For 20 years I’ve used a mouse for general computer usage and also for drawing in Illustrator for all vector work. I’ve always sworn that using a mouse to control the Pen Tool was far more accurate for vector work than using any other method.
A few years back I decided to buy a graphics tablet to try out solely for my vector work. I tried it on and off over a couple weeks but just couldn’t get the hang of it and eventually went back to using the mouse. I simply couldn’t get the accuracy and control that I could with the mouse.
Anyway earlier this year I started to suffer from RSI (repetitive strain injury), which became more and more painful as the day went on. So I needed to try and find ways to avoid this problem. So I bought a better chair, used a wrist support, bought a voice recognition software package (to cut down on typing), but although all of this did help a little it still never got rid of the pain.
Then one day I read an article about how a tablet and pen can help reduce RSI pain. So out of desperation I went back to using the graphics tablet (I used a Wacom Intuos) during a quiet time of the year.
Of course at first I had the same problems that I had previously had, struggling to control it accurately. But I did notice that it felt very comfortable and I wasn’t getting the same pain as when using the mouse. Holding the Pen doesn’t twist your wrist round unnaturally the same as it would if you were using a mouse. If you only use a computer occasionally then this wouldn’t be a problem, but if you’re working on it 8 hours plus a day like I am that’s when you can start getting arm and wrist pains or RSI.
So this time I decided to have a proper go at it. I decided to unplug the mouse completely and use the Tablet for everything, not just drawing, but also for general computer usage. The first 2 weeks was a real struggle. But then after about a month I started to find I was gaining more and control of the Pen and so from then on I realised that this was the way to go for me.
Now 3 months later I seem to have complete control using the Pen and tablet. Right clicking, scrolling, everything is now second nature and best of all my RSI problem has disappeared! Also I’m finding drawing in Illustrator or using the brush tool in Photoshop much easier and it feels more natural. Not only that, but as a bonus I find I have more control when sketching on paper using a pen or pencil.
My Wacom tablet only cost about $120 and I’m happy with it, but there are more expensive tablets which can cost several hundred dollars. I’ve never tried any of these so I couldn’t say whether it would be worth the extra expense. Although no doubt I’ll be buying one sometime in the future. You will need to buy nibs for your pen as these do wear out. But I’ve used one pack of 5 which cost $7 for 2 months. They will vary how long they last depending on how you use it.
So between the Mouse and the Graphics Tablet I obviously prefer the tablet. But if you’re only an occasional computer user then it might not be worth switching as you may get frustrated trying to get accustomed to it. But for full time users, especially if you work with graphics, I would recommend a graphics tablet, especially if you’re starting to get wrist problems.