WACOM TABLET IN ADOBE ILLUSTRATOR
Wacom Tablet Properties
Grip Pen Settings
Default settings are a great place to start. As you practice more you can tweak a few, but you will see mine haven’t changed. Play around with the tip feel by using the customize feature. You will be looking for control of thick to thin when using pressure.
When we are drawing out thick to thin variations using your Blob Brush pay attention to these areas:
Blob or Hard to Control Line Thickness = adjust pressure up to firm.
Line Breaking at the End or Hard to Get First Part of Line = Too Firm
I have access to my keyboard and a mouse for using the Keyboard Shortcuts and my non-tablet based workflows in Adobe Illustrator. I do recommend an external or USB Keyboard if you can no longer reach your keyboard due to your tablet or workstation setup.
Wacom Tablet Properties
Express Keys + Touch Strips
I have mine Disabled. I am a big believer in the Adobe Keyboard Shortcuts over the tablet Express Keys. Troubleshooting: Look for your screen moving at random. Some Express Keys or Touch strips will accidentally be hit with your wrist or your non-drawing hand.
If you are getting accidental Isolation Mode we can fix it in two ways. The first is above you will see I have the Double Click Distance set to OFF. (I use my mouse) If you don’t have a mouse you can turn off Double Click to Isolate in your Illustrator General Preferences.
Tablet Quick Set Up
These are my personal settings for my tablet. So if you want a fast way of getting started these are great starting points. You will notice that we go through all of the Main and Support Tools for your Tablet, including how to customize your Keyboard Shortcuts which can be plugged in to your Express Keys.
Preferences + Smart Guides
Most of the General Settings are Default. You can double check your preferences against the image. A common question I get is about the Precise Cursors, you can see on my screen that the box is checked which will change the brush from seeing the icon.
You will notice that my Smart Guides only have the Object Highlighting turned on. This will be a visual marker that your Blob Brush strokes are staying separate and not merging.
Pencil Tool Options
The Pencil Tool will be my recommendation for a default tool for your tablet, especially if you are following along to tutorials that use the Pen Tool. The Pencil Tool will be a fast and user friendly alternative to the Pen Tool. It will also allow you to add on brushes or width profiles in a second step, which means more control over your designs.
Pencil Tool Modification for Tutorials: We have a lot of older tutorials that use the Pen Tool as the primary Build Mode. The good news is that the construction is done in a stroke format so it is an easy transition if you want to use the Pencil Tool. Follow along to the start of the tutorial with placing and creating your template layer, but Place in your Tablet Friendly guide instead of the Anchor Point Guide. Trace the Tablet Friendly guide at your own pace. You will be done faster with the Pencil Tool, so skip to the part of the tutorial when inking is all done and we haven’t added on any variation, brushes or width profiles. You can now just follow along to the tutorial.
The settings that are shown are to start prepping you for our Efficiency Workflows. The Keep Selected and Edit Selected will allow you to lift up your pen and join paths on the fly. This is important for corners and using the Fidelity settings on high.
Edit Selected Paths
The Edit Selected is important for joining paths as we go. This will save an extra step of having to go back through and join ever path together. However, the setting below it will drive you crazy if you aren’t aware of it. This will re-draw or auto correct your line if you are too close to it. Notice I have mine OFF or set to Zero. I just click Undo (Control + Z) instead.
Fidelity + Smoothing
I really like having the smoothing turned up to smooth or almost at smooth. This will auto-correct a lot of the bumps your tablet might pick up as well as remove extra anchor points. Pay attention to the settings for Editing and Selecting. This is so we can gain back control over the drawing corners without them rounding.
Alt/Option Key or Smooth Tool
In the section below, I will set up an individual Keyboard Shortcut for the Smooth Tool. It is nice to know that it is already built in the the Pencil Tool by holding down the Alt(Option) Key.
