capture)?  In my mind, absolutely!!  Although I haven’t even downloaded the extra programs (I hope there isn’t a time limit on that) I have absolutely no regrets in paying for the extra space/size, buttons and pen gadgets.  I’m sure I’ll feel that way even more when I actually get round to downloading and installing ArtRage Studio Pro, Adobe Photoshop Elements and Corel Painter Essentials. 

You should have no illusions though, my graphics tablet is still a long way from the comfort and precision I get from actually sketching with a pen or pencil.  But then I never expected it to be perfect.  I just expected it to be an improvement on a mouse.  And it is.  A HUGE FANTASTIC COLOSSAL IMPROVEMENT.  I read in many online reviews that once you try a pen tablet you will never go back.  Let me confirm right now – that statement is 100% true. 

Never ever.

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UPDATE:

To anyone who buys a tablet which includes free programs.

As far as I can tell there is no time limit on WHEN you download your programs. However, as soon as you download you are issued a serial key code. This activation code has a time limit of about 8 hours. After that your serial key will become invalid so make sure you leave yourself time to download and install your software within the time frame.

Also, on the program recommendation side, ArtRage Studio Pro is a wonderful wonderful program!  Forget Photoshop Elements and Corel Essentials!  This is the one that rocks!

P.S.  Any other details…?

If anyone wants any further details regarding my tablet I’m happy to try and help.  Just leave a comment here.  I tend to check my blog every couple of days (ish), so I should reply within a week (or so).

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18 thoughts on “How I Chose my Wacom Bamboo Tablet + Thoughts after 3 weeks of using the Wacom Bamboo Fun Pen and Touch

  1. Jens

    Thank you so much! Your help has been awesome!

  2. Wenru

    Hi, many thanks for your information!

    But about the softwares from Wacom manga, I checked on the software’s website; both of them support Lion at least. Would you mind checking again?

    • No Problem! Thanks for your info too!
      I have had a look and it seems that there have indeed been some changes. As far as I can tell the downloadable software is now available for Mountain Lion (10.8.x) but there is no information saying it has changed for Lion or Snow Leopard.
      I will update my info pronto (^-^)

  3. Tom

    Thanks for that great review.
    Does 2 finger horizontal scrolling work on the Mac?
    I want to ditch the Apple magic trackpad in favour of a pen/touch tablet.

    Tom

    • Hey Tom,

      First of all, thanks for your positive feedback. It makes me happy! And therefore I have devoted some time today to checking how my tablet works as a trackpad.

      I double checked the two finger scrolling (I knew it worked within art programs but I had to just make sure it worked in general), and it works great. It can also do the usual things like tap instead of click, double tap to right click and pinch to zoom. You can of course just configure the buttons to do the clicking instead. I personally only use one button which I have configured to turn the touch function on and off (it’s irritating if you forget and your painting suddenly turns sideways).
      The only thing it doesn’t seem to do is the three finger swipe which I usually use to flip quickly through photos open in Preview.
      …which is weird because it does the four finger swipe which lets you switch between all open windows…
      But perhaps it’s something you have to tweak in the tablet configuration settings.

      Anyway, hope this helps (^-^)

      • Tom

        Thanks for your reply. It’s just what I needed to know. Tom
        Sorry it took so long to thank you … college exams, etc.

  4. Jo David

    Hello. Thank you for the info, really appreciated. Anyway, I bought bamboo fun CTH-661 and after that I found out at the other store that there’s a bamboo fun CTH-670. And I got nothing to do but to stick to my 661. I’ve been looking for the differences between the two except for the color and dimension. Help please.

    • I have never seen a CTH-661 so all my information is purely internet based. But as far as I can tell the CTH-661 is the medium version of the Bamboo Craft (which I think is part of the “Fun” range). Probably the main differences are:

      1.) Size and Shape
      – the CTH-661 is more domed than the CTH-670 so the drawing surface is higher off the desk.
      – because of the doming the active area is smaller

      2.) Pen
      – I think the pen is a different design but I’m not sure.

      3.) Software
      – I have seen reports that this model comes with Adobe Photoshop Elements and Corel Painter Essentials but not ArtRage Studio Pro as the CTH-670 does. It includes photo editing software instead called Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 WE3.

      • Jo David

        Thank you so much for your quick response. I guess I dont have a choice but to stick with it. Anyway, it’s cool. some says the differences are not too much. It’s a prior version though.

      • No problem! And yes, I think they are very similar. In fact, other than the very small points I mentioned, there is probably very little difference between them. All the features are the same – pen with eraser function, tablet buttons, touch functions, pen pressure etc., – so I’m sure it will be really great regardless (^-^)

  5. em

    Very informative post by the way.. Thank you! 🙂 Been searching for quite a while!

    • And thank you for your positive comment! It is always nice to feel appreciated (^-^)

  6. em

    So you said the bundled software may be different but the tablet and its features are the same? I would like to go with the Manga but haven’t found one here in the Philippines.. And since I am someone who travels a lot, I think I wouldn’t need the extra size.. I’m not so sure if we have the Bamboo Fun small here in the Phil though :/ I’m thinking about getting that (since it comes with bundled software), or the Bamboo Pen and Touch..

    • em

      Oh shoot, I got confused there.. If I’m correct, the smaller version of Bamboo Fun Pen and Touch is just Bamboo Pen and Touch without the bundled software?

      • Hi there!

        Yes, as far as I know the Bamboo Fun Small and the Bamboo Pen and Touch are identical apart from the bundled software. If you look at the product code the one you want should say CTH-470 which is the small size tablet (see my other post here).

        I’m guessing you have Windows if you are looking at the Manga (which is one I thought about getting before I realised you need Windows). The Wacom website lists the Philippines as having access to the Manga but I don’t think they have a Wacom store there.

        Wacom Philippines

        I bought my Bamboo Fun online but when I was in Japan I saw the Bamboo range in all the big electronics stores. The other place I’ve seen them sold all around the world is in Apple stores (particularly the Bamboo Manga, which is strange because you can’t use the bundled software on a Mac). But anyway, if there is an Apple store near you, you could try there.

        Hope this helps. Good luck (^-^)

  7. Ahhhhhh Thanks…. so nice to see one page with exactly everything i wanted to know

    • No Problem 😀 I’m glad my hours of research can help someone else with their decision. Good luck with the tablet hunting!

If you find this useful or interesting please leave me a comment. If you have a question feel free to ask (^-^)

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