It’s been more than a week since I installed and started working with my new Wacom Cintiq 20WSX Pen Tablet Display:
My first impression on using it was sort of a mixed bag. In fact, there were a lot of odd things I noticed at first before I eventually settled in and fell in love with this wonderful piece of technology.
The very first thing that I noticed and had a slight difficulty with was the screen resolution. I have been using a 30” Apple Cinema Display and believe me, the resolution of the screen on that beast is huge: 2560 x 1600 pixels! On it, I have so much real estate to work with that, while working in Flash, I can stretch the Timeline down and still see a lot of the work area:
On the Cintiq, however, I am back to working on a resolution equivalent to the size of my previous monitor, a 20” Apple Cinema Display, which runs at 1680 x 1050:
Working with two monitors of different sizes had me troubled at first. Initially, I wanted to run both the Apple monitor and the Cintiq monitor in mirror mode: I would be working on the Cintiq and the Apple monitor will display what I am working on in real time. But since these two run on different resolutions, I could not do that.
I did try it at first, but whenever I change the default setting of extended mode to mirror mode on my Systems Preference’s display settings, the resolution of the 30” Apple Display would then resize to match the smaller resolution of the Cintiq, which is perfectly a waste of available pixels on the Apple display.
Also, for some strange reason I could not make the tablet function of the Cintiq work in mirror mode; I could use the mouse of my other Wacom Tablet, though, but that totally defeats the purpose of the Cintiq.
The next thing I had trouble with was setting up Flash so that when I launch it, the window will appear on the screen of the Cintiq instead of on the Apple display. It took me a lot of time to figure out the correct arrangement for this; I had to move all the palettes and windows to the Cintiq desktop so that anytime I launch Flash it would appear on that display. The menu bar, however, stays on the Apple display, along with the Dock:
Now this faces me with a dilemma that I had to learn to work around with. To open Flash or a file, I need to have the cursor to appear on the Apple display to access the menu bar. Once the file opens and displays on the Cintiq, I now need to have the cursor switch over to that display to be able to draw on it.
This is something that can easily achieved on the Cintiq, however. There are buttons on the side of the unit called express keys, programmable keys that can be assigned with different key strokes:
One of these keys have a default function that allows me to toggle the cursor from the Cintiq to my other display and vice versa. It took me a while to get used to working on this and at times I had to pause a moment to figure out where my cursor is.
I finally settled with Flash opening on the Cintiq and my storyboard and references open on the Apple display.
Another really odd thing that I noticed immediately after using the Cintiq for the first time was how strange it is to be finally drawing on the natural position. I’ve been so used to working on a regular Wacom Intuos 3 tablet for so long that working in this more natural position was pretty unbalancing at first.
On a regular Wacom tablet, you are looking at the screen to see what you are drawing but your hand, which is holding the pen and doing the necessary strokes on the tablet is off to your side on the table.
On the Cintiq, you are actually drawing on the screen; you can see your hand and the tip of the pen and the output that is produced when you do a stroke:
Now that I am drawing in the more natural position, my hand is now covering what I am drawing. On the Intuos 3, I usually get the benefit of seeing the output of what I am working on immediately because the image appears on the monitor as I draw on the tablet. I am looking at the screen and not on my hand, so there is nothing blocking my view of what I am working on. On the Cintiq, my hand is now covering some parts of what I am drawing so I have to remove my hand from time to time to check if the model of the character is right. It felt really odd at first, this coming from me who has not drawn anything on a real sheet of paper for quite some time now.
Another dilemma was when I try to right-click on something: the menu will appear at the bottom of my hand, so I had to lift my hand again to view and select an item from it. Again, this was unsettling at first, but I soon learned to work with it. There might be a way for me to configure my computer so that the menu will appear on the left side of the cursor rather than on the right which is the default anytime I right-click, but for now I’m getting comfy with what I am getting at the moment.
Using the Cintiq for the first time momentarily hurt my eye more than when I first viewed the display of the 30” Apple Cinema Display. On the 30”, I have at least 24” of viewing distance. On the Cintiq, however, I sometimes find my nose almost touching the screen during more detailed work and I am really, really looking down at the LCD screen.
I thought about tweaking the lighting of my work area so I can find a good balance between the light coming out of the Cintiq and the ambient lighting to minimize eye strain, but soon my eyes got more accustomed to it all, as it always have.
Targeting is also something I need to get used to, for during my first use I had a hard time clicking on anything with the cursor, especially on the Cintiq. There is this invisible space of roughly 1/8 of an inch or less between the tip of the pen and the objects on the screen; that, of course, is the plastic/glass surface of the display. At an angle, the cursor appears to be offset a bit from the tip of the pen. I had to redo my screen calibration to get these lining up to my preference:
Lastly, using the Cintiq’s tablet function when the cursor is on the other monitor surely takes a lot of getting used to. Because the Cintiq had to map to the 30” monitor and I had to contend with a much larger tablet surface, the movement it takes to move the cursor from one corner of the desktop to the other is almost 3x as much as on the Intuos 3, whose mapping is only as small as it’s 4” x 6 drawing surface. Early on, I can see this being a problem should I try to use the Cintiq to animate. I have gotten used to working on the smaller 4” x 6” mapping that going the Cintiq route to do everything else might present some compromises. That remains to be seen once I actually do some animations in the future.
Early on my initial use of the Cintiq I noticed a lot of things that made me think that I have blundered on insisting to get one. To be honest, I had a minor sense of buyer’s remorse hours after I installed and used it. I felt like I had to compromise a lot just to make it work and found myself looking for reasons to justify having it in my stable of equipment.
But the more I used it, the more I learned to live with it, and all my initial misgivings slowly faded away. Drawing in the natural position became so, well, natural! I probably got so used to working with the Intuos 3 that I have forgotten how it felt to draw that way. In fact, I could not imagine ever going back to the regular tablet, especially when I had to draw something.
Cleaning up freehand lines on the Cintiq is definitely faster than on the Intuos 3. What usually takes me several passes to perfect on the regular tablet I can do in one pass on the Cintiq. Being able to rotate the screen on its base to get to those awkward angle is not a novelty; it is absolutely indispensable! It’s like using an animation disk on a light box:
The drawing surface of the Cintiq, that thin plastic/glass material that separates pen nib from LCD screen, actually feels like paper underneath my hand; it has a slightly rough texture that almost accurately simulates the feel of paper. It does not feel as slippery as the surface of an Intuos 3 and that gives a more natural sensation.
In fact, it felt so natural that I sometimes would instinctively lift my hand away anytime I complete a brush stroke, fearing I might smudge the paint that I just laid down with the brush tool. I would also unconsciously blow at the surface and sweep at non-existent dust anytime I erase something. It felt that natural!
So there it is, my take on the Wacom Cintiq 20WSX. Would I recommend it? It is too early for me to say because I have only used it with Flash and have only doodled a bit using Painter Essentials, which felt really great. If you do a lot of digital painting, the Cintiq is a definite step up from any regular Wacom tablet. It feels just so natural.
UPDATE: AS OF JULY 31, 2008, I AM VERY CLOSE TO FINDING OUT WHAT HAS BEEN CAUSING MY ISSUES RUNNING THE CINTIQ WITH THE MAC PRO.