Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 Review

The MobileStudio Pro

This Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 review is not sponsored. The MobileStudio Pro was sent to me by one of my generous viewers!

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 (1st Gen.)

Overview of the Features

First, we’ll take a look at an overview of the features. The MobileStudio Pro is a display tablet. That means that it has a built-in screen that you can draw onto. It also has a built-in Windows computer.

You can draw on the tablet with a battery-free, pressure sensitive Wacom Pro Pen 2 with over 8000 pressure levels, virtually no lag and no parallax. MobileStudio Pro can sense a range of pen tilt angles and it can even sense rotation, although the Wacom Art Pen is required for rotation. That’s sold separately. The MobileStudio Pro 16 has a 4K resolution screen and it supports multi touch. The screen supports 94% of the Adobe RGB color gamut for very accurate color. There are USB-C Ports on the side.

The MobileStudio Pro can be connected to a desktop or laptop with optional Wacom Link. That makes it PC and Mac compatible. So that means that the MobileStudio Pro can run anything that Windows can run. And if you use the optional Wacom Link, you can run Mac software as well. There are eight Express Keys, one Touch Ring. There’s an option for a stand. The MobileStudio Pro also has Bluetooth 4.1 and wireless. There’s front and rear cameras, internal speakers, and a microphone.

You can’t beat the drawing experience on a high-end Wacom tablet.

Overview of the Specs

Next I’ll give a quick overview of the specs. The MobileStudio Pro comes in two sizes, 13 and 16 inches and there are also several versions. The 13 comes in Entry, Standard, or Enhanced version, ranging from an i5 processor with 8 gigabytes of RAM and 128 gigabytes of storage up to an i7 processor with 16 gigaby tes of RAM and 512 gigabytes of storage.

The 16-inch model comes in Standard and Enhanced, ranging from an i5 processor with eight gigabytes of RAM and 256 gigabytes of storage, up to an i7 processor with 16 gigabytes of RAM and 512 gigabytes of storage. Besides the screen size, the main differences between versions are: The 13-inch models have a screen resolution of only WQHD or 2560 by 1440, compared to the 16-inch models, which are UHD, sometimes known as 4K, which is 3840 by 2160. The 13-inch models also have a weaker Intel Iris 550 graphics card, compared to the 16-inch model, which has either an NVIDIA Quadro M600M or Quadro M1000M graphics card, depending on the version you choose.

The Enhanced versions of the 13 and 16 include an Intel Real Sense camera, which can scan objects and can convert them into 3D models Although I’ll be focusing on the MobileStudio Pro Enhanced version in this review, I’ll try to make this a useful review for owners of the other versions as well. So please make note of the differences, since I’ll be taking mostly about the MobileStudio Pro 16.

The MobileStudio Pro 16 has a sixth-generation Intel Core Processor, the RAM it uses is DDR3, the hard drive technology is SSD or Solid State Drive. There’s an option for expandable storage using an SDXC card or an external hard drive. There’s a fingerprint sensor on the Enhanced versions, as well as a RealSense Camera on the Enhanced versions. MobileStudio Pro 16 also features NVIDIA Quadro Graphics.

So that’s kind of a quick overview, but now let’s dive a little bit deeper into the specs and features.

The Screen

Let’s start by talking a little bit about the screen. In terms of screen quality, the MobileStudio Pro 16 has an active drawing area that 15.6 inches diagonally. The overall size of the tablet itself is 16.5 by 10.3 by .75 inches.

It’s comparable in size to a sketchbook.

The screen resolution is UHD, also sometimes known as 4K. They’re basically the same thing with only a minor size difference. 94% of the Adobe RGB color gamut is supported.

UHD compared to 4K.

The tablet can sense screen rotation, so it can flip from landscape to portrait mode. This can be locked with a switch on the side.

You can lock the screen rotation with a switch.

Some apps like Rebelle can even use the accelerometer to control the direction of the paint dripping on your canvas.

Rebelle can utilize the accelerometer to control the direction of dripping paint.

The display technology is LED, and one downside to that is that there can be some color distortion from pressing too hard on the screen. In order to fix this, you’ll probably want to calibrate your pen in the Wacom Tablet Properties and set a custom pressure curve so you don’t have to press so hard to get maximum pressure. The backlight is mostly sealed except for a tiny bit up in corners. It’s not really that noticeable unless the screen is completely black. And unless you look really closely, you probably won’t even notice it. I haven’t had any issues with dead pixels. The viewing angle is great, you can look at it from all kinds of different angles and the picture still looks good.

The screen is made of etched glass, which reduces glare and gives you the right amount of tooth or friction to make the drawing experience feel more natural. It’s not so much tooth that it’s going to wear down your nibs quickly, but it’s just enough to make the pen not feel slippery and it’s not too sticky on your palm. The surface is meant to be drawn on, so it does not need a screen protector.

As far as the brightness of the screen, it’s drastically better than the previous generation Cintiq Companion 2. It’s very easy to see both indoors and outdoors. In regards to screen glare, indoors there’s far less glare than even the Cintiq 27. I can see my reflection in the Cintiq, but not in the MobileStudio Pro 16. Even with the matte screen, the colors are not dulled and the details are not clouded. The image is sharp, colors are vivid, and saturated colors really pop.

Comparison of screen brightness between Cintiq Companion 2 and the MobileStudio Pro 16.

Blacks are also fairly rich at any brightness level and whites are bright as long as the brightness is turned up to 100%. MobileStudio Pro performs great outdoors. The image on the screen was noticeably easier to see compared to the Cintiq Companion and Cintiq Companion 2.

Painting outdoors in the summer.

The Pen

Now let’s talk a little bit about the quality of the pen. The MobileStudio Pro comes with the Wacom Pro Pen 2. It has 8192 pressure levels and it can detect 60 degrees of pen tilt It has an eraser end, which also has 8000 pressure levels and it can be used to erase or you can toggle to a secondary brush like a blender if your app supports it. There’s two buttons on the barrel of the pen, which can perform commands and shortcuts like resizing your brush.

The pen is much larger than a pencil, it’s closer to a paintbrush or a marker in thickness. It’s not too heavy, not too light. It’s weighted very nicely and feels very balanced. There’s a latex-free silicone rubber grip, which is comfortable to hold, and overall, the pen quality is excellent. I’ve never had a Wacom pen fall apart and it’s comfortable to use for hours on end for daily drawing.

Wacom Pro Pen 2 – Wacom’s most advanced pen.

The pressure levels are smooth as butter for brush size and opacity. It does feel more difficult to get a range of thick to thin lines compared to previous generation pens with lower pressure levels, but fortunately, the 8000 pressure levels gives you a lot of headroom to set a custom pressure curve. I highly recommend doing this. Now, one of the selling points of the MobileStudio Pro is it has virtually no pen lag. You will see that there still is a little bit of pen lag, but it’s barely there and it’s much better compared to a lot of the other display tablets out there.

This lag can also be accentuated by the digital art application that you’re using, especially if you have smoothing or stabilization applied to your brush or if you’re using very large brushes or very large canvas sizes. This might slow down your computer overall, which will create some additional lag.

Parallax

Now let’s talk about parallax. The MobileStudio Pro is supposed to have no parallax, and that’s true, there’s not any added parallax other than what you would see naturally. But the cursor does stay aligned with the tip of the pen, even at the edges of the screen with your view centered.

Now of course, you’ll want to make sure that your pen is properly calibrated to your screen, otherwise you will get some unnecessary parallax. What is parallax? Well, it’s just part of nature. If you’re looking forward with a fixed point of view and your pen is right in front of you, your cursor is going to appear to be right underneath the tip of your pen, but if you keep your head still and you start to move your pen far to the left or far to the right, you’ll start to see that that cursor starts to stray away from your pen tip. If your tablet has additional parallax, then the cursor’s going to stray away from the pen tip even more than it normally should.

Performance

Now let’s talk a little bit about performance. As far as the overall performance, some tweaks are needed to get the MobileStudio Pro running optimally. It can feel sluggish right out of the box. This is not necessarily a flaw of the MobileStudio Pro, because many computers come pre-configured to prefer power saving over performance. Some things you’ll want to do that’ll really help is go into your power settings and enable high performance mode, make sure you install all the latest Windows updates, including the Fall Creators Update.

Make sure your Wacom tablet driver is up to date, Make sure the NVIDIA Quadro driver is up to date. You’ll also want to keep an eye on your task manager and make sure there aren’t any apps that are using the CPU and RAM and if they are, just make sure that they’re disabled or closed, Because one of the things I found is that Windows Update likes to run in the background and it uses up a lot of your CPU and slows down your other apps. The main culprit here is the Windows Module Installer Worker and it hangs out in the background and hogs your CPU, and that causes your other applications to lag a little bit.

Another thing you can do that’ll have a huge impact is going into your NVIDIA control panel and set your GPU to use the Quadro instead of the integrated Iris graphics for any apps that can utilize GPU. For all other apps that don’t use the GPU or for apps that you’ll be multitasking with, set that the the Intel Iris graphics. If you’re going to be recording while you’re creating art or live streaming, then you’re definitely going to want to set the encoder in your broadcasting software to NVENC, which is the NVIDIA encoder and that’ll make sure that you’re encoding with your GPU rather than your CPU, otherwise, if you try to stream and make art using your CPU, then it’s just really going to slow down. If you’re interested in learning more about optimizing your MobileStudio Pro, check out my optimization video for detailed instructions.

As far as crashing and overheating and stuff like that, I’ve only had one random restart and I’m not really sure what caused it, because I’ve done a lot of testing and I’ve ran a whole bunch of applications and really, really overloaded the CPU and have not had any crashes. I did read in the forums that there was an early batch of MobileStudio Pros that had a flaw that’s covered under warranty, so if you’re experiencing frequent crashing, just exchange it for a different one.

Some optimization is required to get the maximum performance out of the MobileStudio Pro 16.

Components:

CPU (Processor)

Now we’ll go a little more in-depth into some of the components. The MobileStudio Pro 16 Enhanced CPU is an Intel i7-6567U processor at 3.3 gigahertz and it’s a two-core processor, not quite as powerful as it should be. I’d personally like at least a quad core, but it does the trick.

RAM (Memory)

As far as memory, the MobileStudio Pro 16 Enhanced has 16 gigabytes of DDR-3 RAM. I consider 16 gigabytes to be the minimum amount of RAM that you’d want nowadays, 32 would be a lot more useful, considering that this is touted as being great for 3-D art and video editing. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s underpowered, but it does feel noticeably weaker than my i7 desktop with six cores and 32 gigabytes of RAM.

GPU (Video Card)

Personally, I think the Quadro GPU is given too much credit in regards to the MobileStudio’s performance. It’s the CPU and the RAM that make the most difference in overall computer performance, not the GPU. The GPU is important as well, but it can only be used in certain circumstances and really all it does is just take some of the burden off of the CPU. If you’re doing video editing, heavy-duty Photoshopping, or making work in 3-D, the Quadro M1000M GPU is awesome. However, if your art app doesn’t support GPU, then the Quadro really won’t have much to do and your bottleneck will be the CPU, RAM, and SSD speeds.

SSD (Storage)

Moving on to storage, the MobileStudio Pro has an internal SSD drive. Depending on the version you choose, you’ll have between 256 or 512 gigabytes of storage. Either option will be more than enough to install applications and store artwork. You’ll probably want to dump your artwork to an external storage drive so the SSD does not fill up. Only one drive means that you can’t take advantage of scratch drives to improve performance, however, you can use a USB-C external hard drive as a scratch drive, but performance won’t be as good as it would be with an internal drive. Plus, these add extra bulk to your tablet.

In regards to the GPU or the video card, the 16-inch model has either an NVIDIA Quadro M600M with two gigabytes of GDDR5, or if you have the Enhanced version, it’ll be an NVIDIA Quadro M1000M with four gigabytes of GDDR5. The 16-inch Enhanced model comes with both the NVIDIA Quadro M1000M and the Integrated Intel Iris 550, and both GPUs can be used in tandem and you can set which apps use which chip. The Quadro GPU works great to boost performance for video editing, illustration, graphic design, effects, 3D work and other CPU or GPU intensive tasks. The GPU takes much of the burden off of the CPU in applications that support it.

Fan Noise

Now as far as fan noise, there’s a huge improvement over the Cintiq Companion 2, which was a little noisy and it had a high-pitched cut. You can hear air blowing out of the MobileStudio Pro during high CPU usage, but otherwise it’s hardly noticeable.

You can hear the fan through this hole. If you put your ear up to it, it sounds like the ocean.

Temperature

It’s worth mentioning that a i7 processor is not a weak processor. Powerful processors need heavy-duty cooling and a compact fan is the only option for a tablet. So some fan noise is to be expected. As far as temperature goes, the MobileStudio Pro is noticeably warm on back right half of tablet. Depending on how you’re holding it, that might be where you place your hand, and if your hand’s over the vent, you’re going to notice that it begins to feel very warm at high CPU usage, almost up until the point where it feels like it might burn you. If it’s sitting on your lap, then it starts to feel warm on your leg.

There’s also a hole on the side of the tablet near the vents, which is used to connect the pen holder and hot air shoots out of this. And if your hand comes close to this hole, it amplifies the fan noise. So you’ll probably want to have this thing on a desk or on a stand of some sort.

Multi Touch

In regards to multi touch, you can use your fingers to touch navigate, rather than use a mouse. You can zoom in and out of your canvas, you can pan and rotate your canvas, and some art apps even let you use your finger to blend while you’re painting. You can easily switch between drawing and using multi touch, but you cannot use multi touch at the exact same time as you’re drawing. The multi touch works pretty well in most applications.

The MobileStudio Pro 16 is sensitive to your touch.

Drivers

Now I want to discuss drivers. The drivers that came pre-installed with the MobileStudio Pro did not work very well. As of May 2018, new drivers have addressed some of the bugs and my MobileStudio Pro is working well with the latest Windows 10 updates.

Build Quality

Now let’s talk about the build quality of the tablet. There’s a mixture of materials being used, there’s some hard plastic and some metal and there’s rubber in some places, like on the back of the tablet. This makes it so the tablet doesn’t slide around on your desk, and it also helps you grip the tablet. The edges are nice and rounded and it just feels really nice to hold in your hands. It feels very solid and very durable. You can definitely tell that a lot of work went into the design. One thing I noticed about the tablet surface and the screen, is at times, it does appear to look like it’s covered in scratches, but this is just residue from when you’re drawing on it and this can be easily wiped away with included cloth.

It’s a little bit on the heavy side at 4.85 pounds. The larger size and weight makes it more difficult to hold while you’re standing and drawing, but it still works. But it’s definitely more comfortable to use an easel if you’re standing. Unfortunately, there aren’t any mounting holes on the back to mount this to an Ergotron arm, but since this is meant to be a portable tablet, you probably wouldn’t want to fix it to an Ergotron arm anyway, and if that’s how you were going to be using it, then you might as well get a Cintiq Pro.

Express Keys & Touch Ring

Now let’s move on to the external components. The MobileStudio Pro has some express keys. There’s eight buttons and a vertical orientation that can be used to invoke global and application-specific commands, there are four on the top and four on the bottom and then in the middle, there’s a touch ring that has four buttons, which can perform two commands each. For example, you can undo or redo. You can zoom in and zoom out and you can resize your brush. So that makes a total of 16 shortcuts that are possible.

Plenty of Express Keys.

One key difference between the MobileStudio Pro and the previous Cintiq Companion 2 is that there is a touch ring instead of rocker ring. So the rocker ring was just four different buttons whereas the touch ring is touch sensitive and it gives you a little bit more control over zooming in and zooming out. Now for undo and redo you may want to go ahead and set the sensitivity a bit lower. In the center of the touch ring there’s a Home button which you can use to open the Windows start menu. This is not reprogrammable to do anything else other than open up the Windows menu. There is an optional express key remote you can buy if you want additional express keys. And the tablet can be flipped so the express keys are on the right or the left side making this an ambidextrous tablet.

The Touch Ring works great once you lower the sensitivity.

USB-C Ports

Moving on to the USB-C ports. There are three USB-C ports that are all on one side of the tablet. USB-C is better and more versatile than previous generations of USB, but there are some downsides. Such as USB-C is not compatible with older USB devices unless you have an adapter. So you might need to buy new USB-C compatible devices such as flash drives. The center USB-C port also functions as a charging port. With the charging cable plugged in, there’s enough room to plug in two additional USB-C devices. However, if I unplug the cable, I’m not able to fit two USB-C devices side by side.

