Monday, January 23, 2006

But is it Art?

PC Medic has recently taken delivery of a Wacom Graphire 4 A5 graphics tablet, a device that I've always been keen to try but, up until now, never got around to it. So, what is a graphics tablet? Essentially its a glorified mouse mat and pen that handles your on-screen input instead of your mouse. "Why would I want to use a pen instead of a mouse to work my way around the screen?" I hear you ask. The short answer is that, unless you're using specific graphics packages such as Adobe's Photoshop, Corel's Painter or Jasc's Paint Shop Pro you can happily live your life without a graphics tablet.

However, if you use any of the aforementioned products then you are in for a real treat. If you have ever used a graphics drawing program on your PC and tried to draw with a mouse you will have realised by now that a mouse is not designed for drawing with. What do we use in the real world for drawing? That's right ... pens. And so it goes in cyberworld that drawing with a pen is a much more natural and rewarding experience than with a mouse.

The Graphire 4 is a USB device that installs with no fuss on Windows XP machines. Bundled with the tablet is a copy of Corels's Painter Essentials 2. While this is a cut down version of Corel's powerful Painter IX program it still is an excellent package and shows off the value of a graphics tablet to great effect.

Do you need a graphics tablet? Probably not. However, if you have an artistic bent and want to use your PC for more than just e-mail, then you can have a lot of fun with the Wacom Graphire 4 and the bundled software. At a cost of €199 you need to be sure that you'll use it frequently to recoup the investment but, a bit like broadband, once you have it you'll start using it more and more. The picture at the top of this post was created in less than 5 minutes by myself using the Graphire 4 and Adobe Photoshop Essentials 3, and I confess to being quite proud of the finished product. But, is it Art?

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