The Best Drawing Experience?

So I, a couple of my engineers, and a couple of customers got in to an extended discussion on what makes a great drawing experience on a tablet.

So it was far from consensus, unsurprisingly. There were some “truisms” Such as general agreement that Samsung’s S-Pen is the best pen experience in itself, but was let down by software issues on Android.

Or that Windows had the broadest software availability but that despite that it didn’t really have the “killer app” that ProCreate is on the iPad.

And that Apple’s iPad’s seem to have found a middle albeit expensive middle ground.

So my question to those here especially with an art bent (something I’m totally lacking in) what made you go with the devices /platform you did.

To start for me; the device that actually gets the most pen use from me is my Surface Pro 8. But that’s simply a function of my job which entails both a lot of document markup combined with rough sketching/capture of what a customer is asking for in a potential custom device.

I also use my Samsung S22 ultra as a primary notetaking device for meetings and phone calls.

And finally I do some personal doodling on my iPad for the stick figures I create :slight_smile:

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I spent quite a bit of time trying out different options when I chose the IPP 12.9 back in 2020. Prior to that, my tablet experience had been limited to an old HTC Flyer with NTrig v1, and a Lenovo Miix 700 with similar tech. I had used a friend’s Wacom tablet on their Mac a few times way back in the day, but that was one of the types without a screen, and since I wasn’t really used to that, there were reasons I didn’t like it beyond how the pen performed.

Anyway, I didn’t really know what I wanted, coming from my Miix 700. I knew that I liked some tooth, which I got from a matte screen protector on the Lenovo, but beyond that, I decided just to go to stores and play with devices and see how they felt to me.

I went to a Best Buy, played with the IPP, SPX, SP7, Surface Book 2, Surface Go 2/3?, Yogabook, an HP, a Dell, the Pixel tablet, and a Samsung Galaxy tab s6 I think it was. Most of the tablets other than the IPPs didn’t have any art programs loaded to play with, so I tested the pens with the notetaking apps for the most part. The tab s6 was okay, the Pixel, HP, and Dell were practically unusable. I was surprised at how bad the Surface Book was compared to the SPX and SP7. The Yoga was just okay also. I really liked the IPP overall though. It just felt better. I liked the performance of the S Pen pretty well, but the drawing apps weren’t really there for Android, and it felt a little sluggish in parts.

I think I spent a solid week of my lunch breaks going over to the Apple store near my work and playing with the IPPs there, just drawing and seeing how they felt before I finally decided the drawing experience was what I wanted, and before I realized what I wanted.

I realized what works for me is a combination of 4 things. The aforementioned tooth is important, as is a laminated screen with accuracy in the pen tip. But also, I have pretty fast hands when I work, and I wanted something that felt natural when I was doing quick movements. I also like a harder nib, over rubber nibs. At the time, the IPP was the only one to check all those boxes with the lower latency of the pen.

Belatedly after going back and drawing on my Miix 700, I realized that it felt better to draw on than any of the Windows devices I tested while first looking, most likely, because Clip Studio has the best brush engine there is, and it makes drawing feel much more natural than most other programs. I feel the same on the IPP. As great as Procreate is, CSP just feels more natural to draw on with the IPP than anything else.

So, tldr: The best drawing experience can’t be defined just by the pen tech, though it helps. The best drawing experience is using CSP with even a decent pen.

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As close as I get to drawing on my Go2 is the annotation of aerial images, geophysical survey images, site plans and various data presentations in graphic form. Although the work requires “0” talent, it can be detailed. It normally requires the overlay of images and shapes over reference materials to highlight them for presentation. It is the part of my work that drew me to pens. Although I like the current Surface Pen (I don’t have a slim pen yet), my favorite was the Wacom pen on the Surface Pro that I owned. It was seamless, like most Wacom EMR pens.

My notes have been relegated to my Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and the Boox Nova 3 Color. I use the Note 10 for nearly 90% of my notes, which are rather short. The Boox comes in handy when I’m reviewing files, documents or conducting research. I will like it even more as Boox develops this design, adding more power and quicker refresh times for the EInk display. I have tried to run OneNote on it but it is not smooth enough for me.

