10 Feb A journey into tabletland.
Category: Drawing, Personal Work

I’ve been averse to using tablets since I got first introduced to them. Don’t get me wrong, I really love drawing stuff. I think I’ve been drawing before I learned to walk. But tablets seemed counter-intuitive. “You don’t draw in one area and look at another!”, my mind screamed. It took a lot time for me to reconsider. What really made me reconsider was something a touch more… futuristic.

The Wacom Cintiq is a pretty neat combination of an external monitor and graphics tablet. It comes in 12 and 21 inch flavours, and for the sake of digitizing my sketching and contract signing process, I’m trying it out. The 12 inch model, mind you. There’s no way I could fit one of these on my desk next to my (really) big Cinema Display. Since I’ve barely used tablets, and haven’t done drawing with colors since I was a freshman in the Academy of Arts (quite a few years ago) I’ll share some so-called ‘speedpaints’ with you every week. This way, you can follow my thoughts on getting used to such an interesting piece of hardware and see the results.

As the last week was quite eventful, with my return from the USA and working on some very tough deadlines, I’ve not been able to do a lot of drawing. I’ve been using it on the side a lot, though, from quick sketches for a project to just having it sit upright (it has an adjustable stand) as a secondary monitor. One drawback of the 12″ model is immediately obvious as you place it next to your capable modern LCD: it’s not very bright or crisp. It feels a bit like a laptop screen. This is well compensated by an okay representation of colors and the extremely pleasant ‘feel’ the display has when resting your hand and pen on it. An analogy: it feels nothing like moving a rubber object over a glass table, where the surface seems to resist the movements or at times makes the object ‘slide’. I imagine Wacom’s done quite a bit of testing to get this right.


This was one of my first doodles with the tablet. I also created a few other images with bears, sunrises, trees, and application icons, but those are a little bit too ridiculous to put on display here. Suffice to say I enjoyed using it. I liked it so much I started doing late-evening 10-minute speedpaint sessions. It gave a welcome distraction from the stressful work. One of the more satisfying results was Charles, the pensive (and obligatory) robot. I completed him in about 7-ish minutes, when I decided to move on to a landscape, which I spectacularly failed rendering in any presentable format. Nevertheless, I included a portion of it.


A day later I did a few color studies, taking a fixed palette and not using black, with which I usually draw. It was an interesting creative challenge.


I’ve also, of course, tried my hands at some icon sketches. For this alone, the tablet pulls its weight for me. It’s really nice, and I mean really quite nice to get a contract, pop it open in Photoshop, sign it on your screen and send it off (after, of course, proceeding through Photoshop’s crufty UI for exporting PDF files). But my sketches always were scans or photographs of black-and-white pencil and pen drawings, like the Ubiquity sketches. Adding color was something I did in mockups, and it’s hard to overestimate how much color matters in an icon or graphic.

Here’s 3 5 minute speedpaints of icons that I completely made up as I went along. Well okay, I didn’t make up the Numbers icon, but I did make one up that doesn’t stick out like a plate filled with dog shit on a sushi conveyor belt.


It’s interesting to be in Tabletland. I’ve been adjusting the shortcuts on the Cintiq, my Photoshop palette layout, and tried out some apps like Sketchbook Pro. The latter has a very pleasant and equally intriguing UI optimized for use with a tablet. Unfortunately, it’s not optimized for use with a tablet with a screen in it. Sometimes this presents some problems (i.e.; radial menu’s are great for tablets on the side, but not if a pen obscures a third of the menu because it’s obscuring the screen). Nevertheless, I learn as I go along. More next week as I start more conceptual exploration and icons sketches.

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13 Responses

  1. 1

    Links fixed. Oops.

  2. Nice Sketches. I have the 12wx as well. Like you, I never really felt too comfortable with a standard tablet. Drawing on a screen makes all the difference. I just wish the display was brighter.

  3. 3

    You may be interested in Sketch Pad, a Painter engine that’s optimized for tablets (like the Cintiq). It has auto-hiding circular palettes and a bunch of improvements to help you speed paint.


    (Disclaimer: I’m one of the developers for Sketch Pad. So there!)

  4. I’ve been holding back on getting a tablet as well so I’ll be paying close attention to your future related posts.

  5. 5
    Mike M. 

    Could you please make that Numbers sketch a reality?? The program would finally be dock-worthy.

  6. 6

    Nice drawings :)
    I’ve been thinking of buying one myself for quite some time but the ones with a screen in it are too expensive for me as I don’t work on graphics for living but only for fun. Not that I wouldn’t like to work on digital design but it’s too late to start now. I’m borrowing a tablet from a friend, an old wacom model, to see how I’ll handle it. Hope I can get it to work no my mac.

  7. 7

    sorry… typo… *on my mac.

  8. 8

    Hi Sebastiaan:

    Really love your blog and your art. I just got a ModBook for myself, and besides not having 1024 levels of sensitivity (512 instead), it is really an artist’s dream come true. Not quite sure if you have ever looked into one, but if you like portability (or a self contained unit) it is really great.

  9. 9
    Steve Grenier 

    I’d like that iWork icon too, damn nice :)

  10. 10
    James Gill 

    I been holding off getting a tablet for a while too.

    I saw one in the Apple Store in London the other day for just £50 and almost purchased it. Then i realised it was, shall we say, less than brilliant. I don’t want my first use of a tablet to be a bad one due to shoddy hardware.

    I always knew there was a 21 inch Cintiq but the smaller 12 inch model is news to me. It seems perfect for what I need so will be keeping a very close eye on your next few posts.

    I don’t say this enough to you – your work is looking ever more fantastic!

  11. 11

    Having just purchased my first tablet, I went on the hunt for sketch applications. In the $100 range you can find Corel Painter Sketch Pad, and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. However, I found an awesome application for $25 that’s better than both the $100 apps. ArtRage 2.5 by http://www.ambientdesign.com This app does everything and more for 1/4 the price. Well worth it.

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