3 USB-C Ports
It gets a little crowded when you plug in USB-A adapters.

Cameras

There are also two cameras on the MobileStudio Pro. There’s an eight megapixel camera on the front and a five megapixel camera on the back. However, your phone probably takes better pictures than these cameras do. They’re Not very good quality, but they’re better than nothing. I recommend getting a third party webcam if you’re going to be livestreaming.

These cameras aren’t going to be impressing anyone.

SD Card Reader

There’s also an SD card port on the side which can be used to expand your storage. An SD card is not as fast as an SSD, but it’s a good way to expand the storage without adding bulk to your device. If you’re planning on using this for photography or video work, it’s nice to have that SD card port because then you can preview your photography and videos on the MobileStudio Pro.

Unlike the previous generation Cintiq Companion Two, there’s no longer a micro SD slot, so if you’re using micro SD cards you’ll have to plug them in to an SD card adapter which is usually included with the memory card. And personally I’m fine with this because on my original Cintiq Companion I actually got the micro SD card stuck inside of the tablet and couldn’t get it out and I had to send it in to get it repaired.

The built-in SD card reader is really convenient for photography and video work.

Microphone & Headphone Jack

There’s an internal microphone on the side of the MobileStudio Pro as well. The hole is on left side opposite the webcam, over by the express keys. Fortunately, it’s not near the fan vents so you’re not going to have to worry so much about picking up fan noise. However, the side of the tablet is not that great of a placement. This is really not the world’s best microphone, so probably want to get an external USB microphone if you need to do any serious voice recording. There is a headphone jack which you can plug headphones into but this headphone jack does not support an external microphone or a lavalier microphone. You’ll need a separate USB audio adapter and a USB-A to USB-C adapter in order to be able to plug in a microphone.

Speakers

There are speakers on the MobileStudio Pro. But they’re not very good quality, they’re thin and tinny, they do not have any bass. And I really do not recommended these speakers for mixing audio. You’ll want to get some headphones or some external speakers instead. The maximum volume is pretty decent. It’s loud enough hear even at a distance. And there are volume buttons on the side to turn the volume up and down. There’s also a power switch on the sides. It slides rather than pushes in to prevent accidental powering on. You can use this to turn the computer on or you can toggle between sleep and awake.

They sound as good as they look.

Security Slot

There’s also a security slot which can be used along with an optional security tether to lock your tablet to a surface to prevent theft. The security slot also doubles as a connector for a pen holder, but we’ll come to that in just a little bit.

Power Adapter

The MobileStudio Pro comes with a power brick as I mentioned earlier, it needs to charge by connecting through USB-C and it must connect to the middle USB-C port. The power brick looks nicer than previous generation, it looks more customized and less like a generic power adapter. The cable’s pretty long, it’s about six feet or so.

The Power Brick is proprietary and connects via USB-C.

Battery Life

Now let’s talk about battery life. It’s not great, but it’s okay considering that this is an i7 computer. The battery does last longer if you dim the screen, use power saving and you don’t run processor intensive applications. With the screen dimmed to down to 0% and a low cpu load, I was able to get about four or five hours of use out of it. With the screen brightness maxed out and a heavy cpu load I can only get about one to one and a half hours.

That’s really not that much battery life, so you’ll want to do is you’ll want to buy an Omnicharge 20 which can extend your battery life another one or two hours It takes about two hours to fully charge the lithium battery. And I haven’t had any battery issues as far as the battery not charging or anything like that. The only real problems is that the battery life is kind of short.

Increase your battery life with a battery bank like the Omnicharge 20.

Sensors

Depending on which version you get there are a variety of sensors on the MobileStudio Pro:

  • Optional GPS with an electronic compass.
  • Accelerometer which can tell which direction/angle your tablet is turned.
  • Ambient light sensor which can automatically adjust the screen brightness.
  • Gyroscope.

Accessories:

Now let’s discuss some of the accessories that come with the MobileStudio Pro.

Pen Case

Next is the pen case. It’s definitely more secure than the older pen case, the pen is a lot less likely to fall out if the case gets dropped, and thats happened to me several times with the Cintiq Companion 2.

Your pen could survive nearly anything in this case.

It’s also a little bit harder to access the pen. It’s easy to pull off that nib holder on the end instead of opening the pen case. The pen gets kind of stuck when you try to remove it.

Personally, I like the older pen case overall but fortunately I can use the older pen case with the Pro pen too.

Replacement Nibs

Speaking of nibs, let’s talk about nibs. The MobileStudio Pro only comes with three replacement nibs: Two standard nibs and one felt nib, plus the one that’s already in the pen for a total of four nibs. Now my Cintiq Companion Two came with 10 nibs. My Cintiq 27 came with 11 nibs. So why so few nibs now? Well to be fair, I rarely change a nib and if you’re using proper technique, you shouldn’t be going through nibs that often either. 11 nibs is kind of overkill. Three or four is probably enough for most people. And if you need to, you can order more nibs. Unfortunately, the nibs are a different size for the Pro pen too, so older nibs will not be compatible.

The nibs are hiding in the end of the pen case.

Pen Holder

The MobileStudio Pro comes with this little pen holder accessory, its part metal, part plastic. And as I mentioned earlier, you can stick it in the hole for the security slot and this allows you to connect your pen to your tablet, which is a really awesome accessory. I love this. You can put your pen in two positions, it can be upright so you can quickly grab it or you can slide it in so it stays with your tablet. If you have it next to your tablet though, it won’t fit in the protective pouch accessory which we’re going to talk about in just a little bit.

The pen will also partially block the USB ports. The pen holder accessory is made out of plastic with a little metal bit on the end. That’s something that could probably get crushed and broken if you’re not careful with it. It does fit on the end of the pen case, which is really handy, but it could also come off and get lost if you’re not careful. If you want the pen holder to be on the other side, you can always flip the tablet around to make it ambidextrous. And one of my viewers mentioned that the pen holder can damage the screen if its not attached properly, so just be careful with your tablet.

Handy-dandy pen holder works great to keep your pen attached to your tablet.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro Stand (Optional)

Moving on to the stand, which is not included. You can get an optional stand which connects securely to the back of MobileStudio Pro and it can be folded flat. Its a way better stand than what came with the Cintiq Companions. The stand will allow you to position your MobileStudio Pro at about three or four different angles. It sits very comfortably on a desk or in your lap, which I enjoy. This is an essential accessory in my opinion. If you want to learn more about the MobileStudio Pro stand check out my video review.

Wireless Keyboard (Optional)

Another accessory that’s not included but would be very handy to have is a wireless keyboard. Especially if you’re going to be doing a lot of typing. Wacom makes a great low-profile Bluetooth keyboard that’s thin and small enough to fit in the optional pouch accessory. If you don’t want to have to lug around a keyboard with you there is an on-screen keyboard that you can use.

Carrying Pouch (Optional)

If you need something to protect your MobileStudio Pro which you probably do, then you’ll want to get something like this optional pouch accessory. You can slide your tablet into it, zip it up and it’s nice and protected. The pouch is the same as the previous generation for the Cintiq Companion Two. It can hold your tablet, your keyboard and your pen. It will keep the screen from getting scratched, but it’s not rigid or waterproof, so you’ll still want to be very careful with your tablet, even though it’s in the pouch.

Wacom Link (Optional)

Also not included with the MobileStudio Pro is the Wacom Link accessory which allows you to connect the MobileStudio Pro to your desktop or laptop so that you can use it as a regular Cintiq. A USB-C connection is required in order to be able to use the device with 4k resolution. And your computer must support a USB-C video and data connection or the video quality will lower to QHD if you use Mini DisplayPort.

Other connection options are available via the Wacom Link accessory.

Thumbprint Sensor (Optional)

On the enhanced version of the MobileStudio Pro there’s a thumbprint sensor lock. This is integrated with the Windows home key and it can be used to unlock your computer in place of a password or PIN. You just place your thumb on it and it logs into your computer. This makes logging in really fast and easy and it’s more secure than a password.

Unlock your computer with your thumb rather than a password or PIN.

RealSense 3D Camera (Optional)

Also on the enhanced version is a RealSense R200 3D scanning camera which comes with a one year trial of Artec

studio. There’s also free scanning software that you can get. I’m guessing most people are not going to use this 3D camera so I’m not going to talk too much about it in this review, but I will follow up with a video testing how it works.


Comparisons:

Compared to Alternatives

So that’s an in-depth look at the specs and features. Now let’s talk about how the MobileStudio Pro compares to some of it’s alternatives. If you wanted something similar to the MobileStudio Pro there’s the iPad Pro or the Surface Pro. There’s even cheap Chinese imitations out there. Personally I think the MobileStudio Pro blows all of these out of the water because the iPad Pro lacks power and it doesn’t have a very good software selection. The Surface Pro has an inferior pen and its geared more toward being general purpose rather than specifically for artists and designers. And the cheap Chinese imitations often have a lower resolution, lesser pen quality, more glare, less accurate color, cheap build quality, pressure levels that don’t perform as well and the pen may require batteries or charging.

Don’t like poor line quality, pen pressure and calibration issues? Save yourself the hassle and just get a Wacom.

Compared to Cintiq Pro

How does the MobileStudio Pro compare to the Cintiq Pro? The MobileStudio Pro is essentially a Cintiq Pro with the addition of a built-in computer and integrated express keys. If you already have a powerful computer and you don’t plan on leaving your studio, get a large Cintiq Pro instead. You’ll get more bang for your buck. Besides the advantage of having a larger screen to draw on, the screen on the Cintiq Pro 24 and 32 is a bit better as well. it’s an IPS UHD high brightness panel rather than LED so I don’t think you’ll get the same distortion on the screen when you press down hard. The Adobe RGB color gamut is 99% rather than only 94%. Although most people probably won’t notice this small of a difference, but it gives you peace of mind I guess. And the Cintiq Pro 24 and 32 support up to 10 bit color which is 1.07 billion colors versus the MobileStudio Pro’s measly 16.7 million. Again, this sounds like a drastic difference, but the average user will do just fine with only 16.7 million colors.


Conclusion:

Now for my conclusion. Let’s discuss some of the pros and cons. The pros are: the MobileStudio Pro screen is a huge improvement over the Cintiq Companion 2 in regards to outdoor visibility. I use the MobileStudio Pro primarily for painting outside the studio and it works really well for that. It definitely feels like an upgrade from the Cintiq Companion 2. The UHD resolution shows up much clearer on camera and the image is crisp and clear while drawing. The 8000 pen pressure levels are buttery smooth. And the etched glass feels really nice to draw on and it reduces the glare both indoors and outdoors. Now the cons. The MobileStudio Pro needs some optimization to live up to the hype. It felt disappointingly slow at first until I optimized it. It should really come with a better pre-configuration or at least instructions explaining how to do so. The MobileStudio Pro also lacks power. A quad core CPU and 32 gigabytes of RAM would go a much longer way. However, the drawing experience is unparalleled, so it’s kind of a trade-off. The CPU and RAM are not expandable. Which does not make the MobileStudio Pro very future proof. The Enhanced version with Quadro M1000M is essential because the CPU can easily get overwhelmed and the GPU takes some of the burden off of the CPU.

The glare-reduction is much better compared to the Cintiq 27 QHD.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is it worth it?

Now, there’s a question that I get asked a lot and that is, is it worth it? And that’s a hard thing to answer because you really have to determine whether or not this is going to meet your needs. In my opinion it’s a great device and it’s worth buying. If you consider that you’re getting a Cintiq and a Laptop, the price is steep but fair. When compared to cheap Chinese alternatives, the MobileStudio Pro seems overpriced, but if you closely compare the specs and build quality and watch a few reviews, you’ll see that the alternatives are cutting corners and are not able to provide the same quality as you’d get with the MobileStudio Pro. You’d be better off getting a used Cintiq Companion 2 rather than a cheap imitation of the MobileStudio Pro. Or if you already have a laptop, get an Intuos Pro Large or a used Cintiq 27 QHD. That’s just my opinion, so take it or leave it.

Which model should I buy?

So now you’re ready to buy the MobileStudio Pro, which version should you get? If you’re doing light drawing with applications that aren’t demanding on the CPU and GPU, just about any of the MSP versions will work great. The QHD resolution of the 13 inch model is good enough, but the MobileStudio Pro 16 is much clearer and shows up better on camera if you’re recording. If you’re streaming, recording your screen while making art, multitasking or doing CPU intensive tasks like painting on large canvases, creating 3D, applying Photoshop effects and video editing, then you’ll want to get the Enhanced 16 inch version so that you can utilize the Quadro GPU.

Where can you buy a MobileStudio Pro?

You can buy the MobileStudio Pro 16 on Wacom’s website or from internet retailers. I am no longer supporting Amazon with affiliate links, so if you want to show your appreciation for my review, you can become a Member of my YouTube Channel.

There is a newer second generation MobileStudio Pro 16, not to be confused with the one in this review.

MobileStudio Pro comes in two sizes: 13″ and 16″.

Do you have any tutorials for the MSP?

And the last question I want to answer is, do I have any videos about how to use the MobileStudio Pro? Yes, here is a link to my playlist on YouTube.

I also have a library of free tutorials for learning specific art subjects.

More Resources

I hope you found my Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 review helpful. If you did, become a Member and join me on my mission to create more reviews of products like this. And if you’d like to watch the video version of this review, check out my YouTube Channel.

Optimizing Your Computer for Digital Art

This guide will help you to make informed decisions when choosing a new digital art computer or optimizing your current build.

While I use Corel Painter as an example, the principles in this guide can help optimize your computer for Photoshop and other art applications. It can also be useful for creating builds for 3D, video editing, live streaming and graphic design.

(Last Updated February 2021)

DISCLAIMER: This article is not sponsored. I bought the build featured in this article with my own money. All opinions in this article are my own.

Let’s start by looking at Corel Painter’s official Minimum System Requirements:

Windows

  • Windows 10 (64-Bit), with the latest updates
  • Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD Athlon 64 X2 processor
    • 4 physical cores/8 logical cores or higher (recommended)
    • AVX2 instruction set support (recommended)
  • Modern GPU with OpenCL (1.2 or higher) compatibility (recommended)
  • 4 GB RAM
    • (8 GB RAM or higher recommended)
  • 2.4 GB hard disk space for application files**
    • Solid-state drive (recommended)
  • 1280 x 800 (or higher) screen resolution
    • 1920 x 1080 @ 150% (or higher) (recommended)
  • Mouse or WinTab-compatible tablet
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 11 or higher, with the latest updates
  • DVD drive (required for box installation)
  • To activate your product, you must connect to the Internet and register it first

Mac

  • macOS Big Sur 11.0, 10.15 or 10.14, with the latest revision
  • Intel Core 2 Duo processor
    • 4 physical cores/8 logical cores or higher (recommended)
  • Modern GPU with OpenCL (1.2 or higher) compatibility (recommended)
  • 4 GB RAM
    • 8 GB RAM or higher (recommended)
  • 1.8 GB hard disk space for application files
    • Solid-state drive (recommended)
    • Case-sensitive file systems are not supported
  • 1280 x 800 @ 100% (or higher) screen resolution
    • 1920 x 1200 @ 150% (or higher) (recommended)
  • Mouse or tablet
  • To activate your product, you must connect to the Internet and register it first

So that’s the bare minimum needed to run Corel Painter, but what about making the application run as fast as possible? To maximize the performance of your computer, you’ll need to know some basics about computer hardware. Let’s start by talking about Workstations.

A Workstation is a configuration of computer hardware and software components which can be used to create digital illustrations. I use two different workstations to create my work. Since I’m most frequently in my home studio, I have a powerful desktop workstation that makes my digital painting experience as comfortable as possible. If I want to take my work outside of the studio, I use a Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 which is a mobile workstation.

Desktop Workstations
Desktop workstations are capable of producing the most processing power, which makes them an ideal workstation to use when creating digital art. Desktops are also easily expandable which means you can add components, increase the amount of memory and upgrade to a faster processor. Rather than buy a new computer ever few years, you can simply replace the slow parts with faster ones.

MEMBERS-ONLY VIDEO: My 2021 Computer Build for Digital Art & Video Editing

Laptop Workstations
While they take up less space and are more portable than a desktop, laptop computers often lack the power and expandability of a desktop. You may find it’s difficult to add memory or other components to a laptop.

PRO TIP: Wacom has recently announced that select tablets are now compatible with Chromebooks.

Mobile Workstations
Tablet workstations are becoming more common as portable computing technology matures. Some examples of mobile workstations are the Wacom MobileStudio Pro, the Microsoft Surface Pro and the Apple iPad Pro. These workstations combine a display with a tablet and computer to give you the freedom to take your art anywhere. I’m especially fond of painting outdoors on my mobile workstation.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 (2nd Generation)

In recent years, the smartphone has become a worthy digital art workstation. You can connect select Wacom tablets to select smartphones to create art. With popular art apps like Krita and Clip Studio Paint being ported as full versions into Android, you really aren’t sacrificing a whole lot by working on a phone.

