For some, a standard keyboard is plenty... But have you considered going further? This video showcases my personal hardware setup and how I use it for painting. Before you go out and spend lots of money on USB devices I want to be very clear: none of this is essential. However, as I state in the video, if you often spend long stretches on the computer you might want to give this a thought. Additionally, your hardware solution will be different than mine. The best part about going down this road is that each artist has different needs and workflows, so each setup will take a different form.
1) Cintiq 21UX by Wacom (currently replaced with newer models) This is the ultimate painting tool. I was using standard USB tablets for 10 years before I got one of these, but I might have trouble going back at this point. Very expensive, but wonderful for painting.
2) SpaceExplorer USB by 3Dconnexion If you do much 3D modeling, you might like one of these. I use this exclusively for Sketchup, and it allows me to use my right hand for sculpting, while my left hand stays on the SpaceExplorer controlling the camera and issuing hotkeys. Though it's not cheap, it has dramatically changed the process of 3D modeling for me. If you want to see this in action, watch this video -- it's a great demonstration, and essentially sold me on the device.
3) Shuttle Pro 2 by Contour (available on Amazon) This is the heart of my painting interface. I like the prominent knob for changing my brush size, and the overall ergonomic layout. If you were to get one piece of custom hardware, this might be a good pick.
4) Multi-function Gaming Panel (MFP) by CH products (see pictures here) (available at @ Buy.com) This is a platform with buttons that you position and then bind to keyboard shortcuts or macros. Very cool, but also very expensive. If you want total ergonomic control, this is as flexible as it gets. Want to see it in action? This video from E3 2009 should help explain it.
5) X-Keys 24 Programmable Keypad by PI Engineering These are my lowest priority buttons such as media controls, opening specific folders with a single press, etc. A variety of things that I couldn't easily hard-bind my standard keyboard to do. Besides.. you can always use a few more buttons, right?
If you've been digital painting for long, odds are you use a stylus. Have you considered what grip you're using? This video will introduce a new hand position, and encourage you to give some thought to the way you grip a stylus.
The way the stylus lays down marks in photoshop has a certain 'feel' to it; in the same way that you could say painting with a brush has a different feel than drawing with a pencil. Unlike these traditional tools, you can customize the way your stylus 'feels'. Do you have a soft or a light touch? This video expolres both the Wacom Tablet Properties, as well as 3rd party software designed to customize the stylus experience.
Update 1/29/2012: Apparently the newest Intuos 4 drivers have addressed this issue! Make sure to get the newest drivers if you have an intuos 4.
And reader Dado Almeida brings up a crucial point about tablet wear & tear:
"[This is] really important stuff to know if you deal with a Wacom stylus in the daily basis. Using a hard grip, for months, in the same spot of your Tablet surface could dameage the cover plastic faster. Have you noticed how the center area of our Tablets are more scratched? To make my experience with the Wacom smoother I´m using this tool + a protection plastic (those used in the iPad screens) to cover my little Intuos. This way I can change the cover from time to time without any damage in the original surface."
And, as a reminder, this is unofficial software. It might not give you the results you're looking for. If you have a problem using it - or it screws something up - you can restore the factory defaults by re-installing the Wacom drivers. Good luck, and have fun!
Have you ever had a trouble drawing certain directions with your stylus? You're not alone. This video offers a few solutions. Sadly, the best one (canvas rotation) is only available in newer versions of Photoshop.
What type of computer should you use? Is it ok to draw with a mouse? What about the iPad? I answer these questions and more in this video. It's worth noting that these are my personal views based off of personal experience, and we'd all love to hear additional viewpoints in the comments!
Why are console video games played with a controller or a touch screen, and not a keyboard? Because those are the best-suited input devices for the way most users interact with their device. Guess what? Being a digital painter means you're no longer included in "most users". Now you've got a different set of needs, and will most likely be spending longer at your computer than the average user. With this in mind, a standard keyboard might not be the best input device for you. Just like using a stylus instead of a mouse, you might want to consider alternative keyboards or controllers for your other hand.
When it comes to ergonomics, re-mapping your keyboard shortcuts is a great start - but it doesn't need to be the end. Over the years I've radically changed my input scheme and the results have been very clear: expensive, but worth every penny.