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Art Tech Thread [Wacom/Yiynova, Computer builds, Software] Post your set up!

IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
edited August 2016 in Artist's Corner
Do you have a sweet build for working on your sick digital art? Are you trying to seek advice on a what tablet to buy? You can start here.

I'm going to build up this post as a guide/information masterpost for tech, software, and general organization. Please feel free to post links to helpful tech you find as it rolls out. You can also review products and software you buy, post links to brush packs, and general.

I'll post about my own set up, and try to write a few things in a little bit. I plan to write a bit about setting up your surface for drawing, my yiynova tablet, and some other little gizmos I have around.


So for the digital artists, I thought I would share a few resources I love. I'm a huge tech nerd, and love to collect resources. Jason already mentioned kyle t websters brushes, which are great.

Tools: - I actually dont use this one, but if you see an artist with a sleek looking color wheel, its probably this. - Pureref is great. Its easy to work with and you can set it to sit on top of your windows no matter what,

Carapace- A free perspective grid tool that bighuge made. Its a completely hotkey based UI, but otherwise very functional. - an inking smoother and perspective tool. The gridding system is a bit weaker than just using carapace because adjusting your window disrupts it. Smoothing tools also are more helpful for intous and other non-monitor tablets. - this is less of a painting program and more of a concept art tool. helps you discover shapes and silhouettes.

Photoshop Alternatives:

Free: - Pretty simple interface. Some great tools in there and its open source and being worked on, heavily. - Old as hell, but people still love it and work on it. Opensource. - Very small, simple program that might remind you of old oekaki boards.

(untested, I haven't tried these:) - I think this is adware, and not completely free.

Not Free:
SAI - 45ish
clip studio EX (Manga Studio) - $200
Mischief - $25

Illustrator Alternatives:

Iruka on


  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion Pronouns: He, Him, HisRegistered User regular
    I'm using a Surface Pro 3. I've really enjoyed it (it does everything from gaming to photoshop well) with some very specific caveats.
    • Windows 8 and 10 have really crappy UI scaling, so either photoshop takes up all of your screen or is so tiny you squint on selecting layers. There really isn't a good middle ground.
    • the touch screen can't be reset to only accept the pen rather than hand actions, which is an option on some other tablets and drawing tools. If your drawing angle uses the pad of your hand on the surface you draw on you are gonna be frustrated until you retrain yourself to hover.
    • It is very expensive.

    I upgraded from a lenovo 17 inch laptop with a tiny Wacom Bamboo (both from back in 2007) and I've been super pleased. Most of my recent maps (February onward) came with this setup.

  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    edited August 2015
    This is my current set up.

    A Yiynova MVP22U(V3) on a ergotron arm Is my current tablet, and I just bought a Razer Tartarus. Overall, I've made some pretty good improvements to my workflow upgrading from an intous but I dont regret not spending an extra 1k on a cintiq. I haven't had any issues with the tablet yet, though I am still currently running windows 7 on my desktop rather than 10.

    The Tartarus is a much better addition than I could have anticipated for art. I just wanted something so I didn't have to move my keyboard every time I turned to the left to start drawing. Since its designed for gaming you can program macros or multiple keypresses, and so I've been able to reduce things like undo/stepforward to one key press. It also enables me to unify shortcuts across programs. Not bad for 40 bucks.

    For an idea of how it works, here's my layout in manga studio and photoshop:

    I actually don't really know what to do with the other keys, but I may think of things over time. This should also useful for animation. I should note that the wheel is veeery finicky and it takes some getting used to press the right input. brush size and zoom are non-critical enough that it doesn't disrupt me too much if I hit the wrong thing.

    If you are willing to give up your USB slot, this can also solve the lack of hot key issue that the surface pro has.

    I'll try to cook up a list of Hardware and software for the OP, If anyone has suggestions of stuff they use and like, I would love to hear some opinions. @Tam you got set up using SAI, yeah?

    Iruka on
  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion Pronouns: He, Him, HisRegistered User regular
    Ive always wanted one of those mini keyboards.

  • FANTOMASFANTOMAS Flan ArgentavisRegistered User regular
    Intuos 4 XL, Aiptek, and Open Canvas.

    I got a Wacom Intuos 4 XL, the really really big one. Previously I had the Aiptek 8000 and Aiptek HP 12000U.

