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Wacom Cintiq 24HD- A Video Review

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

I mentioned in a blog post the other day that I had a new toy in the studio. . . actually it’s no toy. The Wacom Cintiq 24HD is waaaaay too big to be a toy.

I wasn’t planning on upgrading my Cintiq as my 21ux, while the original square-screened model and about 7 years old, was still chugging along. However I recently did a book illustration job that was a pretty good payday, so I decided to take the plunge. I’m glad I did. Here’s something new. . . a video review!

YouTube Preview Image

Sunday Mailbag

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

Q: Is drawing/painting on an iPad anything like drawing on a Cintiq (other than screen size)?  I’m weighing my options, as a Cintiq is clearly more expensive than an iPad, but I don’t want to be frustrated by going the cheaper route.

A: There is no comparison. The Wacom Cintiq or any pressure-sensitive tablet or tablet-style computer is FAR more capable for drawing and painting digitally than an iPad.

The drawing capabilities of the iPad or similar devices (for simplicity’s sake, I’ll use the term “iPad” to mean all such tablet devices) are distant secondary thoughts to the functionality of their multi-touch screens. iPads have no pressure sensitivity, which is crucial to easily creating thick and thin linework, mimicking the use of natural tools like brushes, controlling the opacity of washes and paint and many other versatile functions. Many pressure-sensitive tablets like the Wacom Intous line also include “tilt” sensitivity, which while not something crucial does come in handy when using certain brushes and creating certain looks, which of course the iPad also does not have. On top of that, the iPad’s screen is designed to only respond to the touch of skin, and there is no precision stylus that works with it. The “styluses” you see that are made for the iPad have marshmallow-like pillows at the end of them, roughly the size of a fingertip, that provide the input an iPad needs but are hardly natural-feeling instruments. The iPad was designed as a finger-tip interface mobile mini-computer, and the ability to draw and paint on it was not something anyone concerned themselves with in its development. Can you do it? Yes, you can. Is it ideal? No.

A Wacom Cintiq, Intous tablet or similar device, on the other hand, has been designed from the ground up with only one purpose in mind: to mimic natural drawing and painting movements and input. You use instruments that feel and react like pencils, pens and brushes. The pressure-sensitivity mimics your hand’s pressure when drawing on paper, or can be used to control opacity, color and other variables to mimic techniques like washes, drybrush, etc. The tilt sensitivity some of these devices have can control the direction and reaction of individual bristles in a brush. This hardware has no other purpose, and is vastly superior to things like the iPad for creating art.

The downside to using Wacom products is that you need a separate computer to do it. There are several PC based “tablet” computers that allow for drawing right on the screen like a Cintiq, but they get mixed results. It depends on your purpose with them. If the idea is to do digital sketching while on the move and you want to do something more than finger-paint, then something like the Hewlett Packard HP-TM2T tablet PC might be your best bet. It has a Wacom digitizer in it, so pressure sensitivity works in PhotoShop (only 256 levels, but that’s as good as it gets with these types of PCs). There used to be a MacBook custom conversion service from a company called Axiotron, but they have disappeared from the face of the earth, and reports of their credibility were not good.

I personally have a 21″ Cintiq at home and a 12 WX portable one for the road. There are a lot of cables and such, so it is not truly portable in the sense I can use it on the airplane or the coffee shop, but it works great in hotel rooms if I need to bring work with me. I use it with a MacBook Air, and it’s great.

Invariably when I post something like this that denigrates the art uses of the iPad, I get a few folks who disagree and then post a link to some brilliant piece of art they created on their iPad. That’s great, bully for you. I could probably do an internet search and find an even better piece of art created by someone somewhere using nothing but a spork, melted crayola crayon bits and cow manure. That is also great, but why would anyone want to do that? Likely someone could assemble a car from it’s component parts using nothing but Popsicle sticks if they put their mind to it, but why would you do that when perfectly good tools are available? Artists are a resourceful bunch, and they can make art using just about anything given the time, ingenuity and determination. My point is that there are easier ways, and in the digital world using devices made to do what you are looking to do is going to be easier and better than doing it with something not designed for your task.

