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I do some caricature, cartoons and illustrations, as hobby. I believe that I am okay'ish with pen and paper, but recently decided to go digital.

Given my budget, and a quick assessment of needs and reviews of various graphic tablets, I am thinking of ordering the Wacom Bamboo One CTE 660 Pen Tablet which as per specs is a wide-format 8.5"x5.5" entry-level tablet.

During my research I've found that I could potentially use it with Inkscape, since I am not in a position to make an investment in professional software. Although I am not aware of the real potential of Inkscape for my purpose. I think I can mostly make-do with vector-graphics, and occasionally embed bit-maps (s.a. for scene background).

My question is -

  1. Since the table is of a particular size, which is roughly half or sometimes even a quarter of the paper size I use normally, would the experience be very different ?

  2. Given that I'd be using vector graphics, can I assume that "free-hand drawn" images will scale-up nicely?

  3. What are the other "free" (as in beer) alternatives for my purpose/use-case? Ideally, I'd prefer something that is not very resource hungry, as my PC isn't very powerful (yeah, living with a lot of constraints!).

Edit:

Finally I went ahead and got myself a Wacom Bamboo One 'Medium' (6x9) tablet. It is the entry-level product, but based on my first day experience, I think it is quite nice. I wasn't expecting anything pro-grade, but it seems to be pretty adequate. Build quality seems reassuring (i.e. not cheap, flaky plastic), is quite sleek, and pretty responsive. It worked out of the box. Without drivers, on Win 7, it worked as a mouse right-away. Worked in MS-Paint as expected (as a pen). On installing drivers and software, I got pressure-sensitivity and something called Bamboo-dock. It seems like a Widget-container, i.e. you can download applications online... pretty much the same crop that you see on Firefox, Opera, Chrome -- but seemingly hand-picked, and pretty relevant to usage with a pen. I like SumoPaint, which I've used before, and is not bad for decent drawings / illustrations.

Getting used to Pen, as a navigation / desktop-pointer tool, takes some getting used to. I think touch-phones and touch-pads have already mentally tuned us to direct pointing, but those devices have the display and touch-sensor aligned. When you are using the display and touch disjointed, it feels a bit odd, but not bad.

Thanks all for your comments.

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3 Answers 3

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  1. In my opinion, the best size for drawing tablet is one that at least covers the area that you are used to in traditional drawing.

    It is important to take into consideration the actual size of the area that you use per drawing usually because you may draw into A4 size paper, but you might not draw one drawing per one A4. Digitally you can always use bigger document and pan all around it if you want to make another drawing.

    Though.. Since you work digitally with drawing tablet, you can use things like Zooming and Panning which can be used to kinda make up for size, but it takes less getting used to drawing with a drawing tablet the less you have to change your habits.

    Since you are on a tight budget, you might want to consider Trust drawing tablets Which are nowadays a bit more expensive than what they used to be I believe, but still quite cheap.

    When it comes to Wacom you can't really make a wrong decision as long as you consider what it is that you need from the tablet. Of course newer ones are better than the older ones :) I would however like to add that other companies like trust may give you more or less the same features with bigger drawing area and cheaper price. ( Meaning that you don't necessarily have to buy older or cheaper model of Wacom drawing tablet )

  2. As long as you scale vector by preserving the aspect ratio, then yes, it will scale up and down nicely.

  3. If this was about other free vector drawing programs.. DrawPlus starter edition is one of those.

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Thanks @Lollero. Regarding panning the drawing, does it require one to use keyboard/mouse alongside the graphic-tablet+pen ? Will check out Trust tablets in greater detail, but from a cursory look it seems they are based out of EU. If there are specific features in the tablet that I should be looking out for, it might help with my search. –  icarus74 Feb 2 '12 at 16:27
    
And, DrawPlus starter ed. looks quite great. However, I think they might be peddling malware. They have "Free*" (a boatload of free software). I can sense an browser search-bar, type of approach, given the need to create an online account. Anyway, will check it out. Thanks again. –  icarus74 Feb 2 '12 at 16:28
    
@icarus74 Good question. The pen of a drawing tablet acts in behalf of a mouse which means that you really don't need a mouse unless you don't feel comfortable controlling your computer with the pen. Keyboard usage on the other hand depends on the drawing tablet and what you prefer. Most drawing tables do have function keys where you can set for example keystrokes, which means that yes, you can set panning in there. Some tablets also have disc or a strip that is meant for zooming. I'm heavy hotkey user so I often stick to keeping my left hand over my keyboard and right hand on the pen. –  Joonas Feb 2 '12 at 19:38
    
