Drawing tablet for beginner
June 3, 2011 2:51 PM   Subscribe

I'm a children's book illustrator and have always worked old school - colors and paper. I'm now working on an early reader graphic novel and it's clear I need a drawing tablet. I'm not exactly tech-phobic but I need some help choosing something that I can fairly easily learn on, something that I can grow with and is something that someone who writes and draws for kids can afford.
posted by dutcherino to Technology (14 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
My daughter's an art student and loves her tablet from Intuos.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:53 PM on June 3, 2011

Intuos tablets do the job well, but as for what size you pick, that depends on how much of the process you are planning to bring to the computer. If it's just coloring and placing word balloons, a 6x8 (medium) will do the job. If you're planning on doing a significant amount of the drawing on the computer – and see if you can try it out in an Apple Store or something first, because some artists can't make the transition, or find drawing directly to tablet unsatisfactory – anyway, if you want to do that, go as big as you can afford, to the point of preferring used older Wacom tablets to newer ones.
posted by furiousthought at 3:20 PM on June 3, 2011

I've owned three and used several Wacom tablets, ranging from the cheapo $99 old Wacom Graphire to a fancier, pricier Intous.

Currently, I'm on the Wacom Bamboo, another cheap one, and I'm honestly liking it better than the pricier ones I've had. I mostly work with just pen, paper, markers and watercolours and I found that one to just...work the best for what I wanted.

Size definitely matters, like furiousthought says! Older wacom tablets are still awesome(but not so old that you're using serial ports).
posted by sawdustbear at 3:23 PM on June 3, 2011

Another consideration, if you're on a budget: it may be better for your process, if you're used to working large, to drop more money on a large format scanner and less on the tablet, because working with a regular-size scanner is going to change your work quite a bit and you may not want that.
posted by furiousthought at 3:31 PM on June 3, 2011

anyway, if you want to do that, go as big as you can afford, to the point of preferring used older Wacom tablets to newer ones.

Depends on you and your working style, though -- if you're used to working small, you might actually like a small one better, because it will be lighter and more portable.
posted by redfoxtail at 3:49 PM on June 3, 2011

I depends on your graphic style. If you'll be doing a lot of tight linework, I would second scanning your drawings from paper and only use a tablet to clean up artifacts and add colour. The cheapest Bamboo Touch will work fine (with the touch capacity turned off). I only found that a larger tablet was useful when I was working with 2 monitors and wanted to map across both screens.

If you need to do a lot of drawing, you'll eventually crave a Cintiq.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:57 PM on June 3, 2011

Wacom is the only brand to consider, as others have said, and the Intuous line is definitely the overwhelming artists' choice (Cintiq being the droolworthy uber-line above that, with integrated display.)

I strongly suggest not messing around with lesser brands for this, as it's your livelihood and is presumably tax-deductible to boot.

It's the pressure-sensitivity that Wacom does so well, which might seem like a bit of a bell or whistle sometimes, but it's critically important to making drawing feel like drawing.

I like the wireless bluetooth Intuous4 (it's a "medium" size), but it's a bit pricey.

Be warned that your drawing style(s) will change/evolve as you use a tablet and software more and more. Not better, not worse, just different. Embrace this rather than attempting to duplicate your analog work exactly, and you'll be happier.
posted by rokusan at 4:00 PM on June 3, 2011

Response by poster: This is a ton to think about and thanks so much for all the input.

Rokusan, that's interesting what you say about drawing styles changing. I had a huge leap style difference this year as I was teaching art residencies pretty much full time and did nothing but quick draw. That resulted in a way more fluid style. My picturebook coming out next year looks nothing like the ones that came before.

So I welcome further change.
posted by dutcherino at 4:10 PM on June 3, 2011

You'll be tempted to buy an inexpensive Wacom Intuos, which is great. Stating the obvious: It allows you to draw/paint on the tablet while what you draw appears on your PC monitor. REALLY, though: Treat yourself and keep an eye on eBay and such and get a Wacom Cintiq, which is a tablet/screen on which you see what you draw w/o having to stare up at the monitor. You'll be overjoyed you did. Bide your time and you can get a small Cintiq for about $300, sometimes less, sometimes much less especially if it's used and maybe has a small fault like a crack in the screen (which is no big deal).

With a smaller Cintiq, you'll have to zoom in to a small area of your illustration when you work on detail, so you won't be able to see the whole picture at the same time. Still, you'll get used to it, or you can spring for a larger Cintiq now, or later once you've fallen in love with your first one (which you will).
(I'm running an older Intuos now and plan on switching to a Cintiq this year.)
posted by Shane at 4:39 PM on June 3, 2011

The larger format Wacom tablets are extremely large. Things like where will you store it and how will it fit on your desk while you're using it are a serious consideration, especially with the older tablets which are less sleek. I have an XL (from back when they were naming them after paper sizes, about ten years old) and I do love it, but a Medium would have been a more sensible choice. Since you say you're teaching, does your school have tablets you could look at? See what size they're using and how much space they take up, maybe you can even try one out and see how it fits into your workflow and how well you work with zooming.
posted by anaelith at 6:20 PM on June 3, 2011

Yeah, the older Wacoms are definitely bulky things and will become the centerpiece of your desk. The 6x8 Wacoms you toss aside when you aren't drawing, but with the 12x12+ size Wacoms, you toss your keyboard aside instead. The newer ones may be a little lighter. What is positive is that with the larger ones, the range of motion your hand takes is closer to the range of motion your cursor moves on the monitor. So you get better control.* And the scale is more conducive to drawing with your arm. Now, I'm one of those who really tries to minimize doing linework directly on the tablet, 'cause it'll stuff it up IMO, but the larger ones are better at it than the smaller ones for that reason.

*That is actually worse of an issue nowadays with the much larger monitors we have. It is also easier to fit a large tablet on a desk with a large flatscreen monitor, these days. When I had a 12x12 Wacom to work with, I had to fit it around a CRT.
posted by furiousthought at 7:11 PM on June 3, 2011

I have a 24" display with a 12" cintiq — and I mostly use it just as a regular tablet. I would go for a larger Intuitos...although in a pinch even the smaller ones will help.
posted by Brainy at 10:51 AM on June 4, 2011

Since you're just starting out with digital illustration, a Cintiq may be overkill unless you know you're going to be doing a LOT more of it in the future. I'd start with an Intuos (or maybe even a Bamboo) first to see how you like it, then work from there. I started with a used Graphire 2 I got from Ebay, and other than it being too small (4x5, ugh! Handcramp!) it had more than enough functionality to do what I needed. It wasn't until I switched to digital almost exclusively that I really felt the need to upgrade to an Intuos.

A tip: Since you typically work on paper, it may help to tape a sheet of copy paper over the tablet surface to give it a bit more grip. (Assuming you don't get the Cintiq, of course.) The surface can feel pretty slippery if you aren't used to it, and doing that helped me so, SO much.
posted by covert werewolf at 1:05 PM on June 4, 2011

Ghaah. My mouth is watering at this very mo' and it made me think of you. Then again, if you're primarily doing traditional sketch/ink/color (comics/cartoons) technique for your graphic novel, you'll probably do just fine with an Intuos (and Corel Suite, is that what you work in?), especially if you trade lines for neat vectors and do colors via bucket fill and gradient effects and such. I think maybe a Cintiq is luxury unless you're doing digital painting with the techniques of real media.
posted by Shane at 10:56 PM on June 11, 2011

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