General, Tutorials & Tips

How to Set Up Photoshop for Pressure Sensitive Tablet Artwork

This tutorial will show you how to set up your machine to recognize pressure sensitivity. You can use this for digital inking, painting, and shading in Photoshop. I use this technique in my comics, mostly for dynamic expressions and (with a large brush on a very low opacity) the multicolored shading. If you own a tablet, you absolutely have to do this setup.

You can use a version as old as Photoshop 7 and still be able to use this tutorial.

Step 1: Set your your graphics tablet up as described in it’s user manual. I personally use a Wacom Intuous.

Step 2: Go to your tablet’s manufacturer’s website and download the newest driver. Most likely any driver that was packaged on CD with the tablet is totally out of date.

Step 3: Go to Start > Settings > Control Panel on the PC or System Prefs on the Mac. Here will be a tablet menu where you can adjust what the buttons on your tablet and pen do. You can also adjust the pen’s pressure sensitivity.

How you set these are based on your personal preference. I usually totally deactivate the buttons on the side of the pen because they get in my way. I also make the pressure sensitivity just a little bit softer than the default setting.

NOTE: Cheaper tablets like the Graphire/Bamboo will offer a very limited array of settings. The Intuous level and higher will offer a full array of settings that you can adjust as well as double the points of sensitivity.

Step 4: Launch Photoshop

Step 5: Open your Brush Preferences (WIndow > Brushes). Make sure that Shape Dynamics is turned on and that it is set to Pen Pressure. This allows the tablet’s pressure sensitivity to respond to how hard or soft you press on the tablet with the pen.

You can now ink by hand with your pen if your pen tool is set up properly. I recommend a hard edge brush, not the soft, fuzzy brush.