    The Wacom works fine, it has a bunch of configurable keys on the side, along with a wheel, and its easy to turn around for lefties. I cant really recomend the XL, as I find it too big, to the point of having to use your arm from the shoulder when you want to use the whole surface, and the size distances me a lot from the monitor. I end up restricting its surface, and using the margins for placing a coffee mug, ashtray, or even the keyboard

    The general performance and durability are great, I mistreat mine a lot, and the only damage it ever took was a cigarette burn on the protective film. If you have the room for it, its a great drawing tablet, and you can get some real muscles from lifting it. (when I use my computer from the couch, the tablet serves as desk, thats how hard it is)

    The Aiptek models, I belive are discontinued, but they were great starting tablets, very affordable, VERY simple, but they lack configurable buttons or wheels, instead, you have 12 preset button areas at the top of the tablet, that you activate using the pen.
    Unlike the Intuos XL, the Aiptek tablets are light and thin, you have to use them on a hard, flat surface, or they bend and you get erratic behaviour. Also note, while there are still Aiptek tablets out there, last time I check there were no drivers for 64bit OS (probably required to set up the in-board preset buttons). Another negative from the old models was that they require an AAA size battery in the Pen and Mouse to operate.

    Regarding Software, I primarily use the archaic Open Canvas 1.1 (the one with net options), I find it great for sketching, great for recording a process and saving it in tiny sized files, (and great for playing pictionary on-line, or drawing with friends, wich you can then export as a video file to replay the process) the cons are, it is as basic as an MSpaint, and the .jpg compression for exporting will butcher your paintings, also, all layers are "multiply", always. Personal pros, I love how the colours blend, and the general feel of it, its freeware, and a single file that you can carry and use from a pendrive. And it was all the rage in this forums like... 10 years ago.

  • Red RaevynRed Raevyn because I only take Bubble Baths Registered User regular
    Enc wrote: »
    I'm using a Surface Pro 3. I've really enjoyed it (it does everything from gaming to photoshop well) with some very specific caveats.
    • the touch screen can't be reset to only accept the pen rather than hand actions, which is an option on some other tablets and drawing tools. If your drawing angle uses the pad of your hand on the surface you draw on you are gonna be frustrated until you retrain yourself to hover.
    I think that's a Photoshop issue, not a Surface issue. I've been using Manga Studio 5 (aka Clip Studio Paint Pro) on my SP3 and by default it does a fantastic job of differentiating between palm (completely ignored), touch (interfaces but not applying tool actions like brush strokes or erasing) and pen (whatever your current tool is). I full out rest my pen hand on the screen and it doesn't matter, worst case it occasionally activates the Windows 8 charm bar if my palm swipes in from the edge. I love that I can use my fingers to pan and zoom or select tools and colors without having to change tools (e.g. on an iPad or Wacom you need to switch to the hand tool to pan the canvas with the pen). It's also smart about whether you're using the pen or touch to interact with menus and interfaces - if you use touch, it opens a different touch-friendly interface that makes it easy to type in numbers and such. I've been very happy with it.

    When I was using an Intuos 3 with my desktop I set up my Logitech G13 similar to how you did Iruka, it beat the pants off of going back and forth to the keyboard. You might be able to adjust the sensitivity/mode of the thumbpad to make it less finicky - with the Logitech it was in analog mode by default (like a joystick) but could be set to act like a digital pad (just 4 or 8 inputs).

  • MagicToasterMagicToaster JapanRegistered User regular
    edited August 2015
    I have the coolest work set up:

    It's a 27in i7 iMac that uses a 22 in Cintiq as its second monitor. Despite having that Cintiq, I use a Wacom Intuous as my main input device. I literally only have a mouse on my computer for other people's sake.

    At home, my set up is much more simple:

    It's a Macbook pro that docs to a Thunderbolt display, also a 10-12 year old Wacom Graphire.

    The thing that I value the most from this set up is color accuracy. This part is very important to my workflow, and Apple monitors are the most affordable color accurate monitor. I've had problems with my Thunderbolt though, it would fog up mid project and wouldn't always wake up when docked to my computer. Still, despite this, it is the best solution for someone with a Macbook who is looking for a high quality desktop alternative.

