When it comes to Illustration, I only know my limits when I've hit the invisible brick wall head-first and come to a screeching (bleeding) halt with the sudden realization, "Oh, I can't
- I Can't use a tablet, I don't have the correct hand-eye coordination to use one. (Too used to drawing on paper.)
- My pen doesn't do pressure sensitivity in Photoshop (and I still don't know why not #@!)
Photoshop not detecting pressure sensitivity is almost always a driver issue. You may need a newer Wacom driver. You'll also need to fully uninstall the Bamboo and all left over files, reboot without the tablet plugged in, and make sure Windows 7 doesn't try and automatically install drivers for the tablet when you plug it back in. Install the new drivers from Wacom's site, and you should be golden. After that, just make sure the brush you are using has settings set to use Pen Pressure.
As to using a tablet I've had extensive experience with it:
Like you, I started on a Bamboo. My experience was much like yours. I found it cumbersome, sloppy, and I couldn't draw with it. My coordination made it impossible - like you say, it just didn't ACT like drawing on paper. Later, at art school, I got some experience using an Intuos tablet. I mainly used it to model in Zbrush, but I found it much more responsive. I still drew everything on paper, then scanned it in and painstakingly inked it with vectors in Illustrator. Finally, I had a couple of illustration classes that FORBID me using pen and paper. I was forced to do all my work on a graphics tablet, both in class under supervision of the professor, and on my drawing assignments at home.
I sucked. It was humiliating. I felt like I either had to go so super slow to make decent lines as to drive me insane, or that I had regressed to an elementary school level with my skills. But I had no choice but to fail or keep practicing. Weeks went by, and I was drawing hours a day with no progress. My assignments looked like they had been done by a child with the shakes. The first class actually ended (9 weeks), and I still felt like I had only marginally improved with a tablet, if at all. The second class started, with the same results, and two weeks in I ... got better overnight. Literally. It wasn't gradual. One day, my coordination with the tablet sucked, the next day all my skill with pen and paper seemed to FLOOD back in, and I could draw as easily and as well on a tablet as on paper. My own personal theory is that my brain had to rewire itself to reconnect to where ever my "drawing ability" skills were stored, but once that happened....
The tablet makes a big difference too - Bamboos have pressure sensitivity, yes, but it is nowhere near the pressure sensitivity of a real pencil. Basically, Bamboos are mice with better ergonomics. Getting a tablet with extreme sensitivity to pressure (especially since I draw lightly with feathered strokes), and most importantly TILT SENSITIVITY, made all the difference in the world. At that point, I could hold and move the stylus exactly like a real pencil and get the same results.
I now do nearly ALL my drawing on an Intuos 4M
. (I got one on the cheap when my studio had to liquidate its assets.) All my art is now done start to finish on the computer and I LOVE it. I recently needed my art pencils for something and when I opened their case they had cobwebs on them!
I used a Cintiq occasionally at art school and at the studio I worked at, but I found the colors and pressure sensitivity wasn't quite there for me. They were awesome, just not awesome enough to justify the price tag.
Drawing with a tablet is all about practice (massive amounts worth). You basically have to retrain your brain, but when it happens, you'll get all your experience back and then some. Take it for what it's worth, but I once felt the same way as you, and now I can do 5 minute ear doodles that look like this, all solely with a tablet.