Thanks to Connie Nobbe for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!

Reviewing the Cintiq 12wx

Friday, September 12th, 2008

Back in November of last year Wacom released a smaller, more portable version of it’s Cintiq line of monitor/tablet combo devices, the Cintiq 12wx. This was of great interest to me because up until that point there was no really viable solution to doing PhotoShop color work while “on the road” in the manner in which I am accustomed… i.e. using a Cintiq’s “draw on the screen” style of working. This and the Axiotron ModBook, a third party modified, tablet style MacBook were the two most promising solutions for this issue.

Before I go on, and before I get a lot of e-mails or comments about how this or that person “gets by just fine” and does great work on a regular Wacom tablet, let me just say this: Yes, I could use a regular Wacom tablet and my MacBook Pro. I have done this and for many years I did my line-and-color work in this manner in my studio as well… but once you get used to using a Cintiq you find going back to a regular Wacom tablet awkward and very inefficient. Looking at the screen and not at your hand is a skill that takes practice and more importantly continued execution to stay proficient at. Case in point, this spring I had to work on the color stage of this product illustration job while travelling and I did one of the product illustrations with a regular Wacom and my MacBook Pro, and then the other using my friend Ed Steckley‘s Cintiq 12wx. I did the second one in about half the time it took to do the first. For me, finding a truly portable version of the Cintiq experience was a worthwhile endeavor.

On another trip this summer, visiting Ed and his wife in New York City, I ended up having to spend one evening finishing the color work on the last of the images from the “Super Capers” movie job, and I again borrowed Ed’s Cintiq 12wx to do the job. I ordered one of my own when I got back home. I have now had occasion to use it several more times, and am finally getting around to doing an in depth review of the unit.

The Hardware

The 12wx is a well designed device that is both light (about 4 lbs) and easy to work on with gently beveled edges and a pop out stand. The screen is a 12.1″ diagonal TFT widescreen (16:10 ratio) display with a native resolution of WXGA (1280 x 800). Both sides have the newer design of the Wacom Expresskey/Touchstrip sets of programmable shortcut buttons.

The overall dimensions are 16″ W x 10.5″ H x .67″ D (40.64cm W x 26.67cm H x 1.7cm D). The unit also comes with a power brick, a “video control unit” box, DVI-I to DVI-D and DVI-I to VGA video cables, a Cintiq cordless, battery-less pen, holder stand and replacement nibs.

It is Really Portable?

That depends on how you define “portable”. If you mean can you whip the 12wx out at the coffee shop and start sketching on it… then no. If you mean you can pack it all up in a medium sized shoulder bag and set it up in your hotel room in a few minutes… then yes. The 12wx is not a tablet computer. It is a supplementary device needing a laptop with a secondary display output (most have these) to work from, and room to set it up. It’s not anywhere near as convenient or easy to set up as a regular Wacom tablet, which requires no power itself and only a USB cable attached to the laptop.

In order to make the 12wx unit itself as light and comfortable as it is, Wacom moved much of the circuitry out of the unit itself and into it’s “Video Control Unit”, a 6″ x 4″ x 1″ box that acts as a bridge between the laptop and the 12wx. In the full sized Cintiqs, all this hardware is inside the unit itself, and a very thick cable protrudes from the back center of the devices and extends to the computer it is hooked to, splitting into a power cord (that in turn hooks to a power brick) a DVI video cable and a USB cable. In the 12wx, the only cable coming from the unit itself is a relatively slim (about the thickness of a power cord) one that emanates from the top right edge and hooks to the VCU. Then the cable parade begins. The other side of the VCU is where you hook up the video and USB cables that go to the computer as well as the power cord that goes to the power brick that goes to the outlet. That’s a lot of cables. However the VCU can be placed out of the way and the only cable you have to contend with when working is the one coming from the 12wx, which isn’t that much bigger or less flexible than a typical USB cable. Still, you have to have the room to put all this together, plus plug in your laptop unless you plan on only working for a short time. That requires a desktop area with two power outlets… you won’t be doing that on the airplane or at the bus stop.

