How Little White Lies' creative director designs and illustrates with Wacom's new tablet

Timba Smits is both a designer and an illustrator - so tries out the new Wacom tablet that lets him work on both paper and on-screen at once.

Being both an artist and a designer makes him expertly placed to investigate the Intuos Pro Paper Edition. Wacom’s latest graphics tablet offers a unique tactile way of working that lets you use pressure-sensitive pens in a more ‘analogue’ way. Plus, its connectivity features allow you to save, edit and export your artwork.

First impressions are always interesting and his excitement is plain to see. “I’m totally geeked out on the packaging,” he says. “I thought it was a really quality piece of design in itself, just the box and the experience of opening that box.”

Let’s see what happened when that box was opened.

Timba believes that the Wacom’s standout feature is its ability to clip your favourite drawing paper on to the surface of the tablet and sketch away on A5 (for the medium model) or A4 sheets (with the large option).

As you draw with the supplied Finetip Pen, the Intuos Pro Paper Edition captures every stroke as an editable file that can then be opened in your favourite creative software.

“Previously, before using a tablet, I would draw everything by hand,” reveals Timba. “I’d scan that in at high resolution, bring it into Photoshop, do a little bit of editing to that original drawing and then start colouring it, throwing textures on, going back to create textures, scanning them in, putting them over the top. There was this real process of going backwards and forwards.

“I like to think that this Paper Edition will almost replace a scanner in a way. I can just draw it directly to the tablet. It comes up lovely on my screen, and then I can just jump straight into Photoshop without having to leave my seat. I think that would probably trim a couple of hours off my process, which is great, especially in a studio environment.”

The Intuos Pro Paper Edition is crafted using premium materials – the back and sides are made of black anodized aluminium while the bazel is made of a fiberglass. With a smaller and more compact footprint than previous models, it’s a mere 8mm thick.

“From a physical point of view, it’s just dead sexy,” enthuses Timba. “It’s very, very nice to look at. Very nice to touch and feel. You barely notice it’s even on your desk.”

Of the two available sizes, the medium model is lighter at 700g, and being more compact is ready to slip into your bag and take wherever you need to sketch. The larger option offers the most expansive drawing area.

Both tablets have a Touch Ring, Radial Menus, plus eight ExpressKeys, so you can customise your own shortcuts to speed up your creative workflow and use of professional software.

Timba feels the ExpressKeys are an improvement on previous models. “[In last year’s tablet] there was a bit of play in the buttons – they would wobble – whereas these just feel solid.” 

The supplied Paper Clip means you can attach up to 10 paper sheets to your tablet when sketching. Although Timba found the supplied paper worked well, he tested his own out, too – thick archival paper, watercolour paper, translucent tracing paper, copy paper and even 20 pages of notebook paper – and was impressed with the results. “I think the pen works really nicely on good quality paper,” he explains.

Ink-on-paper drawings are captured and stored digitally by Wacom’s Inkspace feature, which has been specifically designed for artists and designers who need to export, share and collaborate on projects. It allows you to export your work in layered raster or vector formats (such as PSD and SVG), so it can be refined later on the tablet with any compatible layered bitmap or vector software application.

“It’s a huge step up from last year’s Intuos Pro from a digital point of view,” reveals Timba. “There’s better pen sensitivity, so it picks up even the slightest manoeuvre.”

The screen has a resolution of 5,080dpi and a multi-touch option to recognize gestures. The tablet works with the latest versions of both Windows and macOS operating systems. It comes with Bluetooth Classic for wireless connection and a 2m USB cable.

You don’t have to be a near a computer to continue working with your sketches though, as Wacom’s tablet can store up to 200 pages with unlimited layers or 1,000 one-layered drawings.

Having Inkspace on the Intuos Pro Paper Edition means you can also convert your handwritten paper notes to rich text for easy sharing and organizing. There are two levels of Inkspace, both of which are available from Wacom’s website. The Basic version is free and allows 5GB of storage, while the Plus package, available for small monthly fee of $2.99 offers 50GB of storage. Both options allow you to sync your creations across multiple devices and share your creative projects with colleagues and clients.

Two pressure-sensitive, cordless, battery-free pens, each offering 8,192 pressure levels, are supplied with the Intuos Pro Paper Edition. The Pro Pen 2 is a pressure-sensitive stylus with 60 levels of tilt recognition, making it perfect for professional use. The 0.4mm diameter Finetip Pen is a smooth gel-ink stylus that enables very fine, smooth, dark black and detailed sketching on paper. Each stroke is accurately captured digitally and losslessly when used on the tablet. Three replacement refills are supplied, as well as 10 nibs (six standard and four felt) – essential in Timba’s opinion.

“I’m really loving the more textured pen nibs,” he enthuses. “They give off a sound like you're using a Sharpie pen on paper. It’s incredible, the sense and the feeling you get using a digital pen [and] how it can feel so natural if you’re working from an analogue point of view.

“I’ve found you can burn through them really quickly if you’re drawing a lot, which I am.”

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

A lot of thought has been put into the Intuos Pro Paper Edition’s design and its accessories. “It has this beautiful weighted holder for your pen to sit in,” reveals Timba. “It comes with nibs and everything inside. Beautiful. I think Wacom did an incredible job with the design of everything. My favourite part are the nibs [and] the range of different nibs that you can choose from.”

As we touched upon earlier, Timba is also taken with the Intuos Pro Paper Edition’s packaging, which is stocked with accessories such as the Paper Clip, pens, refills and other useful items.

“You get in there and everything is packaged perfectly,” he says. “Everything’s got its own little compartment and I just love that it was separated: the digital side and the Paper Edition side, with the clip and the paper and the beautiful pen and pencil case. You get a pencil case with it. Amazing.”

It’s obvious that Timba Smits has really taken to Wacom’s Intuos Pro Paper Edition. Though well versed in graphic design technology, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that he would be so enthused.

“I’m not ready for everything to go digital yet,” he says. “I think that’s the fine artist in me. I still paint on canvas and use oil paints and acrylics, and draw with pencils and pens, and I don’t want that art form to die.

“I shunned away from picking up a Wacom for so long, until I realized it can’t hurt to try one. And lo and behold, it’s something I use every day, passionately. It’s difficult to really tell the difference between working on paper and working on a tablet.”