Comes this time of the year, and – owing to my prior working life in IT (tech support/programming) and my reputation as someone who still enjoys tech, I’m normally asked by friends/family what they should buy the loved ones in their lives who want to draw (and especially if they want to draw digitally). So here’s a tiny list of things, in what I’ll call my “XMAS FAQ”
“I have a new(ish) computer, my kid wants to draw on it, what do I need?”
You’ll need two things: hardware AND software, let’s take hardware first:
In terms of hardware, you’ll want a graphics tablet. Graphics tablets come in two basic forms – one without screen and one with screen. Obviously, there’s a price difference. In terms of usage, the screen is preferable, but really, you can do a fine amount of work without that. So here’s a few options:
Wacom are the brand name to beat when it comes to graphics tablet, and yet – certainly at the entry level area they’re fairly reasonably priced. The Wacom One is priced at £29.99 and you can pick it up from Amazon here.
Moving up the Wacom line up to a slightly larger surface area, the Wacom One MEDIUM is only a tenner more (and worth it if you’re going to be spending large amounts of time haunched over the tablet) it’s £39.99 and again, from Amazon here.
(Both devices are mac and windows compatible)
If you’re feeling super generous or if this isn’t your first graphics tablet, you might wanna think about graphics tablets with screens (a category wacom had come to dominate so completely previously that, like hoovers, they’re in danger of the brand name becoming a noun – the Cintiqs). The Cintiq 16 is Wacom’s opening offering here, but they start at about £470 which puts you out of xmas present and into professional purchase category.
Luckily a whole range of other companies have appear to fill in that gap between £50 and £470. Now, hand on heart, I haven’t used any of these, but I can talk a little about the things you need to keep in mind if you’re buying and so, caveat emptor.
So, the things to keep in mind:
Screen size – how big is it. The bigger the screen the more of the art you’ll be able to see. Now, as a rule you can use a device like this AND a second monitor but you can expect a little neck strain if you’re constantly popping your head up and down. That said, even with – as I have, a mahoosive 27″ screen, it’s a) never enough screen space and b) I only ever find myself drawing on one section of it.
Now, the other factor with screens is resolution – higher is better. Lots of screens will talk about HD or FHD (High Definition or Full High Definition – in this area those acronyms amount to the same thing). FHD resolution is 1920 x 1080 pixels. Which is decent enough for most things, and weirdly, FHD looks far better on smaller screens than on larger screens (because they’re squashing more pixels in smaller and smaller areas). Old computer screens would be 92 pixels per inch (ppi), ipads around 260 ppi and iphones about 300-400 ppi (around 300 ppi the eye can’t even see individual pixels anymore).
Pictured above is the XP-Pen artists “12” – (it’s actually 11.6″ in size, measured corner to corner) and is a relatively inexpensive £199 – from Amazon here.
If you’d like a much bigger screen there’s the XP-Pen artists 15.6 (which IS 15.6″ across) here and but it’s priced at £399 and the Wacom Cintiq 16 (16 inches across) is currently £469 and, if you’re going that much it’s probably worth going with the Cintiq.
If you’re after larger screen real estate and don’t mind a drop in the resolution you can look at the XP-Pen Artists 22E – a 22″ screen with a FHD resolution (so it won’t look as nice as the smaller 15.6″ screen but you will have more room to spread out on)
These devices are largely compatible with mac/pc – and should work on windows 10 and mac os x latest version (but always check)
Now, hardware out of the way, what about software:
There’s really one beat-them-all option and it’s Clip Studio. Clip Studio works on mac or windows and comes in two flavours: PRO and EX and there’s a hefty price jump between them. For almost everyone (and I even include professionals in this) PRO is exactly what you need. For a few (and I love it, so it’s absolutely for me) you’ll want to move up to EX – which includes features for handling multipage documents as well as making long animations.
I do all my digital work in Clip Studio EX.
So, to recap: almost any graphics tablet (from a budget of £35+) plus Clip Studio Pro (about £30)
Clip Studio does regular sales too, so if you DO want the EX version you can upgrade when a sale pops along and it’ll still be fairly good value.
I don’t have a computer, my kid needs something to draw on, what do I need?
This is my new favourite thing, because this stuff didn’t exist 20 years ago, and it does now. Now, I AM an apple fan boy, but in this instance, the hardware and software actually ARE the best out there. But here’s my recommendations:
An iPad (budget will dictate what you go for here, but I recommend…
iPad 10.5″ 128Gb RAM from Amazon £ 399.00
Apple Pencil (You need the 1st Generation) £89
And, PROCREATE – an absolutely stellar drawing app for the ipad which is about £8.99.
If you’re a little strapped, you can go down a model on the ipad to the 32Gb RAM one, but honestly that’s just opening you up to a world of pain – you’ll find yourself constantly managing the amount of stuff stored on it.
You don’t need the iPad pro (though it’s lovely) the basic iPad with the apple pencil and procreate is an amazing tool for drawing. If you’re looking to do comics professionally, you could subscribe to Clip Studio (which is a subscription on the ipad) which works out around £4 per month for pro or (around) £60 per year for the EX version.
Anyway, that’s my advice, I hope it’s of use! Happy xmas shopping…