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For writing, a good Wacom EMR pen, software & screen implementation. Full stop. For drawing, which is the topic, I shall abstain. I’m just a doodler compared to a pro.

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I’ll say this: After 20+ years of using pen displays, the best drawing experience for my taste is:
Wacom EMR hardware (DTK or DTU/UD) + Microsoft Tablet driver + Clip Studio Paint.

I recently was given a new 24 Cintiq Pro at work, mated to Lenovo P17 Xeon. Felt very off even with Clip Studio. The lines felt not as smooth. Then I rralized it was running Wacom Wintab driver. I switched to MS driver in CSP and it instantly felt better for me. I had forgottem that I kicked Wacom Wintab to the curve years ago.

Wacom EMR + MS Tab + CSP is a better combo than anything else out there. Apple Pencil doesnt come close ( f that leaky IAF BS). Wacom EMR running on Android sucks at modulatung IAF and Palm rejection, Wacom EMR on Wacom Wintab feels not as smooth, and other brands’ EMR has worse grid granulatity than Wacom’s.

For best Bang for the buck, something like Samsung Galaxy Book/2 laptop 2 in 1 with CSP running MS tab driver is the way to go. I dont care if Sammy cranks the refresh of thrir Galaxy Tab androids to 120Hz or more, Wacom EMR doing 60Hz display with CSP using MS tab driver can’t be beat.

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I use a Staedtler Noris digital Stylus on my Samsung Galaxy Book 12 to draw in Macromedia FreeHand (both of which I despair of replacing), and to sketch using an old version of Autodesk Sketchbook, w/ Nebo.app for notetaking.

Still trying to find a suitable program for sketching on my Galaxy Note 10+, but have pretty much settled into Nebo for note-taking there as well.

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One underrated (I think) feature of going with S-Pen, was that I could have an entire ecosystem with a Note phone and Samsung Galaxy 12 or Notebook 9. With the pens being interchangeable, stowed in silos, and having options like a Staedtler or Lamy.

That entire setup has been dismantled with the Fold 3’s one-off S-Pen, which now I use with Superdisplay. But now I don’t use the GB12 or Notebook 9 at all anymore.

Oddly enough, I reach for a Surface Pro 5 when I need a bigger screen to sign documents or do quick photo editing, because it’s a nice convertible and I find the kickstand is so much sturdier compared to the GB12.

Oh wait, what was the original question? Oh yeah, best drawing experience I still think for me is Motion Computing J3500 with the felt tip fountain-pen-like EMR stylus. Accuracy was ■■■■ at the edges, but the feeel is so sublime and made writing/drawing such a joy.

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Wacom EMR has been the best and worst drawing experience for me - from little Asus slates / HP 2760p as the absolute worst and most disappointing to larger Cintiq style screens where my personal all-time favourite digital drawing experience is still my (now gone) Dell Canvas 27 which is in no way a tablet or portable. It was big enough not to have to draw at the edges and the weight of the Dell Stylus was a true joy to use.

Smaller EMR screens run the biggest proportion and biggest risk of Wacom going cheap and nasty on edge accuracy while the bigger EMR screens give you a much smaller proportion of edge and thus less risk of edge drift.

I found I could cope and adjust for indifferent Initial activation force but lack of cursor accuracy sometimes made me stop digital drawing altogether and I would happily go back to tools like dip-pens / charcoal pencils etc for a proper drawing feel. I flirted with Apple’s iPad and loved the accuracy but hated the pen-feel on glass.

Procreate / Photoshop / CSP etc do nothing for me over any other software - I could care less about their brush engines. I want accuracy, a soft felt-like nib and a largish screen area and I’m beginning to really enjoy using my (now) 5 year old zbook. I have a new galaxy tab s8 but it’s still in the box - I’m just worried that after buying it - the smaller screen size will bring back all the horrors of using the Asus slate or HP Elitebook and trying to live with drift and an unpredictable cursor.

For me, iPad pro is the best for on-the-go, Cintiq is best overall. I use a true tablet PC for cafe work / extended travel when I need access to all my files and full Adobe suite, but more and more often when I leave the house these days I just bring the iPad. I bounce between Procreate, Fresco, and Clip Studio, and I love that Clip is fully cross-platform.

But I doubt I’ll ever go100% digital because no digital drawing experience compares to a real brush on paper.

