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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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:
- 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).
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).
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.
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.
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
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.