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Amazon had a sweet deal on Sketchbook Pro (Mac/PC version) last week, and as part of the bargain I snagged a Wacom Bamboo stylus for iPad & iPhone.  The rationale for this was to have a way to doodle ideas on my iPhone and send them straight to my home computer via DropBox for editing later.  Now that I've been using it for a few days, I think this system will work out nicely.

Just as a clarification – the Bamboo stylus isn't the same as the pen that comes with their Bamboo pen tablet.  The styluses (styli?) for the pen tablets won't work on an iPad or device with a similar touchscreen.  Instead of the plastic nibs used in Wacom's pen tablets, the Bamboo stylus has a rubbery nib that mimics whatever it is that's special about your fingertips.  I don't know how it works, but the results kind of speak for themselves: wickedoffkiltah.deviantart.com…

It feels like drawing with a Sharpie marker, but it is possible to do really detailed work if you've got the patience and inclination.  Carlo Ostrout of "Life After Death" [lifead.thewebcomic.com/comics/… and Elizabeth Fernandez of "The Code Crimson" www.comics.thecodecrimson.com/… have been making their comics from start to finish using iPads for some time now.  They may lack the processing power of a desktop machine, but you also can't sit in a recliner with a computer and Cintiq tablet very comfortably.  I'll probably never draw a comic while sitting in a canoe in the middle of a lake, but in all honesty, the possibility is pretty enticing.
In an attempt give my drawing skills a boost, I've taken a page from the Denver Brubaker playbook and have once again resumed packing my sketchbook along with my lunch before going to work.  If you've never heard of him, Denver is the guy behind Tales of a Checkered Man, a superhero/adventure comic that updates each Wednesday.  I highly recommend it – great story, fun characters, and fantastic artwork.  Check it out here: thecheckeredman.com/

The inspiration to start bringing by sketchbook everywhere came from clicking on Denver's Sketchbook link, which has drawings he's done during his commute.  I've got a pretty long commute myself, so took on the personal challenge to draw a page of sketches every day.  I mean, why not, right?

I made some pretty awful drawings at first, but it's gotten easier now that I've figured out how to compensate for the sway of the train car and the sudden stop-and-go of the bus.  At the first micro-jolt before pulling into a station, I hold still and wait for the big jolt that precedes a full stop.  When stopped, I speedily finish a few lines while waiting for the next lurch ahead, pause again, and resume once the train or bus is back up to cruising speed.

As an added challenge (torment), I've limited myself to an HB drafting pencil with no eraser.  Y'know… since drawing on a moving vehicle that makes frequent stops and turns isn't hard enough.
This week wraps up my first attempt at doing the dual/intertwined storyline thing.  This arc actually began four weeks ago with the comic "What a Turnoff," and I'm pretty happy with the way it's turned out.  I agonized over how to finish it, and I ended up taking a page out of the Calvin & Hobbes playbook.  I don't want to post any spoilers, so you'll just have to come back Tuesday and Thursday to see what happens!

I also had a Photoshop breakthrough and discovered the secret to creating a subtle texture in the background by using the "overlay" function.  It's a technique that Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade uses a lot, and I'm ridiculously excited that I now have the power of overlay.  It's actually pretty easy, but like many of the cool functions in Photoshop, it's not very intuitive.  If you're interested in trying it out, here's my first attempt at a video tutorial: youtu.be/gv06qGQkMD4
...just in time for the release of the Intuos5!

Back in January, I plunked down the cash for a new Wacom Intuos4 pen tablet.  I wanted to take some time to use it before writing a review, and while I was getting accustomed to the Intuos4, the Intuos5 was released.

Obvious obsolescence notwithstanding, here we go:

I've been using my Intuos4 with Photoshop and Manga Studio EX for almost two months now, and it's been a real time and space saver. Since I'm mostly using the tablet to draw a comic that is published online, I don't have to worry about having to scan or store physical drawings. I do prefer drawing on paper, but time and space are tight, and this lets me streamline the process from concept to publication in a pretty significant way.

The initial investment was just shy of $180 after tax and shipping, but I'll be saving money on materials like paper and pencils in the long run. Actually, the cost of the Intuos4 is roughly the same as 200 sheets of 14″ x 17″ Bristol board. It also came with a wireless mouse which never needs batteries, which is another thing I won't have to buy for a good while. The mouse has to stay on the active area of the tablet to work, but that's not a big concern of mine – it's no worse than having a trackball mouse that only works on a textured mouse pad.

A lot of users posted complaints about how the pen nibs (replaceable plastic tips) needed to be swapped out too often due to wear. Again, this was not a big concern of mine, since real pencils, pens, and brushes wear out and need to be replaced over time as well. I'm not particularly heavy-handed when it comes to drawing, but the more you draw, the more you're going to spend on pencils and paper anyway. I tend to think of replacement nibs as part of the cost of doing business.

My only complaint is that my computer doesn't always recognize the tablet on startup, but I'm not sure if that's an issue with the Wacom drivers or if it's a problem with Windows 7. At any rate, it works as advertised 99% of the time, and I would recommend this to anyone who wants to start creating digitally. It's easy to set up, relatively inexpensive, and it works with industry standard software like Photoshop and freeware like Gimp.

If this is any indication of things to come, I'll be ready to post a review of the Intuos5 about a week or two before the Intuos6 comes out.

wickedoffkiltah.com/2012/03/05…
I just started a webcomic in January and figured it might be cool to share here as well.  Feel free to stop by wickedoffkiltah.com/ and browse through the archive, subscribe to my RSS feed, or send a message!