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I believe we came to the conclusion that the Fold 3’s S Pen was using what is normally the rear eraser frequency (note how no Samsung S Pens have had rear eraser since 2014).

I’m sure the Fold 3 could be hacked to act like any normal EMR device, but no one seems to have done so and even if you could you’d be throwing your warranty in the bin and possibly damaging your display.

Agreed.

My preferred natural medium is clay but I also draw a lot - digital sculpting with a stylus is a very different experience from physical clay and you can get much finer details - zooming into a physical 3D model for intricate details is impossible compared to doing that with a digital sculpt but there’s still a lot to be said about the feel of air-dry clay / oil-based clay / wax clay in your hand and the organic sense of a clay tool working the surface physically.

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So couple things related to that.

Samsung has told us the number one request from Fold Pen users is greater compatibility with the other S-Pens on other devices. They are working on it, so maybe the Fold 5?

And Motion Computing…they could be a textbook example of squandered opportunity and mismanagement. I have a friend that was an early employee and he watched them essentially self destruct when they could have/should have owned the Pen computing market.

Sadly the best stuff they had was ultimately acquired by what we now know as patent trolls who periodically sue everybody else making pen enabled devices. most recently Kobo because of their Elipsa product

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The thing is, my answer to this threads topic would have been different 5/10 years prior.

We have generally reached a level where drawing/pen performance is stable and good enough across the board almost regardless of platform. I remember having all sorts of performance related drawing woes on an assortment of devices. Attempting Photoshop on the 1st gen i5 Asus ep121, or even Clip Studio on the Atom powered Thinkpad Tablet 2 were dismal experiences. And Andorid/iOS in the days before Clip Studio were always left you wanting more from the super limited apps you had to contend with as you attempted using Layer Paint or Zen Brush as poor Clip Studio alternatives.

But now with Clip Studio mostly everywhere, and performance good enough even on the low end (Tab S6 lite), all that really leaves is comfort and how well the experience feels. To that end…as of now my favorite drawing experience is Apple Pencil 2 with my iPad Pro 12.9 (3rd gen) with a paper/feel screen protector. It just feels perfect to draw on.

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Four years ago, I would have said my best drawing experience came from the big Cintiqs, but now that I’m four years removed from a sudden upset that caused me to have to rethink/rebuy all of my tech-- I think my favorite holistic drawing experience has come from the Surface Studio 2. The screen is lovely, and gigantic, and has no dead spots or edge issues like the Cintiq did. Some irreducible amount of pen jitter is there, but it can be managed and controlled. The main thing is that I can make the huge sweeping motions that I want to make while I draw while working on an incredibly gorgeous screen.

I’ve never been satisfied with a screen smaller than 20". I’ve bought enough smaller tablets thinking that this time, it will be different, and it never is. :sweat_smile:

Why I’d pick the Surface Studio 2 over the Cintiqs? I have never had to reinstall a single goshdang tablet driver in the past four years, let alone an average of 6 times a year when the Cintiq would throw a hissy fit, and I’d have to revert Windows, or roll back a driver, or uninstall, reinstall, troubleshoot for an hour or two.

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Finally made myself draw with the little S8 tablet - the S-Pen included has a rubber tip which I feel is a bit too “draggy” and I worry that there’s a rubber skin that will eventually tear.
I’m mainly using my zbook stylus with felt nib instead and it’s great. If Samsung offer a huge discount for next year’s ultra tablet like they are doing this year for anyone wanting to trade an S7FE in for a 14 inch ultra - I’m all in and the little S8 will have served its purpose.

First of all, I would like to thank all of you for your generosity in sharing your knowledge. I really appreciate the opportunity of reading your posts; for me they are a reliable source of learning. I also appreciate your politeness when defending your ideas; you always respect each other when there is some kind of intellectual confrontation. It makes me feel comfortable following your threads.

Although I’m usually lurking (English is not my native tongue and for this reason I don’t feel comfortable when writing in this language), I follow your threads almost in a daily basis; and because I feel that I’m in debt to this nice group I’ll try to do my best to share my experience on digital sketching.

