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Author Topic: Tablets for drawing  (Read 879 times)

TordelBack

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Tablets for drawing
« on: 05 November, 2020, 01:01:11 PM »
Yes,  it's that time of year again, where an increasingly decrepit and out-of-touch Tordelback asks the hivemind for advice on whatever geegaws his feckless spawn want from Santa this time.

This time, it's drawing-related, so I'm expecting great things. 

My youngest (11 going on 33) has turned into a bit of an artist (take that, Lamarck), with a nice line in kawaii designs and even a quite decent Among Us comic strip. Naturally she wants to take this digital, because bloody kids.

My first instinct was a low-end A5 Bamboo or Wacom, because that's all I know from my own work. Problem is, she only has access to a shared and now-aged laptop, which I wasn't planning on replacing any time soon, and as I look at specs for drawing software I don't see that working.

So my mind turns to tablets, since she doesn't have one of those and could probably use one anyway. Portability also a plus there.

Can anyone chart me a course here?  Should I be thinking of (a). upgrading the PC situation and adding a cheap old-style drawing tablet;  (b). a regular Android/iOS tablet with a stylus;  (c) some unholy amalgam of the two.

Also, tips on cheap tween-friendly apps and/or software welcome.

Budget is very limited, for pangolin-related reasons, but we persist.





IndigoPrime

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Re: Tablets for drawing
« Reply #1 on: 05 November, 2020, 01:26:48 PM »
You could probably get away with a cheap Android stylus and an app like SketchBook Pro or Infinite Painter (which is about a tenner). It won’t be an amazing experience if you go too cheap, but it’d be OK as a starting point. (You’ll also have to factor in a compatible stylus, and accessories can be a bit more of a minefield on Android.)

Creative options (and, indeed, device longevity) increase substantially with iPad, which has a slew of pro-grade (but intuitive) apps for a range of drawing requirements and styles. (For example, Procreate is a tenner on iPad.) The inherent problem with iPad is budget. Apple tablets aren’t cheap and nor are the accessories; also, the cheapest iPad utilises the older first-gen Apple Pencil and although it now has a fairly powerful A12 chip inside has an inferior display compared to the Air. But an Air/Pencil 2 combo will set you back £698, compared to £418 for the iPad/first-gen Pencil.

The issue with desktop is actions are ‘remote’. I quite often use a Wacom myself (primarily for UI nav), but nothing really beats directly interacting with a canvas—whether or not that canvas happens to be digital.

Professor Bear

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Re: Tablets for drawing
« Reply #2 on: 05 November, 2020, 03:02:03 PM »
Finally I can offload the experience gleaned from the living nightmare that was setting up a new tablet PC which I now use to do proper grown-up work on!  And not just rude sketches of polar bears, oh no.  I am a grown-ass adult and that was 900 balloons well-spent.

If they're going to be doing work on the sofa, in their bedroom, in the car etc, then a tablet PC is the easiest and most stable option for portable use, but expensive.  Apple products are the most spendy, obviously, but also the most stable, though once they break down, you're shit outta luck until they send you a new one and you may or may not have lost your work files and other data depending on how diligently you back-up (if at all).  You're also locked into subscription-based services if you want any half-decent apps to work with.  You might get lucky with a third-party Android build if you look around - just learn the difference between "capacitive" and "resistive" screens and stylus' first - but your art app options are pretty limited and chances are high you'll have to use a freeware option like Glimpse, which is perfectly good, but like most freeware apps possesses a steep learning curve and some features work counter-intuitively, so might be frustrating for younger users.
A refurbished Surface from the local stolen goods fence CEX or Cash Converters might be a good option, if only because they usually have good warranties - CEX guarantees electronic goods up to 24 months as standard, which is not bad for something with a relatively high failure rate even with factory-sealed models.  It also runs Windows, which for all the stick it gets - including from myself - is still the OS that runs most software, and is easier to troubleshoot via Google searches without having to deep-dive on tech forums.
If you do opt for a tablet PC, be warned that most modern art apps like the ubiquitous Clip Studio are subscription-based, while most older versions of apps are incompatible with pressure sensitivity on newer hardware, but Manga Studio 5 (Clip Studio before it rebranded) and Adobe CS6 will work just fine even with a third-party stylus (which I would recommend for the lower price), and you can probably find a second-hand physical copy that can be transferred to the tablet via a memory card.

