My all-time favorite pen tablet is the Intuos4. It literally changed my workflow on illustrations and digital editing—it was an amazing revelation—and probably the best and nicely pragmatic graphic tool I ever had.
Now, keep in mind that this is my personal opinion, but one I’ve adamantly upheld throughout my time reviewing mainline Wacom products, and now with the latest Intuos Pro Paper. This model has some lofty expectations to fulfill if you are an artist graduating to a professional tablet or finally retiring an older device, especially those mildly disappointed by the prior Intuos5/Intuos Pro.
These iterations were not bad per se, but the auxiliary features (think: touch control and 2.4GHz wireless functionality) felt emphasized more than the practical performance itself, things also didn’t help that the technical specs were carried over with little fanfare. Everything as a whole came off as incremental, and at worse, took minor steps back in essential traits.
Unlike its predecessor, this Intuos Pro Paper is a gorgeous refresh that could be an intentional throwback to the Intuos4, with the lineup being available in medium and large models. The appearance is noticeably thinner in physical dimensions (16.8 x 11.2 x 0.3in / 430 x 287 x 8mm) and LED-lit corners that define the active area, essentially made of one piece and visually borderless. Another touch is the removal of rubberized plastic that made up the bezel, which is not only a return to premium-feeling materials but also an incredible reduction of roughly a third in overall weight for our ‘large’ tester (2.84lbs).
Otherwise, things are normal with eight ExpressKeys, Touch Ring/radial menu, and continued implementation of gesture controls. All of which are programmable and tailored between applications or defaulted as a whole.
USB Type-C (USB-C) is adopted for direct connectivity, but this is also the first proper Intuos I’ve seen with a power button and dedicated touch on/off switch—along with built-in Bluetooth as standard (the last model to have Bluetooth was the standalone Intuos4 Wireless tablet). To pair it you have to hold center button for about 4-6 seconds, afterwards, a blinking blue light appears on the right side to indicate that magic is happening.
Two Pens, More Levels
The Pro Pen 2 is still a battery-free design (electromagnetic resonance technology aka EMR) that has been shaped for better center of mass and grip, with ergonomics so subtle that only longtime users may immediately notice. It does feel more natural without feeling top-heavy and placement of the buttons sit lower for index finger too, making access acceptable without forcing yourself to readjust. The pen base is elegant too, containing 10 replacement nibs and integrated removal tool. The pen can be rested horizontally or upright when you eventually get tired of accidentally knocking things over, it is such a simple solution that I’m a little surprised it took Wacom this long to brainstorm it.
The 0.4mm finetip pen on the other hand is deliberately minimal in looks, with the only real cues of flamboyance being the “Wacom” name on the cap. It’s definitely meant for sketching as the slim body and inkpoint encourages a meticulousness approach for on-paper tasks, It’s actually not bad but you’ll go through the included ink refills quickly, which cost $9.99 for another pack. Like the Pro Pen, this utilizes EMR-based technology as well.
Not to be outdone, the technical specifications are the Intuos lineup (and related Cintiq) has been comfortably sporting the same figures for quite a while. The 40° of tilt range, ±60° tilt recognition, ±0.01 accuracy, and 5080 lpi of line resolution go unchanged, however, we now get 8192 pressure levels exclusively, and that is one hell of an improvement depending on your drawing technique.
Wacom has mastered their craft of digitizer interaction and working surface of the will be instantly familiar. The texture profile is faintly coarse offering a necessary level of friction to produce feedback and aid in response, with the annoying interference of resting palms almost eliminated when working. The general feeling is like a graphite pencil making contact with a Strathmore sketchpad, intended to be lightweight but more than firm enough to handle long-term projects—although I wouldn’t recommend manic sessions if you’re prone to abusing materials. The typical suite of applications like Photoshop, AutoCAD, and Corel Painter are all accounted for and precision remains top notch, although minor input lag does exists when opting for very large brushes or artisan tools of each program.
However, we also have to discuss the aspects of sketching on paper, which is this Intuos’ unique feature. In fact, it is a cool idea that Wacom attempted before on their Inkling and recent Bamboo Spark Notebook. They start you off with a few sheets of paper (10-count of either A4 or A5 type) that you attach onto the bundled clip in the center position—while the tablet senses the gel pen in proximity and goes into recording mode. You know all is well when a blue cross appears on the toggle button for queued content to synchronize. When the buffer is clear, it turns green. Double tapping the button creates a new layer.
This generation of ink-to-digitizer technology is undoubtedly the best so far, capturing roughly 90%-95% of everything drawn on paper. It finally works as expected on a large canvas and that’s good, but intricate line work remains a challenge, since abruptly lifting the pen may throw off the entire piece. This occurrence will be annoying if your style is loose but remedied by practicing a steadier hand.
Battery performance is okay for an estimated 10 hours of nonstop use; I averaged much better at about 18 hours from regular duty. Another thing to keep in mind that is that if the Bluetooth acts up it can be fixed, at the cost of an internal memory reset and all unsynchronized drawings erased.
The weakest link of this entire package is the Inkspace app that syncs and manually export drawing data from the finetip pen—consequently, this is also a requirement in order to look at your files. Of course, I’d prefer it if my sketches and pending documents weren’t tied to a proprietary ecosystem—all of which is done on cloud storage—and a free 5GB account after signup.
Fortunately, you do get format choices in either .PNG, .JPG, .PDF, .PSD, or .WILL types. Another redeeming feature is that each stroke can be captured on Wacom’s Ink Layer Language (WILL), which allows for text recognition and exporting as a vector format.
Wacom has always done professional pen tablets extraordinarily well and this version of the Intuos Pro Paper is no different, just moderately improved and retooled to take advantage of logical workflow. For freehand sketching, the process will make perfect sense for artists who prefer to create on paper beforehand, adding a trace of brilliance to a venerable platform. On top of the revived premium touches and thinner footprint, all of your current accessories are compatible so your investments are secure for the immediate future.
There are evident criticisms in terms of Bluetooth performance and Inkspace as a whole. At its core though, I’m certain that the entire Intuos Pro family will continue to be a benchmark from graphic designers, animation studios, and in CAD workstations. For me, I’ve reinvigorated my talent for drawing, and can now gracefully retire my older Intuos4—you have served me better than you’ll ever truly know.