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Do You Need a Graphics Tablet for Product Photography Retouching?

Product photography requires a lot of gear and equipment to get the job done right. You need a proper camera, lenses, lights, and even the right software. But have you ever wondered if you need a graphics tablet for product photography retouching?

In this blog post, I will share my personal thoughts on whether you need a graphic tablet for product photography editing, share my personal experience and give you recommendations on the best graphic tablets for product photography editing.

Graphics Tablet for Product Photography Editing – Do You Need One?

The short answer is no, you don’t need to have a professional graphics tablet for product photography retouching. You can use your mouse or even a trackpad to retouch your product photos and get fantastic results.

In fact, my wife, who is a professional product photographer has been using her Apple magic mouse to retouch all of her product photos for more than a year before she bought and started using the Wacom Intuos Pro S graphics tablet.

My wife Alina using her Wacom Intuos Pro S to retouch product photos at home
My wife Alina (alinakareva.lv) uses her Wacom Intuos Pro S to retouch her photos at home

Additionally, many professional product photographers don’t edit the pictures they take themselves; rather, they hire expert product retouchers to do it for them.

So if you’re just starting out with product photography, I would suggest you first invest in a great camera and lenses before getting a graphics tablet. Of course, if you have some extra money to spare, then investing in a graphic tablet is a great idea.

Why You Should Consider Getting a Graphics Tablet for Product Photography Retouching

1. It Speeds up Your Workflow

When you’re editing product photos, a graphic tablet can make your workflow much faster and more efficient. This is because graphic tablets are designed to give you precise control over your retouching tools. You can quickly make very fine adjustments without having to fumble around with a mouse or trackpad.

To assess how much faster it is to edit photos with a graphics tablet versus using a mouse, I decided to carry out an experiment. For this test, I selected 5 product shots that my spouse had recently captured and retouched them with both my Apple Magic Mouse and my spouse’s Wacom Intuos Pro S.

Play Video about Do you need a graphic tablet for product photography retouching

When I used my Apple mouse to retouch 3 product photos, it took me 11 minutes and 7 seconds. On the other hand, with a professional graphics tablet, this was accomplished in only 8 minutes and 30 seconds roughly two and a half minutes faster!

This may not sound like a lot at first. But if you’re retouching a large number of photos, this could save you an hour or more of your time over the course of one day.

2. It Improves the Precision and Quality of Your Edits

Graphics tablets are designed to give you precise control over the retouching process, which leads to higher-quality images. This is especially true for smaller details, such as removing fly-away hairs or carefully cloning out dust spots. With a graphics tablet, you can make very small adjustments with incredible precision and speed.

Retouching product photography with a black background and a lot of dust

Furthermore, graphics tablets can help you have greater control when using Adobe Photoshop’s incredibly useful Dodge and Burn Tools. The pressure sensitivity of graphic tablet pens can help you create more natural-looking strokes with dodge and burn tools, which can sometimes be tricky to do with a mouse or trackpad.

3. It Prevents Potential Wrist Injuries

If you’re constantly retouching photos with a mouse, chances are that your wrist or hand may start to hurt after a while.

This is because these devices are not designed for long-term use and can cause strain on your muscles or even carpal tunnel syndrome. On the other hand, graphics tablets offer a more natural arm positioning and are designed to be used for extended periods of time without causing strain on your muscles.

This means you can retouch your product photos for longer without having to worry about potential wrist pain or other injuries associated with using a mouse or trackpad for long periods of time.

Which Graphics Tablet Is Best for Product Photography Retouching?

When it comes to graphics tablets, there are several great options available depending on your needs and your budget. 

Wacom is the leader in graphics tablets and their Intuos Pro series is widely used by photographers and graphic designers.

If you’re looking to take your product photography retouching to the next level, I’ve curated a list of my top graphic tablet recommendations.

1. Wacom Intuos S

The Wacom Intuos S is a great option for someone who is just starting out and wants to try using the graphics tablet for photography retouching.

It’s one of the most affordable graphic tablets available and has a large enough active area (152.0 x 95.0 mm / 6.0 x 3.7 in) for photo retouching.

This graphics tablet comes with a batter-free Wacom pen with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. Its ergonomic design and light weight make it sit comfortably in your hand, allowing you to comfortably retouch your photos for extended periods.

