I had to. How could I not?

At the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, Wacom had a booth. Now, I’d scoffed after using one of their Cintiq 21UX’s while attending school. It was too big (and had to be re-calibrated every time I wanted to use it since it was a shared device). I didn’t like the idea of being tied to a desk. I’m a sketchbook doodler, and I generally work not much larger than 11 x 17″. I want to be drawing in my lap, possibly even while sitting on the floor. I’m a little notorious for getting into strange seating positions (one of which prompted my friends to force me to watch Death Note just because of the character “L”). Anyway, while I was at the Expo, I asked one of the nice booth attendants if I could hold the Cintiq 12WX (since they only had the 21UX’s and Intuos/Bamboo models out for people to use).

She let me hold it, and I kind of fell in love. :] Now I’ve been a bit of a Wacom kid for about the last ten years or so, starting off with one of the original Graphire models (which I swear the Tupperware lady took the stylus to). I’ve been using an 6×8″ Intuos 3 for the past few years, and the Cintiq 12WX felt like a fantastic step up. I hardly noticed the size difference, and the weight of the device felt just like one of my hardcover sketchbooks.

Anyway, long story short: I used a few gift cards I’d received, paid the difference, and bought a Cintiq.

First let’s start off with the negatives:

  • I wish all Wacom products came with a neoprene cover or sleeve of some sort. Specially the smaller models which are often carried around (you know, the entire product line except for the UX). Where is my snazzy Wacom branded sleeve? :(
  • It gets a little warm down around where my hands generally end up. My Intuos 3 would also get a little warm like this in places, so it’s to be expected.
  • I’d read about people getting “jittery” places (specifically the corners) on their tablet display. I haven’t encountered that problem at all. I’m going to assume that it probably has/had something to either do with the drivers, or general interference. The Intuos 3 would go absolutely batty if I ever placed it on top of my laptop keyboard and tried to use it. So far so good though.
  • The “break out” box. It’s annoying. Specially if you want the Cintiq to be portable. It’s more portable than the UX, but only to a certain extent. Once we make a few leaps and bounds in regards to wireless technology though… Is it the future yet?
  • It’s expensive, and a bit overpriced (if you break it down to individual components). However, I’ve had great success with Wacom products. My original Graphire is still alive. It required a little maintenance to fix the wiring which had come loose, but otherwise it’s still kicking. If the Cintiq can hold up to similar wear and tear, then good on it. Only time will tell here, but I’d like to think that it’s a quality product.
  • Does anyone honestly use the stylus holder?
  • Shouldn’t there be a little bit more stylus calibration going on? My Nintendo DS has more calibration features.

Now for the positives:

  • Whoa! I’m drawing on the monitor! I’ve worked on tablet PCs before, but this was a slice of awesome. Just for the “cool factor” alone and the pressure sensitivity of a real tablet, I think it’s worth it. (It’s sort of reminds me of scribbling on a wall… it feels wrong, but so right.)
  • If you’ve used the Intuos series, the “transition or learning period” is pretty much non-existent. At least it was for me. You don’t have to re-learn how to draw (you already know how! Right?). The buttons can be mapped to whatever you desire, and then you just pick it up and go. No more blind contour drawing! You work directly on the monitor and make things appear. This alone was worth worlds to me. I can actually zoom out on my drawing and still retain precision. I’d had extreme difficulty doing this with my other tablets.
  • Lack of friction. Blah blah… it seems to me like the people who always complain about the lack of friction are those who have never used tablets before. Yes, there’s not much friction. I like it though. It feels exactly like any of Wacom’s other tablets.
  • I actually kind of like the stylus that it comes with. Somehow this time around the grip doesn’t “feel” as awkward to me. I have fairly small hands and some of the previous (freaking fat and chunky phallic) styluses just didn’t feel right. Yes. That is what she said.
  • No eraser bits! Hmm… yet I still go through the motion of physically wiping them away whenever I erase something.
  • I can turn it around in my lap to get at angles that I would usually have to rotate my canvas to get at. This is going to make digital inking a breeze.
  • The colours! I haven’t even gotten around to calibrating the colours on the display, but they look pretty close while using Adobe Photoshop just out of the box. We’ll see shortly how it compares to my 100% colour calibrated laptop.

The final verdict:

If you’re a digital painter or artist, I’d say get it. I don’t know why I waited so long (Oh wait, I do. I was a poor student). If you’ve never owned a tablet before or are just taking your first baby steps into the realm of digital art… then forget it. (Unless you happen to have some money to burn.) It does take a little bit to get used to the friction-less surface of any tablet, and often people find it so awkward to work with that they don’t take the time to condition their drawing habits.

I really, really like the Cintiq though. I think I’ll have to name it.

* Wallpaper on the Cintiq is "Conquer the World" by Dawn42