Now that we know what a workstation is, let’s take a look at its individual components: the Display, the Tablet and the Computer.


Display or Monitor

The Display functions as your canvas when painting on a computer, so you will need a large screen with a lot of room to work on. A proper display must also represent color and contrast accurately. Accurate color will ensure that the appearance of your artwork remains consistent whether you print it on canvas or view it on someone else’s device. You can use either a monitor or an HDTV for your digital painting display.

Display Resolutions:
Displays come in a variety of resolutions. Most common are 1080 HD displays, but 2K (1440p), 4K and even 8K displays are becoming more affordable. A higher resolution means the pixels will be smaller and more dense giving you a clearer view of your artwork. This is especially noticeable in artwork that contains a lot of fine lines and details.

My Displays:
My primary display is a Wacom Cintiq 27QHD Touch which has 2K resolution and very accurate color. I do all of my drawing and design work on the Cintiq. My secondary display is a Samsung 50″ 1080 HDTV. The color is less accurate on the HDTV, but it works well to store reference images and windows. I also have a third display, an ASUS 24″ computer monitor.

Having more than one display not only allows me to multi-task more easily, it also gives me several unique views of my image. I can average the three images to get an idea of how my artwork will look across many types of displays.

See an example of the multiple displays I use in my studio.

Recommended Displays:
If size matters, I recommend using a large HDTV because you’ll get more bang for your buck. If you want very accurate color, choose a professional-grade computer monitor.

Using An HDTV:
You’ll need to make sure that your computer’s video card supports HDMI input if you want to connect an HDTV to your computer. Some older models of HDTVs may have an SVGA or DVI input which can also be used to connect an HDTV to a computer.


Drawing Tablet

Drawing tablets receive input from a pressure-sensitive pen which is used to create artwork on a computer. Pressure from the pen can be used to vary the width and opacity of a brushstroke. The pen also functions as a mouse to perform navigation tasks on your computer. Without a tablet, it can be very difficult to make digital art.

Wacom Tablets
Wacom is the most reputable and well-known tablet manufacturer on the market. Wacom makes top-of-the-line tablets with a lot of useful features like pen tilt, touch pad navigation and programmable shortcut buttons. Wacom products have a reputation for being pricey, but they are well worth the investment for artists who appreciate a quality product that will last for years.

A list of my recommended drawing tablets.

Wacom Imitations
XP-Pen, Huion, Artisul, Parblo, Ugee, Monoprice and Genius are some of the lesser-known tablet manufacturers who make tablets at a fraction of the price of Wacom’s products. Although their products are affordable, these tablets lack the build-quality and extra features found in Wacom’s products. While some of these imitation tablets rival Wacom tablets in technical specs like LPI Resolution and Pressure Levels, the quality of the pen and other parts are poor and do not meet the expectations of many artists, including myself. Imitation tablet drivers are seldom updated and difficult to install. I recommend staying away from these imitation brands as I’ve had nothing but bad experiences with them.

Important Tablet Specs
First, look at the Active Drawing Area. I recommend choosing a large tablet so that you have enough gesture-space to use proper drawing techniques. Large 9”x12” is best for professionals. Medium 8”x6” or Small 4”x6” would be adequate for a beginner. Next look at the LPI Resolution and Pen Pressure Levels. A higher LPI (lines per inch) resolution is better because a tablet that is more sensitive can read input from the pen more accurately. Same goes for the Pressure Levels, a higher value results in a more natural variation in brush width and opacity. Although, not all art software can support higher levels of pen pressure.

How many pressure levels do you really need?

Do I Need Extra Features?
Tablets with additional features can be helpful and time-saving, but are not essential to making great digital art. However, many professional artists appreciate extra features because they can make their painting workflow much smoother and more efficient.

USB or Wireless?
Most tablets connect to a computer using a USB cable, but it’s becoming more common to see tablets with Wireless Bluetooth functionality. Be forewarned that a wireless signal is not as fast or reliable as a USB connection. You may find that objects in the room and other wireless devices may interfere with the wireless signal and cause the tablet to perform with a slight lag. Wireless interference is especially bad if you have to plug the receiver into the back of your computer.

Display Tablets
If you prefer to draw directly onto a screen, you’ll love display tablets like the Wacom Cintiq. Cintiqs are tablets with a built-in display you can draw directly onto. A Cintiq’s screen ranges in size from 13″ to 32” inches.

In my experience, it feels more natural and intuitive to draw on screen. I highly recommend the Cintiq to anyone who is serious about getting the best digital art experience possible.The newest Wacom Cintiq Pro 24″ and 32″ are the best drawing tablets money can buy.

There is also the new Wacom One which is a smaller entry-level display tablet at a more affordable price than the Cintiqs.

Review of the Wacom One 13″ display tablet.

My Tablets:

  • Wacom Cintiq 27QHD Touch
  • Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16 (2nd Generation)

Recommended Tablets:

  • Wacom Intuos Pro (Medium or Large)
  • Wacom Cintiq (13HD, 24HD, 22HD, 27QHD or Cintiq Pro 13, 16, 24, 32)
  • Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 & 16, Wacom Cintiq Companion 1 & 2
  • Intuos Art (Medium)
  • Wacom One 13

See my Tablet Reviews on YouTube for more info.


Computer

A fast computer with modern hardware is essential to running Painter smoothly, but you don’t necessarily need the most expensive computer on the market. If you’re planning to buy a new computer, I recommend looking for a good deal online. You can also go to a local computer hardware store. Retail stores like Best Buy regularly have sales, but their computers are often name-brand models like Dell or HP that aren’t optimized for digital art. If possible, avoid buying name-brand computers and go for something that is custom-built to ensure you’ll get a computer that is optimal for digital painting. (Hopefully this article will give you some insight into what components will be optimal for making digital art.)

My 2021 build for digital art and video edtiting.

I assembled my most-recent build myself and used the Custom PC Builder feature on NewEgg to select the parts. It automatically hides incompatible products, so choosing parts for a build is as easy as selecting toppings for a pizza. I highly recommend this for anyone who is going to handle the build themselves.

While assembling a computer is easier than assembling some furniture, if you aren’t comfortable building a computer, you can have one custom-built by an online store. I’ve done this for my previous 3 builds and it was worth it to pay someone to do the work.

If you can follow an instruction manual to assemble furniture, you can build a computer.

Mac or Windows Operating System?

Despite what you’ve heard, Macs are not inherently better for art and design than Windows computers. Whether a computer is a Windows computer or a Mac, it’s the computer with the most RAM and CPU power that defines which computer is better. Choosing between Mac and Windows is simply a choice between which operating system you prefer. I have used both Mac and Windows, but I prefer Windows because I like the interface better than Mac OS. This is just my personal preference, so if you are more comfortable working on Mac OS, then I recommend you stick to Apple products. In my experience, Painter works much better with Windows than with Mac.

My Operating System: Windows 10 64bit Home Edition

Motherboard

The Motherboard is the hub where all of your computer parts connect to. It defines what you can and cannot add to your computer. Each motherboard has different specifications. Deluxe motherboards are more expandable and can accommodate more memory, peripherals and components. Budget motherboards are more affordable, but may not be as easy to upgrade. Unless you are building a custom computer, you probably won’t need to know much about motherboards. Many name-brand computers like Dell and HP don’t even list the motherboard specs.

When choosing a motherboard for a custom-build, make sure to note which processor it is compatible with, how much RAM it can utilize and check to see that it has enough USB ports, hard drive connections and expansion slots to accommodate all of your components and peripherals.

My Motherboard: MSI B550

CPU – Computer Processing Unit

As the main component in a computer, the CPU defines how fast a computer can perform tasks. Many CPUs contain multiple Cores. The more Cores a CPU has, the faster it can run programs, process data and multi-task. When choosing a CPU, look for the Clock Speed which is often measured in GHz (Gigahertz). A higher value means the CPU will operate faster. There are other specs to consider like Cache, Multi-Threading and Bus Speed, but unless you are a computer nerd, you probably won’t understand why. All you need to know is a larger number is usually better than a smaller number when it comes to that stuff.

There are two main manufacturers of CPUs: Intel and AMD. Both are great, but AMD will currently give you more bang for your buck. If you are going for Intel, get at least an i7 processor. The i5 and i3 processors are much slower, but will probably suffice if you are just trying to upgrade from an ancient computer.

Cooling your CPU is also very important. A cooler CPU can work much faster than one that overheats. Air cooling with a fan and heatsink is standard, but the fans can be noisy. Be sure to check the decibel rating of the fan if you are concerned about noise. Liquid cooling is another option and can be much more effective in cooling the CPU. In many cases, adequate cooling can allow a CPU to be Overclocked which means it can be enabled to run faster than advertised in the manufacturer’s specifications. Overclocking can be risky because it may shorten the life of your CPU and could make your computer unstable.

PRO TIP: If you are looking for a near-silent build, then choose a quiet air-cooling method like the Noctua fans. I found that water-cooling was louder.

My Processor: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X 12-Core 3.8GHz (Overclocked) with Noctua NH-U14S

Recommended CPU: 64bit Processor with a minimum of 4 cores

RAM – Random Access Memory

RAM Memory controls the speed at which temporary information is processed. For example if you are working on a painting that is 1GB in file size, you would want your computer to have at least 1GB of RAM plus additional RAM to run your operating system and background tasks.

RAM comes in modules or “sticks”. Modules typically store several gigabytes of memory and the amount of memory per module varies. Typically, the memory is available in increments of 16, 32, 64 and 128GB. All computers have a limit to how much RAM can be installed which is determined by the number of RAM slots available and the amount of memory that can be used per slot. Memory is often installed in pairs. So for example, if you wanted to add 32GB of RAM to your computer, you could either choose two 16GB modules or four 8GB modules depending on the specifications of your computer.

Memory modules also have different access speeds, so choose the RAM with the fastest access speed possible. RAM Memory is not to be confused with Storage Memory like a hard drive which we will discuss later.

My Memory: 64GB 3200MHz DDR4

Recommended Memory: 16 to 32GB DDR4 or more

Case

If the motherboard and CPU are guts, then the case is your computer’s exoskeleton. At the very least, you want a case that fits your motherboard size and can accommodate all of your other components. There are some crazy cases out there with LED lights and all kinds of fancy features, but you don’t really need any of that for an art workstation.

I chose a case that has sound-dampening, cable management and easy access. It really does make a difference compared to the cheap case I bought for my previous build. A good case is a worthy upgrade in my opinion.

My Case: Phanteks Eclipse P600S


Video Cards

A Video Card provides additional memory for graphic-related tasks like digital painting, 3D modeling and video editing. It also controls the quantity and type of displays you can connect to your computer. Most computers come with an on-board video card which is often under-powered and can be inadequate for working with Painter. It is recommended to upgrade or install a dedicated PCI-E Video Card to ensure your system functions smoothly. You don’t need an expensive card with a ton of memory or power, just one that supports modern 3D and video requirements like current Shader Models and Direct X features. Upgrading your computer’s Video Card will improve Painter’s performance and will give you more options for connecting multiple monitors. There are two main manufacturers of videos cards, ATI and Nvidia. Both make excellent video cards and I can’t say I prefer one over the other.

One thing to be aware of is that GPUs are currently in very high demand, so you’ll probably be getting price-gouged if you try to buy a newer GPU. Damn Bitcoin…

My Video Card: EVGA nVidia GTX-1080, 8GB GDDR5 Memory, PCI-E 3.0 Interface (CUDA)
Displays I have connected are shown next to outputs.

Corel Painter 2020 and later are able to support GPU for brush acceleration. In my experience, GPU makes a big difference in performance, but it’s only supported by certain brush types.

Corel Painter 2021 Brush Accelerator score with new 2021 build.

If you’ll also be using Photoshop and the Adobe Creative Cloud products, you can also take advantage of faster processing if your video card supports CUDA. Here is Adobe’s list of recommended video cards: https://helpx.adobe.com/premiere-pro/system-requirements.html


Hard Drives (Artwork Storage)

Hard Drives can store information long-term on your computer. While having more than one hard drive is optional, multiple hard drives can be useful for making Painter run faster because a spare drive can be used as a scratch drive or cache to improve read and write speeds. Spare drives can also provide you with more room to store and backup your artwork files. I highly recommend having at least two hard drives, but more than two is even better. Hard drives are often the bottleneck when it comes to optimizing your computer. Even with a fast processor and tons of RAM, a computer with slow hard drives won’t work very fast because the drives cannot transfer data as quickly as the other components. Choosing drives with fast READ/WRITE speeds will avoid performance bottlenecks and will ensure you are utilizing the full potential of your CPU and RAM.

There are several types of internal drives to choose from:

IDE (PATA) Disks

IDE drives use a traditional spinning disk to store data. In the past, write speed was a bit faster for spinning drives, but there was also a greater risk for drive failure because of the moving parts. Overall, IDE drives are fairly reliable and can be more cost effective for storing large amounts of data. IDE drives are a safer choice for long-term storage and backing up important data because accidentally deleted, reformatted or corrupted files can often be recovered by scanning the drive with recovery software.

Depending on the model, IDE drives operate at different speeds. The most common connection is SATA. SATA comes in several different speeds. SATAIII is faster than SATAII and regular SATA. Your motherboard must support SATAIII to take advantage of the fastest IDE read/write speed. Currently, IDE drives are being far outperformed by SSD drives in both read and write speeds.

SSD – Solid State Drive

Similar to RAM memory, Solid State Drives use memory chips to store data rather than relying on a spinning disk. Since there are no moving parts, SSD drives are less likely to fail than a traditional drive. However, accidentally deleted files and reformatted SSDs cannot recover lost data even by scanning with recovery software because the free space is overwritten immediately. Read speeds are much faster on SSD drives compared to IDE drives. SSD drives typically connect through SATAIII on your motherboard.

NVMe SSD

NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory) drives are fairly new to the scene. The newest of these drives are very small, about the size of a stick of memory, and take up hardly any space at all. They can also by much faster than an SSD that connects through SATAIII because they can be connected to an M.2 port which transfers data via PCI-E.

RAID – Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks

Though it involves a heightened risk of data loss, advanced computer users can greatly improve IDE drive performance by combining multiple drives together using a RAID 0 configuration. Two drives working together read and write faster than a single drive. Four drives working together are twice as fast as 2 drives. Your motherboard must support RAID to link drives together. (SSDs do not perform better in a RAID configuration.)

The following is a guide to setting up an optimal hard drive configuration:

#1 Primary Hard Drive:

Your Primary hard drive should be an Internal drive which contains your operating system and program files. This drive only needs to be large enough to store your installed program files and Windows or Mac Operating System. (At least 200GB to 500GB of storage space is recommended.) Using an SSD rather than an IDE drive will greatly improve the time it takes to load your Operating System and applications will load faster.

#2 Long-term Storage Hard Drives:

The Storage drives contain all of your personal files, compositions and completed artwork. These should be a fairly large capacity drives so they can store a large number of paintings. (500 GB to 2+ TB of storage space.) IDE drives are more reliable as long-term storage drives.

#3 Work In Progress Drive

Because you want your projects and resource files to load as fast as possible, it’s best to use a SSD or NVMe SSD for your active projects. Once a project is completed, move it to your long-term storage IDE drive for safe keeping.

#4 Scratch/Cache Hard Drive:

The Scratch Drive works like virtual-memory for Painter and other applications that may want to use it to store temporary information. You can also use this drive as additional storage for backing up artwork and personal data if you like. Scratch drives can be either IDE or SSD, but SSD will give you better performance.

NOTE: External USB and eSATA drives transfer files slowly, so they are not recommended for use as Scratch drives.

#5 External Hard Drive:

Using an additional External drive is essential for backing up your completed artwork and keeping it safe. Get in the habit of backing up each painting on more than one device because losing artwork files is a real risk and can happen without warning for no good reason at all.

My drive configuration: 

  • Operating System (Windows 10), Installed Programs & Media Cache – Samsung 840 EVO 250GB SSD (SATA III Connection)
  • Footage & Media Cache – Samsung 960 EVO 500GB NVMe SSD (M.2 PCI-E Connection)
  • Work In Progress, Rendering Destination – Corsair Force MP600 1TB NVMe SSD (M.2 PCI-E Connection)
  • Long-term storage of completed projects, files and backups – Several IDE Drives 2-4TB capacity (SATA III Connection)
  • Extra Cache & Scratch Disk – Samsung 850 EVO 128GB SSD (SATAIII Connection)
  • External Backup Drives – 4TB IDE drive & 6TB IDE drive (USB 3.0 Connection)

Check out this tutorial for more information on drives and drive configurations.