Technical Specifications

  • Active area: 152.0 x 95.0 mm / 6.0 x 3.7 in
  • Weight: 230g (8.1 oz)
  • 4096 levels of pen pressure
  • Resolution: 2540 lpi
  • 4 customizable buttons, application-specific settings
  • Compatible with both Mac and Windows
  • Suitable for both right and left-handed userss

2. Wacom Intuos Pro S (My Personal Preference)

The Wacom Intuos Pro S graphics tablet is ideal for retouching product photos, as it has all the latest Wacom technologies packed in a very comfortable form factor that is perfect for both photo retouching workflow as well as portability (it can easily fit into any computer bag and only weights 450 g / 0.99lb).

This graphics tablet comes with the battery-free Wacom Pro Pen 2. It is a very comfortable and lightweight pen (weights only 15g) with 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity and natural tilt recognition. The Wacom Pro Pen 2 also features two customizable buttons that you can use to speed up your product photography retouching workflow.

Technical Specifications

  • Active area: 160 x 100 mm / 6.3 x 3.9 in
  • Weight: 450 g / 0.99 lb
  • 8192 levels of pen pressure and tilt recognition (± 60 levels)
  • Resolution: 5080 lpi
  • 6 customizable buttons, application-specific
  • Compatible with both Mac and Windows
  • Suitable for both right and left-handed users
  • Supports gesture controls
  • Connection: USB and Bluetooth (wireless connection)

Sidenote: My wife is using this exact graphics tablet to retouch all of her product photos. It is a great graphic tablet, it is compact, lightweight, and has more than enough active area to comfortably use it for professional product photography retouching.

The Wacom Intuos Pro M is essentially the same graphics tablet as the Wacom Intuos Pro S, but with a larger active working area (224 x 148 mm / 8.7 x 5.8 in), two additional customizable buttons and a slightly higher price (around $300, which is ~$100 more than Wacom Intuos Pro S).

This graphics tablet is perfect for editing images, however, there might be some issues with the portability of this graphic tablet as it may not fit in some of the smaller computer bags, plus it weights 700 g / 1.54 lb, which is 250g / 0.55lb more than Wacom Intuos Pro S version.

This graphic tablet also comes with the latest battery-free Wacom Pro Pen 2.

Technical Specifications

  • Active area: 224 x 148 mm / 8.7 x 5.8 in
  • Weight: 700 g / 1.54 lb
  • 8192 levels of pen pressure and tilt recognition (± 60 levels)
  • Resolution: 5080 lpi
  • 8 customizable buttons, application-specific
  • Compatible with both Mac and Windows
  • Suitable for both right and left-handed users
  • Supports gesture controls
  • Connection: USB and Bluetooth (wireless connection)

Which Size of Graphics Tablet Is Best for Product Photography Retouching?

When picking out a graphic tablet, it’s important to think about the size. For example, Wacom graphics tablets come in three sizes: Small, Medium, and Large.

The choice of graphics tablet size largely depends on three factors: whether you use a dual-screen setup (i.e. your laptop + external display), portability, and your budget. Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors.

Dual-Screen Setup

If you are using a dual-screen setup and want to control both of your screens with a single graphics tablet (without having to toggle back and forth between screens), then opt for either a Medium or Large size graphic tablet. 

This way you’ll be able to assign a larger working area of your graphics tablet to your primary screen and a smaller working area to your secondary screen.

On the other hand, you can always get a smaller graphics tablet and assign one of the buttons on the tablet to toggle between the screens as shown in the video below.

Play Video about How to use Wacom graphic tablets with dual screens

If you operate with a single display, then a graphics tablet of a smaller size will be sufficient for product photography editing.

Portability

If portability is important to you, then opt for a graphics tablet of a small size as it will take easily fit into your laptop bag and won’t take up much space.

Depending on the size of your laptop bag, you might also be able to fit in a medium-sized graphics tablet, such as Wacom Intuos Pro M, with dimensions of 338 x 219 x 8 mm / 13.2 x 8.5 x 0.3 in.

Wacom Intuos Pro S in a Profoto Backpack
Wacom Intuos Pro S in Profoto backpack

You must also take into account the size of your workspace, as you don’t want the graphics tablet to take up most of the available space on your desk.

In addition, if you travel a lot and do photo editing on the go (let’s say in a coffee shop), then a smaller graphics tablet would be ideal as it won’t take up much space on a small table.

Budget

Finally, as graphics tablets come in different sizes and prices, you must also consider your budget when making the decision. Generally speaking, graphics tablets of larger sizes cost more than their smaller counterparts.

For example, Wacom Intuos Pro S graphics tablet costs around $200, while the Wacom Intuos Pro L graphics tablet costs around $299.

Why I Use Small Graphics Tablet Size?

When I was shopping for a graphics tablet for photo retouching, I was thinking of getting a Medium size.

