donderdag 8 augustus 2013

All you need to know on tablets!

Hello all!

I have read and had countless discussions on digital painting tablets, and I finally decided to write a thought out blog post about it. I have had the fortune to try a wide variety of different Wacom tablets and the following are my personal experiences and opinion on them.

I'll be discussing Wacom only, since it is a bit of a monopoly. I have not yet tried any other brands because of this very reason, so I won't speak on them either.

What you should look out for

First off, the pen is more important than the tablet surface. This is simply because the surface will not have a lot of different variables. Surface size and levels of pressure sensitivity are the only ones (and wether or not it's a monitor or not). The buttons on the side of the tablets are gimmicky. I can honestly say it is a very rare sight to see a professional use them - most of us have our offhand resting on the keyboard, which has more keys however you put it. (the exception would be sometimes when you work with a Cintiq, the buttons can be usefull then) For this reason I basically disregard the buttons entirely, as I heavily recommend using a keyboard instead. (small wireless one on your lap works wonders)

For a pen, you're looking at more important variables such as weight and balance, and rate of tip decay. The weight and balance will directly influence your wrist and can cause serious issues if you're a freelancer like me, and you paint a bunch of hours every day. The size of the tablet surface can affect your wrist too, but not so much.

Size matters

It matters, except, well, bigger isn't better. I've tried huge tablets and tiny ones. Both have obvious issues. Big ones have you swinging your elbow all over the place, small ones tire your wrist. Both are unreasonable for long, repeated work days. I'm assuming you want to freelance full time (or even half time) and will have a stationary setup.
For this, a medium (around A4 surface) works best. The intuos A4, or intuos 4/5 medium. Perfect balance.

Lets have a look at the different types and systematically list the pro's and cons:

Intuos 3

+Pen is weighted and sized superiorly vs the intuos 4 and 5
+Pen tips last a LONG time (for some reason)
+Older generation, therefore cheaper.

-Older generation, therefore harder to find.
- A4 is just a tad too large to put in your average backpack, which makes it movement unfriendly
- USB wire is attached to the tablet permanently. It will eventually break open at the attachment of your tablet if you aren't careful, which might need replacing by someone tech savy.


Intuos 4

+ The wire can be unplugged on the tablet end.
+ Looks kinda nice. Black. But who cares, honestly?
+ Medium size is slightly smaller than the intuos3 A4, so it's more portable-friendly.

- Pen is weighted and sized horribly. They are short and light, feels awful in my opinion. For this reason I do not recommend a intuos4 at all.
- Pen tips decay insanely fast for some reason. I have to assume foul play from Wacom here, they must have thought made the previous tips too good or something.
- Might have been a driver issue, but when I tried it the sensitivity of the surface was unbearable. The lightest tap gave me a pretty thick stroke, even at firmer settings - it was harder to get a light stroke than a intuos3.


Intuos 5

+ Wireless! Very useful when you like to sit back in the couch with a large screen or similar.
+ Medium size is slightly smaller than the intuos3 A4, so it's more portable-friendly.
+ Pens are a step towards intuos3. They even look like intuos3 + intuos4, which proves my point about the intuos4 pens. They took a step to the past and the right direction; although I still argue intuos3 is a better pen.
+You can use it as a touchpad, so you can zoom, rotate with gestures with your fingers on your pen-hand. Not life saving, but pretty cool little feature if you decide to start working that way.

-Recent generation, so more expensive.
-Can't replace the surfaces, which unfortunately makes it pretty bad for long term use.



+ Cintiqs are good for a specific type of work. It is definitely FAR superior to do linework. Long, detailing and rendering is also great on a cintiq.

-Bad for your eyes. Don't underestimate this. When you are spending hours and hours in front of a screen, these are things you have to consider. When I switched to a cintiq for a couple of days, putting in the same amount of hours as usual, I had to stop because my eyes were hurting.
- Similarly, your back can take a punishment when working with a cintiq for a long time, as you are hunched over the tilted screen most likely. Not good form.
- A lot more expensive for a relatively unimportant feature.
- There is a lag between input and response on tablets, and on screen-tablets like the cintiq this becomes noticable.
- Your hand is in the way, which, believe it or not, is a huge problem when you are used to a regular tablet. That said, offsetting the cursor of the pen by 10x10 pixels or so, so you are painting higher and more to the left than your pen tip position, tends to fix this issue and the mental change is quickly done.