Additional Upgrades

Buying a computer is like buying a car, the salesperson will always try to sell you a bunch of additional features you don’t really need to get you to spend more money. You can keep the cost of your new computer down by eliminating any unnecessary features. Besides the computer and monitor, you will need a mouse and a keyboard. Additional upgrades may not be necessary.

If you are on a tight budget, here is a list of upgrades to avoid:

  • High-end computer cases with external gauges and LED lights
  • Overclocked computers
  • Professional Sound Cards
  • High-end Video Cards for gaming
  • Expensive CPU Cooling/Heatsinks
  • Extra-Large Capacity Hard Drives (Over 1TB)
  • Wireless Mouse & Keyboard
  • External Speakers (Unless you need them)
  • CD/DVD/Blu-Ray (optical) drives are becoming obsolete as most software and drivers can be downloaded rather than installed from a disc

Planning For The Future

It would be wise to plan ahead for future versions of Painter and invest in newer technology. If you can afford to, buy a computer with as much RAM memory and CPU processor power as you can get for a reasonable price.


Updates & Drivers

It’s important to keep your computer’s hardware and software up to date by installing the latest drivers and updates. Check regularly for updates to each component of your computer.


Anti-Virus & Anti-Malware

Protecting your computer against both viruses and malware is crucial to keeping your artwork and data safe. Make sure an up-to-date anti-virus is always running on your computer. The free Windows Defender works great, but you can also upgrade to something more robust if you like.

Maintenance

Fortunately, computers do not require much physical maintenance. I would recommend that you buy a few cans of compressed air to remove dust from the inside of your computer. This will keep your computer from overheating which will extend the life of your components.


Where to buy these products

I’m no longer supporting Amazon with affiliate links, but you can become a Member of my YouTube channel if you want to show your appreciation for my digital art resources. I have links to the products I recommend here: kit.co/AaronRutten

You can also buy the parts from your local computer or electronics store. Best Buy is one such example.


Conclusion

Even with the most expensive build money can buy, your art software is not going to run in real-time. Computer hardware and software have come a long way, but making art on a computer is still laggy when you are working with extra large canvases and complex brush rendering. I’m not saying it’s not worth it to invest in a fast computer, just don’t expect that laying down $3000-$4000 on a super computer is going to make a huge difference in your art applications. You might be able to justify an expensive build if you will be able to take advantage of that power with video editing, gaming or 3D apps, but don’t go broke trying to obtain the ultimate digital art build.

I hope this information helps you make a more informed decision when you buy your next computer or upgrade your parts. If you found this guide helpful, please take a second to share the link to this article so that others may benefit from it.

Wacom Intuos Review

DISCLAIMER: This Wacom Intuos review is not sponsored, but Wacom did send me this tablet to review unconditionally. All opinions in this review are my own.

What is the Intuos?

The Wacom Intuos is a tablet that plugs into your computer and allows you to control art and design software with a pen. You can use the Intuos to create drawings, paintings, 3D sculpting, note taking, graphic design and more. The new Intuos was released in March 2018, and there are a few different options available.

There are three options available: Small (no Bluetooth), Small (with Bluetooth) and Medium (with Bluetooth). This is definitely a lot less confusing than the previous model, where they had the Intuos Comic, Draw, Art, Photo and 3D. That was just too many versions. The model I am reviewing is the Medium version with Bluetooth.

Wacom Intuos (2018 Model)

Compatibility

The new Intuos is compatible with Mac, and PC or Windows. The minimum operating system is Windows 7, and Mac OSX 10.11. It cannot be paired via Bluetooth to an iPad or Android tablet.

The Intuos tablet connects via USB to your computer. It does not have a built in screen that shows you what you’re drawing, you’ll have to draw on the tablet and then look up at a separate monitor. It sounds difficult, but it’s really not that hard. Just in case you’re wondering, the connection used is your standard USB type A. It’s not USB-C.

The new Intuos is very easy to install, all you have to do is just plug it into your computer, go to Wacom’s website and download the driver, install it, and then your tablet should be working. In order to be able to create with the tablet, you’ll also need some software. If your tablet is not working and you need help, check out my Intuos FAQ video, or contact Wacom for tech support.

The Intuos does not have a built-in screen. You have to look up at a monitor while drawing.

What’s Different from Previous Generations?

Now let’s dive a little bit deeper and let’s talk about what’s new with this tablet compared to previous generations.

Colors

The first thing you might notice are the color options. I have the black version, but that’s not new, because the previous generation Intuos Art also had a black version. But there is also a Pistachio green version, and a Berry colored version.

They look more delicious than they taste. Trust me.

Pen

The pen has been improved on the new Intuos. There is now over 4,000 levels of pen pressure, which means that you can get really nice, smooth transitions between opacity and line width, and it feels a lot more natural to draw. In previous models, you only had 2,000 pressure levels, and if you go back to the generation before that, it was only around 1,000 levels. And just to put things in context, the more professional models only go up to around 8,000 pressure levels.

Whatever will you do with all of those pressure levels?

Bluetooth (Wireless)

Bluetooth is available on the “Small Bluetooth” and Medium models only. Bluetooth is a wireless technology, so you can simply unplug the tablet from USB and you can use it wirelessly. You can be sitting across the room while making artwork instead of tethered to a computer.

There is a button at the top-center of the Intuos which you can use to pair the Bluetooth to your computer. According to Wacom’s website, the Intuos will work wirelessly for a minimum of 15 hours, and it takes about 3 1/2 hours to charge. When you have it plugged in through USB, you don’t have to worry about charging it, the USB connection powers the tablet.

Bundled Software

Another difference is the bundled software that comes with the Intuos. You have a few different options depending on the model that you get. Since I have the medium size, I can download three different pieces of software. I can get ClipStudio Paint Pro, Corel Aftershot 3 and Corel Painter Essentials 6.

  • Small (without Bluetooth) –  You can only download one of either Corel Painter Essentials 6 or Corel Aftershot. (ClipStudio Paint is not available for this version).
  • Small (with Bluetooth) – You can choose two out of the three options.
  • Medium (with Bluetooth) – You can download all 3 options.

The software is available for Mac or Windows, but you can only choose one operating system. Choose wisely because once you make a choice, you are stuck with it.

Pen Tray

Another difference is that there’s a pen tray integrated with the Express Keys. So for example, you can set the pen in the tray and it won’t roll away, unless of course the tablet is tilted. The pen can fall out of the tray, but for the most part, the tray will hold it in place. A more secure option would be to slide the pen into the sleeve that is attached to the top of the Intuos.

The pen tray holds the pen pretty well, but it can roll away with a little encouragement.

Tablet Thickness

Another difference is the thickness of the tablet. It’s now much thinner, it’s around 8.8 millimeters, which is about a similar thickness to a modern smartphone. The new Intuos is also much lighter than previous versions, but it’s still very durable. The weight of the Small Intuos is 230 grams, the Small tablet with Bluetooth is 250 grams. The weight of the Medium tablet is 410 grams.

Weight comparisons between the Intuos Small and Medium models.

Replacement Nibs

Another key difference is the location of the nibs. On previous models, there was a little panel on the back that you could slide off and the nibs were hiding in a tray. However, on the new model of the Intuos, you just unscrew the pen, and then the nibs are hiding inside of there. It comes with three standard replacement nibs, and of course there’s one included in the pen when you get it so you have a total of four nibs. You also have the option of getting Felt and Flex nibs. Flex nibs are a little bit flexible, and then Felt nibs feel like a felt pen. These alternative nibs can be useful for changing the amount of friction that you get on the tablet if you wanted to have more tooth or grain to it so it feels more like paper. There’s also a nib remover on the backside of the pen where the eraser would be.

The 2018 version of the Intuos hides the spare nibs inside of the pen.

Security Tether Slot

And the last key difference is the tether slot. You can attach a security tether to the side of the Intuos to prevent theft of your tablet.

FASHION TIP: Attach a gold chain and wear the Intuos around your neck for some digital art bling.

What’s the Same Compared to Previous Generations?

Express Keys

You’ll notice that there are four Express Keys just like on previous models, and you can program these Express Keys to do just about anything. For example, you can undo or redo; you could zoom in or zoom out; you could select a specific brush; or you could use a specific command in your application.

Express Keys are integrated into the pen tray.

You can program these commands per application. So you could have the functions work globally across all of your applications, or you can have separate commands for each individual app.

There are also two buttons on the pen that you can program to invoke shortcuts as well. And if that wasn’t enough, there are also on-screen radial menus that can pop up which hold even more commands.

Active Drawing Area

The active drawing area, or the area that you can actually draw on on the surface of the tablet is the same as the previous generation model. More than 75% of the tablet’s surface is active drawing area. The active drawing area on the Small is 6 by 3.7 inches, and on the Medium it is 8.5 by 5.3 inches, which is pretty close to the size of a small sketchbook. The resolution of the tablet is the same as the previous generation as well. It’s 2,540 LPI, or around 100 lines per millimeter. The report rate of the pen, or the speed, is 133 PPS.

The Active Area is the area that you can draw on.

USB Cable Length

The length of the USB cable is great, it’s 4.9 feet long so it’ll reach pretty far. But if you have the Bluetooth version and you prefer to use Bluetooth, then the cable length isn’t really much of a concern. The end of the cable that connects to the tablet is just your standard micro USB, so you can connect a longer cable if you want.


What’s Missing Compared to Previous Generations?

No Eraser

You may notice that there is no eraser on the end of the pen, but if you go back one more generation, to the Wacom Intuos Pen & Touch, that one did have an eraser.

Intuos 2018 (Left) and older Intuos with an eraser (Right).

No Multi-Touch

Another feature that’s missing from the newer generation of the Intuos is a multi-touch. In the previous generation, and the generation before that, you could use multi-touch to navigate, which means you could zoom in or zoom out or rotate your canvas, and use your finger just like it’s a track pad on a mouse. Unfortunately, they’ve removed that from the newer model, but they’ve replaced it with Bluetooth, so it’s kind of a bit of a trade off.

Older Intuos Creative Pen & Touch supports multi-touch input.

Intuos Questions & Answers

Now I want to move on to addressing some of the questions and concerns about the Wacom Intuos that were sent to me on YouTube.

Express Key Placement

First we’ll talk about the Express Key placement. It’s centered on the top of the tablet. Some folks have complained that the Express Keys can get covered by your hand while you are drawing with the pen. This is true, but if the Express Keys were on one side, then the tablet would not be as ambidextrous. To be fair to both left-handed and right-handed users, centered is the best Express Key placement that Wacom could achieve for the 2018 Intuos. It’s not perfect, but it’s acceptable in my opinion. Plus the Express Keys also integrate really well with the pen tray. I do like the new placement a lot better than having the two Express Keys at a diagonal in each corner as they were on the previous generation Intuos.

Express Key placement is centered and integrated with the pen tray.


Missing VS New Features

Next we’ll go back a bit to the features that are missing. Obviously there is no eraser on the pen, and the touch feature is missing. If that’s a concern to you, you can always get one of the previous generation models that has those features. Or you can upgrade to a more professional version, such as the Intuos Pro, which has those features. You have to decide whether more pressure levels, Bluetooth and current bundled software are more important to you than an eraser or multi-touch.

How Many Pen Pressure Levels Do I Need?

In regards to the pen pressure levels, you might be wondering how many pressure levels do you need to be able to make art? Well the short answer is, probably 1,000 or more, because once you start to get under that, the transitions between line size and line opacity tend to get a little bit choppy or a little bit jagged. So the more pressure levels you have, the smoother those transitions are going to be, and the more natural it’s going to feel.

Some people can tell the difference between 1,000 levels, 2,000 levels, and 4,000 levels, and some people cannot. It really depends on the kind of artwork that you create, and how much experience you have drawing on a tablet.

More Pressure Levels Can Be Useful:

  • If you draw a lot of line art, comic books or manga.
  • If you use a lot of hatching and fine lines while varying your pen pressure often.
  • If you’re doing a lot of shading with gradients where you’re controlling your pen opacity with pressure, and you want those transitions between size and opacity to be much smoother.

Surface Texture & Nib Wear

The surface is kind of smooth compared to some of the other Wacom tablets. If I draw on it, there is a little bit of tooth, and I can hear a little bit of a scratchy sound. But I don’t feel like it’s going to wear down the nibs excessively fast.

Now I do want to talk a little bit about why the nibs wear down. Nibs wear down because of friction, just like when you use a pencil and you draw on a piece of paper, the pencil lead wears down and you have to sharpen the pencil. Obviously you can’t sharpen your Wacom pen, otherwise you’d probably destroy it. So the only thing that you can do is replace the nibs.

Some tablets have surfaces that wear down nibs faster than others. That’s because surface grain or the tooth or the texture, is a feature that some people like, and some people do not. Most professionals would agree that drawing on something that has a little bit of tooth or grain feels more natural because it provides some stability to your marks, and adds a little bit of friction, which just feels more natural, it feels like how it would feel to draw on paper, or to paint on canvas. So there’s a reason why the Intuos Pro has a much more coarse surface, and there’s a reason why the Intuos Pro nibs wear down a little bit faster.

You can easily prevent nib wear by drawing with a much lighter touch. And you can actually calibrate the Intuos pen in the Wacom Tablet properties for a lighter touch so you don’t have to press down so hard. You also don’t want to be scribbling back and forth in one place over and over and over again when you’re shading because there are more effective ways to get a similar result without wearing down your nib. For example, you could use an airbrush or a blender to get a nice color or value transition. If you’re scrubbing back and forth in the same place over and over and over again, that’s going to start to build up heat, and the more heat that you build up, the faster your nib is going to wear down.

It doesn’t matter what tablet you buy or which company you buy it from, the nibs are still going to wear down. You’re still going to have to replace them, and so that’s just something that you’re going to have to get used to if you’re going to be a digital artist. I have quite a few videos you can watch with some other tips that you can use to help prevent nib wear that you can check out.

The surface on the Wacom Intuos is not interchangeable like it is on the newer Intuos Pro. On the newer Intuos Pro, you can get a different, smoother surface if you prefer that. You can, however, replace the standard nibs and you could get the flex nibs or the felt nibs which will give you more friction.

Does The Intuos Scratch Easily?

The next concern is something that I hear about a lot. Some folks claim that their tablet gets scratched up within the first day or two of using it. Those are not scratches. When your nib wears down, it leaves a little bit of the nib residue on the surface of your tablet, just like a pencil would leave pencil lead on paper. All you need to do is take a dry, clean microfiber cloth, like the kind you’d use to clean a lens, or your glasses, and just wipe down your tablet surface, and all of those things that look like scratches will magically go away.

These look like scratches, but can just be wiped away.

Is The Intuos Good For ___________?

Another question that I get about the Intuos tablets is, “Is this tablet good for animation, is it good for 3D modeling, is it good for drawing, is it good for painting, is it good for note taking?” Yes, it’s good for everything.

A Medium size is obviously going to be the best for drawing and painting because you have the most surface area to draw on. The Small size is probably, in my opinion, only going to be good for photo retouching, or for people who just want to try out digital art. If you’re really really serious about drawing and painting, you’re going to want the biggest tablet possible.

If you’re a professional, you might want something that’s a bit bigger than this such as the Intuos Pro Large, or maybe one of the Cintiq Pros, such as the 13 or the 16. Those will give you a lot more area to draw on.

Will The Intuos Work With __________?

Another question that I get a lot is does the Intuos work with this app or that app, does it work with Photoshop, does it work with Medibang, does it work with Adobe Illustrator? The Intuos is going to work with any application that supports pen pressure, if you want to be able to use pen pressure to control your opacity or your line width. So most art applications will be compatible.

However, the Intuos will still work with applications that use only a mouse. If you wanted to use this for PowerPoint, Excel or browsing the web, you could certainly do that. The Intuos pen is basically a replacement for your mouse. Keep in mind, if you’re using it in an application that does not support pen pressure, then you’re of course not going to get pen pressure in that application.

Is The Intuos Bundled Software Any Good?

Yes, ClipStudio paint is considered to be one of the best digital art applications to use for making comic books, manga and animations.

Corel Painter Essentials 6 is the light version of Corel Painter 2018, and that is an excellent digital painting and drawing application. You can create fine art, illustration, cloning (photo painting) and more. Personally, Corel Painter is my favorite art application overall, so you can’t go wrong with that.

Aftershot 3 is Corel’s version of a Photoshop-Lightroom hybrid. You can use it to do a lot of stuff that you’d be able to do in Photoshop, such as edit photos and process them in different ways.