If they're going to be working in a set area and nowhere else, then a laptop/PC with a plug-in tablet is fine, and laughably cheap to get started - and upgrade - if you're prepared to go looking for artists offloading equipment they no longer use, while buying replacement CPUs, RAM or video cards from your local electronics pawnboker or Ebay.  Seeing as this is a laughably cheap and forgiving route to travel, a diligent parent should possibly make every effort to impress on their child that REAL artists have dedicated studios where they do their work.  Throw in some buzzwords and phrases like "workflow stability", you'll be grand.
If you go the upgraded PC route, don't be fooled into thinking you need a tablet with a screen to work on - the cheap-ass tablets that are basically just rubber mats and cost less than 20 quid if you shop around will do more or less the same job as a tablet PC or one of the fancy HD widescreen Wacom buggers, especially once you factor in the software you'll be running on it and the ability levels of the user.  Pro artists used these for literally decades and switching to a screen didn't make much difference to their output.  You can buy a dirt cheap one of these ahead of any other larger expenses and get started on any PC just by plugging it in, so it might be worth testing the waters first - a quick look on Amazon reveals some perfectly good starter options like this one for 28 quid.

IndigoPrime

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Re: Tablets for drawing
« Reply #3 on: 05 November, 2020, 03:45:08 PM »
Quote
Apple products … though once they break down, you're shit outta luck until they send you a new one and you may or may not have lost your work files and other data depending on how diligently you back-up (if at all)

Really, you’re shit outta luck with almost any device if it fails and you store everything locally. I’m not sure why you single out Apple. However, it’s easy enough to store your content in iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, or whatever. The caveat is you’ll probably be paying for storage somewhere or other. (iCloud Drive is £2.49 per month for the 200GB middle tier—enough for backups and storage alike.)

Quote
You're also locked into subscription-based services if you want any half-decent apps to work with.
I find this an odd claim. Procreate is a pro-grade app loads of artists use. It costs 10 quid. Done. The two Affinity apps more or less mirror Photoshop and Illustrator, and cost 20 quid each, but are very regularly on sale. They are desktop-grade. There are plenty of alternatives outside of subscriptions. (In fact, the main subscription service would be Adobe’s, but their iPad apps at this point are mediocre.)

I’m not against the Surface as a recommendation, but the rule of thumb is they make pretty great laptops but fairly crappy tablets. If you want a tablet, get an actual tablet with fully tablet-optimised apps.

Jim_Campbell

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Re: Tablets for drawing
« Reply #4 on: 05 November, 2020, 03:59:02 PM »
I’m not against the Surface as a recommendation, but the rule of thumb is they make pretty great laptops but fairly crappy tablets. If you want a tablet, get an actual tablet with fully tablet-optimised apps.

I bought one as a conscious decision over an iPad before Clip Studio was available for iOS, specifically because I wanted to run CSP and have an unobfuscated file system. It was terrible. I barely used it — neither laptoppy enough to be a really good laptop (plus, I already have a laptop) nor tabletty enough to be useful as a tablet. I know MS has brought some focus to bear on the Surface line, though, so they may have improved somewhat since then¬
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Professor Bear

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Re: Tablets for drawing
« Reply #5 on: 05 November, 2020, 05:10:28 PM »
The Surface has been an absolute nightmare to set up, but Apple can suck my dick.  You see my dilemma.

In fairness, once the Surface was set up, it was fine.  Being based on Windows meant that most of the problems were solveable eventually - in some cases, very eventually.  Given their price and the general unreliability of UK internet providers, I just wasn't willing to rely on cloud or subscription-based apps on top of the practical and ethical concerns that come with being locked-in to the Apple consumer environment.

The Legendary Shark

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Re: Tablets for drawing
« Reply #6 on: 05 November, 2020, 05:14:14 PM »

I bought a modest Wacom in a PC World sale for about a hundred quid, plugged it into my modest old laptop and used it on Gimp and Inkscape. All very straightforward.

To me, however, it's a cumbersome though extensive tool best used to finish images. I think the primary tool should always be a bog-standard analogue pad and pencil - but that's just me. Everyone does it differently.

Still; cheap Wacom + cheap laptop * free software = infinite possibilities.

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TordelBack

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Re: Tablets for drawing
« Reply #7 on: 05 November, 2020, 06:10:24 PM »
This is all great stuff, especially the diversity of recommendations based on hard-won experience, which is what I was hoping for. Keep it coming hivemind, you never disappoint.

I think the primary tool should always be a bog-standard analogue pad and pencil - but that's just me.

Me too. Ditto on the basic  graphic tablet and PC, I've been digitising for work with that setup since 1992, and the Gimp since about '97, and while it works fine I can happily say I loathe the lot of it. But like I say, bloody kids.

