Assalam o Alaikum beautiful people! I apologize for being a day late, but I was busy making a Do Not Disturb sign for myself.
Last week I noticed I started on about how to start with digital art before talking about the tools we would need to get started. So here’s a step back with a list of tools, including software as well as hardware.
However, I’m not going to go into specificational details, because that would make the post way too extensive. (And there are better lists out there for that. This is how I went about searching for the best device for myself.)
1- Hardware (Basic)
There are three kinds of devices you can work on:
1- Mobile devices
Including cell phones (some high end phones can actually help you with your art on the go), and tablets – my personal favorite is the iPad, whether it is Mini or Pro, ProCreate is the best software out there for digital paintings. More on ProCreate later.
If you want to invest in a proper tablet, iPad Pro is the one to go with. With the Apple Pencil, it has made itself the ideal device for artists. And the ability of it being independent, as well as travel friendly, makes it a top choice for people who can afford it.
However, for people with slightly smaller pockets – like myself – iPad Mini will also work. ProCreate and iPad is the best combo in the current market for beginner and professional artists alike. One word of warning though: it does not come with an Apple Pencil – which is to say, it isn’t compatible with it either – so you’ll have to get your own stylus. I’ll cover styluses later.
2- Laptops/ PCs/ iMacs
To be able to use a separate tablet, you will need a computer device to connect. PC systems or laptops can both be used for this purpose, and a high level RAM memory is recommended. More than 8GB RAM is a must if you’re going to use proper software. Higher is better. And go with the latest generation of Intel. Don’t go buying an Atom Processor with minimum specs for this purpose. If you’re really serious, you should be ready to invest more. I’m currently using a HP Probook 450 G4 with 16 GB RAM (which I had to upgrade from 8) and Core i5 7th Generation, with Windows 10 Pro 64-bit installed.
However, if you can spare the budget, I’ll recommend you to get a Mac – whether you get an iMac, or a MacBook Pro. I couldn’t afford an apple device, so I had to go with the 2nd best in the market.
Here is a list of best 2020 laptops for Digital Art: https://artfixed.com/best-laptops-for-digital-art/
Here’s one for best desktop systems: https://justcreative.com/2020/01/01/best-computer-for-graphic-designers/
3- StandAlone All in One Digital Drawing Devices
Or, as they’re more conveniently known, Tablet PCs.
For a more detailed insightful review with specs and features, check this list. https://www.digitalartsonline.co.uk/features/creative-hardware/best-tablet-for-art-design-2019/
Now to continue here. I was recommended one of these devices back when I was looking for a new laptop. My poor old Lenovo had given up on me, and I was desperate. I was also into digital art by then, and thanks also to my new smartphone, Pinterest, and my discovery of sites like ArtStation, Behance, and DeviantArt, I was in love with this new technique. My friend recommended the ZBook X2 to me at the time the best HP device for digital work, and though I fell in love with it at first sight, it went above my budget.
Also, my requirements were more extensive than just using a device for digital drawing so I went with a laptop.
If you want one of these, iPad Pro fits the bill here as well. Microsoft Surface is also one of the top ones.
2- Hardware (Extra)
Now that we have covered the basic hardware – or should I say the base for the extra hardware, let’s get on to the tablets. To revise, you’ll only need an extra tablet for hardware 2 in the above list – i.e. PC/ iMac or a Laptop/MacBook.
Now there are two kinds of tablets for that as well.
1- Graphic Tablets
The Drawing Tablets, formally, are the ones that do not have a touch screen.
This is also what I have: it’s a Huion H610 Pro v1 – which simply means that I have to charge the pen and the tablet has a wire to connect to the laptop. The tablet is 8 by 10 inches, which I found to be more than enough for me. You might want something bigger though. I got this baby for only PKR 5000 from AliExpress, but that was two years ago.
2- Graphic Monitor
A graphic monitor, as the name implies is a touch screen monitor that you use as a tablet, but that you must connect to a pc or laptop. When I was buying my tablet, I had no idea that brands like XP-Pen, Gaomon and even Huion had cheaper options for these devices.
Here’s a list of top drawing tablets: https://www.creativebloq.com/features/best-drawing-tablet
How to decide whether to get a tablet or a monitor
With brands like XP-Pen, Gaomon, Huion and probably some others offering graphic monitors at a price in which you can only manage to get a Wacom Intuos/One 8 inches – even less, you have better choices than your predecessor artists (including me).
As a person who has had the chance to use the Wacom Intuos, and been using the Huion since then, I can safely declare there is not much of a difference in the quality or performance as far as the brand name is concerned.
Sure, if you tell someone, “I use a Wacom,” they’ll understand you immediately – or at least in under a minute, but if you say you’re using a Gaomon or Huion, they’ll most likely spend more time in trying to figure what you are saying. To this day, I still don’t know how to pronounce Huion.
Also, when you try explaining they’re Chinese brands, people make a face that can make you laugh to death, if you’re like me in regards to branding (aka don’t care for it).
When I was researching for tablets, Wacom prices had me fall faint. The most basic tablet of Wacom costs more than PKR 40k, and I did not want to spend that much on something I wanted to test myself on. Hence I went with the cheaper option. Although, I now realize, if I had known about graphic monitors at that time, I could have gotten that for less than PKR 20k. But I only knew about graphic “tablet” and this was one of the results I got. So I went and researched reviews and decided to get one. Needless to say, I do not regret my decision, because this tablet is, so far, as good as any Wacom. And I say this because I have used Wacom.
Now that brands are put aside, let’s see what you need to check for buying the graphic tablet or monitor:
Be careful what version of a device you pick up, make sure you don’t go beyond the 2nd last generation. When I got the Huion, it was the only version, in fact it was the latest tablet by Huion.
Everyone prefers different sizes. There are people who can work on the small screen of a mobile phone, and then there are people who want the 24 inch screen to spread out as much as possible. As per my experience, 8 by 10 is a good comfortable size for beginners and until you reach a proper intermediate level. But there are better choices out there as well. Thing to mention here is that the size they show on their device page is actually the size that you will get to draw over. Meaning, that my H610, the 8 by 10 inches tablet has a drawing area that is 8 inches in width and 10 in length. The rest of the tablet – the frame and the portion where the buttons are, are approximately 3 inches extra, on each side.
3- Wired or wireless
If I had had a choice between wire and wireless, I’d definitely have chosen the latter. The wire is very inconvenient, but because it’s a USB cable, and you can easily extend it as long as you want, it’s not a very big deal. However, I feel, with the permanent occupation of one of my USB slots with my wireless mouse receiver, I’m kinda running short of USB slots…
4- Pressure Sensitivity
This is a sensitive subject (pun not intended), since I don’t understand half of it. The pressure sensitivity includes the tablet, as well as the pen/stylus you’re using with it. The more you press the pen, the harder the tablet receives it and the bolder the line on your screen. It’s like pressing a pencil nib to paper. The harder you press, the darker the line and vice versa. However, the same way as a nib on the pencil breaks if you press too hard, the nib of the stylus will also get damaged. So don’t outdo it.
For more pressure sensitivity information, see below articles:
1- Basics: https://community.wacom.com/basics-of-wacom-pen-pressure-sensitivity/
2- Benefits: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXDnR8W9w3o
Now that I have covered some of the hardware basics and the basics of graphic tablets, I will cover some extras in the next article. This includes, extra monitor, Styluses, as well as software. For now, since this post has gone very long – longer than what the average reader attention span is supposed to be, I’ll be ending it here!
Hope you were able to learn something from this!
Stay safe, stay inside, stay healthy! Take care!