Can The Bundled Software Be Upgraded?

Yes, you can upgrade all of the bundled software to a more professional version that will unlock more features. And best of all, you’ll get a special upgrade price that is cheaper than if you had bought that software without getting the bundle.

What Size Intuos Is Best For My Screen?

Another commonly asked question is, “What is the best size Intuos to get for a laptop, or a desktop, or a big monitor or a small monitor?” Really any size tablet is going to work on any size screen. What matters the most is if your tablet is very small, then it’s going to feel a little bit weird to try to draw on a really big screen. So you want to try to have your tablet match your screen size as best you can.

Now obviously, the Intuos is much smaller than most screens, so it’s probably going to feel fine to draw on a laptop screen or a monitor. But if you were drawing on a TV or something really big, it might start to feel a little weird. You can customize the active drawing area to some degree to help it better match your screen in the Wacom Tablet properties.

Pen Quality

Next, we’ll talk about the pen quality compared to previous generations. The newer pen is not that much different from the older pen. They’re about the same thickness and about the same length. The newer pen feels a bit lighter than this older pen, but they have more or less the same grip and everything else to them. So not really a whole lot different. The difference is a little bit more noticeable if we were to compare the new Intuos pen to one of the professional pens such as the Pro Pen. The Pro Pen is much thicker, the grip is a little bit softer and more rubbery. And it just feels a little bit better the way it’s weighted. The Pro pen is definitely a bit heavier, while the Intuos pen is a bit lighter. It really comes down to your preference, but both pens are going to work great for drawing.

I’ve heard some people say that the Intuos pen feels cheap. I don’t agree with that, it feels very well-built, it doesn’t feel like it’s going to break. It’s a simple pen, it doesn’t look as fancy as some of the Pro pens out there. But it’s definitely a good quality pen and it doesn’t need to be fancy.

A basic pen that gets the job done.

Is The USB Connector Easily Damaged?

Another concern that was expressed in the comments related to the USB connection port on the tablet. The Intuos uses USB mini, and somebody said that there’s a worry that the pins could break off because it’s not as strong as USB-C. That’s probably a fair complaint, but for the most part, if you’re going to keep the tablet plugged in, then it’s probably going to stay on your desk and you’re probably not going to move it around a whole lot.

Of course, you want to be careful with it. Don’t yank on the cord because if you do then there’s a chance that you may damage the USB cable, which is replaceable, or you might damage the port, meaning you wouldn’t be able to plug it in anymore. However, if you have the Bluetooth model like I do, then you don’t even need to use the cable to begin with, you can just draw with it in Bluetooth mode and then the cable is not a big deal.

Is It Overpriced?

One of the comments that I’ve seen the most deals with cost, some people think that the Wacom Intuos is expensive or overpriced. And for some people, maybe it is. Maybe it exceeds your budget. However, I do have to point out that compared to some of the Wacom alternatives, the Intuos is a quality tablet. It’s built very well with custom parts rather than generic parts that are slapped together.

Unlike the Wacom alternatives, this tablet also comes with valuable bundled software, so that’s something to keep in mind as well. You’re not just getting a tablet, you’re getting bundled software, reliable tech support and resources that will help you use your tablet, such as tutorials and guides.

It’s really a nice design!


More Affordable Options

If you’re looking for a more affordable option, there are a couple that I would recommend. You could go back to the previous generation Intuos Art, that’ll work well. Or you could go back one more generation to the Intuos Pen & Touch, that’s also a great tablet.

Upgrades

If you’re looking for something that’s better than the Intuos, then of course you could get the Intuos Pro, or the Cintiq Pro 13 or 16.

Looking for something better? Get a Cintiq Pro or Intuos Pro.

Conclusion

That’s my review of the new Wacom Intuos Creative Tablet. It’s a great tablet for beginners and creative folks who are on a tight budget.

Watch my review of the Intuos (2018)

If you’d like a ton of free art tutorials and lessons for how to use this tablet, subscribe to my YouTube channel now, and enable notifications.

XOOT System Review

In this XOOT System review, I’ll introduce you to a revolutionary stand for large display tablet like the Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 and 32. It’s an alternative to the Wacom Ergo Stand or an Ergotron Arm that makes it easy to switch from monitor mode to touch or drawing mode without interrupting your flow. This allows you to take full advantage of your touchscreen drawing tablet.

Chris Myerchin, the inventor of the XOOT System, lent me the device to use in my studio, so today I’ll be reviewing it in more detail while sharing the impact the XOOT System had on my workflow. Before we get started, I want to mention that this is not a sponsored review.

XOOT System Attached to Wacom Cintiq 27 QHD Touch
XOOT System Attached to Wacom Cintiq 27 QHD Touch

I attached the XOOT to my Wacom Cintiq 27 QHD Touch. This is the tablet I am currently using in my studio. The Cintiq was previously attached to an Ergotron Arm. For demonstration purposes, I have two Cintiq 27s side by side, so that we can compare each mounting option.

I use my Cintiq daily. It serves not only as a screen to draw on, but I also use it as my primary monitor for email, video editing, script writing, graphic design and lots of other tasks. Before we get into how I have been using the XOOT in my workflow, let’s dive a bit deeper into the appearance, features and specs of the XOOT System.

FEATURES & SPECS

As I mentioned earlier, the XOOT System allows you to easily change the position and angle of your screen. The angle changes as the tablet moves forward into your lap, and then it moves away from you in the opposite direction to a more vertical orientation. The angle is then fixed in whichever position you like, using electromagnetic brakes.

XOOT System - Touch Strips on the Back Side
XOOT System – Touch Strips on the Back Side

To disengage the braking system, all you need to do is place your finger on a touch strip. These touch strips can easily be customized. You can make them larger or smaller, and you can position them wherever you like on the back of the tablet.

XOOT System Base with Anti-Toppling Arms - Overhead View
XOOT System Base with Anti-Toppling Arms – Overhead View

The base of the XOOT system features Anti-Toppling Arms, which keeps the base from toppling forward. And they also declutter the cables on your desk. The base also features Grip Feet, which can be used to slide the monitor toward and away from the user or side to side to find an optimal position. The base is elevated up off the desk just a bit. The area underneath the base was designed to fit an average size laptop. The available height of the base will vary by the screen attached, but should be at least two inches (or 50 millimeters).

XOOT System Offers Clearance for Mouse and Keyboard
XOOT System Offers Clearance for Mouse and Keyboard

Now, if you have a keyboard and a mouse on your desk, no worries. The XOOT System glides right above your keyboard and mouse without knocking them over or pushing them off the table. This allows you to effortlessly go between monitor mode and touch or drawing mode.

The XOOT System is quite easy to install. — It basically just clamps onto your desk. — The clamp has an adjustable bracket, which will allow you to attach it to desks up to three inches (or 75 millimeters) thick. The XOOT is quite bulky, but it should fit an average-sized desk.

XOOT System Attached to Dell Canvas 27
XOOT System Attached to Dell Canvas 27

Now I will mention that setting up the XOOT may vary if you’re attaching it to something other than the Cintiq 27. For example, the Dell Canvas 27 requires some modification to accommodate the power cables.

I also want to emphasize that this is just a prototype and the actual production model is going to look a lot more polished.

Another thing worth mentioning is that the XOOT System requires an additional power cable to power the electromagnetic braking system. In other words, you need to plug in the XOOT System for the electromagnetic brakes to be able to operate. The brakes remain locked even when the power is disconnected.

XOOT System - Side View
XOOT System – Side View

The mostly steel construction of the stand is very durable. It’s a bit heavy at around 20 pounds, but that shouldn’t be a problem if you have a sturdy desk.

The XOOT System will come in kits. Kits are pre-configured to suit a specific model of tablet. You can order the XOOT with your preferred kit pre-installed and you have the option of swapping kits if you change to a different tablet.

Currently there are a handful of supported tablets, but more tablets will be added as the project progresses, the tablets that are currently supported are the Cintiq Pro 32, Cintiq Pro 24, Cintiq 27 QHD, Cintiq 24 HD and the Dell Canvas. [Coming soon: XP-Pen and Huion tablets as well.]

COMPARISON TO ERGOTRON LX

Next, I will compare the XOOT System to my Ergotron LX arm because that’s what I’m used to working with.

Cintiq 27 QHD Attached to Ergotron LX for Reference
Cintiq 27 QHD Attached to Ergotron LX for Reference

As you can see, I have one Cintiq attached to the XOOT System, and I have another attached to an Ergotron LX arm. Now, I do want to mention that the Ergotron LX arm is a bit different than the Wacom Ergo Flex arm, which goes with the new Cintiq Pro 24 and 32, but essentially they do the same thing.

So let’s start by comparing the bulk and the weight of the two devices. The XOOT is twice as heavy as the Ergotron LX arm and bulkier, but we’ll talk about why that’s a good thing in just a bit.

As far as rigidity goes, the Ergotron uses tension, which you have to adjust with a wrench, even at a high tension, it still wobbles quite a bit. The XOOT lies flat on the desk and was engineered to reduce wobble. The XOOT’s electromagnetic breaks lock the tablet in a fixed position as soon as you remove your finger from the touch strip.

When drawing on the Cintiq, the XOOT is the most stable overall, but it does wobble a little bit in the vertical orientation, especially when you press near the far sides of the screen. The wobble isn’t as bad if you have the screen in your lap.

The Ergotron arm is kind of a mixed bag. If you have it floating in the air, then obviously it will wobble a lot. However, if you rest the edge of your display against the desk, then it barely moves at all.

XOOT System with Rotation Feature
XOOT System with Rotation Feature

Now let’s discuss how each of these stands can articulate. We’ll start with Rotation. The Ergotron arm, and the current Wacom Ergo stand and the XOOT System can all be rotated. The resistance of the rotation can be fine tuned on the XOOT to add more or less friction.

In terms of positions, the Ergotron arm has more axis of motion, so it can move side to side and up and down, as well as forward and backward. The XOOT can move side to side and forward and backward by sliding the base, but it can not move up and down in a vertical orientation. Both devices can be angled from vertical to nearly horizontal.

Drawing on XOOT System in a Vertical Orientation
Drawing on XOOT System in a Vertical Orientation

Next we’ll discuss fluidity of movement, which is a very important factor. The XOOT is much easier to move, it’s weighted so it glides into position. In contrast, you practically have to wrestle the Ergotron arm to get it into position.

Moving onto cable management, both devices allow you to tidy up your cables. Though I did a sloppy job with my Ergotron, you can actually route the cables through the Ergotron arm. The cables can be routed through the XOOT’s arm as well. I would say the two devices are about equal in that regard.

Drawing on XOOT System While Recording from Behind
Drawing on XOOT System While Recording from Behind

Next, we’ll talk about the consistency of the position. Because the Ergotron arm segments move around so much, it can be difficult to keep it in a consistent position. The XOOT is a lot more rigid, so it’s not going to shift out of position every time you angle the screen.

The weight limit of the devices is another important consideration. Both devices are capable of holding large displays, but the Ergotron has a weight limit, and a heavier device can reduce the range of motion and rigidity of the arm. The XOOT is pre-configured to be optimized for the exact weight of your display, which makes adjusting the screen feel light as a feather.

XOOT System Clamped onto my Desk
XOOT System Clamped onto my Desk

Now let’s compare how the two devices mount to a desk, both devices use a clamp. However, the Ergotron can also be mounted by drilling a hole into your desk as well, if you’re not able to use the clamp.

IMPACT ON MY WORKFLOW

Next, I’d like to share some impressions of how the XOOT impacted my workflow. Using the XOOT encouraged me to be less reliant on my keyboard and my mouse. I had to take advantage of my Express Key Remote, pen input and multi-touch to do a lot of the stuff that I was doing with the keyboard and mouse.

I also felt more inclined to change the position of the screen when moving between tasks. It’s buttery smooth to move the screen without a whole lot of effort. And because the screen locks into positions that are more consistent, I could spend less time adjusting my camera when recording over-the-shoulder shots of my paintings.

XOOT System at Lower Drawing Angle
XOOT System at Lower Drawing Angle

I also noticed that my posture and overall comfort improved while using the XOOT System. I was able to elevate my chair a bit, get rid of the keyboard tray, and scoot in close to my desk. With the XOOT at a low position, I could get the screen into my lap which allowed me to lean on the screen and draw in a more comfortable position. When I was done drawing, I could put it back into monitor mode to maintain an ergonomic position through my entire workday.

STILL ADJUSTING TO

Now, I want to talk about some elements of working with the XOOT System that took some adjusting to. First of all, it took some time to remember that I could move the position of the screen because I’m in the habit of using the Ergotron arm that stays vertical the whole time. Once I got used to the idea that I could move the screen, it became second nature.

Writing an Email with the XOOT System at an Upright Angle
Writing an Email with the XOOT System at an Upright Angle

Another thing that’s taking a little bit of adjusting to is that when I draw in a vertical orientation, the screen wobbles a bit. Not a lot, but it’s enough to bother me because I record myself drawing and I don’t like having the screen jitter around. The screen is much more stable at a lower angle, so if the wobble bothers you, that’s a good way to reduce it. My Ergotron LX wobbles too, but resting the Cintiq against the desk adds more stability.

CONCLUSION

After trying the XOOT System in my own studio for about two weeks, I have to say I’m very impressed with the positive changes that it’s introduced into my own personal workflow. I think it’ll probably take me more than a couple of weeks to really get used to working on this device, but I get the impression that the XOOT has the potential to revolutionize how artists, designers, and tablet users work with a touch screen device.

Honestly, the Ergotron LX is doing an acceptable job of holding my tablet up, but it feels like a nuisance to move it around to adjust the screen. The ease of use of the XOOT System felt refreshing to use, and I’m happy to recommend it as an alternative to the Wacom Ergo Stand or Ergo Flex Arm.

If you’re interested in learning more about the XOOT System and where you can order one, sign up for XOOT’s email list or visit xoot.pro for more info.

Watch my video reviews of the XOOT System on YouTube


Check out my recent interview where I share my thoughts on the XOOT System.

More Digital Art Tech reviews

Wacom Cintiq 22 Review

This Wacom Cintiq 22 review is not sponsored by Wacom, but they did send me this tablet unconditionally to review as I please. As always, all opinions in this review are my own.

Overview

Because the Cintiq 22 is nearly identical to the Cintiq 16, which I’ve reviewed separately, I’ll only briefly list the specifications and features of this version. Feel free to watch my full review of the Wacom Cintiq 16 to get a more in-depth look at this device and what it can do.

Wacom’s Cintiq 16 and the new Cintiq 22 were designed as a solution for artists and designers who want the quality of a Wacom display tablet, but may not require some of the advanced features included with the Cintiq Pro line. The Cintiq 22 is a perfect entry-level display tablet for anyone who wants to work directly on screen. This device works great for drawing, painting, animation, design, video editing and more.

Drawing on Cintiq 22 with Corel Painter 2020
Drawing on Cintiq 22 with Corel Painter 2020
  • Pen: Pro Pen 2 with 8192 Pressure Levels
  • Optional Pens: Wacom Art Pen, Pro Pen Slim, Pro Pen 3D, Pro Pen, Classic Pen, Airbrush, Grip Pen
  • Pen Tilt: Supported
  • Barrel Rotation: Supported with Wacom Art Pen
  • Resolution: 1920×1080 HD
  • Color Gamut: 72% NTSC
  • Adjustable Stand: Included

Compared to Cintiq 16

Size:

The most obvious difference between the Cintiq 16 and Cintiq 22 is the size of the display. The active drawing area of the Cintiq 16 is approximately 15.6 inches diagonally, whereas the Cintiq 22 is 21.5 inches diagonally.

cintiq 16 and 22 active drawing area
Weight:

Now as you might expect, there’s going to be a difference in weight has well. The Cintiq 16 is a little bit over 4 pounds without the optional stand. The Cintiq 22 is a little bit over 12 pounds without the optional stand.

Cable Management:

The Cintiq 16 has a 3-in-1 cable that attaches very securely to the tablet. We see the same compartment door on the Cintiq 22, but instead of a 3-in-1 cable, Wacom has chosen to go with 3 individual cables for HDMI, USB and Power.

