Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Nuts and Bolts: My Photoshop and Wacom Setup

Lately I've been doing a lot of experimenting with actual paints and brushes, but for the past six or so years, I've been completing all my projects using Photoshop CS4.

Over the years, I've figured out a system using Wacom's programmable ExpressKeys, Touch Strip and Radial Menu that helps me paint quickly and efficiently.  Using these programmable keys along with a specific Photoshop window arrangement allows for faster painting...get those deadlines done!

First things first, I'm working on a two or three year old iMac 23" and a Wacom Cintiq 12wx (the ExpressKeys are also available on the Wacom Intuos 3's, 4's and 5's too). Below the video, I've included diagrams of how I've set my Wacom Cintiq's programmable options. Remember, the programmable keys come on the Intuos tablets as well, so if you don't have a Cintiq, all is not lost!

Wacom's ExpressKeys
The Cintiq and Intuos tablets come with programmable keys located on both sides of the tablet. I've disabled the ExpressKeys on the left of my tablet being that I'm left-handed and it's just too much of an inconvenience to use while I'm trying to paint! There is a slight difference in how the keys are set up depending on how old your tablet is, and here is how mine are set up. The letters/symbols in parenthesis are the keyboard shortcuts I used to program the functions into the HotKeys in my Wacom preferences.

Wacom's Radial Menu
In Wacom's preferences menu (under Apple's System Preferences), you can find the options for customizing your Radial Menu. Here's a close-up version of how mine are programmed:

Screen Setup:
The most thing for me here is to have a smaller version of my current painting file open so that I can see  the image as a whole. To do this, go to 'Window' on the menu bar, drop down to 'Arrange' and then select 'New window for ....". Having this smaller window open is a huge help and is very similar to stepping away from your canvas or squinting so that you can see how your painting is coming together in terms of warms/cools, lights/darks, etc.

I hope you enjoyed! By the way, I'm sure we'd all love to hear some cool tips and tricks that you've put into place regarding your tablet and Photoshop! Let us know your favorites!



  1. Do you find a large color difference between your mac and cintiq? What color profiles do you use for each display? Or do you just leave them default? Thanks for the post!

  2. @BFleming i was ging to ask the same question! I use adobe RGB for both my 12wx Cintiq & iMac.. so definitely interested in seeing what set up you have @ Christina. I also have the exact same set up system in place regarding the express key except i have one of my keys set up the alt-cmd-z.. LOVE this blog!

  3. I'm so excited about the new window for the same image tip. Brilliant idea! Thanks for sharing :)))

    1. Thank you! That tip is definitely one that helps! Thank you for watching the video!

  4. Hello! I'm using the standard Adobe RGB on both the Cintiq and the Mac. I've noticed that the Cintiq I'm using is quite a bit darker than the iMac. The Wacom comes with buttons to adjust the RGB settings manually and that's what I've used to get as close to matching with my monitor as possible. The darkness doesn't really make much of a major difference color-wise, but it is noticeable. I'd say I've gotten the colors to about 90% matching. Overall, the color is pretty good, and have never been a problem when it comes to printing.

    Glad you guys are following along on our art journeys here! :)