I’m sure we’re all aware of the prevalence of graphics tablets in the world of retouching and design, but to be a professional retoucher, do you need one?

Short answer: In theory, no. In practice, absolutely.

Now obviously this is just my opinion, and everything from here on out is anecdotal, but hear me out.

I have not yet met a retoucher or photographer, who has invested time getting to grips with a graphics tablet, who hates using them.

I have not yet met a professional retoucher who does not use one. 

I cannot stand retouching without one!

As I said, totally anecdotal, but every time I have to do something in a creative application without my Wacom, I die a little inside. As melodramatic as that sounds, I stand by it. I get frustrated, everything takes at least twice as long, and it’s usually not worth my time. Now, I’m not saying you need to hurl your mouse through the nearest window and never use one again. Nor am I saying that retouching with a mouse (or, god forbid on a trackpad) is impossible. All I’m saying is that I wholeheartedly believe that a tablet will make your creative endeavours a lot more palatable to pursue.

Using a pen is a much more fluid and natural movement than using a mouse or trackpad, especially when we are essentially drawing or painting on the photos we work on. 

There is an adaptation period – usually, when using a pen we are looking at the page we write on, whereas with a tablet we are often looking up at the screen. (This is, of course, not the case if you are using a tablet with a built-in screen like a Wacom Cintiq.) This, like anything worthwhile, will take a bit of time, but once you are comfortable with using a pen and tablet, you will undoubtedly find working that much more intuitive.

I’ve seen several interns come into retouching studios having never tried using a tablet before, and it’s usually not a good sign. Unfortunately in most areas of life, “time is money”. An agency taking on interns often won’t want to invest the time in teaching not only the professional side of working as a retoucher but also the very basic use of the industry-standard tools. By being ahead of the game and confident in the use of tablets, new retouchers will give themselves an extra arrow in their quiver when seeking out positions.

If you’re new to the world of graphics tablets, you needn’t rush out and buy the top of the range models. My first tablet was a Wacom Bamboo One, which had a drawing area that was just about A6 in size. It wasn’t amazing, but as a way of dipping my toe into the world of tablets, this little beauty was perfect.  After using several different tablets over the years, I have been using a Wacom Intuos Pro Medium for the last five years, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

When looking at buying a tablet there are a few things to consider:

  • Size: Do you need portability or are you only working at a fixed station? Do you have space for a larger tablet?
  • Pressure Sensitivity: The more responsive a tablet is, the more natural of a brushstroke you can achieve.
  • Wireless: Cables can not only be unsightly but also cable management can be time-consuming, as can charging wireless devices.
  • Budget: High-end tablets can cost several hundred pounds, lower budget options are available, often with some compromises.
  • Other features: Many tablets offer extra features, such as customizable keys, touch capabilities, card readers, and batteryless styluses. 

Below is a list of graphics tablets currently on the market, that I think are worth looking into:

The following list contains affiliate links for which I may make a commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Wacom Intuos Pro Medium

The Wacom Intuos Pro is widely regarded as the industry standard for retouching and other creative practices. An ultra slim design packed with features; 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity, 8 Express Keys, a touch ring, Multi-Touch technology and wireless Bluetooth connectivity. Couple this with the reputation and built quality that Wacom is known for, and you have a tablet that you can trust to work for years.

Wacom One Medium

The Wacom One is a great entry into the world of graphics tablets from the current industry leader. A great size, it’s perfect for fitting in laptop bags to take to and from your place of work or school, without compromising on canvas real estate for working.


The Huion Giano sets itself up as a rival to Wacom’s Intuos Pro. A built-in card-reader, 40 hours of wireless connectivity, and 12 express keys all make for an impressive offering, especially at the much lower price point compared to other similarly sized tablets.


The Huion Inspiroy is a lower priced alternative to Wacom’s Intuos line. With an impressive 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity, 40 hours of wireless connectivity and 8 customisable keys, it’s hardly a wonder that lots of people are turning to Huion.

XP-PEN Deco01 V2

Another lower priced entry to compete with the Wacom Intuos line, the XP-PEN has had fantastic reviews. Also boasting 8 customisable keys and the ability to function in both portrait and landscape orientations.

Whichever tablet you go for, I’m sure you’ll find a boost in your productivity and craft.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.