Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wacom Inkling

Wacom Inkling
Wacom is the venerable maker of pressure sensitive tablets and styli that have been the standard for digital artists for many years. My understanding is that the name is a combination of “wa”, from a Japanese word meaning harmony, and “com” from computer, meaning a device that puts one in harmony with a computer.

They make several lines of products — their industry standard Intuos line of professional tablets, of which I have been a dedicated user in one form or another for over 15 years, their newer consumer oriented line of Bamboo tablets and touchpads and their high end Cintiq models. The latter incorporate computer displays in the tablet to allow for drawing directly on the screen.

To these lines (and their smaller items like the Bamboo stylus for iPad) they are adding a new product called Inkling, a “digital sketch pen”.

This is a ballpoint pen that incorporates some electronics and is accompanied by a small receiver box that clips onto the top of a sketchbook or drawing pad, allowing the user to draw with the familiar tool of ink on paper and simultaneously have that drawing stored electronically as a digital image for later download to a computer.

There have been other “digital pens” that perform a similar function, but this is the first to offer pressure sensitivity, that quality in traditional digital drawing tablets that allows artists to vary the line weight (and often other characteristics of a stroke) with the amount of pressure applied to the pen. It also provides the ability for artists to add “layers” to the digital file, so that different parts of the drawing can be easily separated out on the computer.

The digital image can be downloaded to a computer via USB and into the Wacom software provided. The included Sketch Manager software can transform the lines into vector paths or leave them as a bitmap. The files can then be exported into Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and other common applications used by digital artists.

This is obviously meant to accommodate quick sketches and rough drawings as opposed to the more finished work one would do directly on the computer with a tablet and graphics software, but it should be a welcome addition to the digital artist arsenal, and perhaps spread the appeal of digital drawing to those more comfortable with traditional drawing tools.

One of the barriers traditional artists face when starting to use a pressure sensitive tablet is getting used to drawing while looking at the screen instead of one’s hand, which takes a little getting used to. This is certainly a less expensive way around that than the deluxe Cintiq models.

The Inkling digital sketchpen retails for $199.00 U.S.D., and should be available in mid September.

In addition to the Wacom product page, there is an introductory video on YouTube.

(The product page link given is for the Americas; see the general Wacom site for links to other world regions.)

21 thoughts on “Wacom Inkling

  1. Marc

    Devil’s Advocate here :)

    How is this better than a cheaper and more widely useful scanner?

    What do people think about being “stuck” with whatever line quality the ballpoint pen offers?

    Can you erase?

    I’d like to see side by side comparisons between the input (original drawing) and the output (the file)to examine fidelity.

    Is this a solution in search of a problem?

    Marc

  2. Daniel

    Its better than a scanner because it can output the drawing in vector form and keep things broken out in layers. The work flow would be the following. 1) Sketch rough draft. 2) Import as vector 3)Clean up lines 4) Add color 5) Export

  3. Charley Parker Post author

    The advantages I see are pressure sensitivity (though I assume that is limited to the digital output and I doubt there’s much, if any, expression of that effect on the paper) and the ability to define separate layers while drawing. Also sketches could be transferred to a laptop while traveling without need of an additional piece of equipment.

    I assume those that find the features most useful will gravitate to the product and others, even dedicated digital artists, will take a pass if it’s not to their needs.

  4. John Martel

    This looks really neat, and I can see some real uses for this. I just wonder what wacom is going to charge for ink refills. Going by the prices for replacement parts for some of their other items, I wouldn’t be surprised to see $10 ballpoint pen refills.

  5. J

    Before you buy this, make sure you know what you’re getting. Accuracy section states: “Main drawing area of A4 paper : +/- 2.5 mm, Margins of A4 paper: +/- 5.0 mm.” I myself will wait until the tech is better developed :)

  6. Anne

    Inkling? Digital this and that?
    As a lifelong autist this information is wasted on me. Just have to stay happy with my color pencils, paper and eraser.
    I envy you, guys!

  7. mike

    Don’t forget you need to have a compatible computer and software. Add that to the cost of your refills. For some the payback time is not an issue, for others… well, I sadly learned a few expensive lessons over the years that digital is nice and all, but copy paper, moleskins, a sketch pad, and a pencil seem to be my most productive spot… probably related to the fact that I bought my first wacom when painter 1 came out. My Mac IIci just didn’t have the power and I didn’t have the patience to wait for the cpu to catch up to my pen motions on the wacom. Anyway I am rambling about days gone by and doing my best at squashing the digital “Wowwy Zowwy” side of my brains temptation to get one of these gadgets.

  8. Randall

    I am always interested in new input devices. In the early years (say about 1989), I invented “saran-scan” which used a sheet of saran-wrap on the screen to which i would trace using a sharpie… or, inversely, i would trace a drawing using saran-wrap as tracing paper, place it on the screen, and create vector graphics using a rudimentary cad system.

    The questions I have about Inkling is what is the quality of the vector graphics (with intersecting lines and varying line widths), how annoying is the hump on the paper from the clip-on device, and how pressure-sensitive is a ball-point, after all?

  9. mooncaine

    Excellent questions, Marc. I wondered about the same things, esp. erasers.

    Hmm, now that I’ve had a day to think about it, I’m wondering why WACOM doesn’t make a pressure-sensitive stylus for tablets like iPads. Use a clip-on thingy like Inkling uses, plugged into the port on the iPad.

    That looks more attractive to me: drawing on the screen, portable, no reason it should cost more than Inkling.

  10. William Richards

    I have to admit the utility of this device is lost on me. Although I am a fan of Wacom tablets this one seems a bit bizarre. If I’m using a pen on paper why wouldn’t I just scan the resulting image and then adjust it digitally instead of using a clippy thing? I would think my money would be better spent on upgrading my tablet. Just wondering.

  11. Motmaitre

    As a long time digital artist, it surprises me that products like this are even necessary. However, I guess that is because I’m more open than many artists to embracing new technology. This is for those who need a ‘bridge’ from pen and paper to digital.

    I bout my first Wacom Intuos years ago. It was nice, but I wanted to draw directly on the screen (to cut out the extremely inefficient process of drawing on paper, scanning and then finishing in digital). However, a Cintiq was just too pricey.

    I settled for a convertible tablet with Wacom technology, and since then all my PCs have been tablets. I currently use an Asus EP121 and draw my comics directly on the screen. Quick, fun and efficient.

    I’m obviously very excited about the new wave of pen-enabled tablets (such as the Samsung Series 7 just announced). These are targeted mainly at digital artists so I find it hard to believe people still draw on pen and paper, and endure the extreme inefficiency of scanning- or using something like the Inkling.

    If people weren’t resistant to change and technology, this would have no market. I’d urge old-school artists to ditch the traditional materials (and these interim solutions), buy a good Windows tablet with an active digitizer pen, install Photoshop and do everything digitally, from sketch to coloring. The gains in efficiency and productivity- and fun- are what you’d expect from any computerised vs. manual process.

  12. Tiff

    When exporting into illustrator can I change the colors of the vector lines and most importantly, can I add a fill to strokes? I’m thinking if you create separate layers it may allow you to add fill. May have to merge vector points. Just curious. Big factor on if this will help work go quicker from sketch, scan, trace in illustrator, then add color. It would def help move the process along.

    If so, I want one so bad!!

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