Personally, I really like the cable design on the Cintiq 16 and I miss seeing it on the Cintiq 22. Although, I have heard more than one complaint from viewers regarding the cable for the Cintiq 16 which is a proprietary cable and could be expensive to replace. You can get replacement HDMI and USB cables anywhere for cheap, so perhaps that’s why we see 3 separate cables here. And, perhaps, individual cables add more flexibility in terms of cable length, since a one-size-fits-all cable is not a solution that works for everyone. I can also imagine that a 22 inch screen probably won’t be shuffled around the desk as much as the Cintiq 16 would.

connections for cintiq 22


I think I prefer the more secure connection because honestly, the connections are a little bit loose on the Cintiq 22. Personally, I would be worried about accidentally yanking those cords and possibly breaking one of the connections or the cables. This is the kind of design that I’d expect to see on a Cintiq imitation, not on a genuine Cintiq. Therefore, I’m a little bit disappointed that they didn’t go with the cable that comes with the Cintiq 16. Now there is a little compartment door that closes on the cables. It does prevent the cables from getting tugged a little bit but not quite as much as I would like. My solution has been to use the twist ties that come included with the cables for the Cintiq 22. To twist tie the cables together and make my own three-in-one cable.

Legs:

One of the most noticeable differences between the Cintiq 16 and 22 are the legs on the back of the tablet. The Cintiq 16 has two legs on either side that fold out to angle the tablet upward a bit. These legs are nowhere to be found on the Cintiq 22. They are, however, present on the Cintiq Pro 24 and 32

Optional Stand:

Another difference is that the adjustable stand is included with the Cintiq 22 whereas it must be purchased separately with the Cintiq 16 at a price of $80. The stands are very similar. The stand for the Cintiq 22 is a little bit larger and it can be angled between 16-82 degrees. The Cintiq 16 stand can be adjusted to a 19-68 degree angle. I think it was a good idea to include the stand because it is essential in my opinion. So keep that in mind if you’re trying to decide between the 16 or 22 inch models of the Cintiq.

wacom cintiq 22 stand
VESA Mounting:

Just like the Cintiq 16, the back of the Cintiq 22 has mounting holes for a VESA-compatible stand, so you could easily mount this display to an Ergotron Arm instead of using the official stand.

The Cintiq 16 requires a VESA mounting plate included with the stand. The Cintiq 22 does not require the plate.


Exterior Features:

On the exterior of the Cintiqs, you’ll notice that there is a power button on the front of the Cintiq 16. That power button is located on the top edge of the Cintiq 22.

You’ll also notice that the bezel is a bit wider on the bottom of the Cintiq 16 but not quite as wide on the Cintiq 22. There’s also a bit more of a buffer zone in between the bezel and the active drawing area on the Cintiq 22. This makes it more difficult for you to accidentally run your pen off of the active area and into the bezel.

Now there are a couple of other differences such as the viewing angle which varies by a very small amount and the power consumption, which is a little bit higher on the Cintiq 22. But other than that, these tablets are nearly identical.

Which Size Should You Choose?

Only you know the answer to this question. If you’re an artist, take a look at what you’re using now. Do you draw in a sketchbook? If so, what is your most common paper size? Do you paint on canvas, if so what size canvas? Do you draw on a tablet without a display? How large is the tablet’s active area? If you draw with a mouse, how big is your mouse pad? Compare that to the size of the Cintiq 16 and 22 and take into consideration the size difference. This should give you an idea of how much gesture space you’re used to.

cintiq 16 vs 22 size difference

You’ll also want to consider how much screen space you need. Depending on the software you use, the UI may take up more or less of your screen. In the case of art applications, your brush palettes will occupy more of the screen on a Cintiq 16 than it would on a Cintiq 22.

I’d say in this case, bigger is better if your priorities are comfortable gesture space and adequate screen real estate.

However, if you prefer a smaller tablet that is more portable, then the Cintiq 16 would certainly be an advantage.

Price and Alternatives

Now comes the point in my Wacom Cintiq 22 review, that we look at the price of this device and its alternatives:

Price: $1,199 USD

Downgrade: $629 less for a Cintiq 16 plus the optional stand, if you don’t need a large screen.

Upgrade: Add $700 for Cintiq Pro 24, but you’d need to add in the cost of a $500 stand on top of that.

wacom cintiq comparisons

Conclusion

PROS:
  • Stand is included
  • Large screen
  • Best pen available for a drawing tablet
  • Color is accurate (Pre-Calibrated)
  • VESA Mount-Compatible
CONS:
  • Cable and connection were better on Cintiq 16
  • No Express Keys on exterior (Can get optional remote or use keyboard or on-screen eys)
  • No way to magnetically dock Express Key Remote

I’d say overall, I’m happy with the design changes made for the Cintiq 22. Sure, I’ll miss the nifty 3-in-1 cable, but the included stand more than makes up for that. If you’re looking for a large display tablet that will give you all of the essential features you’ll need to make digital art and design on the computer, the Wacom Cintiq 22 is what I would recommend.

I hope you enjoyed my Wacom Cintiq 22 review. If you’d like a more in-depth look at the features of the Cintiq 16 and 22, or if you want to see how the Cintiq performs compared to similar display tablets, check out some of my other drawing tablet reviews.

Wacom Cintiq 22 Review (In-Depth)

Top 9 Best Drawing Tablets 2021

There are a lot of drawing tablets out there, but which one is right for you? I’ve made that decision as easy as possible by creating a list of the top 9 drawing tablets to buy in 2021.

#1. Cintiq 27QHD Touch
#2. Cintiq Pro 24 & 32
#3. MobileStudio Pro 13 & 16 (2nd Gen.)
#4. Cintiq Pro 13 & 16
#5. Cintiq 16 & 22
#6. Wacom One 13
#7. Intuos Pro (Medium or Large) (2nd Gen.)
#8. Intuos (Medium)
#9. One by Wacom (Medium)

This review is not sponsored, but Wacom did send me some of these tablets unconditionally to review. All opinions in this review are my own.

OK, so I know we are not very far into 2021, but a lot of these tablets were released in 2018 and 2019, so we may not see another version of these in 2021. Let’s kick this review off with my #9 pick:

one by wacom medium

#9. One by Wacom (Medium Version) – $97.59

The One is about as basic as it gets for drawing tablets. It lacks many of the advanced features of the other tablets in this list, but it includes all of the essentials you need to make digital art. There’s a pressure sensitive pen with over 2,000 pressure levels that you can use to draw on the tablet. The tablet surface has an active drawing area of 8.5 x 5.3 inches.

There is a smaller version of the One by Wacom, but I don’t recommend purchasing a small tablet if you are going to be using it primarily for drawing or painting. A small tablet is OK for small gestures like you would use for photo editing or annotation, but it’s much more comfortable to draw on a larger surface with larger gestures if you can.

Even though the One by Wacom is one of Wacom’s most affordable tablets, it still offers the same top-notch drawing experience as the more expensive tablets that we’ll look at in a bit. The One By Wacom does not offer a display that you can draw onto. Instead, you have to draw on the tablet which connects via USB to your computer and then you look at what you’re drawing on your computer monitor.

Wacom Intuos 2019 (Medium Version)

#8. Wacom Intuos 2019 (Medium Version) – $199.93

The Intuos has an identical active drawing area to the One By Wacom, but it offers a few additional features such as 4,000 pen pressure levels, 4 handy express keys which can be programmed to perform shortcuts, and there is an option for connecting the tablet to your computer wirelessly with Bluetooth.

You can even connect the Intuos to select Android devices to draw on your phone using a portion of your drawing tablet surface. It also comes with bundled software that you can use for making art and editing photos. The Intuos is twice as expensive as the One by Wacom, so you’ll have to weigh whether the express keys and additional pressure levels are worth it. I’ll share my opinion on that near the end of this review.

Wacom Intuos Pro 2nd Gen

#7. Wacom Intuos Pro 2nd Gen (Medium $301.99 or Large Version $499.93)

This is the Pro version of the Intuos with top-of-the-line features and specs. At 8.7 x 5.8 inches, the Medium Intuos Pro is only slightly larger than the regular Intuos Medium, but the Large Intuos Pro has a whopping active drawing area of 12.1 x 8.4 inches.

Because it’s Pro, it’s obviously more professional. It supports Wacom’s best pen, the Pro Pen 2 which has over 8,000 pressure levels and can support pen tilt which gives you more control over the shape of your brush. If you’re drawing with a pencil, you can use tilt to angle your pencil to shade with the side of it. The Intuos Pro also supports other types of pro pens like the Wacom Art Pen which can sense barrel rotation. Pen tilt and rotation make a huge difference if you’re a pro illustrator. It just feels so much more natural to draw and paint with these features. The Intuos Pro has a rougher surface compared to the smoother surface of the Intuos and One by Wacom. I personally prefer a surface with a bit of friction because it feels closer to drawing on paper, but it’s not for everyone. Fortunately, you can also change the feel of the pen and the surface with optional nibs and surface textures.

The Intuos Pro also offers 8 express keys and a touch wheel. Plus it supports touch gestures which can be used to pan and rotate your page, and zoom in and out. The Intuos Pro can be connected with USB or Bluetooth.

This is the end of the line for tablets without a display. From here on out, these tablets will all have built-in displays that you can draw directly onto.

Wacom One 13

#6. Wacom One 13 – $399

One? Wait, didn’t we already do this? OK, so Wacom likes to reuse names. This is the Wacom One, not to be confused with the One by Wacom. The Wacom One was released in 2020 and it’s a tablet with a built-in display you can draw directly onto. While there are advantages to drawing on a display, it’s not essential. To be honest, you can make the same quality art on the One By Wacom which doesn’t have a screen. So don’t feel like you need the most expensive tablet to be successful at digital art.

Now, I ranked the Wacom One a bit higher than the Intuos Pro because I believe most artists are going to feel more comfortable drawing directly on a screen. Although in many ways, the Wacom One is a downgrade from the Intuos Pro with only 4,000 pen pressure levels and a pen that more closely resembles the basic pen that comes with the non-Pro Intuos. And oddly enough, the Wacom One’s pen only has one shortcut button while the entry-level One By Wacom’s pen has two buttons. It is actually useful to have two buttons on your pen, so that might be reason enough to go with the Intuos Pro. At least the Wacom One’s pen supports pen tilt which makes it stand out from the pens included with the Intuos and One By Wacom.

wacom one vs intuos pens

The Wacom One has an active drawing area of 11.6 x 6.5 in which is considerably larger than the Intuos Pro Medium, but only a bit narrower than the Intuos Pro Large and not as tall. Because of this taller aspect ratio, the Large Intuos Pro lends itself better to large gesture drawing. Another notable difference is that because the Wacom One is a display tablet, you will need to connect it to your device with a video cable in addition to the USB cable needed to transmit data. In contrast, the Intuos Pro can be connected wirelessly with Bluetooth.

Much like the Intuos Pro, the Wacom One supports additional pens, but only specific EMR pens and unfortunately not any of Wacom’s Pro Pens. One feature that sets the Wacom One apart from the other tablets in this list is its ability to seamlessly connect to select Android devices to allow you to draw and paint with your phone instead of a desktop or laptop. Now I know I said the Intuos can connect to Android as well, but it doesn’t do it nearly as well as the Wacom One does. While the Intuos only maps a portion of the tablet to your device’s screen, the Wacom One can open your phone full-screen in desktop mode.

wacom one connected to samsung galaxy s10+, drawing on android

While you can do basic digital painting and drawing, making art on Android is not quite as robust as the experience you’d get by drawing on a Windows or Mac computer. That’s not to mention that the Wacom One does not support touch while most Android art apps are built for touch devices. But I do believe that mobile apps are soon going to adapt to accommodate display tablets. And despite those drawbacks, drawing with the Wacom One is light years away from drawing with stylus or a finger. So it might be worth it to choose the Wacom One over the Intuos Pro depending on your needs.

I think if you lean toward pro, you probably want the Intuos Pro since it offers a better pen, a larger gesture space and multi-touch. But if you’re more of a beginner or hobbyist, then get the display tablet, it’s going to feel so much more natural to draw on.

Wacom Cintiq 16 and 22

#5. Wacom Cintiq 16 ($649.95) & Cintiq 22 ($1,199.93)

These are essentially the same tablet, just in different sizes. Aside from the difference in size, the most notable distinction is that the Cintiq 22 comes with a stand, whereas the Cintiq 16 has fold-out legs with an optional stand that must be purchased separately. Both sizes of this tablet are great, but as you know I prefer a larger drawing surface, so clearly I think you should choose the 22 if you can afford it.

If you’re trying to choose between the Cintiq 16 or the Wacom One, then if you lean pro, go with the Cintiq 16 because it comes with the more comfortable Pro Pen 2 with twice as many pressure levels, two pen buttons and an eraser; it supports Wacom’s other pro pens and it has an optional adjustable stand which I definitely recommend if you want to work at a more vertical angle. As with the Wacom One, the Cintiqs require an HDMI video connection to a Mac or Windows computer.

If you’re more of a beginner or hobbyist and the pro-level features don’t matter to you, choose the Wacom One. And if portability is a concern, the Wacom One does have an advantage by being more low-profile than the Cintiqs which are much bulkier.

Now here’s where we start to transition to tablets that are more for professional use. These tablets offer features that are probably only going to matter to artists who make art for a living. — Features like screen resolution and color accuracy. Even if these models are out of your price range, I think it’s still helpful to see what they offer to get a better idea of what you should expect from a more affordable tablet. I’ll be sharing some advice on how many pressure levels you need, and you might be surprised at my number one choice so read on.

Wacom Cintiq Pro 13 and 16

#4. Wacom Cintiq Pro 13 ($699.99) & Cintiq Pro 16 ($1,499.93)

As with the Pro and non-Pro models of the Intuos, we have a full-featured model and its stripped-down counterpart. The Cintiq Pro 13 is only a bit more expensive than the non-pro Cintiq 16. Both devices have a screen resolution of 1920 x 1080 and both support the Wacom Pro Pen 2 along with other types of pens. But the Cintiq Pro 13 supports multi-touch, and it has better color accuracy at 87% of Adobe RGB compared to the Cintiq 16 and 22 which only support about 70% of Adobe RGB.

The Pro models of the Cintiq also offer 3 USB-C ports on the side which can be used to connect the display to other devices. There’s also a headphone jack and security lock slot. And the Pro Cintiqs offer more video connections such as USB-C, Mini Display Port, or HDMI. Gone are the express keys on the exterior of the device. And instead there is an optional Express Key Remote you can purchase which gives you a touch wheel and 17 programmable keys. But you can also pop up on-screen keys with any of the tablets on this list, so you might not need express keys. Personally, I just prefer to use my keyboard, so I can live without them.

As with the Wacom One, there are legs that fold out to provide a 20 degree angle to draw on. But you have the option of purchasing the optional stand that can be adjusted to provide more angles. The stand can make a difference in terms of comfort if you are working on your tablet for long periods of time. The stand is more sturdy on the Cintiq 16 and 22 and attaches more securely, but that also makes the device less portable and more bulky. The Cintiq Pro feels more like a tablet computer while the regular Cintiq is built more like a TV.

The Cintiq Pro 16 is slightly better equipped than the Cintiq Pro 13 with even more accurate color at 94% of Adobe RGB. It also supports Ultra-HD screen resolution which means you can see more detail when you are drawing. If you do a lot of fine line work and you want to be able to see maximum detail when zooming out on your canvas, then having a high-resolution screen is nice. However, 1920×1080 is adequate for digital illustration and anything above that is more of a luxury than a necessity. So basically unless you care about color accuracy and the other Pro features, you could get by just fine with one of the non-Pro Cintiqs.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 and 16

#3. Wacom MobileStudio Pro 13 ($2,599.95) & 16 ($3,400.95) 2nd Gen.

The MobileStudio Pro is essentially a Cintiq Pro that is squished down into a tablet computer. Unlike the other display tablets in my list, the MobileStudio Pro is the only model that does not require a connection to a separate device like a laptop, desktop or Android device. The MobileStudio 13 & 16 run Windows 10 and that means they can run any application that is supported by Windows. Not light versions of desktop apps, not mobile apps — we’re talking the full version of Photoshop here. The MobileStudio Pro is also battery-powered, which makes it perfect for artists who like to work outside the studio. I absolutely love it for painting outdoors or while traveling.

digital painting at the beach with wacom mobilestudio pro 16

The MSP13 has a WQHD screen resolution which is better than the 1920×1080 supported by the Wacom One, Cintiq 16 & 22 and Cintiq Pro 13, but not as crisp as the UHD resolution supported by the Cintiq Pro 16. The MobileStudio Pro 16 does support UHD resolution, but it offers less accurate color at 85% Adobe RGB compared to the Cintiq Pro 16 which provides 94% of Adobe RGB. The MSP13 offers even less color accuracy with only 82% Adobe RGB coverage.

Just like the Pro Cintiqs, the MobileStudio Pro is equipped with USB-C ports and can also be connected as a regular Cintiq to a Windows or Mac computer. And look, the express keys are back. Similar in design to the Intuos Pro, the MobileStudio Pro has either 6 or 8 express keys and a touch wheel. One feature that sets the MobileStudio Pro apart from other tablets is that it can sense screen rotation. You can use this to change the angle of dripping paint on your canvas.