I also would say that, although my job requires me to sketch quite a lot, I’m not a professional artist, so I don’t have to deliver my drawings to my clients, they are just for personal usage or to be shared with my teammates. I mean that I am conscious that I am just an amateur sketcher and my needs may be different than the ones of true artists.

I also have to say that I’m a Windows desktop OS user. I don’t think Windows devices are better than the Apple desktop counterparts, but I learnt to use computers with DOS and early Windows devices, and I’m afraid the personal cost of changing would be too high.

I’ve been struggling with digital sketching devices since 2010, when I bought a Cintiq 12WX tablet. In that moment I think the main limitations were the features of the software (mainly lack of stroke stabilization) I had access to. This piece of machinery is very good (in fact I’m still owning this device and from time to time I use it, and the only thing I miss is touch screen capability), but in that moment applications did not allow me to take advantage of the full potential of that hardware.

My second device was a Dell Latitude 10, and my drawing experience kept on being unsatisfactory with the available software. Then, I don’t remember exactly when, I discovered Autodesk Sketchbook and things changed. I stopped worrying about stroke control (it has a good stabilization engine), but I started to discover other flaws, the most annoying one for me was the lost of accuracy, specially when tilting the pen.

After owning two SP4 (m3 and i5) and a Lenovo Miix 700, accuracy got solved when (I’m not sure, but I think it was on August 2018) a new firmware was released by MS for my recently bought SP17. In that moment, already owning a CSP license for Windows, for the first time I started to feel comfortable when drawing with a digital device (I needed 8 years!). My digital sketching reference in that time was the Wacom Cintiq 22HD my partner had for her work (she is a professional artist). I wanted my on-the-go devices to behave the way that Cintiq did, and almost got it. There still were two things to solve: the persistent jitter of the MPP technology (always improving but not totally solved), and the “lagginess” of Windows CSP when zooming, rotating and panning the canvas with the fingers (by the way, does somebody knows why touch responsiveness of CSP for Windows is so laggy, or if there is a way of improving its response?). But I could live with those two flaws.

Two years ago I bought a Samsung tab S6 Lite and found that CSP for Android with Samsung Devices is for me the best on-the-go drawing experience. Afterwards I managed to buy a cheap new 8Gb/256GB Tab S7 11", but it had a problem with pen pressure that really bothered me; for this reason I sold it and currently own a Tab S8 11" I’m very happy with. For the first time in this long process I feel that I don’t wish anything more for digital sketching; CSP on my S8 is almost all I wanted when I bought my Cintiq 12WX, a long time ago.

Nevertheless, not until very recently I managed to rationalize the answer to the question “what makes a great drawing experience on a tablet?”. In my case it is something related to a certain balance between the following factors, arranged according to how important they are to me:

  1. Cursor accuracy. EMR (Pro and UD), MPP (at least on SP devices), and Apple technologies are now very good at it (I don’t know if the current implementation of AES has this issue solved). Not currently and issue, but it was until recently.

  2. Pen pressure control. Like accuracy, it is very important to me. Not knowing the outcome (size and opacity of the stroke) you are going to get when sketching or painting makes me feel very uncomfortable. Pen pressure output in my new S8 is not perfect but very robust (as it was on my S6 Lite), and it is a pleasure to draw with it.

  3. Initial activation force low and consistent. I appreciate IAF, but for me it is less important (nowadays EMR, Apple and MS devices are quite good at it) than the lightness of the stroke you get when applying this minimum pressure. In this sense, my best stylus is the Wacom One pen, and very close to it the HP ZBook X2 one. IAF of Samsung SPens is quite low, but the minimum lightness of the stroke is really high, I don’t recommend them for serious sketching although it is not an issue when taking notes. Consistency of IAF on my S8 is not perfect but good enough for my taste.

  4. Touch responsiveness. Because I don’t use keyboards on my tablets, this also is an important ingredient to consider, and one of the reasons I seldom use CSP on my SP7.

  5. Pen-feel on screen. Quite related to the combination of tip/screen protector you use. My top preference is using felt nibs. If not available (is the case I think with MPP pens), my second choice are rubber nibs. And the last one are hard nibs. Always on matte screen protectors; over time they get scratched but I don’t mind to change them around once a year.

