March 14, 2016

The traditional drawing experience is closer than ever

As an experienced graphic tablet user, I've always missed the lack of a natural drawing experience. The surfaces were too glossy and artificial, the texture of traditional paper was missing, a new habit of looking at the computer screen instead of the drawing surface was something which didn't seem natural to me and therefore made me a stubborn traditionalist who still preferred drawing on a piece of paper rather than on a tablet.

8In the end, I used a tablet mainly for editing purposes only when necessary. It limited my freedom in using equipment which paradoxically is said to open a variety of new doors when it comes to drawing. But apparently not for me. The breakthrough, however, came when I heard about Wacom's introduction of their new product, the Cintiq Companion, a mobile graphic tablet which brings the traditional drawing experience closer to the user than ever. I was slowly coming out of my dark cave of traditionalism to become a tech-geek..

                When I was given the opportunity to test the Cintiq Companion I didn't know what to expect. I was so excited and curious but also slightly suspicious whether the difference of drawing on this tablet is really as huge as compared to their other products. One of the greatest enhancements for me is the ability to draw directly on the screen, which in my case gave me limitless creative freedom. The 13-inch screen equipped with matte texture reduces glossy reflections, provides you with full control over the stylus which doesn't tend to skid around, and gives a pleasant feeling whether you navigate the GUI with the ProPen or your fingers. Thanks to a well-customised and shape-designed stylus, I can allow myself long drawing sessions without the feeling of fatigue or sliding my fingers off the ProPen. The pressure sensitivity gives the impression of drawing on paper, which really convinces me to draw completely digitally, which I was never fond of. The working process is greatly enhanced with the additional four ExpressKey buttons and the Rocker Ring, which is one of the many ways of personalising and tailoring the tablet to your unique needs. This allows you to set particular shortkeys easily and quickly available under your left hand if you're a right-handed person. It's also possible to change the preferences of the tablet in case you're left-handed.

                The Cintiq Companion isn't just a graphics tablet, it's a computer for professionals. It's equipped with Windows 8, which turned out to work pretty well with a touch screen and, what's more important, doesn't crash when working with Adobe Creative Suite (in fact it's better than the laptop I use on a regular basis). The Cintiq finally enables you to install any software you want to and the system runs smoothly without any interruption, what else is there to wish for? Maybe the opportunity to connect the tablet with your external devices? No problem at all. The Cintiq Companion is equipped with a MiniDisplay, a headphones port, and two SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, through which it's possible to plug the tablet into your PC (or laptop) if you need a second screen to work on.

                I have no complaints about the battery life, either. It usually takes about 5-7 hours before I need to recharge ir, so I'm satisfied with the durability (I tend to push any of my equipment to its fullest). However, if you're dealing with a massive .psd file with 30+ layers, don't be surprised if the battery will be dead in 3-4h.

                It seems to me that Wacom paid meticulous attention to each equipment piece found inside the Cintiq Companion's box. I was pleased to notice an elegant stylus case with 9 exchangeable nibs, a nib removal tool, and the ProPen inside. It wasn't the only surprise I had when I unpacked the Cintiq, as Wacom also thought about making portability less painfull both for the user and the tablet by designing a smart soft case, which works well with the Cintiq slim design, protects it against any external factors and also has room for a stylus case and a power cable. To make working with the Cintiq Companion comfortable, an adjustable stand is also included in the box, however it's pretty flimsy, not stable enough, and a bit annoying to carry around as the Cintiq tends to slide off the stand.

                As I started to focus on the drawbacks of using the Cintiq Companion, another slightly disturbing issue is the keyboard. Although the tablet has a built-in screen keyboard, which you access either by clicking a keyboard icon or pressing one of the shortkey buttons, I have to say its range of buttons is limited. It lacks a full row of function keys (F1-F12). Of course there's a possibility of using double-button shortkeys, but it's also limited. I found it really problematic to enter shortkeys of three buttons as well. Using Adobe's shortkeys is a bit cumbersome and sometimes even impossible.

                Working with Wacom's Cintiq Companion made me want to step outside of my comfort zone of traditional drawing and play with modern technology. It's pure bliss for any professional illustrator or graphic designer, as it creates an immersive on-screen creative experience. Since the day the Cintiq Companion became a combination of a graphic tablet and a PC, all you need in both your personal and professional life is right next to you wherever you choose to go. It's versatile, ergonomic, nice in touch and, most of all, portable. You can leave your studio where you spend most of your time and go to public places, like cafes, parks, everywhere else, where you can experience something new, be around people, and witness special moments, which now you can easily capture in an instant thanks to the Cintiq Companion. It's compact enough to carry around and big enough to provide you with a sufficient drawing space. Thanks to its versatility, the Cintiq Companion is made both for professional drawing, graphic design and photo editing, as well as entertainment. However, I don't feel it should be recommended for a regular user who's interested in just having an all-rounded tablet due to its pretty high cost. All in all, it seems to me that Wacom knows how to please their often demanding customers. They not only work on the enhancement of their products, but also come closer and closer to providing the user with a traditional drawing experience.

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