While the convenience and portability of the MobileStudio Pro is nice, its hardware will eventually become outdated. You can upgrade the RAM and SSD on the MobileStudio Pro , but that won’t delay it’s obsolescence very long. Another downside is that the MobileStudio Pro uses mobile processors which prefer power saving over performance. A powerful desktop is going to provide the snappiest performance and if that’s what you’re used to, then the MobileStudio Pro might feel a little sluggish in comparison. You’re trading performance for portability, so if you don’t need to make your studio mobile, then save some money and get the Cintiq Pro 16 and a nice computer or check out what’s coming up next…

Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 and 32

#2. Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 ($1,999.99) & Cintiq Pro 32 ($3,299.95)

Given its ability to harness the power of your desktop, the Cintiq Pros offer the best tablet experience money can buy. The extra-large active drawing areas of the Cintiq Pro 24 and Cintiq Pro 32 give you plenty of room for your application interface while keeping your canvas large enough so that you can make very large gestures while drawing or painting. If you are a pro illustrator then this is what you want if money is no object. It feels great to be able to work on a large image on a large screen and see every detail without having to zoom in. And if you do need to zoom, pan or rotate, the Cintiq Pro 24 and 32 supports multi-touch. Both devices also support the Pro Pen 2 and UHD screen resolution. The color gamut accuracy on the Cintiq Pro 24 is 99% Adobe RGB which is very accurate color. The Cintiq Pro 32 offers 98% Adobe RGB coverage, but 1% is not a significant difference. In either case, these are the largest and most accurate display tablets that Wacom has to offer.

drawing on cintiq pro 32

The Cintiq Pro 24 & 32 have the added bonus of an included Express Key Remote which magnetically attaches to the bezel. They also have folding legs like the smaller Cintiq Pros with only one angle. However, you can buy a couple of different stands. There is the official Wacom Ergo Stand and then there’s the Wacom-branded Ergo Flex Ergortron arm. I prefer the arm, but both stands are great. I’d say a stand is essential for either of these tablets because they are so large.

In terms of portability, these are some pretty beefy devices. They require a lot of desk space and they aren’t easy or convenient to lug around. Technically, these are portable in the sense that there is an optional computer module you can add to the Cintiq Pro 24 and 32 called the Cintiq Pro Engine which will allow you to turn your Cintiq Pro into a fully functional computer. But it’s not as portable as the self-powered MobileStudio Pro would be because you’d have to lug around a large Cintiq, plus find outlets to power the devices.

These tablets are overkill for a beginner or hobbyist. If you just want a big screen to draw on, you might be comfortable with a Cintiq 22 since it includes the stand and does basically the same thing as the Cintiq Pro. The Cintiq Pro 24 and 32 are the pinnacle of digital art tools. Or are they? Well we are still at #2, so I guess not…

My main gripes about the Cintiq Pro 24 and 32 are the size and the fan noise. Now, I know you’re saying: “But, Aaron, you just told me that a larger tablet was better.” I’ll come back to the size issue.

cintiq pro 24 and 32 vents

Fan noise many not be much of an issue for you, but I record audio and video of my drawings, so I don’t need any unnecessary noise ruining my magnificent voice overs. The Cintiq 24 and 32 have external fans that come on intermittently and aren’t super loud, but are loud enough to bother me. If that’s just how it had to be then I would accept the fan noise, but because I’ve used other devices that aren’t as noisy, I know that’s not the case.

Now to be fair, Wacom did put out a firmware patch that allows you to lower the fan speed, but it’s not recommended. And, according to Wacom, it can create “a temperature increase on the surface of the tablet” I don’t know whether or not this warning is meant to prevent sweaty palms, or if it’s to stop users from unnecessarily decreasing the lifespan of their device, but I do know there’s a reason why the Cintiq Pros need to cool off and it’s probably best not to mess with that.

Wacom Cintiq 27 QHD Touch

#1. Wacom Cintiq 27 QHD Touch

This is probably a surprise to some of you, but I actually like the Cintiq 27 QHD slightly better than the newer Cintiq Pro 24 or 32. Sure I like that the Cintiq Pro has a better screen with a higher resolution and is compatible with USB-C, but I’m frickin’ Goldilocks and I just think the 24 feels too small and the 32 is too massive. Yes, there is such a thing as too big.

27 feels right to me, and I can live with QHD resolution and only 2,000 pressure levels. I created a lot of my early work with only 1,000 pressure levels, so I know it’s not a factor that is going to hold anyone back. Some goes for screen resolution, as I mentioned earlier, 1080 HD is an adequate screen resolution and you can make great art with just that. Remember the One By Wacom that came in at #9? — That has the same pressure levels as my high-end Cintiq 27 QHD. So higher pressure levels can be an advantage in some cases, but for the most part, it’s just a number.

I do wish I had USB-C ports on my Cintiq 27 QHD, but at least it has 4 USB-A ports I can use to connect peripherals. The Cintiq 27 QHD includes the Express Key Remote which can magnetically dock to the bezel. And it requires one USB-A connection for data and a video connection through either HDMI or DisplayPort, so it’s not as elegant of a connection as the single USB-C cable you can use to connect the Cintiq Pros, but that’s OK with me.

wacom cintiq size comparisons

In terms of color accuracy, the Cintiq 27 QHD supports 97% of Adobe RGB which is only a hair less than the Cintiq Pro 24 & 32. And best of all, there are no noisy fans on the Cintiq 27 QHD like you’ll find on the Cintiq 24 & 32. Just like the Cintiq Pros, an optional stand is not only available, but I’m also insisting that you need the stand in order to work comfortably. There is a similar official Wacom Ergo Stand, but without support for screen rotation. Or you can purchase an inexpensive VESA adapter and connect an Ergotron Arm which does support screen rotation.

I’d say if you can find a used Cintiq 27 QHD Touch in working condition, snatch it up. Even the non-touch version would be great if you don’t think you need touch. I’d love to see Wacom release a 27 inch Cintiq Pro, but until that happens, the Cintiq 27 QHD is my top pick for drawing tablets in 2021.

CONCLUSION

So that’s my list of the Top 9 Drawing Tablets to buy in 2021. If you’d to see in-depth reviews of these tablets, subscribe to my YouTube channel and check out my other reviews. And for a list of the products I mentioned in this review, visit my store at kit.co/aaronrutten

Watch my video review of the Top 9 Tablets

10 Digital Art Mistakes

A list of the top 10 digital art mistakes. Learn about these common mistakes and discover solutions to correct them. Whether you are a beginner or a professional artist, these tips will help you improve your digital art skills.

These are some quick tips from my YouTube video. Watch the full tutorial for more details on each topic.


#1 Not Using Layers

Many artists do not use layers. Layers are your friend. They allow you to separate overlapping objects into individual elements which can be stacked and rearranged.


digital art layers

You can easily edit and experiment with your artwork using layers. Layers can be a huge time-saver when used properly.   


#2 Destructive Editing

The most common example of Destructive Editing is using the eraser. The eraser permanently removes pixels which is a destructive edit.

A Non-Destructive alternative would be to use a Layer Mask to conceal pixels rather than remove them. The advantage to masking is that you can make the concealed pixels visible again. Many filters are also destructive, so be careful when applying them.


#3 Inadequate Image Resolution

Many artists start with a small or low-resolution canvas which causes the artwork to look blurry or jagged when enlarged or zoomed into. That’s because a low image resolution limits how much you can enlarge an image before it degrades in quality.

digital art image resolution example

I recommend using a resolution of 300 dpi/ppi for small/medium canvases and 150 dpi/ppi for large canvases.


#4 Not Saving Often

Not saving often enough can result in time lost because your application can crash, your computer could suddenly restart, or a file could get corrupted.

Saving often and saving iterations will spare you from more than a few headaches.


#5 Saving As JPEG

JPEG is one of the most well known image formats, but it is also one of the worst for digital painting. JPEG compresses your image with lossy compression which can degrade the detail and color in your artwork. Saving as JPEG multiple times compounds the problem.

Always save your master copy of your work as PSD, RIFF or your software’s native format. When saving copies for web, use PNG instead because it uses lossless compression.


#6 Zooming In Too Far

It’s natural to want to zoom in really close while painting on your computer, but a lot of the detail you add at close range often gets lost when people view your work zoomed out.

Do the bulk of your painting at less than 100% zoom, and be sure to view your work at different sizes while you work.


#7 Not Looking Closely For Mistakes

Accidental marks, messy edges, gradient banding and incorrect proportions are all easily avoidable digital art mistakes if you simply take some time to closely evaluate your work.

Artwork with Levels filter applied

In this example. you can see that there are some areas I did not blend very well in the shadows. By brightening the image temporarily, I can more easily see mistakes that will show up on displays that are brighter than what I use in my studio.

You can either blend or paint to soften these edges to smooth out the transitions in color.


#8 Low Image Contrast

A flat-looking image always falls flat. For an image to stand out, it needs a wide range of contrast.

Be sure to use a lot of different midtones in addition to light and dark colors.


#9 Not Shifting The Hue

A lot of artists believe shading is as easy as making a color lighter or darker, but you also need to shift the Hue of your color for a natural-looking result.

digital art color - shifting the hue

Shadows are often shifted cooler towards blue/purple/green and highlights are often shifted warmer towards red/orange/yellow. Cooler and warmer are relative to your current color selection.

Download my Digital Art Color Guide PDF


#10 Incorrect Tablet Use

Proper positioning of your tablet is the key to building hand-eye-coordination and working comfortably. Keep the edge of your tablet parallel to the edge of your screen and place your tablet in front of you if possible. Do not turn your tablet at an angle or that will make it harder to draw accurately.


10 Digital Art Mistakes (Tutorial)
5 Ways to Ruin Your Digital Art
Messy Shading – Digital Art Mistakes
Can You Un-Merge Layers?

Drawing Tablet Tutorial

I’m professional digital artist, Aaron Rutten and in this drawing tablet tutorial, I’ll teach you the basics of working with a graphics tablet. For you beginners, I’ll cover some of the basics of how a tablet works, and for the more experienced artists, I’ll share some tips that will help you make the most of your tablet.

I’ll discuss drawing on 3 different kinds of tablets: A basic drawing tablet without a screen such as the Wacom Intuos, a large tablet with a built-in screen that you can draw on such as the Wacom Cintiq 27 QHD and finally an all-in-one drawing tablet with a built-in computer such as the Wacom MobileStudio Pro. I’m aware that not everyone has a Wacom tablet, but many of these tips will be useful regardless of which tablet you are using.

wacom intuos, cintiq 27 qhd, and mobilestudio pro 16
Intuos (Top), Cintiq 27 QHD (Left), MobileStudio Pro 16 (Right)

I’ll assume that you have already installed your tablet drivers before plugging the tablet in to your computer. If you need help installing the drivers or if your tablet is not recognizing your pen, then you may need to watch my Troubleshooting Your Drawing Tablet tutorial. If you still need help, contact the manufacturer of your tablet for tech support.

I’ll also assume that you have installed a free or paid art application that can recognize a drawing tablet and pen pressure.

Using a Basic Tablet

I’ll start by discussing how to use a basic tablet that plugs in through USB to your desktop or laptop computer, such as the Wacom Intuos. This type of tablet does not have a built in screen, so you have to look up at your computer monitor to see what you are drawing. A lot of people think that sounds difficult, but you don’t look down at your hand while using a mouse and you do just fine, right? It will take a few weeks or months of practice, but most people are able to adjust to drawing on a tablet while looking up at a screen.

NAVIGATING WITH PEN:

The pen moves your mouse cursor, but it does not push the cursor around like your mouse would. Instead, you are pointing to the location on your tablet where you want your cursor to point to on your screen. Your cursor is the tip of your pen and tablet surface is your screen. So if I want my cursor in the top-left corner of my screen, I move the tip of my pen to the top-left of my tablet. If you tablet is smaller or narrower than your computer monitor, which it very likely is, that’s OK. With practice, you’ll quickly adjust to the difference in scale or aspect ratio.

Navigating with a non-display tablet like the Wacom Intuos.
  • Hover pen slightly above surface until cursor moves.
  • Tap pen to perform a mouse click.
  • Tap and hold to drag windows (sustained mouse click).
  • If you are using multiple monitors and your tablet is moving the cursor on the wrong screen, see Mapping in your tablet properties control panel.

TESTING PEN PRESSURE:

Now comes the part of this drawing tablet tutorial where we do some test drawing in art application with a brush, I’m using Corel Painter. Try to find a brush that can sense pen pressure to control the brush size. Ink pens usually do the trick.

Drawing with Pen Pressure in an art application that supports pressure.

Press very lightly and then use firmer pressure until you see a change. You may need to calibrate your pen to respond to the amount of pressure you use in the Wacom Tablet Properties. To find this, look in your control panel or search your computer for Wacom Tablet Properties or Wacom Control Center. If you’re using a non-wacom tablet, you should have a tablet control panel too with very similar options. I press hard with my pen while drawing, so I set mine a notch toward firm. You can test the pressure in this control panel or jump back to your art app and try some more test strokes.

You may also be able to control the sensitivity of the pen in your art application as well. The setting in Wacom Tablet Properties is global and affects all applications, whereas calibrating pen pressure within an application only affects that application. Personally, I find the global setting is good enough, but there are a few brushes I use in Corel Painter that require some fine tuning of the pressure. I can do this in Corel Painter by going to General > Brush Calibration and then clicking on the bottom-right icon and painting the kind of stroke pressure I want in the test area. You’ll get different results depending on whether you press firmly, lightly or use a mix of both.

It may take some back and forth, but try to find a setting that feels the most natural. It will take some time to get used to drawing with the pen, so you can always come back to this setting later and fine tune it. You might also test a soft semi-opaque brush such as an Airbrush because the pen pressure can also control the Opacity of the paint as well the Flow of paint in some art applications.

GESTURES:

Drawing naturally on a tablet takes practice, but it also relies heavily on using proper technique. This drawing tablet tutorial only focuses on the basics, but I have a few videos you can watch that go into more detail about drawing techniques. But let me say that the size of your tablet is going to affect the kinds of gestures you can make with your pen. Many of the techniques that artists use to freehand draw straight lines and smooth circles require a large area to gesture on. If I’m using a small tablet like this, I can only move my arm so much before I run off the tablet surface. So it’s better to have a larger tablet, but you can still make great art on a small tablet as well. It just means you’ll have to learn to draw using smaller gestures.

Proper gestures make a huge difference, but you’ll need a larger drawing surface.

POSITIONING:

drawing tablet positioned correctly in front of display
For maximum-performance, keep your tablet parallel to your display and directly in front of it.

Positioning is also very important to drawing naturally on a tablet. There are artists out there who disagree with me on this, but in my opinion, it’s best to have your tablet and your body aligned horizontally with your monitor. Meaning the tablet is not rotated at an angle and neither are you. It’s also good to have the tablet right in front of your monitor rather than off to the side, but in some desk setups, that’s not possible. So let me say that it is possible to adapt to drawing on a tablet that is not at the same angle as your screen and positioned off to one side, but it takes more effort for your brain to make that adjustment. I feel it’s better to get the tablet to match the screen as closely as possible and then you won’t have to worry about the additional strain on your hand-eye coordination. I have a keyboard tray which I can use to set my tablet on. However, the Wacom Intuos tablet is rather small, so it could feel more comfortable to have it off to the side a bit. That’s going to throw off my brain a bit, but I’ve learned to adapt. You’ll have to try some different positions until you find one that works the best for you.

PALM REJECTION:

You can rest your hand on the tablet, only the pen tip can make a mark. Your fingers can rub against the tablet. You can draw on it just like you would on paper. Some tablets can sense touch input which can be used to zoom in to your painting or perform other types of commands. If you’re worried about the touch going off accidentally, you can toggle it on and off with either an express key, a switch on your tablet or within the Wacom Tablet Properties.

CUSTOMIZATION:

Many tablets are ambidextrous and can be used by left handed artists. You can set the handedness in the Wacom Tablet Properties. There are some other customizations you can do here if you browse around. More or less options will be shown depending on the tablets and pens you have connected. If you have more than one Wacom device connected, you’ll be able to customize each tablet and each pen.

Wacom Pro Pen 1
Wacom Pro Pen 1 with 2 programmable buttons.

