Over the years, graphics tablets have moved steadily closer to the computer artist’s ultimate dream: input devices that replicate the feel and control of traditional brushes. CalComp’s Creation Station Pro doesn’t introduce any new, groundbreaking features, but it’s a well-designed tablet that further reduces the barriers between artists and their digital medium. It consists of a cordless, batteryless, pressure-sensitive pen; a cordless five-button mouse; and a graphics tablet available in 6-by-9-inch, 12-by-12-inch, and 12-by-18-inch models. You also get CalComp’s TabletWorks control panel, which offers numerous options for customizing the tablet. We tested the 12-by-12-inch version with Adobe Photoshop 5.0, MetaCreations Painter 5.5, and Macromedia FreeHand 8.0.
The stylus features two programmable buttons, one of which converts the pen into an eraser tool within your graphics software. Unfortunately, the TabletWorks installer fails to add a plug-in that you need to activate the eraser in Photoshop. Instead, you have to locate the plug-in on the CD-ROM and install it yourself.
Despite this minor glitch, the stylus has a natural feelgradually tapering toward the tipand glides effortlessly across the tablet surface. As you draw, you’ll notice that the stylus feels like a real pen rather than an input device. The mouse, however, has a much cheaper feel.
The TabletWorks control panel lets you assign keystrokes or other actions to each button on the stylus or mouse. It also provides several options for mapping tablet actions to cursor movements on screen. For example, you can choose to have the entire tablet surface map to a small window on the display. However, there’s no printed TabletWorks documentation, and the online help system does a poor job of explaining the mapping options.
The Creation Station Pro is a well-designed graphics tablet that goes a long way toward replicating the feel of traditional painting tools. Unfortunately for CalComp, archrival Wacom has pushed the envelope even further with its Intuos system, which introduces such innovative features as a digital airbrush and a 4-D mouse that can rotate objects as you’re moving them on screen.