Friday 25th July 2014Tablet Sketchbooks
Sometimes it feels that being alive in the 21st century is akin to living in a science fiction future, and to a large extent, this is actually true. Portable communicators (aka mobile phones) are everywhere, and any one of them has more power than all the computers humanity had built before the year 1990 put together. It's fantastically amazing, and the art world hasn't been left behind. Digital cameras, home scanners and drawing tablets have completely changed the way we interact with computers and digital imagery, all to our gain. One thing that hasn't really changed, though, is our desire to take ourselves out into the world and create while we're out there. Practicing sketching in the studio is all well and good, but it can get pretty boring pretty quickly. There's a reason you often see art students out at fairs and other locations, practicing life drawing and sketching in real world situations. So how does the science fiction future touch them?
Tablets. Tablets were a niche market item at their outset, but rapidly have begun to supplant the laptop as the ultra-portable workstation and computer, and with good reason. Excellent screens, and reasonable battery life have solved the problems that held the early models back from widespread adoption. The development of solid application ecosystems for both Android and iOS tablets have greatly changed how useful they are, and the art world is no exception.
You may even own a tablet, without ever having considered the value that it might have as an artistic tool. Many free applications exist that offer sophisticated drawing technologies for those who are interested, although we have to recommend that you buy a stylus for doing any serious kind of sketching. Partly, this is because it most closely mimics the traditional drawing experience, which has remained more or less unchanged since the time of cave paintings with good reason, and partly because using your finger to do more than basic control of the tablet can get pretty frustrating after any length of time. If you stick with it, you could adapt, but as styluses are fairly cheap nowadays, it makes sense to at least give it a shot with that method.
As for which sketchbook application to use, we're recommend testing out a few of the free ones to help you decide what control system works best for you, but personally we're fans of Autodesk's Sketchbook app for Android. It's free, and powerful, and fun to use - and you never have to worry about losing your sketchbook again, since you can save everything you draw to a cloud-based storage system like Google Drive, and many tablets come bundled with some sort of cloud storage from the manufacturer.
Regardless of what you choose to use, go forth and explore the world with your tablet, and uncover your own science fiction future of artistic possibility!
Posted on July 25th 2014 on 08:21pm
Tuesday 08th April 2014Drawing Tablets
Ever since the first days of computer graphics programs, when Andy Warhol and his contemporaries were just beginning to dip a toe into the pool that would become the wonderful world of digital art, people have struggled with input devices. The mouse, invented by Doug Engelbart, is a great device for using programs and generally interacting with a graphical user interface, but it really starts to fall down on the job when it comes to the type of precise, artistic movements that artists demand in their work. Enter the drawing tablet, stage left.
The first drawing tablet for home use was designed for the Apple II and its generation, and was known as the KoalaPad. In 1984, a reviewer in Byte magazine (one of the biggest home computing magazines of the day) was rather unimpressed with the capabilities of the technology, and said that he found he had better luck using a mouse. Those days are long gone.
For any serious digital artist, a drawing tablet is a must in today's digital world. The technology has progressed to a point where there is no way that a mouse can provide the level of control that a drawing tablet offers. Even the most basic tablets in today's market provide pixel-perfect positional control, and most (if not all) also provide some level of pressure sensitivity, allowing you an additional degree of input control. The more advanced (and thus more expensive) tablets have additional degrees of sensitivity, and many of them are even capable of detecting the angle at which the stylus is held, for a third level of input control. If you're a truly serious artist, or if you just like to have all the best equipment, it's even possible to purchase a drawing tablet that is directly integrated with a tablet computer and its screen, meaning that you can run your applications directly on the tablet, and draw right on the screen for perfect accuracy. The downside to this power, naturally, is that they are incredibly expensive.
Whether you're hoping to explore the world of digital painting (the "undo" command makes it much more accessible for beginners), or doing regular retouching work in Photoshop, a drawing tablet will completely change the way you interact with your computer. Smaller tablets can be purchased for under £100, so there's no longer any excuse to avoid having one! If you're still not sure, many shops have demo models available for customers to test, so give it a shot, and see what you're missing!
Posted on April 08th 2014 on 01:30pm