Show Your Creativity week 4: getting experimental with the Wacom Cintiq Companion

Read about our contestants' latest experiences with the Cintiq Companion and get an update on their projects.

Welcome to the fourth week of our regular updates on Wacom's 'Show Your Creativity’ contest: where eight designers, illustrators and photographers are using Cintiq Companions to create professional and personal projects – and telling us about their experiences.

Each week we’ll be giving an update on the progress of our contestants – each of whom who are vying to win a fantastic Wacom Cintiq Companion. To do this they need to supply us with a weekly round up of their device use and screen shots of their progress as they create or add to a project with the Cintiq Companion.

Some of our creative contestants have already been experimenting with the camera on the Cintiq Companion. This week, in addition to progressing with their projects, we asked them to explore other aspects of the device, such as creating app-specific shortcuts, replicating keystrokes with the expresskeys and rocker ring, experimenting with gestures or exploring the multi-touch display.

They continue to be inspired to set out upon new creative avenues and follow them with the portable interactive Wacom workstation in hand.

Liam Brazier got stuck right into seeing how the Companion toolset could aid his creativity and workflow.

“The expresskeys, rocker ring, and pen buttons are all customisable on an app-to-app basis, and this is a true revelation, compared to how I was working before,” says Liam. “Customising all the settings took me a bit of time to get to something I was comfortable with - the driver appeared to randomly erase them at one point- but all these features are designed for one thing; to keep your eyes on your artwork and not menus.”

He continues: “While it's probably not news to other Cintiq users, I am particularly wide-eyed about the radial menus activated with the tiniest of clicks of my thumb on the stylus pen, instantly giving me access to all the tools I need to create work in Illustrator, for example. I don’t know how you would measure how much time that actually saves over a day but it certainly feels faster.”

It was Liam's birthday this week. So he celebrated with by creating a picture of his pets on the Cintiq Companion : "I found time to produce illustrations for a forthcoming exhibition I’ve kindly been invited to partake in," he says. "It's called 100 Cats, which now includes two of my cats too."

"Progress continues on my Sunoco Nascar poster," he adds. "I actually reworked a large section of it now I’m more familiar with Illustrator and more comfortable working almost exclusively on the Cintiq Companion. The Astute Graphics plugin Inkscribe has been a boost, namely due to its ability to constrain points to corner points; ignoring drags under a certain pixel count helps immeasurably on the Companion because, as accurate as the pen is, I find it difficult to not drag points when placing them, purely a consequence of using hand over mouse."

Estelle Baylis has also been experimenting with the Companion's capabilities.

“I've used the shortcuts within Illustrator, mostly for increasing/decreasing the brush width via the touch strip,” she explains. “I’ve also managed to create a few screen shortcuts for the radial menu. I still don’t quite understand how the screen keys function, so need to try spend a little more time with this.”

“I like the fact that the Cintiq is also a computer which means I can work anywhere with it and access emails/internet,” she adds. “So rather than being fixed at my desktop computer, I can choose to work elsewhere if need be. I'm still finding the PC environment quirky though!”

Estelle has been using the Cintiq Companion for work and teaching projects this week as opposed to her personal generative art projects.

“Unfortunately, due to client sensitivity, I can’t share my day work, so instead I’m sharing the Octopus illustration which I’ve created for my City Lit Illustrator course,” she explains. “It’s an exercise to help my students familiarise themselves, and have fun, with brushes inside Illustrator."

"I mentioned last week that I always suggest the students invest in a tablet device as it makes working in Illustrator a more hand-ons experience, that is, being able to paint with the brush in a more natural way, and the Cintiq Companion certainly enhances that! It would be great to know if Wacom offers student discounts for the Cintiq Companion.”

Editor's note: Wacom does offer a 10 percent discount for education. Visit Wacom's site for more details

“Coming from a gamer background, my environment is as customised as they come,” says Gidi Meir Morris. “For maximum efficiency I have rewired many of the keys and actions I use Photoshop for on my keyboard.”

“This means that moving onto a new device, with a completely new interface, required not just getting used to, but customising as well,” he adds. “Pretty much the first thing I did on my Cintiq was rewire every button on the device, including app-specific configurations.”

“I setup the keys in their default mode as a way of bringing up the on-screen menus - these menus are sticky and stay with you as you move through apps, so they can easily be called up on other applications and then used in Photoshop too.”

“This freed me to rewire all the keys with specific Photoshop shortcuts - without limiting my tool choice, as I use the menus to bring up my tools and actions.”

