Sunday, February 8, 2009

SHOP TALK: My New Graphics Tablet!

As mentioned in a previous post, I recently upgraded my home computer system from a 10-year-old Win98 PC to a new 20" iMac. The transition has been amazingly easy, especially when one considers that I have Windows XP running within the Mac operating system so that I could continue using some old Windows software and hardware on the new computer that either don't exist for the Mac or would be a waste of money to re-purchase a Mac version.

The only piece of equipment I had to replace as a result of this transition was a graphics tablet—replacing a 4"x5" Aiptek HyperPen 5000 drawing tablet that I've also had for about 10 years but which featured an obsolete PC serial connection. Being the model of thrift I am, I initially had planned to purchase a small Wacom Bamboo drawing tablet, priced under $100 (Wacom is the gold standard for computer graphics tablets).

Fortunately, before I made the purchase, after doing a little research and scrutinizing more closely the tablet's specs, I realized the tablet, while within my price range (under $100) was, with its 5.8"x3.7" active drawing space, smaller than even my old tablet and probably way too small for my needs, especially given the fact that I now have a wider-screen monitor. I then looked at the medium-sized Wacom Bamboo, which with a 8.5"x5.3" live area seemed a bit more suitable. But priced at $199, I must admit it was a bit steep.

I conducted additional research (thank goodness for Google!), and began to focus on the Genius G-Pen F610 tablet. Not only did the tablet feature a much roomier 6"x10" live drawing area, it was also priced just under $100 on Amazon! There were some negative user reviews of the tablet, but fortunately I've learned to sometimes take such comments with a grain of salt, especially when taken as a whole with other comments and reviews. What also finally drove my decision was the realization that the Wacom tablet that actually was more comparable to the F610 wasn't the medium-sized Wacom Bamboo, but the Wacom Intuos3, which sold for $299! Given this, I thought it worth it to take the risk with the G-Pen.

I've been delighted by the results—the tablet works perfectly with both my Mac and Windows graphics programs. Admittedly, I've never needed to use a drawing tablet to its fullest capability. I primarily have used the tablet for coloring, which does not require the kind of finesse that drawing does. (For a good example of what can be accomplished with a drawing pad, check out the work of Benton Jew, who did the cover of issue 12 of Rob Hanes Adventures. Benton now works exclusively on a tablet, no more pen and ink for him!)

However, now that I'm using it, I cancertainly see that the larger tablet is much more conducive to drawing. Up until now, I primarily limited my tablet "drawing" with minor digital touch ups on my art after it had been scanned in. With the larger, roomier drawing space, I can project myself using the drawing function a little more, though at this point not exclusively.

Initially, when I first connected the tablet, I did experience a "lag" with the pen, which some user reviews had complained about. In fact, the pen dragged quite significantly, usually causing a very ragged line very different than what I had drawn. The instruction manual also was very minimal and useless, which others had noted. You can imagine I was aghast at this development.

Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to do some research and though the company that makes the tablet surprisingly doesn't have the most visible website, I eventually tracked down a version of the tablet's driver that was more recent than what shipped with the tablet, and that immediately solved the problem! (I ended up posting a review of the product at the Amazon website, partly to let Mac users know about the newer driver.)

So my new system is now fully decked out for me to do post work on my comics pages!

1 comment:

Mark said...

Yeah, I can't imagine not working on a tablet now days. The sad part is not going to an art store and buying paper and ink, I miss that. Glad the new one works as you hoped!