Software and drawing on Tablets/ Cintiqs

I was wondering about peoples opinion about sketching on tablets, Cintiqs and tablet PCs and what software they prefered to use. I use Sketchbook Pro 2 mostly for line drawings then shading in Photoshop. I would be interested in finding out other peoples views on their desired software.

I have had my Cintiq for about two years now and am still adjusting to it for sketching, often referring back to good ole Bic or pencil and paper. I am trying to get used to sketching on the tablet as it saves a few steps like scanning or using it instead of tracing paper. Besides, the sketches I see from ppl who sketch directly on tablet look sick. Do you think some of them fake it? Like using the stroke path tool in Photoshop?

Thanks for any input!


Same for me. I still don’t sketch much on the cintiq, but when I do, SB Pro. I mostly shade with it. Mostly because I just don’t sketch at my desk much, typically I’m on the go, or at a conference table, another designer’s area, or at home… Looking forward to that apple tablet computer?

The forthcoming Apple tablet was intended for more mobile computing, not so much for sketching hard core. I think I will wait for the next generation of Apple tablets before making the plunge.

My current project designing running shoes I thought I would seize the oppertunity and do sketches straight on the tablet as an experiment. Thought I would use a fairly straight forward project to try it out on. You know the drill, side and top views. Those views are theoretically easier on the tablet. I havent tried any 3D sketches yet as Im gently warming into the tablet sketchmode before I get more ambitious. This is only my first day on it too. So far so good (I hope).

We’ve been digital sketching in the office since '96 -back then it was Painter 1.1 with an Intuos tablet. Painter is (still) a great program because it lets you draw without distraction; using key combos in the left hand you can hop between rescaling the brush size, switching colors with a pipette and rotating the page all without a glance at the pull-down menus. It’s a quirky program that’s gone through considerable changes through the years, but these all-important functions haven’t changed.

Now PhotoShop has finally caught up with the page rotation function, and Sketchbook Pro matches its intuitiveness, so there’s plenty of choice.

Whether using Cintiq or old-school Intuos tablets, digital sketching somehow cannot match the feeling of drawing directly on paper. However, this is much outweighed by the benefits of digital sketching: having the pen in one hand and Ctrl-Z in the other leads to unrivaled experimentation unseen on paper, mastered by true digital sketchers.

Scanning is for pussies.


Hey Brook,

I hear where you are coming from. I made the move to digital only very recently. Picked up a Large size" Intuous 4 a few months ago. I was tired of the constant pain in the ass of scanning (no interns here) and the whole process of clearing my desk to get ready for sketching, bringing out the markers, etc.

At first I found it incredibly frustrating. Some kinds of sketches I could do pretty easily, shading was great, but trying to do a more tight sketch with detailed parallel lines and small things was almost impossible. That and plus I would get crazy carpal tunnel syndrome pain in my hand after a day of sketching on the tablet.

After figuring that diving in and doing more practice might help, I’ve got to a point now where I’m a lot more comfortable and most of the hand pain seems to have gone.

Still, I’m not sure if it’s because I picked the Intuos over the Cintiq (figured I didn’t need the added cost and I’d get used to it based on what people here said, plus resolution issues I heard about), but I still find a bit of a gap in my abilities on paper vs. tablet. On the otherhand though, there are certainly now types of drawings I can do on the tablet that I don’t think I could do on paper. I was never much one for detailed rendering by hand or that type of sketch that is between super loose and tight, but I can accomplish it a lot easier thanks to the layers and undo abilities of SBP.

In the end, I think you’ll become more comfortable with the tablet. You’ve got some of the best hand sketching ability of anyone I know so it’s really only a matter of practice and transferring the skills to digital.


As for fake drawings on the tablet, no I don’t think anyone is faking it. It just seems that some people (like blaster) have mad skills + having a cintiq vs. a Intuos I think might help a bit.! I’d bet that someone might ask though if your drawings in pen were fake, as they are so kick ass!

Started out on an Intuos with Painter 6 at PaulH’s shop and loved painter for the reasons he mentions for quite awhile, then a new job was pushing me to use Photoshop CS3 instead (on Cintiq) and I quickly got used to it and soon preferred it, as photoshop had improved it’s brush smoothing and when using a Cintiq, rotating the page isn’t really an issue as you can spin the display, but now everyone is catching up with spinning the canvas within the software anyway. I am currently using SB Pro with my Intuos4 and laptop (+1 portability) and like it for basic sketching/shading, but still would prefer Photoshop on a cintiq for more tight stuff.

