View Full Version : Entering the digital realm, which tablet/laptop/software to use?

Comix Obsession
02-22-2015, 08:01 AM
Hey all,

It's been a long time since I posted on these forums, but I've come back with a question.

I'm very keen to start drawing digitally - I don't own a scanner and don't have the space for one, and in order to get my ideas and drawings 'out there' I think digital would be ideal for me.

I'm a cartoonist, really - and as such I'd like something that I can just set-up and go. I was considering paying out for a Cintiq as I've recently come into some money, but I don't know if that's a good idea considering I also need to buy a laptop, and I'm pretty sure I'd be fine with just a regular USB tablet.

So, to my question, where do I start? I was thinking of ebaying the Intuos tablets, and buying a new laptop and some software. But what new laptop should I get? I was looking at Manga Studio for the software, I basically want a program in which I can lay out panels on a page and draw like I would on paper.

Budget aside, what would you recommend? I'm not too worried about the price right now, just what is out there.

Thanks all!

paul brian deberry
02-22-2015, 12:53 PM
Your all in one chose is a Surface Pro*

*Edit: I don't have one but I've been told from a co-workers that draws on it at work it's great.

L Jamal
02-22-2015, 01:45 PM
I have a Windows Vista desktop with the smallest Bamboo Fun ($99) I've used it for about 5 years. I just purchased a Windows 7 desktop with the smallest Intuos ($75) and have been used it for about a month.

I plan to get a Surface Pro in the next 2-3 months.

02-22-2015, 04:42 PM
I have a Surface Pro (first gen). Its a stellar machine.

I started out on a Stylistic ST5112 with WinXP, moved on to a ST6012 with Win8 and now I have the Surface Pro.

Downsides? Can't upgrade the RAM, can't upgrade the SSD. Thats a pain in the arse. You can pickup a Surface Pro on eBay for about 1/3 the price when it came out now, and its a Wacom tablet.

Gen 2 is supposed to have better battery life, slightly faster CPU but its too expensive at the moment for the spec you get as far as I'm concerned.

The 3rd gen is a nice idea. Bigger, faster, lighter, thinner. Thats great, but its using NTrig instead of Wacom, so I'm not interested.

Photoshop is difficult to use on the Surface. The interface was designed for much lower resolution monitors and mouse. What you end up with is tiny buttons you can't hit, which is just frustrating.

Can't say I enjoyed working in Manga Studio. Cluttered workspace.

I use Sketchbook Pro, and have done since the ST5112, about 2011. I love it, for the most part. Stick a Hellfire Trading/Matt screen protector on a Surface for a bit more tooth and drag. Better than paper.

The brush engine isn't the most complex, but pencils and inks looks great to me, and colouring, if you have the chops is within reach. I've seen a lot of nice work from SBP users. Steady Stroke is a life saver and makes baloon tails and digital hand lettering very satisfying, but they messed with the paint fill tool a while back and now you get 'halos' like in Photoshop (instead of a clean fill). Probably has something to do with feathering at the brush edges.

I think I'm going to give GIMP another shot so too, just to see where its at.

Basically, the Surface Pro is light, portable, powerful and reliable. Sketchbook Pro is intuitive, slick and the interface gets out of your way so you can get on with drawing.

02-24-2015, 08:08 AM
I was debating whether to get a Surface Pro or a Cintiq Companion last fall. I ended up going with the Cintiq, because it was geared more specifically toward art - customizable buttons, matte screen, nicer pen.

I prefer Manga Studio 4 or 5 for comics. Just a personal preference really. It's tools are built around the processes comic artists are familiar with - layers can be put in "blue line" mode with one click, balloon creation is automated but also adjustable, perspective rulers, panel creation.

02-24-2015, 08:29 AM
Last fall I was able to finally update my setup and I got a 27" iMac and a Cintiq 13hd. Both are excellent. I say that, if you are wanting to go completely digital and can afford it, you should definitely invest in the Cintiq. I've used the Intuos and Graphire/Bamboo tablets from Wacom for 15+ years, and can hoenstly say that they don't even compare to the experience of drawing on a Cintiq.

Duane Korslund
02-24-2015, 08:48 AM
I used to be 100% "yay cintiq"...I've gone down to about 70% "yay cintiq" work bought me an Intuos Pro Medium and I use that daily with Photoshop Cs6 and some of my best comic work has come out of this combo.
I wouldnt turn it down if I were handed a cintiq, but if that's a little out of the price range...then the Intuos pro is amazing. :) IMHO

02-24-2015, 09:13 AM
No being combative, just laying it out:

Cintiq Companion - min. 1200
512Gb SSD - 8Gb RAM - 13" screen - 2048 pressure - Hotkeys - 2Kg

Surface Pro 1 - 350
128Gb SSD - 4Gb RAM - 10" screen - 1024 pressure - Keyboard Cover - 1.5Kg

Lenovo ThinkVision LT1423p Monitor - 300
USB3.0 Monitor - Wacom Digitizer + Touch - 256 pressure - LED/Thin - 13" screen - 0.8Kg

I'm just laying that out.
Having started on old tablet PC's that have 128 pressure levels using a Wacom pen, I can say that the jump to 1024 on the Surface wasn't really something I noticed too much.

