Join John Derry for an in-depth discussion in this video Introducing the six axes of motion, part of Wacom Essential Training (2013).
In order to talk about the various Wacom Tablet models, as well as the pens that come with them, we need to have a discussion about how motion is sensed in three-dimensional space. Much of an artist's expressive strokes are communicated through the hand, and wrist, and arm. All of these motions working together move the pen in 3-D space. Known as the 6 Axes of Motion, these 3-D references can be used to describe the pen's location and attitude in 3-D space.
Let's take a look at how these axes work. If we imagine a pen in space and then add a two-dimensional grid to represent the tablet surface, we can now describe the location of the pen's tip anywhere on this two-dimensional space. These two dimensions are known as X and Y, and refer to the horizontal and vertical motion on the two-dimensional grid. Now let's add the third degree of motion, pressure. In the case of our pen tip, this is a slight height change of the pen tip through the artist's hand pressure.
Applications like Painter, Photoshop, and SketchBook Pro all take advantage of pressure input. For expressive mark making, pressure is the most important axis of motion. When the pen is not perpendicular to the tablet's surface, its angle could be described as tilt. This is the fourth axis of motion. Once you've describe tilt using the X and Y position, you can calculate bearing. Imagine the pen tip stationary on the tablet as the eraser end of the pen is swept out in a 360 degree circle.
This is bearing, the fifth axis of motion. Finally, we have rotation. This is the barrel of the pen being rotated in the hand by the artist. This becomes important when dealing with non-symmetrical brush tips. When all six of the axes of motion are being sensed and communicated to the application, all of the artist's combined hand motions can be interpreted for use by the expressive mark-making tools. Not all Wacom tablet support all 6 axes of motion.
The entry-level tablet, the Bamboo supports X, Y, and pressure. Intuos Tablets, using the standard grip pen that comes with the tablet, support X, Y, pressure, tilt, and bearing. The optional Art Pen supports these five axis plus barrel rotation. This is also true for this Cintiq pen display. So if you want the maximum expressive mark-making environment, you'll want to have either and an Intuos Tablet or Cintiq pen display and the optional Art Pen.
Keep in mind that pressure is the single most expressive axis of motion. As a result, all levels of Wacom Tablets make excellent expressive mark-making tools when used in combination with an application that takes advantage of this data.
- Drawing freehand
- Tracing existing images
- Determining the correct tablet size for your work
- Understanding relative vs. absolute positioning
- Working with control surfaces like the Touch Ring and control keys
- Selecting the right stylus
- Working with the Bamboo, Intuos, Cintiq, and Inkling