There are plenty of people that use the stroke path tool, illustrator, and/or sketch over top of rendering or shaded screenshots etc. but I wouldn’t say any of these are “cheating” per se as each of them has a cost and benefit ( set-up / time / etc). It’s like using an underlay or anything else, you’ve got to decide what’s the right tool for the job.

Thanks for everyones feedback. I forgot about Painter. I remember having that software years ago, but never really used it much, though I know it rocked. I guess I just stuck with my famialar Photoshop and SKP version 1. SKP v 1 kinda sucked a little though.

I too was at the beginning of the tablet craze back in 1998 I was one of the first students to rock out computer renderings and using computers to do package drawings and renderings in my class. Back then not many students had computers and a tablet. My post was more about directly sketching on a Cintiq, however I could never get my hand eye coordination to do hand sketching with the tablet. Just used it for rendering.

Anyway, after forcing myself to sketch the last week directly onto Cintiq, I am getting used to it. I really like it now.

Cheers all!


Brook, do you have the “felt tip” nib? I like it a lot better.

No! I didnt know about that. I think I have just the default nibs that come with the device. I should look at the Wacom website and order some! Thanks for the advice… What is the difference? Does it have a different shape and feel?

Have you tried the airbrush pen accessory? I havent. Looks ackward to me.

Thanks Man!

Nope, haven’t tried the airbrush thingy, saw it at a demo and didn’t want to go near it! But that is where I also found the felt nib, it looks the same, it just has a little more drag so it feels a bit more like sketching on paper… my sketches got a lot better with that for some reason. Not everyone likes it. I think it is a softer nylon or something. It will wear out faster of course.

SBP 2.0

After figuring that diving in and doing more practice might help, I’ve got to a point now where I’m a lot more comfortable and most of the hand pain seems to have gone.

Wow, do you have any idea why the pain might have disappeared? Clue me in on that :slight_smile:
I get terrible pain in my lower thumb after ~4 hours, although I never get it with a pen nor mouse. Never quite understood where the pain came from, although I figured it must be because you hover so much over the surface with the whole hand (or is just me? Bit odd behavior when I think about it since there’s no risk of smudging anything anyway).

I am curious about the workflow you guys employ - do you sketch each sketch individually and compile later in PS, or sketch a full page? Each thumbnail on a layer or just pure paper-like-style (once it’s down it’s down)? What resolution of the page? What kind of file organisation/naming do you use? Etc etc…

That cramping should go away once you get comfortable with the tablet. I often noticed how tight Wacom newbies hold the pen compared to when using pencil, and once they made an effort to ‘loosen up’ it went away.

Once you get into it digital sketching should feel more relaxed than on paper, because it comes with the wonderful power of Ctrl-Z.

Now take some deep breaths and draaaaaaw…


That cramping should go away once you get comfortable with the tablet.

I don’t know, I’ve used it for about 3-4 years now. Not everyday but still. Although people keep telling me I hold the fork weird and can’t use chopsticks for sh!t, but I don’t know what they’re talking about :sunglasses:

Seriously thou, could it be the small tablet issue? I only have an A5 version when you’re not really free to draw from the elbow, and there’s alot of wrist and cramping action…

Most people who started with us and used a tablet for the first time started on the larger Intuous, and -oddly enough- moved on to the A5 version after a few weeks. The smaller tablet is simply more practical to have on the desk next to the keyboard. the same applies to the Cintiqs we now have, the smaller 12" ones are more practical.

Most cramping issues went away while people were still on the larger tablet, but one person did go back to the larger tablet after they experienced cramping on the A5 too.

If all else fails, try alcohol.


I’ve been a long time Sketchbook Pro user. I’m using both a DELL tablet for home & on the go, and a Wacom Cintiq at my desk. I just downloaded the demo for the new 2010 version, and I’m really stoked about the virtual straightedge and ellipse guides. THIS is exactly what’s been missing from digital sketching, and makes a huge difference in your ability to create tight linework.

PS: Amazon has Sketchbook Pro 2010 for $75!! I paid more than that for a set of ellipse guides!

Cool Man. Thanks for the heads up.

I agree, those were the major points. Now to go over the top, if they had some of the layer features of photoshop like multiply, then there would be absolutely no excuse not to do the switch.
The ellipse/straight guides along with the screen rotate sealed the deal.

okay, so I’m not the only one in need of some multiplication …

Yeah multiply would be lovely but I survive without it.

I just noticed they added the ability to “Rotate to stroke” in the custom brushes which is kind of cool (the marker doesn’t always have to go in the same direction now" but it still doesn’t support the pen tilt functionality of the Cintiq/Intuos. That would be a nice feature for doing some more “precise” marker work.