The blog now boasts shiny new Categories which should help people look for specific info down the road.  You won’t have to sort through all the miasma, but the posts will all still read like I’m a raving lunatic so good luck.

A brand new Intuos 4 XL should be arriving today.  I suspect it will make at least most of my dreams come true.

I always get a lot of questions from would-be tablet owners about what’s the right tablet to buy.  Oddly enough Wacom doesn’t have a total corner on the market and since they’ve added the Bamboo line everything is fuzzy about what you need.  The Cintiq invariably comes up as well.

Here are my shopping criteria:

1) It has to be gigantic

Why?!  Well, I draw ALL day.  When I leave the office I come home and draw.  I’ve been doing this since highschool and its just about destroyed my arm with repetitive stress.  The bigger your drawing surface the more you draw with your arm and not your wrist and fingers which allows you to really marathon on your tablet comfortably.  A bigger tablet makes it much easier to letter (write) on your artwork as well.  Concepts require a lot of labels so this is important for me.  Scale alone really narrows the field for me in a hurry.

2) The Cintiq is so pretty!

I know, and they’re wonderful, but there are a couple things I don’t like.  First is the price.  They’re wicked expensive, like almost a new computer expensive. 

Second, and this is probably the biggest for me, is your hand is on the screen.  I’ve been using a tablet forever so the hand-eye coordination thing isn’t a thought for me at all.  But I’m sure for people just getting into the game drawing in a more traditional manner is a godsend.  I prefer to have my hand comfortably out of my field of view.  There are a couple guys at the office that swear by them, so I can’t say the Cintiq is a bad choice- It’s just not my choice.

3) Wacom or no?

Wacom is the industry standard.  The Intuos and Cintiq lines are made for artists.  I’ve never used another tablet brand and I never plan on it because the Wacom’s have always delivered (even back on the models that connected via serial).  When it comes to art supplies you get what you pay for, and when something works I never have any desire to shop around.

4) How does the 4 compare to older Intuos models?

Night and day, the 4 is light-years better.  The new Touch Ring allows for some very intuitive on the fly nib adjustments (I wish photoshop would add rotation already) as well as zoom and layer cycling.  Along with the hotkeys all the features are customizable and the LED displays let you know what each button does and can be calibrated application to application so what you need is always handy.  This is a big deal for me going back and forth between Bodypaint (where I want some 3d navigation controls) and Photoshop (where I need more tool options).  If that doesn’t sell you, the sensitivity and pen weight (SO light) alone were enough to make the upgrade worth it for me.

5) Conclusion

The Intuos 4 XL is the stealth bomber of tablets.  That is to say it is the pinnacle of science and sorcery.  I’m pretty sure every single one contains the soul of a dark god.  How else do you explain the fact the pen doesn’t need batteries?!

Bonus Thoughts for folks starting out with a tablet!

1)  Switch your pen nib out for a felt tip (they’re in the pen holder, twist it open!).  This will give you a little more resistance and be closer to drawing with a pencil on paper.

2) Get or make some good painterly brushes to improve the quality of your work.  I should be uploading a few I’ve made over the years soon.

3) Always revise your hotkeys on the tablet to find exactly what you need.  The less time you spend reaching for the keyboard the faster you will paint.  Every little bit helps.

4) The higher the opacity you can paint with the better.  Let the pen do the work for you and adjust the sliders less.  Again this is about speed, but it also has a look I prefer, so your mileage may vary.  I like the spring loaded nib to help give you a little more pressure range.

-AW

Filed under: All TalkDev TalkJob Talk

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