For me, this is not a problem. I never intended to use the 12wx to do spontaneous sketching at the diner. It’s meant to be a portable studio, and that’s just how it functions. I can carry the 12wx, all cords, bricks and accessories in a messenger-style shoulder bag or pack said bag into my suitcase and add only about 6 lbs or so to the overall weight. If I need to work on the road then I need to work, and setting up somewhere suitable to get it done is a necessity regardless.

Using the 12wx

Here’s another quick sidetrack: When using it in the Mac OS X environment, there are two ways you can use the screen real estate of the 12wx or any Cintiq: as a supplementary area of your main desktop or as the main screen of your OS X desktop (meaning your main screen becomes the secondary monitor). PC users have it easier because of the way Windows programs and menu bars work as opposed to the Mac OS. In PC programs, the menu bar (i.e. the “File, Edit, View… etc.”) of any program is embedded into the window of that program. In other words, if you have two monitors hooked up, you can move the window of any program from the main monitor to the secondary one, and the menu bar will follow along. With the Mac, the menu bar is always along the top of the main desktop window, and it changes with whatever program is active. The bad part about this is if you want to work on a secondary monitor, you can move the window of the files you have open to the secondary monitor but the menu bar remains on the main monitor. Oh, you can move all the palettes and everything from PhotoShop over to the Cintiq manually, and you can save the setup you created in PhotoShop itself under if you want to under Window>Workspace>Save Workspace so you can set it all back up that way again if you want to. I don’t like doing it that way, because I cannot move that handy little palette dock that reduces the palettes to small icons on the right for easy access but easier hiding, and screen real estate is important with the 12wx. I hate having to switch back and forth from the Cintiq to the main screen, even though the Cintiq’s “Display Toggle” makes that a little easier, so keeping palettes on the other screen isn’t very appealing. Also, I do use the menu bar when working and like being able to access it on the Cintiq rather than switching to the main screen. Therefore what I do is actually switch the Cintiq to be the main screen of desktop. That way I get all the palettes the way I want them plus the menu bar on my work screen, and by turning “hiding” on to the dock I can get that out of the way as well.

If you want to try it my way, here’s how you accomplish this:

First, you need to change the tablet’s focus from the Cintiq screen to the main desktop screen. This is easy to do, just open System Preferences>Wacom Tablet. Make sure you have highlighted the “Cintiq 12wx” on the “Tablet” window across the top part of the preference window, and then click on “Calibration”. Change “Monitor” from “Cintiq (2)” to whatever your main display (1) is. What will happen now is that the Cintiq will act like a regular Wacom tablet and moving around on it will move the cursor on your main screen. Do not panic, this is expected.

Now open System Preferences>Displays. You will see a window pop up on both monitors. The main one will be a little different, as it will have “Arrangement” and “Options” as choices not on the other box. Click “Arrangement” and drag the white menu bar from the left display square to the top of the right one. A red border appears on the display that is actively selected as the main desktop as you do this.

The result will be that now your menu bar and dock will be on your Cintiq, and the pen will again function correctly on the screen. Hide the dock if it’s in your way. Again, this is a personal preference on may part and does not affect the functions of the Cintiq in any way.

Back to the review…

Usablility

The 12wx is a true Cintiq. With 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt sensitivity it has all the functionality of it’s bigger brethren. In fact I feel no difference at all in it’s feel and use. You would think the smaller screen would be a hindrance, but I didn’t have any trouble working on it with any but the biggest of images. The 1280 x 800 resolution doesn’t give up THAT much to the 1600 x 1200 I get with my 21ux, and the 16:10 aspect ration of the 12wx helps. It give you a wider screen that allows the palettes to stay away from the work area, giving you the feel of more space than you actually have. Pressure sensitivity, surface feel, response time… it’s exactly like the full size units.


The rear of the Cintiq 12wx and the stand

I also thought I would miss the excellent rotating stand the full size Cintiqs have which allow for nearly 360 degree rotation of the screen instantly and is very stable. The 12wx has a static pop-out stand that keeps it at a stable angle from the table top but does not allow for rotation. There is a token “bump” in the center of the back of the unit that it can rotate on if the stand is folded in, but who works with it on a flat surface? This presented no problems, though, as the 12wx is so light and comfortable that it can easily be used in your lap or just turned as you need while working. The cord stays out of your way.

