Review: Wacom Intuos 3 | WebReference

Review: Wacom Intuos 3


Review: Wacom Intuos 3





The Wacom Interactive Tutorial


It was with great interest that I was able to work with one of the new Wacom Intuos 3 tablets. In this case, it was a 6x8 tablet with a USB connection. One of the first things that caught my attention was the way the tablet is delivered. All of the components, even the mouse, carefully packaged to prevent any damage during shipment.

The tablet ships with a Grip pen that comes with several nibs for varying the physical sensitivity of the tablet, from a soft, brush-like feeling. Another nib creates more friction on the tablet surface, simulating a felt tip. Other components are a Pen Stand, and the Intuos Five-button Mouse. The mouse is ball and optics free, ensuring smooth tracking. It’s also cordless and battery free. In addition, there are five programmable buttons and fingerwheel.

Note: Each pen is designed to work specifically with a given tablet. The pens are neither forward nor backwards compatible.

Finally, there are two CD’s that come with tablet. One is for the tablet itself, the other contains bundled software including: Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0, Corel Painter Essentials 2, nik Color Efex Pro 2.0 IE and Wacom brushes 2.0

Installing the tablet is a straightforward process, but the installation instructions tell you to disable any virus protection software prior to installation. I did that, but being a cautious sort, I first unplugged my internet connection, disabled my virus protection software, installed the tablet, then reversed the procedure.

Once you’ve installed the software, you’re presented with an interactive tutorial which gets you up and running with the tablet.


The programmable Tablet Keys.

As for the tablet itself, there are several changes. Gone is the programmable strip at the top of the tablet surface. Now, you have several options for programmability, but these are no longer anywhere on the tablet surface directly. Instead, you now have the Tablet Keys, located to the left and right side of the tablet surface. These keys are designed to mimic several keys on your keyboard. By default, they are set to Space, Alt, Ctrl and Shift, but they are customizable for a number of settings, such as modifier keys, keystrokes and clicking. On the inside of these keys is the touch strip. Its purpose is for scrolling or zooming in different applications and can be controlled with the finger or pen and is also programmable.

Additional Notes

In working with the mouse, I noticed that it’s not as ergonomic as its predecessors. In some ways, it feels almost like holding a block in my hand. I felt it was bottom heavy and not as smooth to move around. Another issue is the side buttons. Due to their proximity, they can be accidentally triggered, such as when surfing the web, causing you to jump forwards or backwards when you’re not expecting it. In this instance, I found that the simplest solution is to disable them.

When you’re finished working on a task with the tablet, make sure to remove the pen or mouse from the working surface. If you don’t, it’s likely to interfere or prohibit screen cursor positioning when working with other devices.

Known Issues and Workarounds

Zooming with the Touch Strip
When using the Touch Strip to zoom in Adobe Photoshop and other Adobe applications, the document will always zoom around the center of the document window.

In my experience, this issue appeared as a result of accessing the Alt key in Photoshop. Several times when I did this, the cursor would zoom in and out in an erratic fashion. As first, I thought something was wrong with the software until I realized that the heel of my hand was contacting the touch strip, causing the zooming problem.

Windows XP - When installing on systems with multiple users
If you install the tablet on a system with multiple users and the tablet only works on the primary user desktop, reboot the system.

Safe Mode - Support for USB tablets
If your PC was not configured with a USB keyboard or USB mouse, it may not support USB devices while in Windows Safe Mode. In this case, your tablet will not function in Safe Mode.


One option for the Intuos 3 is the Airbrush, which is a digital pen with the feel and control of a real airbrush. Features include a top-mounted fingerwheel to control ink flow, a pressure-sensitive tip and eraser, and a programmable top button. Unfortunately, one of these wasn’t available at the time of this review, so I wasn’t able to test it.

Artists working with the pen have occasionally said that it doesn’t feel like they’re actually drawing with a pen or painting in the way that they’ve become accustomed. One way of compensating for that is to use papers that have different textures and to tape those to the surface of the tablet. The paper will create a type of friction as you draw/paint which can increase your comfort level. This could be useful for creating different effects, such as a ragged look when drawing with charcoal or the look of canvas as you paint.


Overall, I like the new tablet and the feeling when working with it. Having reviewed tablets of different sizes (9x12 and 4x5), this tablet is best suited to my style. It’s also an excellent choice if you have a laptop as it fits comfortably within a 12x16 inch case. If your case is any smaller than that, it could be a tight fit, in which case the 4x5 tablet would be a better option.

System Requirements

A PC or Macintosh computer running Windows 98SE/2000/Me/XP or Mac OS 10.2.6 & higher with powered USB port, CD-ROM drive & color monitor. nik Color Efex Pro 2 IE requires Adobe Photoshop Elements 2 (included) or Photoshop 7 & higher. Corel Painter Essentials 2 requires Windows 2000, XP, or Mac OS 10.2 & higher.

Pricing and Availability

Pricing for the 6x8 tablet is $329.00. For a full list of tablets and options, visit










Created by Nathan Segal
Created: February 6, 2002
Revised: December 16, 2004