I have briefly tried DrawPlus, but I'm not so sure about it's exporting formats and how well it performs in that area.. I think it might only support .svg. I believe that Inkscape offers more features. Also, some drawing tablets come with bundled programs. I don't think that any of them come with vector software though. –  Joonas Feb 2 '12 at 20:24
    
Thanks again @Lollero. Have downloaded and installed DrawPlus starter. I like what I see so far, but might go back to Inkscape. –  icarus74 Feb 3 '12 at 4:46

Can't go wrong with any Wacom tablet.

Preface... I do NOT know Inkscape. I've only ever used Adobe Illustrator. I do not know how well tablet drivers are integrated into Inkscape and what may or may not be possible with Inkscape or other vector apps. This post is more about general tablet use than any specific application.

Wacom, being the most prolific tablet manufacturer, generally has wide support. So if an app is going to support a tablet, it's likely to support Wacom tablets to some degree. Based on my experience with Illustrator, many non-Wacom tablets are not well supported. Again... I don't know other apps though.

Which tablet you get often depends far more on your drawing style than other factors. Do you draw from the wrist/fingers or from the shoulder/elbow?

If you use your wrist and fingers far more, then smaller tablets will be fine. Since the overal motion of drawing is more limited for those that draw that way.

If you tend to draw in more sweeping, elbow-based, movements you would do well with a larger tablet to take advantage of your drawing style. You'll feel constricted with smaller tablets because you won't be able to make the motions that feel natural to you.

Of course, I'm generalizing. Most use a combination of wrist and elbow movement when drawing, but really there tends to be some favor towards one motion. You'll have to evaluate that yourself.

In my experience (with primarily Wacom tablets) a 6x8/6x11 or "medium" tablet fits a great many users and is, from what I see, the size most feel is a good balance between budget and functionality. The Wacom Bamboo One CTE 660 Pen Tablet is classified as a "medium" so that's probably a good size to start with. Being that your focus is primarily vector you won't really benefit from any of the added pressure sensitivity of other Wacom product lines (the Intuos having 2x more pressure levels).

If it were my money, and I wasn't certain the tablet would be for me, the Bamboo would be my place to start.

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thanks for taking time to answer this question. I am definitely a wrist-n-fingers guy, and your part regarding size is reassuring. Just wondering, why does pressure-sensitivity not translate into something like brush-bending (as in calligraphy, can't recollect the correct term for that), in vector drawing program. Anyhow, I've made up my mind about Bamboo. Thanks again. –  icarus74 Feb 3 '12 at 4:49
    
Pressure will translate, but with vectors it's not as noticeable as it is with rasters. More pressure is good. But if budget is a concern, I wouldn't focus on the 1024 vs 2056 levels. –  Scott Feb 3 '12 at 5:35
    
@icarus74 and as far as free raster drawing goes you might want to check out OpenCanvas 1.1 It may not look like much, but it get's the job done and it is light. ( It's now at version 5 I think, but 1.1 is the last version that is still free. ) –  Joonas Feb 3 '12 at 8:18
    
Thanks @Lorello. Updated my question with the final decision. Appreciate all the help. –  icarus74 Feb 4 '12 at 18:09

I can really only offer an answer to your first point about how it will differ from what you're used to.

Have you used a graphics tablet before? Because when I first got one I felt like I couldn't draw any more and it took me a long time to be comfortable with it, and I'm still not brilliant (not as good as on paper). My tablet is very small but somehow, it doesn't seem to matter. You have as much movement as the mouse, when you put the pen tool at the edge of the active space of the tablet, the cursor is at the edge of the screen. So, if you wanted to draw something big, you wouldn't be making a single stroke bigger than your screen anyway, so it's fine.

This is the only thing I have drawn properly with my tablet (and it's pretty lame):

Squids

It wasn't a struggle to do. The only thing that makes a difference is how sensitive it is, and mine isn't all that sensitive, so small detail and the lightness of your touch isn't translated very well onto the page.

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Thanks @Willow. That drawing isn't bad at all, quite nice in fact. –  icarus74 Feb 4 '12 at 18:07

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