How Do You Deal With This Flaw In Design Of The Wacom Intuos 4 24

If I tell you that I think about switching to a Wacom Intuos 4 Medium tablet, you probably think that I’m contradicting myself if you have read my short article on a small graphic tablet. In the accompanying video I make a little demonstration with my Wacom Volito.

So what reason would I have to switch anyway? The answer is quite simple: even though the point hasn’t been reached yet, the day will come that the tip of the pen that comes with the Volito will wear off.

My first thought ever when I heard about the pen tips wearing off was: Are you effing kidding me? It’s plastic? You don’t use it as a drill, it’s used like a pen!
But OK, they wear off and I have to say that the pen of the Volito is wearing of very slowly. But since I work on my graphic novel I use it more excessively, so the day that I have to switch will be there very soon.

Normally it would be easy just to buy a new pen but as the Volito isn’t in production anymore the pens for this tablet are nowhere to find. I always wondered why Wacom designed the tablets in a way that the pens are not interchangeable with each other. At least in most cases. It could be a strategic marketing decision to design them that way or technologically. Somewhere I read that it was the latter.

The reason for considering an Intuos rather than a Bamboo (as I’m the guy advocating small tablets) is the fact that it comes closer to the Cintiq in terms of technology. It’s not a secret that I fell in love with the Cintiq after watching how David Gibbons demonstrated it whilst drawing Martha.

A Cintiq however isn’t something for a impulsive buying decision. At least not for me. Looking at the pricing I think it’s a pity that there isn’t any competition on the market. At least as far as I know there is no company that produces top notch drawing tablets like Wacom does.

It’s very rare that I love commercials because of the product (in most cases I forget about the product if I see a commercial that entertains me), but I love this video on the Cintiq:

OK, now you know what keeps me awake but I’ve drifted off. Let’s go back to the Intuos 4.

There are many praises for this tablet out there but there is also a major issue: the pen nibs wearing off excessively and this is nothing to ignore if you have a look the prices of a set of new nibs. Even the cool video produced by Wacom doesn’t take away the pain.

On some forums and in some reactions on Amazon people were complaining about this. In the first place Wacom seemed to ignore this flaw in product design and came up with solutions like laying a piece of paper on the working area to prevent the nibs from wearing off that fast (a couple of hours in some cases). But hello guys, we are talking about professional stuff here that comes for a professional price. It’s fully understandable that customers want a professional solution for this as well.

This is the point where I finally come to my initial question if you own an Intuos 4 or if you are considering buying one:

How do you deal with this flaw in design of the Intuos 4?
Are the pros taking away the cons of this?

Please let me know in the comment section so you can help me and others in decision making.

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24 thoughts on “How Do You Deal With This Flaw In Design Of The Wacom Intuos 4

  • Piledriver

    I initially had that problem when I first got a tablet, as I was treating it like a pencil and I’m one of those people who has a heavy hand.

    After having to replace a whole stylus for my first tablet, being the cheapskate that I am, I reasoned out that I could avoid the problem after that by setting the pressure sensitivity higher and treating the stylus more like a brush: a light hand, bracing the weight on my ring finger rather than riding the stylus around, so there is much less pressure on the nib).

    The change in attitude wasn’t too hard for me. After maybe a week I wasn’t thinking about it, and in many years I haven’t had to replace another stylus or nib. I did have to upgrade to a Bamboo due to compatibility issues with Vista and my ancient tablet’s divers, but it’s been about two years of heavy use and the wear on the original nib is still not bad enough to affect performance.

  • e

    i treat it like a pen, rather than a pencil.

    just a light touch and we’re a go. so as the previous commentator said — just notch up the sensitivity for your wacom pen, and you won’t have to see this problem arise as much.

    that ‘putting paper on the tablet’ thing might even elongate the nub’s lifespan more so. i’ll try that out.

  • Piledriver

    The paper suggestion is usually aimed at the Bamboo, because it’s surface is on the rough side. Obviously, that would be kind of silly with the Cintiq, since you’re paying $2000 USD to draw directly on the screen.

    I think I would worry more about the screen itself getting scuffed up than the nibs wearing down in that case. It might be a good idea to grab some of the felt nibs, to help avoid that; they might even hold up better under heavy use.