    Software wise, I spend most of my time in Illustrator and Indesign with maybe about 10% of my time in Photoshop. I have other drawing software, but I spend more time in my Font Book than I do on Sketchbook Pro.

    I forgot to mention one overlooked element. The desk. Need a huge desk, if I can't rest my elbows on it, its not a good long term solution for me. I chose my home desk based on what looked closer to my office desk.

    MagicToaster on
  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion Pronouns: He, Him, HisRegistered User regular
    That's pretty awesome!

  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    Came across a useful tutorial:

    Sketchup Roombox Tutorial for Comic Artists – Beginner Level

    I don't know much about sketch up or blender, but getting a handle on using one for setting up environments is one of my next moves.

  • m3nacem3nace Registered User regular
    Damn, all this looks pro as fuck. Props!

  • InxInx Registered User regular
    I hope this is the right thread for this. I've been wanting to get back into digital art - I had an old Wacom tablet years ago that I liked, but didn't use as much as I should have because the disconnect between my monitor and the tablet was giving me headaches.

    Now that there are devices that you can use to draw on-screen, I've been wanting to get back into it because even when I was getting headaches, I always thought my art looked better digitally than with pen/pencil and paper.

    I'd love a Cintiq (my old Wacom was wonderful - it's my brain that caused problems), but they're a bit too expensive for me right now. Is there an alternative option at a more entry-level price that anyone might recommend?

  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    Yo @Inx you are in the right place, no worries.

    What do you consider an entry level in terms of price? Do you want something portable, like the surface? Or are you just looking for something static?

    The yiynova I have ( is nice, theres a bit more hassle getting it up and running, so I recommend it if you are a little more tech savvy and patient.

    That new Ipad looks to be pressure sensitive, but I have not heard any one say how sensitive it is.

  • InxInx Registered User regular
    Portable isn't really necessary, I'd get anxious that I'm gonna lose or break the thing if I were carrying it around. As far as price, I was hoping there might be something in the $200-$500 range. If that doesn't exist, then I guess it's time to save harder.

  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    The cheapest on screen drawing game in town was this monoprice tablet:

    It looks like they are gone, and the reviews were really all over the place on the device. Actually, it looks like everyone stopped making their low tier cintiqs, yiynova used to have one too, but its not on amazon anymore.

    I would save, personally, in your bracket your only real options are normal tablets, but I understand not liking the disconnect. I'm glad I upgraded to the yiynova myself it makes work go faster.

  • InxInx Registered User regular
    You mentioned the surface earlier - while portable isn't a requirement for me, I don't have anything against portable devices. Would a Surface be a decent solution while I save money, or should I just tighten my belt and wait it out?

  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    As far as Im aware you cant get a surface for less than 800? Unless you are looking at a pro 2 rather than a 3.

  • InxInx Registered User regular
    Is there a huge world of different between the 2 and 3? I remember reading somewhere that the 3 has less pressure sensitivity? I could be remembering wrong.

  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    The 2 has wacom tech in, the 3 does not (its still pressure sensitive but you sacrifice a few hundred levels of pressure) I believe that there were other design flaws in the surface 2 that were annoying, but I cant recall off the top of my head.

    In having both a surface and a yiynova, If portability isn't a factor I would choose 22 inches over any of the smaller devices. The surface is fine for sketching, for me, but I don't like painting on it much because of restrictive screen size. I suppose I would if I didn't have another option, but even when I first got the surface I drew on my older wacom intuous when at my desktop, because dual 20+ inch screens are a hell of an improvement in workspace.

  • InxInx Registered User regular
    You make a good point with work surface. I think my best option is to save up and purchase something that'll last longer and overall provide a better experience.

    Another question I just thought of - how much of an effect will my PC's specs have on something like a cintiq or yiynova?

  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    I'm sure both list some stats somewhere. The short answer is, I'm sure the specs will have an effect, but I'm not not sure how much. If you have a low end computer I would do some research before dropping any cash on a cintiq.

  • InxInx Registered User regular
    Anyone have experience with Clip Studio Paint Pro? Apparently it's the same thing as Manga Studio 5. It's included with one of the Wacom Intuos tablets - the Intuos Comic, which I've decided to get as an intial investment to see if I end up doing enough digital art to actually justify a Cintiq down the road.