Tablet with a Screen (Cintiq)

Display tablets, such as the Wacom Cintiq 27 QHD Touch, are drawing tablets with a built-in screen. While you have the advantage of not having to look at a separate screen while painting, you may find that there are some disadvantages to working on a screen, like fatigue from holding your arm up as opposed to resting it on the tablet surface; and your hand blocking your view of what you’re drawing. Aside from that, drawing on a screen should feel as natural as drawing on paper. Again, as with the tablet without a screen, you can rest your hand on the screen and if the tablet supports touch and you want to disable it, that’s easy to do. There’s actually a button on many of the Cintiqs up at the top that can turn touch on and off.

Wacom Cintiq 27 QHD Touch
Wacom Cintiq 27 QHD Touch

Before working on a display tablet, you’ll need to calibrate the position of your pen. This is different than calibrating pen pressure. This makes sure the mouse cursor aligns with the tip of your pen. Some screen tablets have parallax, so you’ll never be able to get the cursor and pen tip perfectly aligned, but you can get it close. Don’t worry because you’ll probably be looking at your brush cursor while painting more than your pen tip. Just get it as close as possible. You can set the Calibration in Wacom Tablet Properties. Make sure you are centered in front of your screen and keep your pen upright or perpendicular to the flat surface of your screen to avoid offsetting the pen.

Close-up of drawing on the Cintiq 27 QHD
Close-up of drawing on the Cintiq 27 QHD

Cintiqs are often larger as drawing tablets go, so you’ll be able to make bigger broader gestures while drawing.

I can’t speak for other brands of tablets, but a Wacom Cintiq does not need a screen protector. You can easily wipe off any fingerprints or dust. After you watch my drawing tablet tutorial, check out this video with some tips about cleaning your device. These screens are meant to be drawn on with a pen and normal use should not scratch the tablet. Don’t get me wrong, you need to be careful with your screen, but some of the reports of scratches on the screen turn out to just be oil from people’s hands or residue from the pen tip rubbing against the screen. This can be easily wiped away with a dry soft microfiber cloth. (Same goes for non-screen tablets like the Wacom Intuos models.)

A Cintiq has a nice screen with mostly accurate color, so it’s up to you if you have a reason for needing to buy and use a color calibrator.

Tablet Computer

And the last type of tablet we’ll talk about in this drawing tablet tutorial is the all-in-one tablet, such as the Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16. There’s not much to say about the drawing tablet computers, they are basically a screen tablet with a computer inside.

Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16
Wacom MobileStudio Pro 16

One of the key differences between a tablet computer and a screen tablet is that the tablet computer may be able to sense screen rotation and the screen its self can be angled to make it more comfortable to draw. This can be useful for drawing in portrait orientation or tilting your canvas to make watercolor paint drip in Rebelle 2. If you don’t like it when the screen senses rotation, you can turn it off with a switch on the tablet or within Windows.

dripping paint in rebelle 2
The accelerometer on the MobileStudio Pro 16 can be used to control dripping paint in Rebelle.

Extra Features

Now let’s talk about some extra features that you may or may not have.

ERASER:

If your pen has an eraser, you can flip it over and that should switch your art app to the eraser tool. This eraser can be disabled or programmed to do another function. You can also draw with the eraser end.

drawing tablet pen eraser
If you pen has eraser, it may be able to do more than erase.

TOUCH:

If your tablet supports touch, you can use it to navigate your computer. You can use both the touch and the pen to create your artwork. There are some global gestures you can use and customize in the Wacom Tablet Properties, but many art apps can use their own gestures as well.

multi-touch input
Some tablets support multi-touch input.
  • Tap with one finger to click or drag windows and files.
  • Drag with two fingers to pan the view of your canvas.
  • Pinch to zoom and rotate the view of your canvas.

EXPRESS KEYS:

Express keys are buttons on your tablet that can perform just about any command. They are most useful when assigned to commonly used functions such as Undo and Redo, hiding the application interface, and panning the view of your canvas, just to name a few. The more express keys you have, the more shortcuts you can program. There are also on-screen buttons you can program in the Wacom Tablet Properties to add even more commands. Every device in this drawing tablet tutorial includes at least a few Express Keys.

Express Keys on the Mobile Studio Pro
Express Keys on the Mobile Studio Pro
  • You can customize express keys for all apps or for specific apps using profiles.
  • Backup your customization to a file or to the Wacom cloud for easy recovery should you ever need it.

Looking for some examples of how to set your Express Keys? Try my Express Key Map for Corel Painter.

BRUSH EXPRESSIONS:

Now let’s talk about brush expressions. Brush expressions can be used along with your pen if it supports brush expressions to do things like tilt your pen to get different marks. You can also rotate your pen, to rotate flat brushes like palette knives, if you are using a pen that supports it, such as the Wacom Art Pen. Your digital art software also has to support the expressions as well.

demonstration of pen tile and rotation
Brush Expressions: Pen Tilt & Rotation

TABLET SURFACE & NIBS:

Many Wacom tablets have tooth or a slight feeling of paper grain. — It’s not sticky or too slippery. That can’t be said for some of the Wacom-alternative tablets out there. So why is the tablet’s surface a feature? It’s because this tooth feels more natural to draw on. It provides a bit of friction or resistance to the pen tip, the same kind of friction you expect from a pen on paper. This does cause the pen tips or nibs to wear down, but that’s just a property of nature. Everything wears down when rubbing against something else because heat is created. If the nib does not wear down, then the screen must wear down. Something has to wear down, so which would you choose? It’s a property of nature not a conspiracy to get you to buy more nibs. Fortunately, your tablet probably came with some replacement nibs. In the Wacom Intuos, they are in a compartment on the back of the tablet. And on the Cintiq, they are in the pen holder. Additional nibs can be ordered online and there are even felt tip nibs and other types of specialty nibs that give your pen a different feel.

wacom pen nib
Wacom Pen Nib

Nibs can wear down quickly, but not if you use proper technique. For example, don’t press so hard. If you’re pressing down really hard to get pen pressure, maybe you need to calibrate your pen pressure to make it easier to get the stroke you want. Another tip to make your nibs last longer is to use your pen’s eraser for repetitive tasks like blending and any strokes that don’t require the accuracy of the pen tip. In addition to the tips in my drawing tablet tutorial, this video has some advice for making your nibs last longer.

WIRELESS:

Some of the tablets without a screen can be connected wirelessly. Some tablets come with a wireless kit and some require the kit to be purchased separately. In my opinion, a USB connection is better because it is not susceptible to wireless interference or the signal getting blocked or lagging.

Conclusion

That should give you a good idea of how to draw on just about any drawing tablet. If you found this information helpful, take a quick second to like my drawing tablet tutorial. And if you haven’t already, I’d love to have you subscribe to my YouTube channel, I have tons of videos about digital art.

More drawing tablet tutorials on my YouTube channel

Corel Painter 2020 Review

In this Corel Painter 2020 review, I’ll give you an overview of the top features and share my thoughts on this version.

Review By Aaron Rutten – 6/25/2019
Affiliate links in this article earn revenue that allows me to continue making great digital art resources.

Pros & Cons of This Version

Pros:

  • Some brushes can leverage your GPU to greatly increase performance for large brushes and large canvases.
  • Easier to locate and make sense of advanced brush and tool controls.
  • Significant improvements to color selection.

Cons:

  • Not all brushes can support GPU.
  • Performance gains are hardware-dependent.
  • No new brush technology.


GPU-Gotta See it To Believe It!

When I first discovered Corel Painter, around version 9, it quickly became my art software of choice and I have been using it ever since. I’m drawn to Corel Painter because it offers one of the best and most robust digital painting experiences, but such power can be a double-edged sword. While it can be a benefit to paint with brushes that offer a more complex and organic look, the speed at which you can paint can suffer, especially while painting on large canvases. Compared to other art apps, Painter can feel a bit sluggish at times. This has become especially noticeable as more and more art applications are able to utilize a computer’s GPU (video card) to significantly improve brush performance. Today, I’m excited to say that Painter is finally able to leverage the power of your GPU to improve brush speed dramatically. That’s right, folks. Painter can finally take advantage of your video card.

I purchased an Nvidia GTX 1080 a couple of years ago, and while it has been great for improving the performance of Photoshop, Corel Painter had not a care in the world about my fancy video card. Now, with the addition of Painter 2020’s Brush Accelerator Engine, I’m not only able to utilize my GPU to speed up brushes, but Painter actually analyzes my computer hardware and optimizes itself for peak performance on my system. I can also see an overview of how Painter is making use of my hardware and I’m able to gain insight about how I might be able to upgrade components to improve performance. On my system, GPU has a huge impact on performance and I’m amazed at how much faster extra-large brushes perform, even on very large canvases.

image
[Brush Accelerator report on my i7 Desktop System with GTX 1080 GPU]

Naturally, the performance gains you may experience are going to heavily depend on what kind of hardware you have in your system, but if you have a good computer, it’s finally going to feel like it when you use Painter. Well, that is unless you use any of the brush technology that is not optimized to use the GPU (Which is a lot of brushes). I’m a bit disappointed to say that only the stamp-type brushes are able to utilize the GPU. However, many of the brushes have improved Multi-Core performance and some brushes can also use AVX2 to further boost performance. These performance boosts are welcome but are dwarfed in comparison to the performance gained by leveraging the GPU. I wish more of Painter’s brushes could use my GPU, but I’m happy with the progress made so far. Many of my favorite brushes can now use GPU, so overall my painting experience has noticeably improved. I feel much more comfortable painting on large canvases and blocking in large areas with a massive brush.

So for those artists out there who have been holding out, now is a good time to give Painter another chance. If you are already a Painter user and you have a good computer, it would be well worth it to upgrade for this feature alone. But let’s take a look at some of the other updates to Corel Painter 2020:


New Brushes

While there isn’t any dramatic new brush technology to play with in this version of Painter, there are two new brush categories. The Fast and Ornate & Fast and Simple categories feature 26 enhanced brushes that take advantage of Painter’s Performance optimizations. There are also several new optimized watercolor brushes found in the Watercolor Category. It’s worth mentioning that you can enable GPU for your own custom brushes that can support it, just uncheck Disable GPU in the Performance panel to give your brushes a boost.


User Interface Advancements

The new user interface improvements in Painter 2020 aim to streamline your workflow by:

  • Reducing the number of panels you need to have open on your screen
  • Reducing the number of clicks required to access priority controls
  • Making essential controls more easily accessible.

Many of the properties have also been grouped and reorganized in a more logical way to make it easier to find the controls you are looking for.

Property Labels & Tool Properties
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the number of brushes and properties available in Corel Painter? Lucky for you, the new Property Labels in the Properties Bar makes it easier to make sense of the properties and what they relate to. This can be disabled in the Preferences > Interface. Just as well, many of the tools in the toolbar now show more properties in the Properties Bar to make it easier to find what you are looking for without having to dig through menus.

image
[Property Bar Labels and Magic Wand Tool Properties]


Stroke Options & New Guides Panels

New panels have been added for the Mirror Painting and Perspective Guide tools to make it easier to access these controls without having to leave the brush tool. You can even add Mirror Painting Presets. You can open these panels from a new Stroke Options flyout in the properties bar, the Advanced Button on the Properties bar (when the tool is selected), or from Window > Composition Panels.

image
[Stroke Options Flyout with Perspective Guides and Mirror Painting Panels]


Enhanced Shape Tools

Artists who use the vector shape tools in Painter will be pleased to hear that the vector tools have been given some TLC. In Painter 2020, all shape and shape editing tools are now available in the Properties Bar along with many of the essential shape commands. The workflow for changing the fill and stroke has been improved by making it easier to edit shape properties, plus there is now a Shape Attributes flyout in the properties bar and a separate Shape Attributes panel. These improvements really make working with vector shapes a lot less frustrating. I might even go as far as to say that it actually feels close to what you’d expect from a dedicated vector application in terms of essential vector shape editing.

image
[Editing the stroke width of a vector shape using the Shape Properties panel]


Improved Brush Selection

Brush selection has been streamlined in Painter 2020. By default, a new Stroke Preview mode shows more information about the appearance and characteristics of each brush. In this view, you can see the brush dab, a stroke preview, and the brush name. This view can be customized to show more or less information in the Variant Display menu.

Dab previews have also been updated to better represent the brushes. In some cases, a dab preview is replaced by an icon, such as in the case of Particle Brushes which shows the particle type.

Compact Brush Selector
For those of us who are looking to save every last pixel we can for our canvases, there is a new Compact Brush Selector found in Window > Brush Selector > Panel (Compact). This panel is optimized to take up less space, but can also be expanded horizontally while flowing the brushes to fit the width of the panel. You can also access the full view Brush Selector and have both on screen if you like.

image
[Enhanced Stroke and Dab previews in the new Compact Brush Selector]


Last Used Brush Toggle
For those of you who bounce between a brush and a blender or a pencil and an eraser, you can now quickly toggle between two brushes using the Last Used Brush button in the properties bar. When you activate the new Last Used Brush feature, your brush toggles to the previously selected brush. You can also invoke this command with a custom keyboard shortcut, express key or custom palette command. I set mine to ~.

Convenient Color Selection

Color selection has been improved throughout Painter. Dialogs that deal with choosing a color, such as the Paint Bucket’s fill with Current Color, now show the Universal Color Wheel. The color wheels are synchronized across Painter 2020.

image
[Universal color picker in the Shape Tool Properties]


Previous Color Preview

You’ll notice in the Color panel, the color swatch that shows your currently selected color is now divided vertically in two. When you choose a new color, the left side of the swatch shows the current color and the right side of the swatch shows the previous color for easy color comparisons.

image
[Preview the current and previously selected colors]


Color Ramp Sliders
And how could you not notice that the RGB and HSV sliders now show beautiful color ramps that can be expanded horizontally? You can also customize the color panel options to show less content and be more compact. For example, you can show nothing but the color sliders.

image
[The New Color Ramp Sliders in Corel Painter 2020]


Temporal Color Panel Updates

The Temporal Color Panel has been updated with a new menu that allows you to customize the panel. You may have found some things were missing from this panel in Painter 2019 such as a button to toggle between your Main and Additional color. Those features are now included in the panel.


Color Harmonies

A new Color Harmonies panel is now available to show you swatches of colors that are harmonious to your currently selected color. There are 6 different modes: Analogous, Complimentary, Split Complementary, Tetradic, Monochromatic Light and Monochromatic Dark. Each mode can be shown or hidden as desired. You even have the option of locking harmonies so that they cannot be changed and you can save harmony swatches to the Color Set Libraries panel. These color suggestions can take a lot of the guesswork out of choosing colors that work well together. I find the monochromatic strings of values are particularly useful for shading.

image
[Corel Painter 2020 Color Harmonies panel]


Customizable Eraser Tool

You can now fully customize the Eraser Tool. Choose from a greater variety of dab profiles, size properties and opacity properties. You can even make customizations from the General Panel to create Captured Dabs and other types of Erasers.

image
[Customized Eraser Tool in Painter 2020 ]


Enhanced Layers Workflow

Working with layers in Corel Painter is a bit easier this time around. Contextual menus have been updated to show more relevant commands for layers. You can right-click on the layers panel to access these instead of digging through the Layers menu.

Preventing Mistakes
You can now lock the canvas layer to prevent any accidents on your background and you can no longer accidentally paint on hidden layers.

image
[Say goodbye to accidental marks on your hidden layers]


Another headache that is alleviated with Painter 2020 is that pasting when the canvas is selected will now place the new layer above the canvas layer, not at the top of the layers stack. And you can now collapse hidden layers and they will remain hidden. It’s little tweaks like this that really make a difference in my workflow.


Other Updates

I’ve focused this review on what I consider to be the major updates in Painter 2020, but there are quite a few more updates and bug fixes that I did not mention. You can learn about all of the new features by watching my Painter 2020 tutorials on YouTube or by joining my free Painter 2020 webinar. I also have an upcoming video training course that can teach you all about how to use Corel Painter 2020.


Conclusion

If you have a fast computer that can take advantage of Multi-Core, AVX2 and especially GPU, then Painter 2020 is a must-have upgrade. If you’re working on a system that is below Painter 2020’s recommended system requirements, then you may experience some minor improvements in performance, but the most significant benefits to upgrading will be the improvements to the UI, brush selection and color.

I’d recommend everyone install the free 30 day trial of Painter 2020 and run the performance test to get a feel for how Painter might perform on your system. You may find that a simple upgrade like installing a new video card could dramatically boost Painter’s performance. Or maybe you’ll get the push you need to finally get a new computer. At the end of the day, you’ll rest easy knowing that you’ve done all you can to get Painter running in tip-top shape.

Learn Corel Painter 2020 with my video training course: http://aaronrutten.link/Painter2020

Watch Corel Painter tutorials on my YouTube channel

Save $100 off the full version of Corel Painter with my coupon code