Was watching the poor lass working with multiple windows, layers and brushes on a borrowed 5" phone today, and all I could think was "here, you can borrow my biro".

IndigoPrime

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Re: Tablets for drawing
« Reply #8 on: 05 November, 2020, 06:21:43 PM »
Ultimately, all this comes down to two things: what will enable your kid to most fully explore their creative potential, and what can you afford? Apple tablets have the best UI abs software, but are expensive. Android has reasonable software and is more affordable but that hardware lacks the longevity of the iPad. Surface is these days a pretty great laptop but a sub-optimal tablet experience and, frankly, you’d probably be better off with a cheaper brand and a Wacom. But then you’re into ‘fun with Windows’ and software that is inherently more complex yet that won’t necessarily be better from a creativity standpoint.

The Legendary Shark

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Re: Tablets for drawing
« Reply #9 on: 05 November, 2020, 06:42:51 PM »

Quick shout out for the Linux OS - it has some pretty good art programs, including MyPaint, which is a rather good Corel Painter type program - and all free with plenty of on-line tutorials.

Something like Linux Mint will install on just about any laptop so it might be worth thinking about getting a second-hand lappy and throwing Mint* on it as a dedicated art machine; that way you can spend nothing on software, maybe freeing up a few extra shillings for a shinier machine.

*I wondered if there might be a Linux distro specifically aimed at digital artists because... well, because Linux, and sure enough a quick and shallow Google found this. Gotta love those crazy Linuxians!

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Dive a little deeper - all is not as it seems. "Cyber pandemic" on the way. Devices to be "quarantined" (disconnected).

IndigoPrime

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Re: Tablets for drawing
« Reply #10 on: 05 November, 2020, 07:57:09 PM »
Linux has a lot going for it, but I wouldn’t go near it as a creative platform for an 11yo.

The Legendary Shark

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Re: Tablets for drawing
« Reply #11 on: 05 November, 2020, 08:06:49 PM »

Not a parent myself but I'm given to understand that learning is easier for the young. Besides, modern Linux OSs are really no more complicated than Windows to use, but the potential for delving deeper is much easier though not necessary. Imho, learning Linux alongside digital artwork would be extremely useful for everything from batch renaming to writing your own filters.

Anyhoo, like I said; not a parent. Just my outsider's view.

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Dive a little deeper - all is not as it seems. "Cyber pandemic" on the way. Devices to be "quarantined" (disconnected).

Professor Bear

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Re: Tablets for drawing
« Reply #12 on: 05 November, 2020, 08:15:20 PM »
The problem with Linux builds is that hardware compatibility with things as intricate as tablets and pens can be a bit of an adventure, and usually involves installing something like a Wine framework to handle the Windows drivers anyway.  I bought a PC years ago to build up as an art station based around Ubuntu 13, which was a bit long in the tooth but had the advantage of plenty of attention from coders who thought they'd cracked Wacom compatibility.  It was not to be, sadly, and I've been gritting my teeth on Windows machines ever since.

I know I bitch about Windows PCs - because they deserve it - but the big selling-point must surely be that you're able to fix/upgrade almost everything yourself without needing a science degree, which is great when your inevitable hardware/software problems happen out of shop hours.  Cheapo refurbished towers with Windows already installed (usually refugees from office upgrades/shutdowns) are also a great entry point for beginners, and will let you set up a perfectly good art station for around a hundred quid - though you won't be using it for any resource-intensive work like video editing.

The Legendary Shark

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Re: Tablets for drawing
« Reply #13 on: 05 November, 2020, 08:28:41 PM »

Yep, perfectly good alternative - Frankensteining together pc towers from bits and bobs is how I started.

That said, my Linux Mint laptop accepts the Wacom with only a minor niggle or two; all the basics work fine. All it took was a simple download from the built-in software repository.

I know, I know - I'm a Linux cheerleader! (Which is not as fun as it sounds; my skirt's too short, these knickers ride up something fierce and my pompoms are moulting.)

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TordelBack

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Re: Tablets for drawing
« Reply #14 on: 05 November, 2020, 08:28:46 PM »
The problem with Linux builds is that hardware compatibility with things as intricate as tablets and pens can be a bit of an adventure...

I was going to say just that. Light Linux distros are very familiar to my kids from Coderdojo, where we need consistent environments across all kinds of ancient laptops so we're all on the same page for group projects, but any kind of sophisticated/branded peripheral has proved a recipe for disaster (not saying it's hard for the resourceful, but for antediluvian minds like mine, a headache). I'm always pushing Linux on everyone around me, so I agree with the Shark in most other circumstances.

Lots more good advice,  many thanks all.