    I've got a small amount of experience with Photoshop, and didn't hate it, but from what I've read Clip Studio Paint Pro is more geared towards illustrators than Photoshop (which is what I would be using it for, drawing and maybe comics one day if I can get the confidence).

  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    I use clip paint, Its pretty alright, you'll probably want to download some brushes or Buy frenden's brushes

    The interface will take some getting used to and I'm not a huge fan of coloring in it.

    I've never even seen the intous comic until now, it looks crazy tiny, though.

  • InxInx Registered User regular
    It's definitely small, but I recently noticed that I don't have a lot of desk space to work with at the moment - just moved into a new house with my fiancee and we don't have a ton of furniture (read: almost none), so I'm working with a fairly small card table as a work surface. Small size is actually kind of a draw for me this time around.

    The workspace on it is actually only a little bit smaller than my old Intuos 3, so I should be okay. Might take a little getting used to, but for the price I'm willing to adjust.

    I've never downloaded/purchased digital brushes before - never really had occasion to. I'm kind of excited at the idea.

  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    Looks like the next surface (pro 4) will be a good option for artists
    he new "Surface Pen" has 1,024 degrees of pressure sensitivity, four times that of the Surface Pro 3, and an "all-year" battery life, which is something of a double-edged sword since you can't actually recharge it. The Surface Pen also has a tail eraser for manual undoing, and a selection of interchangeable tips for different tasks that change how the Pen feels and responds.

    If that extends to the new "Surface Book" that's a real promising device to compete with the cintiq companion, which it seems like microsoft is just trying to murder:

  • Iruka wrote: »
    an "all-year" battery life, which is something of a double-edged sword since you can't actually recharge it.

    What does this mean, exactly? Buying a new pen every year?

  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    The surface pen takes a triple A and two watch batteries. I'm assuming "all-year" life just means they made it more efficient for not draining one of those sources. I have not had to replace the one in my pen yet though, so It probably heavily depends on usage.

  • bombardierbombardier Moderator mod
    edited October 2015
    The Surface 3 pen takes a AAAA battery, which aren't as common, but as you probably can tell, they are just smaller in diameter than a AAA. The watch batteries activate the bluetooth button on the back of the pen which causes the tablet to wake up and go to sleep. If those die, the pen will still work.

    bombardier on
  • Prof. AwesomeProf. Awesome Registered User regular
    I'm excited because while I like N-trig for the most part, that weird laggyness always annoyed me, and from the people who've been going to Microsoft stores to check it out it seems like they fixed that with the new revision.
    One reason I like N-trig is how close the cursor is to the tip of the pen. With Cintiqs and such you always have parallax issues because of that gap between glass and screen.

    Not sure if I wanna get the Surface Pro4 or the Surface Book though. Considering the Sbook mainly because of the bigger 13.5 inch screen.
    I also really like the 3:2 aspect ratio, nobody else really uses it.

  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    oooh I forgot its a quad A. I haven't had to change it since I got it.

    If I was in the market for another laptop I'd probably plunge on a surface book. I think it maybe a good option for zach though, who doesn't use his desktop much these days.

  • ScribeTheTaruScribeTheTaru Registered User new member
    Hi guys, I've been a lurker of PA since the 90s and I created an account tonight to request some help. I have been thinking for some time that I would like to get my 8 year old daughter started with digital drawing. She has shown an incredible interest in drawing and painting in her short years. Recently we watched a documentary on comics that was on Netflix and she said she would like to attempt a web comic of her own some day. So I thought a tablet with pen that hooks to a PC would be great for her to start learning how to create digital art. For tutorials I was thinking I could search YouTube for how to's that she can study.

    The only dilemma I face though is finding something that works good and is affordable. We're a low income family (my daughter, son and I) but I have been saving up for this because I think it could spark a possible career choice for her. So please understand when I have a budget in mind that I am ignorant to the costs of this hobby/line of work and I need to know what I'm up against for a starter.

    Another thing you should know is that I have been saving up to get each child their own all in one PC, not for gaming so much but for school and I think I have one narrowed down. This:

    So in summary, I would like advice on the following:
    What is a cheap but functional starter drawing tablet that has a screen (after market is okay) that would work with the above mentioned PC?
    What software should she start playing with that would help her be a master when she is older?
    Anything additional you might think would be helpful for us?

  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    Hey @ScribeTheTaru I moved your thread over to the art resources section.

