Draw on paper and screen at the same time, with the new Wacom Intuos Pro Paper Edition

Illustrator Pete Fowler discovers why the new Wacom Intuos Pro tablet is perfect for multi-disciplinary artists.

Although his work is mainly for commercial clients in the world of advertising, he’s also widely known for his Monsterism series of designer toys and his artwork for Welsh band Super Furry Animals. “I’ve been doing their album covers, merchandise, videos and stage sets since the mid-1990s,” reveals Pete. “The band came back for a big tour last year, so I did a bit of work for them.”

His daily routine ranges from drawing, then creating vector images from the drawings, to a bit of woodcarving and painting. “It’s a bit of a multi-practice studio, but I predominantly use digital illustration,” he explains.

He is therefore perfectly placed to give an opinion on the Intuos Pro Paper Edition, a pen and touch tablet that combines the latest Wacom technologies with the drawing paper of your choice.

It comes with pressure-sensitive pens, has a high-resolution touchscreen and excellent connectivity features that make it a perfect fit for today’s cross-media creatives. It also allows you to turn paper sketches into digital art – using the supplied Paper Clip to hold your artwork in place, you can work with your favourite drawing paper directly on the surface of the tablet. Each stroke you make is transmitted into a lossless vector graphics file on the tablet.

The appeal of this is obvious. “Everything I do starts with a pencil sketch,” says Pete, who reveals that a lot of his ideas come from doodling with a pen in stream of consciousness mode. “I keep a lot of sketchbooks.”

He previously worked mostly in Adobe Photoshop, but now predominantly uses Illustrator. “I draw in pencil, scan that in and use that as a guide for illustration,” he explains. “One of the functions on this new tablet involves taking a gel pen and drawing on paper. Making a mark on the paper, but having that mark stored on the computer was really interesting.”

The Paper Clip keeps up to 10 paper sheets fixed on your tablet when sketching, and although the supplied sheets are ideal for the job, artists can use any art paper.

Two pens are supplied with the Intuos Pro Paper Edition. The Finetip Pen offers four times the pressure sensitivity of the Wacom’s Pro Pen, and has 8,192 levels of pressure to support a natural and intuitive creative process. The gel ink stylus has a 0.4mm diameter and is capable of very fine, smooth, dark black and detailed sketching on paper.

Also supplied is the Pro Pen 2, Wacom’s new pressure-sensitive stylus for professional use. It offers 60 levels of tilt recognition.

Three replacement refills for the gel ink are supplied, as well as 10 nibs – six standard and four felt.  The nibs are arranged and stored in the Pen Stand (also in the box), which has a built-in tool that makes replacing nibs simple.

Pete was impressed by the sensitivity of the Finetip Pen. “It’s vastly improved,” he enthuses. “I found the function of the tablet with the gel pen to be fantastic. For me that’s the strongest part of the device. There’s almost no latency.”

Also available as an optional extra is Wacom’s Ballpoint Pen, which offers a thicker 1mm nib and long-lasting black oil ink cartridge for sketching.

The tablet’s Inkspace feature lets you sync, store and export your sketches in common creative file formats, including layered raster and vector. The days of tedious and time-consuming scanning are over. “Inkspace catalogues all the drawings that you do and allows you to export them as PNG, PSD or as an SVG file, which is great for opening in Illustrator,” explains Pete. Plus, you can convert handwritten notes to rich text, for easy sharing and organizing.

He’s also keen on the way the software updates on-screen when connected to his computer. “This feature is fantastic, you’re actually seeing your drawing [appear] as you’re doing it. You can see there’s no latency. I’ve been looking at the screen instead of the pen, it’s very natural.”

Users of the Intuos Pro Paper Edition can access the Basic version of Inkspace for free, which offers 5GB of storage. Registered users can then sync their creations across multiple devices, as well as share creative projects with colleagues and clients.

Made from black anodised aluminium and fibreglass composite resin, Wacom’s tablet is available in two size. Pete has been using the Large model, which offers an expansive drawing area that’s similar to an A4 sheet of paper. With a drawing area near to A5, the Medium option is lighter and more portable. However, both are ready to take wherever you need to sketch.

“On the train you don’t need it plugged into the laptop,” reveals Pete. “You can use it as a device, on its own. It’s absolutely comparable to a sketchbook; the ease of jotting down images, pen on paper, it all works beautifully.”

The Intuos Pro Paper Edition stores up to 200 multi-layered or 1,000 one-layered drawings, even when you’re away from the computer. The supplied 2m USB cable lets you physically connect the tablet to a PC or Mac, or you can do so wirelessly via Bluetooth.

“Everything you draw is stored on there,” says Pete, “so you can have it unconnected and still draw. Then you plug it into your laptop and it will come up with those sketches.”

The screen has a resolution of 5,080dpi and offers multi-touch control. The tablet also has a Touch Ring with four customisable functions and a home button for capturing layers in paper mode. In addition, eight ExpressKeys let you create customised application-specific to speed up the creative workflow.

Pete was impressed by the functionality on offer, especially the ExpressKeys. “They seem to work very well. There’s lots of customizable functions. I tended to start by using some very basic functions and then add other functions to them as I got used to the product.

“Navigating around and zooming in on your image is easy with the Touch Ring. I do use a lot keyboard shortcuts, so as I’ve used this I really like to be able to assign different functions.”

Another way of customising the Wacom is with the three different Texture Sheets, each of which simulates different drawing papers, from smooth to rough.

The Intuos Pro Paper Edition perfectly represents Wacom’s desire to let artists easily evolve their ideas from inspiration to expression.

“When I think of drawing tablets, I always think of Wacom,” says Pete. “They always seem to want to narrow that gap between your imagination and what you can do with a tool. Being able to draw straight into the computer with a natural feel was really appealing.

“The normal way of importing a drawing into Illustrator leaves you kind of stuck. There’s not a huge amount you can edit. This is amazing, as you’re making an ink drawing, you’re thinking I’ll fix that line in Illustrator. It’s quite a unique thing really.”

He also highly rates the natural look and feel of work created using the unique capabilities of the Intuos Pro Paper Edition, especially the pen on paper to digital line process.

“If the line is a little bit wonky, that’s great. There’s no such thing as mistakes in my mind. Just having the mark of someone’s hand on it gives a vector line a bit of grit, a bit of personality and character.

“I’d like to see a variety of different creatives using this and seeing what can be done with it.”