However, after I watched a number of reviews on YouTube I came to the conclusion that the Small size will be more than sufficient for my needs.

Wacom Intuos Pro Small graphic tablet for photo retouching

Here are the main reasons why I decided to buy the Wacom Intuos Pro S instead of the Wacom Intuos Pro M graphic tablet:

  1. The small version of the graphics tablet takes up less space on my desk
  2. Retouching photos does not require the same arm movements as digital painting or art, instead only a light touch of the wrist and hand is necessary. Large graphics tablets may seem ideal for this purpose but in reality, are designed mostly for artists who need to make broader strokes and have that feeling of drawing. When editing my own photographs I usually zoom in on them so that any motion from me needs to be small with detail-oriented precision; hence why only minimal movement from my hands is required.

Both I and my wife are using Wacom Intuos Pro S (Small) model, and it has been working great for us.

The size of the Wacom Intuos Pro S is 12.6 x 8.2 x 0.5 in (320 x 208 x 12 mm), so it’s large enough to work with but compact enough to easily fit into a laptop bag for painless portability.

Who Can Benefit From Owning a Large Size Graphics Tablet?

Larger graphics tablets are mostly used by professional illustrators and graphic artists rather than photo retouchers. This is because the larger graphic tablet allows illustrators and artists to create works with broad strokes and big movements, which is something photo retouchers rarely require.

The major issue with the largest graphics tablets for photo editing is that your hand has to cover a vast area of the tablet, making it difficult and time-consuming.

When you are retouching a picture at high magnification, it can prove to be quite tricky if your graphics tablet is too large. The broad strokes needed for such an activity can feel overly cumbersome and make using the device regularly an uncomfortable experience.

Can You Use an iPad for Product Photography Retouching?

Yes, you can use an iPad for product photography retouching.

iPad pro for photo retouching

An iPad graphic tablet works in the same way as a regular graphics tablet but offers more portability. The downside is that it’s not as accurate as a regular graphics tablet and doesn’t offer the same level of precision when making edits to photos.

Nonetheless, if you are working on the go and you don’t need to make precise edits to photos, an iPad graphic tablet can be a great tool for product photography retouching.

Is It Hard to Get Used to a Graphics Tablet for Product Photography Retouching?

The short answer is no, it isn’t hard to get used to a graphics tablet for photo retouching. It took only one day for my wife, who is a professional product photographer (www.alinakareva.lv) to get used to her new Wacom Intuos Pro S graphics tablet.

Graphic Tablet for Product Photography Retouching. Editing Photos with Graphic Tablet.

There’s nothing complicated about using a graphics tablet for photo retouching.

The only thing that you need to get a hang of is that the active area of your graphics tablet represents your entire screen. This means that if you move your graphics tablet pen to the edge of the graphic tablet, it will be the same as moving it to the end of your screen.

Once you get a hang of how graphics tablets work, using one for retouching photos becomes second nature and can make your workflow much faster compared to using a mouse or trackpad.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I believe that using a graphics tablet for product photography editing is definitely worth it and can help you save time and improve the overall quality of your photos.

Whether you’re on a limited budget or not, there are great graphic tablets available to suit your needs.

So if you’re in the market for a graphic tablet, I recommend checking out the following graphics tablets for photo editing:

  1. Wacom Intuos S
  2. Wacom Intuos Pro S (My Personal Preference)
  3. Wacom Intuos Pro M

Each of these graphics tablets offers great features and is designed specifically for photo editing and retouching, making the photo editing experience easier and more productive.

With the right graphics tablet, you can make retouching photos much easier and faster. So if you’re looking to improve your product photography retouching workflow, I definitely recommend investing in a graphics tablet.

Happy retouching!

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Aleksandrs Karevs OHMYCAMERA Founder & Author

Hi, my name is Aleksandr and I am a full-stack digital marketer from Riga, Latvia. In 2018 I became obsessed with photography and decided to create this blog to share my knowledge about both photography and marketing. In my free time, I enjoy taking photos with my everyday companion – FUJIFILM X100V.

Aleksandrs Karevs OHMYCAMERA Founder & Author

Hi, my name is Aleksandr and I am a full-stack digital marketer from Riga, Latvia. In 2018 I became obsessed with photography and decided to create this blog to share my knowledge about both photography and marketing. In my free time, I enjoy taking photos with my everyday companion – FUJIFILM X100V.

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Disclosure: OHMYCAMERA.com is a participant in several affiliate programs and may be compensated for referring traffic and business to companies from affiliate programs at no additional cost to you.