    What sort of budget do you have, realistically?

    Wacom tablets are expensive, but they are quite robust and if you can find an honest seller, you maybe able to find a small used one that still works well. Note that these are all going to need to hook up to a computer. The cheapest "tablet with a screen" that I know of is about $400 and it has reviewed relatively poorly. (

    The tablets without a screen, Intous now makes a very small, $100 solution: This will have a bit of a learning curve, but its where a lot of digital artists start.

    Software depends a bit more on her own tech savvy ness. Theres free stuff out there that is pretty good these days, is one of them. I have a list of free software floating around, I'll look for it.

    Alternatively? You could get her a DSXL and Pokemon art academy. If she likes pokemon it actually pretty solidly goes through the basics of making digital art.

  • ScribeTheTaruScribeTheTaru Registered User new member
    @Iruka Thank you for moving the thread, I wasn't sure where to post it.

    I think 800 might be the most I could do for the tablet. The investment in her would be worth it and if she decides to not go with it long term I can just resale it online or something.

  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    My suggestion is to get a midrange intuos to go with her PC. Yeah, the disconnect is a bit annoying, but she will get accustomed to it.

    Alternatively, The cintiq 13inch is at the top of your budget:

    I would check the stats and inputs against your dell, though. It's going to take up a usb port and and HDMI, most likely. If you think the drawing on screen experience is worth maxing out your budget, I would probably not get anything other than a wacom so she doesn't have to wrestle with the hassles of the other brands at the moments. Wacoms have their own issues, but they are generally long lasting.

  • InxInx Registered User regular
    As someone who purchased the Medium Intuos Art last month (about $200 USD) as a way to determine if I'll use a tablet often enough to purchase a full cintiq, I can't stress enough how pleased I am with the product overall. Even with the screen not being right there, the more i work at it the better I'm getting.

    Cool thing about the Intuos line is that they come with software. If she wants to get into comics, the Intuous Comic comes with Clip Studio Paint 5 (the digital version of manga studio). If she'd prefer different software, pick up a different model.

    Considering her age, I think she'd be more readily able to adapt to not drawing directly on the screen. Kids adapt to that sort of shit faster than adults do because they have less to "unlearn", so to speak. Getting one of the Intuos models will help determine if she's into the concept, like, at all. It also means that in the event of a broken tablet (kids drop stuff, I've seen it happen), you're not looking at almost 1k in the hole.

    That said, I had a chance to get my hands on a Cintiq at NYCC, and it was fly as hell. If you really want to get her a cintiq it's not like you'll be getting her something crappy.

  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod

    Looks like Adobe is trying to embrace the future.

  • MagicToasterMagicToaster JapanRegistered User regular
    I hate that they're pushing the CC version at the expense of the perpetual license.

  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    I'm not sure there's much you can do to fight it, at this point. It seems like the way of life for alot of these companies now. I still think adobes prices are high, but there are not alot of alternatives to the full suite.

    If you are just going for painting, I think theres alot more options for you these days. Illustrator and InDesign though, I'm not so sure.

  • MagicToasterMagicToaster JapanRegistered User regular
    Even if there was an Illustrator and inDesign alternative I don't think I'd go with them because I need to stay knowledgable with the software that I use at work. I only felt cheated when I found out that Illustrator CC has a packaging feature that collects all the images and fonts you've used in a design and puts them all in one folder, but Illustrator CS6 does not.

    But I don't do a lot of work from home, so I'm more than happy to have a one time payment over several small, endless payments. CS6 4 EVER!!!

  • FairchildFairchild Rabbit used short words that were easy to understand, like "Hello Pooh, how about Lunch ?" Registered User regular
    edited December 2015
    Hi there, Art Thread. Looking to create a board wargame map with a free or near-free paint program that would take a map from Google Earth, smooth out the terrain into a few solid colors and draw in important terrain features like roads, streams, and woods. Can y'all suggest anything ? I have a fairly high-end PC.

    EDIT- OpenCanvas 6 is on sale from Steam for $40, so I'm downloading it right now.

    Fairchild on
  • MagicToasterMagicToaster JapanRegistered User regular
    Photoshop Elements is very inexpensive and it gives you a lot of options regular Photoshop does (you're not going into actual print production). Gimp is totally free, but I've never used that one so I can't vouch for it.

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