Based on comics master Scott McCloud’s recommendation (below), I bought a Cintiq. It does something I’ve always wanted to do since I first saw a computer. This thing is a pen-based tablet that doubles as a monitor. In other words you draw directly on the tablet, just like a paper-based drawing, but digitally. In fact the surface of the Cintq monitor/tablet feels like paper under a pen. Synchrony of image with your movements is almost exact, and the micro difference doesn’t seem to matter. The result is weirdly like ink, or paint, but with all the control and magic of Photoshop. Of course, as a monitor, it will display whatever’s on your computer, whether it’s animation software or a spreadsheet. (You could hook it up to a $500 Mac Mini and have a fabulous digital art studio.) It’s slowly being adopted by film animators and other high-end graphic professionals. A Cintq is expensive ($2,500), big, thick and bulky (it is too fat to sit on your lap like other tablets, but it can lay flat on a desk), but if you are producing digital images for a living, it speeds up your productivity and eases your hurt. It’s fun to use.
Drawing directly on the screen with the Cintiq Tablet made a huge difference in my artwork, and sped up my workflow by at least 30%, maybe more. It also saved me a lot of hand-strain. Apart from the Mac, it’s one of my all-time favorite digital tools.
In 2003-2004, I lost about a year of work to hand strain, using a regular tablet, mouse and keyboard. I’d work for a couple of hours each day on my comics and get these shooting pains up my arm and have trouble holding the pen steady. I got a good deal on a Cintiq (a slightly smaller model than today’s 21″ monster, but equally suited to graphics) at the end of ’04 a couple of months before I had to begin finished pages on the new book. After finishing all 225 pages by early 2006 using a Cintq, I’d had no hand strain at all; even working 11 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Most importantly, I actually *liked* the way the art looked. I was never that comfortable with pen and ink tools, and liked all the digital options I started getting in the mid-90′s, but my work on the old tablet was always wobbly and lame. Now there’s much more control, confidence and warmth to the drawings.
I was an idiot not to buy a Cintiq in ’99 when I first saw them on display at a New York show. I figured I couldn’t afford it, but I wound up losing a lot more time and money by NOT having one.
– Scott McCloud