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The mouse is (still) your main input to the computer, along with the keyboard. It is the only way to point at things visually and tell the operating system or 3D software what to do. Therefore it's most important that you find a good, comfortable mouse.
You need to make sure that you are personally comfortable with it during long-term use, to avoid repetitive strain injury. Indeed, you will make over 2 million clicks with this device every year, so it has to put as little tension as possible on your hand and wrist.
You'll have many options to choose from. But if you consider carefully the important specifications below, there are only be a few that are really worth it. Here are the important aspects to look for in a mouse for 3D work.
1. Mouse Types
The first thing to consider is the type of mouse you want. There are the standard mice, the static trackballs, the trackpad mice, drawing tablets, etc. We will go over the standard type mice in this article, as this is what we recommend.
2. Mouse Size & Design
The main aspect to consider for your mouse is the form factor: the size and shape. It may sound obvious, or ridiculous, but as there are many sizes of mice. Just like there are different sized hands, there are generally around 3 categories.
Furthermore, there are also different usage for mice, that tend to dictate size categories.
- Small: For laptops
- Standard: Regular office-type mouse
- Bigger: For bigger hands
Take a mouse as big as the shape of your hand will accommodate when it's at rest in the air.
Testing your Palm Size
You can test this for yourself by lifting your dominant arm horizontally (the one that will use the mouse). While in the air, let your hand and wrist hanging loosely. The empty space in-between your fingers should be the size the mouse you need.
But the best is absolutely to try it for yourself in a store, before you buy it. To see if the mouse fits, lower your arm on every mice you find to see if there is any tension in your hand while holding it. As a rule of thumb, there shouldn't be any. Your fingers should land naturally on the right buttons and curves of the design.
3. Mouse Buttons
For 3D work, you should make sure to have at least 3 physically clickable buttons, in addition to the scroll wheel. In the worse case, you can make due with a clickable scroll wheel, but it isn't ideal.
The touchpad type should be avoided, so do trackpads from notebooks and apple's buttonless mice.
Pen & tablet instead?
You could consider a real drawing tablet or graphics pad to replace the mouse altogether. Some tablets even come with touch interface and a seaprate mouse to go onto it.
But we do not actually recommend it for beginners, because it will be confusing when tutorials will refer to the first, second and third buttons for different functions. Some people say that it is better for your wrist in the long run, because it doesn't cause carpal tunnel syndrome. But people who draw a lot can tell you that shoulders can suffer instead. A graphic tablet can feel awkard at first, but it will become just as natural as a standard mouse. It's just as convenient, even for all every day operations on a computer, but we don't recommend it for beginners in 3D.
4. Durability & Quality
Durability is key in a mouse because there is nothing worse than a mouse-click that doesn't land properly once every two actions. The key to that is the battery longevity, and the quality of the brand. Always buy a mouse from a known brand, such as logitech or microsoft.
5. Wired or Wireless
In this day and age, there is always the question of wired or wireless devices. This is largely a question of preference and portability, but in some cases, wireless is not always better. If you go the wireless route, make sure that the mouse advertises that the battery will last at least a year's worth of full-time work.
Prices for mice vary wildly, but most of it is the branding and the looks. Of course, for 15$, you can get any simple mouse & keyboard combo, that will do fine for most users. But if you're doing 3D graphics, you will spend a lot of time clicking and typing, working on your crazy 3D projects.
If you work on a computer a lot, it is well worth the time to pick a good mouse for around 30$ to 50$. You wont regret the day after day conveniences of a good design and ergonomy that will make your life easier. Combos deals (mice+keyboard) can be a good, but make sure to look at our article on keyboards to select a good one.
We recommend a larger mouse with three physical buttons (no touch) that feels like your hand is in a natural resting position. Don't go into the laptop-sized mice, as they are too small for comfortable extended periods of work. You can read more about why laptops aren't ideal for 3D work in our article on computer types.
The Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomics fit all of those criteria and is perfect for comfortable long term use in precision work such as 3D graphics. Its round shape and angled wrist position may take a little used to, but once you get used to it, you'll really feel the difference. Logitech also makes great mice, both wired and wireless.
This is a basic mouse design, a good value for all the required characteristics.
This is an excellent and very comfortable design or long-term use. Takes some getting used to.
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