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Wacom Bamboo Tablet
If you're an avid user of photo-manipulation or illustration tools — Photoshop, Illustrator, CorelDraw — you need a tablet. A tablet's similarity to the familiar pencil and paper gives you a level of comfort unmatched by the mouse. It's also easier to capture fine detail, as the tablet's stylus allows you to vary pressure by pressing down lighter or harder as appropriate.
For professionals seeking high-end tablets, products can easily run above $1000. However, the Bamboo Tablet is a fine, affordable choice for the beginning illustrator or the hobbyist on a budget. It's smaller than a pro-grade tablet, but it's fun, easy to use, and looks stylish on your desk.
Unlike the more playful "Bamboo Fun" line, the regular Bamboo comes in just one color and size. It's a sleek black, with an active area of about 4 inches by 6 inches. It comes with a basic stylus and multiple function buttons to perform common tasks like minimizing all windows, switching between applications, and zooming in and out.
The tablet comes with a straightforward and relatively easy configuration tool allowing you to change what the buttons on the stylus do and modify pressure sensitivity according to how hard you like to press down. If you have more than one monitor, you can also choose whether you'd like the entire visible area to be active, or be limited to just one screen.
In use, the Bamboo is a great experience for a beginner. To start you off, the bundle comes with a stylish, informative tutorial to help you master the basics of tablet navigation. Once you're on your way and using the tablet in Photoshop or Illustrator, it really shines. The Bamboo's stylus offers 512 levels of pressure sensitivity. This means that the harder you press, the more of something will result — this "something" can be modified at will. Perhaps you're using a spraypaint brush. Then, pressing harder would make your spray wider. If you're using a brush with shape dynamics, pressing harder could increase the density of shapes. The options are endless, and having a tablet to draw on makes these tasks a lot easier. If you're tracing a complicated figure, you'll be especially glad you picked up a Bamboo tablet.
As an entry-level offering, the Bamboo tablet is very affordable — under $70 at most retailers. Considering the time you will save over using a mouse, this will most likely pay for itself quickly. Plus, many of Photoshop's advanced techniques are nearly impossible, or at least extremely frustrating, to use without a tablet. For the beginner on a budget, the Bamboo is a great choice.