Thursday, June 22, 2017

Drawing Tablets

The subject of drawing tablets came up last night and as you may or may not know I've been using WACOM brand tablets for nearly 20 years, first with their small standard tablets and later with the Cintiq.   Veronica uses the 22" version while I use the 13" one.   We also briefly had a Cintiq Companion-- I'll touch on all of these in a minute.

The 22" Cintiq

The 13" Cintiq
Wow that 13" one looks tiny next to the 22" doesn't it?  We have two of the 13" ones and we've had them for several years.  The 22" has been around for only a year or so.  They are all workhorses.

I personally find the 13" one more comfortable to work on.  The 22" is huge-- it takes up almost all of the work table space and even though it can be positioned vertically which allows you to have a full size comic book page right in front of you (the 13" can't) I'm fine with the 13" because I can move around the screen.

Price wise-- last time I checked the 22" was $1800 and the 13" was $800 (I think we paid $1200 for ours).

Miriam brought up the XP-Pen tablet which is getting good reviews on Amazon.

The XP 22" tablet is on Amazon right now for $599 with free PRIME shipping.
That seems like an incredible bargain.


There is also a 15" version which goes for $380

Other brands available include Huion, Ugee and Artisul.  If you click on the link above (do it after you read through this) it'll bring up these other tablets.

That's a lot of tablets to choose from.  I spent some time last night and this morning reaching out to friends and acquaintances to see if anyone has some working knowledge of any of these non-Wacom brands and I found a few things.

1. These rival companies are rising up because Wacom Customer Service has been lacking for the past few years.  I've heard that quite often.  I personally don't use Customer service if I have an issue I usually just search online for a solution.  The specific problem I had was driver related and it only took a few minutes to find an answer and fix the problem.

2. You can't touch the price of the competition offerings-- at worst they are half the price of the Cintiq and at best even less.

3. On the XP-- the negatives I got were that it has a glossy screen unlike the Cintiq which has a matte screen.  Back in the stone age when I was trying out tablets I used one that had a glossy screen and I didn't like it-- it was too much like drawing on glass.   There is also a bit of depth between the pen point and the image especially in the corners.  That means where you put the pen isn't always where you're drawing.

You cannot change the pen tips<< that's a deal breaker for me.  I use felt tips in my Wacom Pen-- they give you the most natural feel when drawing.  On the downside they wear out in about a month, on the upside they aren't that expensive to replace ($9 for a pack of 5).

The plastic and the cables feel cheap-- well you're saving $1000 so that's not surprising.

One thing to know about these drawing tablets-- they are bulky and they have a lot of cables.  When I bought the first one we own I got the 13" and my intention was I'd take it to a coffee shop and work 1 day a week to mix up my work environment.  I did it ONCE.  It was way too much work packing it up, then taking it and my laptop to a shop and plug in all the cables.  It honestly looked like I was going to film a news segment with the amount of cables all around.

As a solution to that, Veronica bought a Cintiq Companion about two years ago.  This is Wacom's solution to the problem.  I remember being impressed with the idea when I saw it set up at a Chicago Comic Con until they told me that (of course) it was only Windows based because Mac doesn't play nice with other companies making Macs.

She bought it anyway, and because she hates Windows as much as I do she sent it back within a month-- so if that's something that matters to you keep it in mind.  IF you're a Windows person it won't be an issue for you.  If you've been a Mac user for a few years you might think you can get by with a Windows machine but I think you'll realize why you're a Mac person.

Back to the XP-- while all the reviews on Amazon seem positive there just aren't enough of them to convince me you're getting an equal machine to the Cintiq. 

With tablets-- the thing you want most are a close feel to drawing naturally (that's why I use felt nibs), a good surface, pressure sensitivity for the pen, a pen that feels solid, no lag time when drawing and a tablet that doesn't get too warm to the touch (bad sign).

So what's the verdict?

Give it a shot.  Amazon has free returns (check details to be certain).  Unlike Japan where these things are on display in stores and you can try them before you buy them we don't have that luxury here in the good ol' USA.  If you get it and don't like it, send it back.

You know how I buy shoes on Amazon?  I order THREE Pairs of the same shoe-- an 11, and 11.5 and a 12 because I wear all three sizes depending on the maker.  I try them on when they come and send the two that don't fit back.

If money is an issue and you want a LARGE drawing tablet give the 22" XP-Pen a shot-- at $600 its a bargain.  It's tax deductible for most of you and if you're not used to the Cintiq yet you might never notice the difference.

If you don't care to have the larger tablet, I'd recommend the 13" Cintiq for $100 or so more.