Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Wacom Still Wins As A Drawing Tool

While I don't have the same artistic talent as our editor, there have been times when I felt inspired enough to sketch out an idea. It happens from time to time when you write reviews. There are artists and designers everywhere it seems — and more and more of them want to input their art into the digital world.

There is only one problem for those people who are attempting to move from fine art to digital: a mouse is not a drawing tool. Most artists agree you need a pen of some sort. And even though there are an increasing number of art apps for tablets, most of them are hindered by stylus designs.

While the brush is brilliant and soft tip functional, some people can't help but wonder about drawing hardware. And yes, that would include me despite not always having much talent.

The Wacom drawing tablet does one thing. Drawing.

The table does more than drawing. It can be used for almost anything, from retouching photos to coloring. The bottom line is that working with a digital input for art is all about control. Control matters more than anything else.

What Wacom has done is create hardware that uniquely delivers the benefits of a real-life brush or pen, so you can control line weight and opacity based on how firmly or softly you press the pen to the tablet. The idea, from start to finish, was to create something as close to the media as possible.

Wacom makes two lines of pen tablets, and it usually comes down to deciding between the Intuos or Bamboo. Most designers will tell you that the Intuos is the better pick if you want more responsive pen pressure, angles, and rotation. (The pen angle on Bamboo is fixed and not pressure sensitive.)

Think of it as a choice between a pen and a crayon, much like many general tablet solutions feel like a brush. While there have been several stylus solutions that attempt to narrow the tip, none of them have really worked out and a few have left tablets like the iPad scratched.

The Intuos is different in that pen and tablet were made to work together. There still is a learning curve because almost all drawing tablets take some time to get used to, given it is like drawing in a mirror with the image appearing on the screen while you are drawing on a different surface.

The only way around it is to invest in a professional grade Cintiq by Wacom (which pros will swear by). But for most people, it's not necessary. And there are still a few designers who trained themselves to work from the screen and now prefer it.

A few words about Wacom and CEO Masahiko Yamada.

Back in 1983, Wacom was a very small company. But what was interesting about it was that the people there were already thinking about pen-screen capabilities, including pressure technologies. The idea is pretty amazing when you consider that computing was still in its infancy.

One of those forward-looking people includes CEO Masahiko Yamada. Seeing into the future, he believes that computer technology will become as commonplace as refrigerators and general appliances. They will be readily available as life supporting tools, but not disruptive nor intrusive to anyone's sense of privacy. In my book, that would be the best of all possible worlds.

Intous by Wacom Draws Up 8.7 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Interestingly enough, some other companies are interested in Wacom too. Panasonic and Sony both adopted Wacom feel technologies for the Toughbook and Galaxy Note, respectively. The portrait of Yamada, by the way, was created by artist Jeremy Sutton with a Cintiq. Amazing.

You can find the Intous, starting at $229, on Wacom direct. On Amazon, you can sometimes find them for slightly less. For example, the Wacom Intuos5 Small Pen Tablet listed at $220. The tablets are largely priced by size and most artists prefer a larger surface area than the starter screen. For me, the small Intous feels just right. But I can see how some of my friends would want something else.
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