There is a vent located along the top edge for heat disbursement. There is some warmth that develops when it’s been on for a while but as many of the electronic guts of the 12wx are in the VCU, the heat is nowhere near as pronounced as it can get in the bigger, self contained units. In fact you can quite easily use in on your lap without getting uncomfortable (or sterile) from the heat.

The Expresskeys and Touchstrips also function in the same way as the full sized Cintiqs. I have the original 21ux in the studio, which is older and has the 4 buttons with the touch strip above configuration. Not the best design with the strips, as they are so easy to brush across and zoom your image in or out accidentally. The newer 20wsx has the 16:10 ratio and has smartly relocated the Touchstrips to the underside of the unit’s right and left edges, eliminating that issue. On the 12wx, the strips on on the surface of the unit on each side, but on the beveled part of the edge and therefore a little less likely to be accidentally brushed. The strips can be programmed for functions as well as each individual button. This is very handy. I have buttons set to increase and decrease brush size, switch to the “hand” tool for image panning, switch to the eyedropper tool for easy color picking, mode changes, etc.

One very welcome new feature with the Cintiq, and it’s with all the Cintiqs that have the latest drivers, is the “Display Toggle” feature. This is a drop down menu choice for any of the ExpressKey buttons that switches the control of your tablet from the Cintiq screen to your other screen and back. It used to be a real pain to have to access anything on the other screen, as I had to put down my pen and grab my mouse (another reason for my preference of making the Cintiq my main desktop monitor when working). Wacom used to make a “companion” mini tablet that connected to the side or bottom of the Cintig that would be set to control the other monitor, so you could just move to it with your pen to do something on that other monitor. Now with a touch of the “Display Toggle”, the surface of your Cintiq becomes like a regular tablet that controls your other screen. You can do what you need to do over there, then press the toggle again to switch back. If I can figure out how to move those palette docks I might eschew my switching-the-main-desktop strategy entirely thanks to this smart feature.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, for $999 this is a terrific device that could almost replace my studio Cintiq. Taking it on the road is not much of a hassle, and it truly allows me to be able to do the same type of work in the same way, and in the same amount of time, as I can from the comfort of my studio. If you are looking for a portable Cintiq-experience solution, or can’t afford the larger units but still want a Cintiq for your work, this is the ticket.

More about the Modbook

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Some time ago I wrote about the long anticipated tablet Mac finally having become a reality thanks to Axiotron. They have created a modification package that turns an Apple MacBook into a tablet based computer… it’s like having a Cintiq monitor combined with a laptop in one contained unit. Here’s a video I ran across recently demoing this new unit with Axiotron’s leader and some artists doing work on it:

It’s great they have a comic book artist doing the demo, and a nice portrait of the reporter… too bad they didn’t say his last name. The show apparently is a local one from Hawaii.

This is something that is very enticing for me. Last week I hauled my 21 inch Cintiq all the way to St. Louis because I had to finish up a parody for MAD and I was on the color stage. It would have been nearly impossible to do that had I not been driving, as the Cintiq is big, heavy and delicate. Commercial transport is basically impossible. I would have needed to bring my Intous tablet with me and done it that way were I not driving with room in my back seat for the Cintiq. It certainly would have taken me far longer and been a lot harder to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish on the Intous, particularly since I am so used to working on the Cintiq these days.

Using the new 12 inch Cintiq for travel is an option, but it’s not truly portable either. It has a big brick of a transformer, needs AC power and has a thick, heavy dual cable coming from the back. You also need the laptop to make it work, so it’s a full suitcase of stuff and a full desktop of space needed. On the plus side it does have 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity and all the features of the big Cintiq including tilt sensitivity and the shortcut keys.

The “Modbook”, as it’s called, was very intriguing as it is truly portable. It’s a full MacBook computer with all the ports, drives etc…. just no keyboard. It can run on battery power alone (although doubtless not for long) and uses the simple apple power cord when running on AC. The cord, Modbook and pen is all you need. Easy to take out and start scribbling.