    • Mario Post author

      Paper was actually suggested by Wacom after receiving complains about the nib wear on this specific model.

      I agree with you when it comes to the Cintiq. In fact I mentioned it more out of wishful thinking. I’m still looking for a sponsor who is willing to treat me on a Cintiq :-)

  • joe

    There’s another problem with associated with the tablets, related to nib wear. The more expensive surface of the tablet wears from contact with the nib. I taped a piece of sheet acetate over the sensor. This is smoother than paper and causes less wear than paper, but more importantly it protects the surface of the tablet from wear, similar to the screen protectors for the palm and smart phones.

    One thing that I wished was available for for the intuos that would make it easier to use is a stand similar to the one for the cintiq, that would let you adjust the angle the tablet sits and allow you to rotate it, also this would free up some of the dead space the tablet takes sitting on the table.

    • Mario Post author

      Hi Joe,
      Indeed I heard complains about this as well. The surface is of course you don’t want to have scratched. At this moment I follow a auction on eBay on an as good as new Cintiq 12 for 400 euro. Though I really want a Cintiq the complains about the little brother of the 21 holding me back to make a decision and the time is running.

      I sit with my hands in my hair at the moment.

      • joe

        Wear of the tablet surface isn’t limited to the cintiq, even the bamboo and intuos are affected too. If the issue with the auction is potential future wear. I’d get a sheet of acetate that is used to make transparencies then find a store with a display cintiq, tape the acetate to it and try it to see how it feels. I did this with my intuos when I first got it and haven’t had any wear problems over a 2 year period.

        • Mario Post author

          I missed the end of the auction and the small Cintiq was sold for something around 500 Euro.

          My issue with the auction were complains about the working area of this Cintiq version. People complain that not the whole screen can be used as it is flickering at the edges. A solution would be not to zoom your applications in that far. As the screen is much smaller than the one of the Cintiq 21UX anyway it is not acceptable if you can’t use it about an inch to the borders of the screen. The larger Cintiq don’t knows this problem btw.

          I think I’m going to order an Intuos 4.

          • joe

            I didn’t know about the screen causing problems. Considering the cost that Wacom is selling it for, I wouldn’t be surprised if they make a logo for it with a circle with 8 smaller circles evenly distributed around the inside perimeter. (appropriate when someone spends that kind of money to get a product that does that, it’s a shock)

            Try the acetate sheet with the intuos. For the intuos small you can get 2 protectors from a letter size sheet. I’m still using the first one when I got my intuos 2 years ago, no problems with it or the tablet with wear. What I read about using paper was that you need to replace it frequently and there’s still a risk of damage to the tablet surface, not to mention saving time from not having to remove it, clean the tape adhesive off, cut a new sheet, and retape it to the tablet.

            It’s cheap enough to try both it and the paper to see what you like better. The other thing that you can do with it that you can’t with the paper is apply a drop of silicone wax to a tissue and rub the sheet like you’re waxing a car and wipe off any residue. This will eliminate almost all drag on the stylus, and the lines will be smoother.

            • Mario Post author

              Even though I still think that a work around shouldn’t be necessary at all with a professional product I just ordered a Intuos 4. This was the fastest way to get the distraction of decision making out of my head. Now I can focus on what I’m doing again and just have to wait for UPS to deliver my new toy.

              First of all I will try it just as it is without any sheet. If the nib wear really is that excessive I will come back to your solution.

              I’m curious how it will influence my work flow. It’s really a bunch of work to draw a graphic novel.

              Depending on how satisfied I am the next step will be the large Cintiq. Meanwhile I hope secretly that there will be a little bit more competition in the market as there is just none at this moment. Wacom has cornered this market completely.

              • joe

                You won’t be able to notice the wear until enough damage has been done, like lightly pulling a metal object with a sharp pointed edge over a painted surface. Eventually it will cut through the paint and the metal below. The Grand Canyon was made by a small stream doing this. The wear I’m concerned with isn’t the nibs, they’re cheap, it’s the tablet’s surface they’re used on. The acetate sheet is $1.00, compared to $199 for the intuos 4 small. I used it so I wouldn’t be force to replace the tablet 5-6 years later, same reason I use an external fan with my laptop.