Blob Brush Options + Modification
The Pencil Tool will be my recommendation for a default tool for your tablet, especially if you are following along to tutorials that use the Pen Tool. However, some of you might want to be practicing with Pressure and the Blob Brush. The Blob Brush is usually a design decision rather than just a speed or efficiency choice. Since you are manually added on your own pressure it will give you a more “hand-drawn” look. If you are looking for more control with your line variation, then I would use the Pencil Tool as a fast option to the Pen Tool.
Blob Brush Modification for Tutorials: In the Pencil Tool modification we follow along starting before we add on the line variation. If you are looking to use the Blob Brush and Pressure with the Pen Tool tutorials, then I would start after we add on any Line Variation and Expand. You will pick up the videos right before we do our “clean up” phase using the Eraser Tool or Shape Builder (hold alt/opt to delete). I prefer Shape Builder as my primary editing tool to clean up any overlapping.
Blob Brush Options
Keep Selected = OFF
We want to control how the tool merges with itself. The first thing is controlling if it is selected or not. Change this setting but also be aware if anything is selected, especially after you edit.
Merge Only with Selection = ON
This is to control how the tool merges with itself. If the settings are different (all on or off) the tool will merge with itselft and you will lose the ability to edit with Shape Builder.
Fidelity + Smoothing
I really like having the smoothing turned up to smooth or almost at smooth. This will auto-correct a lot of the bumps your tablet might pick up as well as remove extra anchor points.
Pressure + Variation
Turn on the Pressure from the drop-down menu. The variation slider has to be moved up for there to be variation with pressure. 0 Variation = No Pressure
Tablet Support Tool Options
Hiding under the Pencil Tool, there are a lot of really cool support tools to use along with your tablet. In the following section, we will set up the Keyboard Shortcuts and show you how to input them into your Express Keys if you have a Display Tablet.
Eraser Tool vs. Path Eraser Tool: If you are drawing using your Pencil, Paint Brush or Pen Tools, you can use the Path Eraser tool. It will eraser the path rather than using the Scissor Tool. If you are drawing with shapes or more specifically with the Blob Brush, then you can use the normal Eraser Tool.
Smooth Tool will smooth out any line or path. This is a good quick fix for any stray or extra anchor points your tablet might have put down. It is also good to correct corner that get “weird” when using pressure. (I have changed my keyboard shortcut to S)
The setting and all of the Pencil Tool Tutorials we have settings to join as we go. The Join Tool is nice to know, just draw over the lines you want to join together. This also works if there are stray or overlapped lines you want to correct and join together. (I have changed my keyboard shortcut to J)
Path Eraser Tool
In the Keyboard Shortcuts and Tablet Properties Panel, you can modify the which eraser tool you will be using the most. If you know you are going to be using paths and the Pencil Tool, then I would insert the Path Eraser Tool into your Grip Pen Eraser settings as a Keystroke. (I have changed my keyboard shortcut to E)
In the section below we can start to modify your Keyboard Shortcuts. You will notice that the default settings for Illustrator do NOT have any shortcuts on the Smooth, Path Eraser or Join Tools.
Editing your Keyboard Shortcuts
(Disclaimer) This option is completely optional. When we go through this section it is important to realize a few different points. The first is to Save the Preset as an extra preset, this is so if you will have the Default Settings to go back to if you don’t like it. The second is this is a thought process or an approach to structuring your Keyboard Shortcuts or your Express Keys. The main pain point is how irritated or annoyed you are with the Default Settings versus being annoyed that you are learning new Keyboard Shortcuts.
Tablet Support Tools
If you are interested in inserting the Keyboard Shortcuts into Express Keys or Grip Pen functions, then we will need to create them first. The main three will be the Smooth Tool, Path Eraser and Join Tool.
Righty vs. Lefty
I have modified my Keyboard Shortcuts to move to the left hand side of my keyboard to prevent and awkward reach across the tablet. You can modify this approach to the right side if you are a left handed drawer.
Workspace + Express Keys
If you cannot reach or don’t have a keyboard, then I suggest you go with the option best fits your Display Tablet. You will either have a side bar with Express Keys or the screen will go all the way to the edge (Touch Workspace).