I was seriously considering getting one, but after asking some questions i decided it’s just not quite right yet. Here are my reasons for reservation:

  1. Only 512 levels of pressure sensitivity- That might seem like plenty but after using a Cintiq with 1024 levels it is a step backward.
  2. No tilt sensitivity- Axiotron told me in order to do tilt sensivity, they would have had to add to the size of the tablet (but not the screen) making it cumbersome. Tilt is not really needed for what I usually do but I do use it when doing more painted stuff, which this would not do.
  3. Can’t use the Cintiq pen- I love the feel of the Cintiq’s pen, but you have to use the skinny, hard pen that comes with the Modbook… Axiotron cited “battery life” as the reason for this.
  4. No side function keys- This isn’t a dealbreaker, but I love those things. I also use my keyboard a lot to switch tools, set opacity, etc, but a bluetooth keyboard would fix that part.
  5. It’s a MacBook, not a MacBook Pro- If they can do it to a MacBook, they should be able to do it to a MacBook Pro. It was silly of them to base it on the smallest MacBook when they have ben quoted as saying they are pursuing the graphic artist market, 99% of which use a Pro for the better screen size and power.
  6. Too new a technology- Sorry but I seldom buy the first model of anything, especially a complex and expensive thing like a computer. No doubt the second generation will have better features and technology… maybe solving all the issues listed above.

So the Modbook is not on my wish list. Maybe Modbook 2.0? We’ll see. Here are some other videos showing the Modbook in action:

Briefly: More on the New 12″ Cintiq

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

gizmodocintiq.jpg

In case you haven’t seen it via Drawn! or the Wisenhiemer Cartoonists forum, here’s a link to Gizmodo’s review of the new 12″ portable Cintiq tablet/display from Wacom. It features a video with unpacking and the creating of a color image of “Bender” from “Futurama” along with subtitles commentary. The verdict from Gizmodo is “professional artists: GET IT!”.

Another independent and even more in depth review can be found at my friend Cedric Hohnstadt’s blog. Cedric got the new Cintiq and has good things to say.

Both these reviews are highly useful as they are done by working artists, as opposed to being reviewed by techies. It’s certainly more important to me to hear from those who need to and will use such a piece of equipment like I would.

I’m still not getting one, though. There’s just not enough moments when I am on the road and needing to do any color work. I still do all the drawing and inking the old fashioned way… I use the Cintiq only for the final step.

New Cintiq “Sketchbook”

Friday, November 30th, 2007

cintiq12.jpg

Wacom just announced the release of a new version of it’s Cintiq line of pressure sensitive tablets/LCD monitors… the 12WX. Unlike the heavy and bulky 21UX and it’s predecessors, this one designed to be far more portable and lightweight… more like a sketchbook for “on the go”…. sorry, I just drooled a little bit.

The Cintiq’s are a combination of a pressure sentive tablet and an LCD monitor, enabling the user to draw right on the screen using all the benefits and features of a wacom tablet. I use the Cintiq 21UX in the studio, and love it.

The new Cintiq 12WX is much smaller and lighter, weighing in at 4.4 pounds as opposed to the monster 22.4 pound weight of the 21UX. The screen is also smaller of course at 12.1 inches diagonal, but for portability it should be ideal. It has a simplified, built in stand that folds flat so it’s completely self contained. With a crisp 1280 x 800 resolution it should also be sharp enough for very detailed work. Best of all, it boasts the same 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, tilt and rotation sensitivity, express keys and touch strip… all the toys it’s big brother has. Ooops…. drooling again. Check out this video of it in action:

This has been a long time coming and is definitely on my Christmas list. It will be ideal to do color work when on the road. Right now I can only do via a regular Wacom tablet and my MacBook Pro’s LCD screen, which is hard when you are used to a Cintiq. Unfortunately as of right now it looks like it’s only available in Europe, but I am sure that’s going to change soon. The bad news? if it’s similarly priced in the US it will be over $1,700.00!

Thanks to DRAWN! for the heads up!

 

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