  • Mario Post author


    You have a sharp point here (literally). I think I go for the acetate sheet as well. I paid $519,- for the Intuos 4 Medium, so a buck is worth the preventing effect.
    All the time I was just focused on the nib wear.

  • joe

    With wear problems the nib is just the tip. Try using the sheet on your other tablet, with and without waxing the side of the sheet the nib touches and let me know if you see any improvement from it. This will probably be known as the tip on tips. I can’t believe I got 2 puns in this short of space. Call me butter, I’m on a roll.

  • Carlos

    Mario, the difference between the required pressure on a Volito and an Intuos is enormous. The nib will take ages to erode, and when it does, is 25 Euro a lot to pay for a 5 nib set, considering you probably spent 300 for the tablet already? If you need to spare money please try out a midrange Wacom, as its sensitivity is much closer to the top-end models than to the low-end ones. I owned a Volito 1 (awful!) a Graphire 4 ( Good!) and an Intuos 3 (Better) and tried a Volito 2 (same as Volito 1 with extra button).

    • Mario Post author

      Hi Carlos,
      I use a Volito 2 and my Intuos 4 Medium should arrive today or tomorrow. I can’t wait to draw with it. In fact I was very pleased with the Volito until now, though I have to use some hard pressure indeed so now and then.
      I can imagine that the nib issue is also caused by to much pressure used by users who stepped over from a less sensitive tablet. I guess I can say more about that next week or so.
      Thank you very much for your insight on this.

  • Peter

    Hey, so I’ve had the Intuos 4 for like three days. After the first day, about 3 hours of work on it in ZBrush, I noticed my nib lost it’s tip, it was like a piece of chalk. I immediately thought of decreasing the pressure sensitivity to preserve it, and so i did, but I don’t take that as a long-term solution. I had Graphire 3, and the tip laster for several years, due to the slicky plastic surface (and I guess the nib is denser than the one of Intuos’s pen). They really messed it up with this paper-like surface this time. I hear some ppl prefer it, in that case, they should just make it replaceable.

    Anyhow, I came out with this idea that I could use an iPad protective screen and stick it onto the working area, then i measured my iPad and it’s exactly the same size, so there would be a hole in the protective screen (for the iPad’s home button), so I’m thinking there are prolly other protective screens for regular monitors, right? I was wondering as to if anyone has tried this? And if so, how is it, and if when you take it of, if it leaves the glue on the Intuos? Cuz I think that is the logical choice here, since one could cut it exactly the same size as the tablet area is (and not have something stuck on it using ducktape, I bought it for it’s design too, i’m not gonna ruin that..)

    Lemme know,
    cheers, Peter

    • Joe

      Transparencies sheets use acetate, the same used for all the touch screen protectors, like the ones for Android, Palm, and Apple use. The sheet for the protector has a self adhesive surface, but is thinner and still can allow damage to the tablet surface. If you google screen protectors, you’ll find pages that date back to the Palm II and the Newton in the 80s. Screen protectors for the touchscreen displays, including the Cintiq never caught on because they are a limited market, and the only protectors up to the mid 90s were for the small devices like the Newton and Palm. Costwise it’s still more effective to cut a transparency sheet to size and tape it to the tablet. As far as removing the adhesive, try dampening a tissue with a couple of drops of lighter fluid or namptha and lightly rub the surface until the adhesive builds up on the tissue. If the adhesive is from the screen protector and is on the screen, I’d check with several protector manufacturers and see what they recommend. Of course you could always sacrifice a new protector and use it to try to lift the adhesive left from the other protector. The leftover residue is another reason to tape an acetate sheet to a tablet instead of using a self adhesive protector.

  • Bard Judith

    I was so upset when I got my lovely new large Intuos 4….and felt the 'scratchy' tooth to the surface. Didn't like it at all and wondered what it would do to the nibs. After only a WEEK of sketching (and I am NOT a professional artist, just an amateur digital designer who also uses the tablet for digital scrapbooking) my first nib was down to the point where it was scratching the tablet surface. My Wacom Intuos 3 nibs lasted for six months to a year, so six DAYS for a nib is ludicrous.

    As to the DIY 'solutions' suggested by Wacom, they are equally ludicrous. For that amount of money, I would appreciate an apology (to the many irritated customers), a full set of free replacement nibs, a cover sheet and a professional solution.