Bamboo tablets

They are inferior but a LOT cheaper. Not much to say about it other than that.

Final Verdict!


My personal setup is the intuos3 A4. I love this tablet (and primarily its pen) so much I have purchased a backup tablet (the exact same one) before they become too hard to find. They are a little bulkier as mentioned before, but this is perfect for my permanent desktop setup anyway. They are robust enough you can put a hot plate on it and eat, if you sometimes eat at your desk, for example. It can take quite a punch. The tablet surfaces are replaceable too, if you manage to find a seller.

I would recommend staying away from Intuos4.

If you are willing to invest a little bit more, get the intuos5 medium. It seems like the benefits of the intuos4 and 3 put together. If my intuos3's break, I will upgrade straight to 5 (or other generations if they are out by then). Together with a wireless keyboard it seems like a powerful setup.

If you find yourself doing a lot of line-art, then you should definitely get a smaller cintiq. The larger ones have obvious issues - they nuke your eyes; and they are simply bulky and expensive. If you get a large cintiq, get a mechanical arm to go with it. It costs a whole chunk extra, but at that price, you are investing anyway. I still recommend a smaller cintiq for lineart and a regular tablet for any other work.

If you are new to painting, and want to try it out, get a bamboo. There is no reason you need anything else. Once you decide to take it more seriously and paint a lot, you'll come to a point where you know you need an upgrade, and then you upgrade - simple as that! Do not waste money on hardware before you need it; as it will not change your skills. ( same with brushes ;) )

The ultimate setup in my eyes is a smaller cintiq to your side for certain types of client work, and either the Intuos3 A4 or the Intuos5 Medium for your day-to-day work. 3 if it's a permanent setup; 5 if you like to travel or sit back in the couch with a projector or such.

In the end, always try it before you buy it. My review is subjective, and your experiences may vary. Test as many tablets as you can possibly get your hands on.

dinsdag 30 juli 2013

Standard reply to "royalty-offering jobs"

Hey everyone! It's my birthday, yay.

Anyway more importantly:

Today I took the time to actually write out an e-mail to an royalty-based offer I got. This particular person seemed very professional and literate, so I felt like writing out my thoughts and the simple truth.

If you're a freelancer, I encourage you guys to write out and inform clients of why it's not going to happen - even if the deal is not on. Most of us will probably just ignore royalty based offers 100%, but if anything, write a standard reply like the one below and then send that off at least. Informing people helps.It does sound like a bit of a rant, because it actually is kind of one. But an informative rant at least, I hope.

Here it is:  

 [Hello X]

    I don't take royalty based offers. It simply does not bring food on the table. This work would be work, and take time, even if it's in my "free time" (which I don't really have, and I wouldn't spend it working more, on another project, especially with an NDA) If I wanted to make portfolio work I could just pick something myself and make it actually an intelligent decision that steers the kind of work I get, which would be much more lucrative for me.

    Fact of the matter is simply that royalty based offers almost never turn around any revenue at all; and if they do, it's probably not even close to the amount of work put in. I get offers like this very often, so I just have a simply policy for them, I hope you understand.

    I really hope you can some day muster a budget (and advise you to) and then of course, I'd love to help out! I'm saying this obviously for myself but also as a tip for you - I've been in and seen numerous project crumble and fall, and the simple fact is that the people who claim to be freelancers and then take on royalty/non-pay jobs like this are probably not the people you want on your team anyway.

    Anyway - My prices are really quite fair compared to what I should be asking, even if I say so myself, I encourage you to consider it! If not for preproduction, then definitely invest some money towards marketing illustration -- it's worth it when the time comes.

zondag 24 februari 2013

Animating some dwarves

Today, I wanted to mess around with animating a painting!