The 8Gb RAM would be hugely appreciated when working on large pieces though. But from what I've read, the Companion is a bulky thing to have if you're moving around with your kit, whereas the Surface Pro fits in a 12l backpack and doesn't flare up my sciatica.

I think part of the reason the Cintiq stuff is a 'good' investment is because people selling the old kit don't want to sell it for too little, because they paid so much for it in the first place.

Remember though, all these tablets and many new laptops no longer have user replaceable or user upgradable parts. The spec you buy is the spec you're stuck with, and if it was me, I wouldn't want to sink so much money in something that is being replaced with a new model very soon.


02-24-2015, 10:43 AM
The Yiynova msp19u is a very budget-friendly alternative to the Cintiq displays. I use one as my main desktop display and it's much more natural to draw directly on the screen rather than drawing on a tablet while looking at a screen.

One of the issues with the Surface Pro 3 was the digitizer changed with that model and only has 256 levels of pressure.

02-25-2015, 01:57 AM
I have been using and enjoying immensely my Surface Pro 2 for over a year now. I switched from Photoshop to Manga Studio 5 about 2 months after buying the SP2 and it is such a perfect mesh for me. Then the fact that every time I add a new...well, anything, to the Microsoft account they desperately want more people using their cloud service, I now have all my art and comics, with room to spare, backed up and safe and it's pretty great.

Before that, I had an intuos4 with Photoshop, and it was never an issue, I just realized it wasn't what I needed. In fact, when I cancelled my account with the whole the whole creative cloud version of PS, (Which by the way, cancelling that is kind of a pain, they lead you in circles and I ended up having to get in touch with customer support. They said there was a cancel account button. It doesn't exist...what) I told the person that I never had any problems with photoshop, I just don't need that much power or potential, certainly not for the price. For my drawing, it was like a howitzer versus a housefly. Really awesome to see, but you lose the house.

02-25-2015, 03:57 AM
And I thought I was entering the digital realm when I did start doing coloring in Photoshop with a mouse.
Then I got the intuos 4, going to Cintiq 12 and now working on Cintiq 22.
Regardless, I still liking the mouse for some stuff.


03-01-2015, 12:54 AM
Update regarding the Surface Pro and GIMP.
I'm likely missing some optimisation somewhere, but I'm pretty sure its flatly unusable with the pen. The lag is a joke. Like, an very badly delivered joke.

Comix Obsession
03-01-2015, 07:43 AM
Thanks all for the replies, it has been very helpful!

I have decided to go with a Surface Pro 2. I had a look on ebay and they are around 400, some new, some second hand, but readily available if you have the patience.

The reason I've decided on this is 3-fold. Firstly, as someone who sits and watches TV whilst drawing, the Surface Pro 2 is the right design for holding in my lap. Secondly, I can draw on the screen and use any number of programmes without having to lug around another computer. Thirdly, it's a hell of a lot cheaper than a Cintiq, and does just about everything they do.

I'm not the kind of artist that needs everything that Photoshop can do. I'm more of a cartoonist in the vein of Larry Marder (of 'Beanworld' fame) or Lewis Trondheim (of 'Donjon'). I really just want a system that I can draw on and upload my images online, and just have fun with. The Surface Pro 2 meets all of those criteria, so that's what I'm going for.

I have just a couple more questions regarding the Surface Pro 2. Most of those for sale are the 128GB/4GB versions. I'm assuming this is a good option for my drawing needs?
Also, how do I go about installing software? Can I use my main desktop for this?

03-01-2015, 04:52 PM
If all you're going to go for is the 4Gb/128Gb version, save some cash and get the Surface Pro 1. The only real plus in the second gen is a lower power CPU, which will then up the battery life. If you're drawing at home, just plug it in.

Software gets installed two ways; download the installer, or run it from a disk (you'll need an external drive) or via the Windows store. There are two kinds of software, Metro apps (or whatever they've decided to call them) and regular desktop apps. The Metro stuff is designed to just run full screen like a phone app, desktop apps work the same way they always have.

Its not a big change from how its always been,and Win8 will switch between the environments pretty seamlessly. I don't think they cross pollinate though, so Metro apps do talk to desktop apps or the other way round.

03-02-2015, 03:53 PM
If you have a desktop you should be able to share its drives over the network if you have things to install via disc instead of buying a separate external drive. That's what I've done with the Cintiq. But almost everything I installed was also downloadable.