For me, replicating the paper feeling is not that important. I accept that the digital sketching experience is different than the “real” one, but not for this reason the new experience must be worst, it is just of another nature, that has other advantages: lots of brushes and colors instantly available; the possibility of working with multiple layers I can easily manipulate; or some functionalities difficult to get in real life (is the case of transform tools).

Regarding felt nibs, the ones I prefer are the HP ZBook X2 ones, currently almost impossible to get in Europe. The Wacom Pro Pen 2 ones are similar (the shape of the tip is a little bit different), but, I don’t know why, they don’t work on my Samsung SPens, I only can use them on my HP ZBook X2 and the Wacom One pens. The Boox/Remarkable Marker tips (I cannot distinguish between them), are also quite good. The only downside of the Boox/Remarkable’s tips is that the stem of the nib is less robust than the other ones, and it may bend, specially if you press hard when drawing with the pen tilted.

This broad range of choices with UD EMR nibs makes IMHO this technology superior to MS and Apple ones at this point.

  1. Pen holding feeling. The way I feel when handling the pen depends on its shape, its weight and also the way the latter is distributed. It is also important the ergonomics of the side button. For example, I appreciate that on the Wacom One pen it protrudes a little bit so I always feel where it is and is more difficult to accidentally press it. One single side button working as a erase is enough for me.

I usually find pens that need battery too heavy for my taste. I really appreciate the lightness of EMR pens. Regarding this point, my preference are the Wacom One and the S6 Lite pens, although the side button of the latter annoys me a little bit (I frequently press it accidentally).

The rest of the factors are less important, but under some circumstances they could influence my final decision:

  1. Pen battery life. It is not a key factor, but I also appreciate not to have to be aware of pen battery life (of course the EMR stylus are great, but also my old SP2017 pen, which only needs a battery replacement around once a year, is quite good).

My experience with rechargeable battery pens is very limited but not good. I owned a Renaisser Raphael 520 pen; the drawing experience was good but I always had to be aware of the battery level and it ended up dying after around one year of use. Nevertheless, I think a Slim Pen would be a good choice for my SP7 if it was possible to replace the rechargeable battery at the end of its life, and had an easy way of recharging it (because I don’t use keyboard I would need a separate charger, which would be an additional source of discomfort).

  1. File management. In my opinion only desktop OS fully satisfy this factor. I find Android is a little bit better than PadOS, but neither of them are comparable with a full desktop one (be it Windows or MacOS).

  2. Jitter. Wobbling lines usually were an issue on my Surface Pro devices (but not on EMR new releases and Apple pen systems). Although MPP has improved, being now accustomed to EMR pens, it is a little bit more noticeable when I go back to my old SP17 pen on the SP7, but it is still bearable.

  3. Pen lag. This is an issue most of the reviews are quite worried about. It was never an issue for me, and these technologies (EMR, MPP and Apple) are currently quite good at it.

  4. Palm rejection. Currently not a problem for me, and I don’t remember having had serious issues with it in the past.

Having in mind this long list of factors, my best drawing experience is using CSP on my Tab S8 11" tablet, using a Wacom One pen with a HP ZBook X2 felt nib on a matte screen protector, having a cup of coffee at a nice bar in front of the sea :wink:

It would be improved with the same EMR pen combination using a CSP with improved touch responsiveness on a 11" Windows tablet with 12 hours of battery life in the same bar. I’m just dreaming…

A long post for a short answer. At least I hope part of the information will be useful for some of you.

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Thanks for sharing!

Have you thought about contributing to a wiki here? We currently only have them as posts, but it works. You seem to have a lot of experience with EMR nibs, details of which is something that the EMR wiki is currently lacking in.

There’s also no MPP or AES wiki yet, which could be gotten off to a start if you’re feeling brave.

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@Bierot This is great! And exactly they type of answers I was hoping for in my post. It’s obvious that to a large degree what’s best is both subjective and personal and providing context to that is really informative :slight_smile:

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@Bierot fabulous post and thank you for sharing.

I’ve got CSP on my Tab S8, I’ve got zbook nibs and I also have access to a Wacom One pen so I might give that a try - I do like my zbook stylus on the Tab S8 though but I especially like the idea of drawing by the seaside with a good strong coffee in front of me.

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I hope you contribute everyday! Thank you for writing about your experiences.

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