This is a mere 5 or so frames, doing a small loop of static animation (breathing, wind, etc) it took quite a long time for what it is but its really cool to see a creation of mine come to life! :) Nothing too serious, just having fun.

Click for a larger view!

donderdag 6 september 2012

Expanding into freelance private tutoring

I've decided to branch off a little and try my hand at private tutoring!

Here's the gist of it: I aim to personally teach you any of the following skillsets

DP - Digital painting (Photoshop)
DS - Digital Sculpting (Zbrush)

I have my art tutorial series called "Art Stuff"
This series will hold all theory and information for free - always.

The private tutoring or mentorship is a feedback type thing. You will be "hiring" me to give personalised feedback and paintovers, honing to your personal weaknesses and strenghts. You can hire me for one paintovers, or we can do a longer term relationship with weekly assignments and feedback, which is probably a smarter idea.
All categories are highly customizable, so if you only want to learn the basics of anatomy, then that is fine. Prior to beginning lessons we'd communicate in as much detail as needed on what the subject matter should be. Examples of more specific areas:

DP - Concept art, illustration - composition, anatomy, colour theory, line art, b&w painting,    speedpainting, rendering, freelancing/marketing tips.

DS - Anatomy, rendering, detail-sculpting, game-related sculpting, speedsculpting, basemeshes,    decimation etc...

    Of course there can also be software package lessons, and each category can have a beginner or advanced approach. I can also approach the often overlooked psychological/mindset aspect and share insights into the industry, importance of contacts, discuss goals and strategies etc etc. These might be simply exchanging long mails with one another. Again you are simply hiring my time, and I would be sharing any info you want to know in your personal situation. There is no one course, so it's more of a ask-what-you-want-to-know sort of thing within the bounds of my personal skillset!

    Lessons are telecommute, video feedback and using e-mail, for pratical reasons.

    This may be specifically interesting for students at DAE (my old school) Who are struggling with a certain class, or aren't, but want to advance more rapidly than the school's rate. I've graduated at DAE so it is definitely beneficial to have a tutor who knows the people, assignments, and skills needed!

    All tutoring can of course be in both English and Dutch.

    You may think that I'm lacking that decade of experience, to start teaching - but I've come to realize that it is often more beneficial to have a tutor 2-3 years ahead, than a personal Donato Giancola. It's good to have someone who is in exactly the same boat, only a little bit further down the ocean, towing you closer.

    Applicants can mail me at Any questions whatsoever are welcome, no obligations of course. Note that not everyone will be accepted! If you are interested, please state what you'd like to learn in broad terms (at first), in what sort of timeframe, and perhaps some of your work so far, if you have any (if not, that is totally fine too) I'm hoping to see some dedicated people who want to learn!

    zaterdag 28 juli 2012

    The power of crits!

    Here's my latest finished piece (for once!) This is a freework piece, for my portfolio, since I'm starting to look for some freelance work.

    I think it's a great showcase of the power of crits, hence the blogpost

    Here's what I ended up with at first -

    I had a large crit/paintover on the Awesome Horse livestream, by a few professional artists, and a number of great crits on fora/in person etc. Instead of taking them in and keeping them in mind for the next piece, I took all the time I needed to apply (almost) all of them!

    Here is the reworked/updated piece after critique.

    I might make a video about this piece as I've done before, talking about how I tackled it and checking it out layer by layer!


    maandag 12 december 2011

    Overview & rundown videos of 2 paintings

    Decided to get back into producing a few videos here and there.

    Here's 2 after-the-fact rundowns (layer by layer) and talking a little about how I approached them and such. Feel free to comment with ideas for future videos - what would you like to see? More rundowns, realtime painting, fast forwarded with narration? etc. Comment, like, share, sub, favorite and all that jazz!

    zondag 11 december 2011

    Bunch of new environment paintings

    Here's an update/collection of paintings so far I've been doing for an animated short project.
    These paintings are supposed to be animated by layer at the end - and a voiceover narrative should pull the thing together. A lot of them are pretty loose - but I can't linger: the postproduction and even animation will probably suck up a lot of time. If I have any time left after that -- although unlikely -- I can easily go back and tighten up the paintings.