“I rewired the device buttons to replace my most common keystrokes, such as brush size on the rocker wheel, modifier keys and, most importantly, the space bar to allow me to pull myself around on the image as I work on it- which is indispensable when working on a high resolution painting, such as the one I'm working on now.”

As for the work for Week 4, Gidi has sent us a WIP in progress snapshot of his current painting.

“It goes alongside the previous painting I released two weeks ago, and will hopefully be complete by the end of next week.”

“This painting is taking longer than expected, as the level detail on this one is higher than the previous one,” he adds. “I'm going for a more complex backdrop for the portrait.”

“The Cintiq has proven to be an ideal way to work on such an image, without the distractions we usually have when working on our regular desktops.”

This week Ryan McAllister is back to working on some T-shirt designs.

“I decided to have a go at using the Companion in portrait orientation,” he reveals. “After a few minor adjustments to the pen calibration I found the transition pretty easy.”

“The Companion is just the right size to hold like a large sketchbook, a big plus if you don't always want to be sat at a desk or have it resting on your lap. As I'm continuing to use the Companion, I've been exploring designs with more detail too.”

“I feel like the Companion is really helping me make that step to working on more intricate pieces which is something I found quite difficult with tablets I have used in the past.”

Ryan has been using the ExpressKeys and Rocker Ring with Illustrator and Photoshop for the last couple of weeks. “It was a little daunting initially getting used to all the short cuts I had created,” he says. “Just trying to remember which buttons needing pressing to select a certain tool or perform a particular function. However, I'm now fully up to speed and feel like they have been fully incorporated into my workflow.”

“It's great that you can continue to tweak the shortcuts to find out what works best for you and further refine them to your own style of working. I've even found that some of the shortcuts can be performed faster on the Companion than I could on a desktop computer. I think I'm slowly falling in love with this device!”

Heta Dobrowolski has been exploring the more unique aspects of the device from the start: “I set up the controls for Illustrator right when I got the Cintiq, and programmed the ExpressKeys, Rocker Ring, On-Screen Controls and Radial Menu,” she reveals. “I used the setup from my Intuos4 tablet as a guide, but the setup had to be modified a bit.”

“The touch strips of the On-Screen Controls are especially handy, as they replace functions that could be used for the Touch Ring on my Intuos4 - sliding commands like zooming in/out, moving objects up/down or left/right and panning/scrolling.”

"I installed a trial version of Corel Painter 2015 after reading the review of it here on the Digital Arts website, the new particle brushes sounded really intriguing," Heta adds. "The combination of realising the potential of the program in combination with the Cintiq makes me really giddy with excitement. Corel Painter and the Cintiq enable a whole different level of artwork for me.”

The discovery of her affinity with Corel Painter has also changed her project path. “I'd planned a wholly different artwork initially, worked on it for quite a few days with draping garments and photographing them,” Heta explains. “I'd planned a style similar to the red dress from Week 2, maybe with different brushes, and doing flying hair with liquid ink brushes. I had the whole thing set up and ready to start the artwork, when I discovered the review of Corel Painter 2015. After installing a trial version and reading parts of the user guide, I ditched the first artwork idea, deciding on a completely new direction and look. I wanted a very simple style/technique, so I could try out the particle brushes on the artwork.”

“It's supposed to look like a paper-cut image, with a 3-dimensional tulle skirt, the hair is also done with a particle brush. The particle brushes are insane. I love them, but do need more time to be able to figure out all the controls for those brushes and create my own particle brush variations.”

“I really like working on the Cintiq, drawing on the matte screen is so satisfying, both for the feel of the pen tip on the screen, so smooth, and for drawing directly on the screen,” adds Heta. “I'm ready to leave my Macbook Pro at home and instead carry the Cintiq with me, photographing inspiration on the go. I wish I'd had it with me last night when I was walking through a park, and noticed a really beautiful shadow the leaves of a branch right in front of the street light were making. It would be so easy to whip out the Cintiq anywhere, and do a few quick sketches of ideas - now that I've sketched enough on the tablet, gotten used to the hand-feel and and figured out I can produce realistic pencil sketches in Corel Painter.”

“With my usual watercolour illustrations on real paper, I can do up to six illustrations in a day; on the Cintiq it takes me around two days for one. I'm so new to digital illustrations, I'm a bit slow but excited to get to grips with it properly. The longer I have the Cintiq, the quicker I'd get on the digital illustrations, so I'm really looking forward to that. And although I and some of the others have had our doubts about the Windows aspects of the Cintiq, it does come in handy that the device isn't just a graphic tablet, but also a fully-fledged computer.”

Richard Ward has had a deadline for creating some new board games this week.

“One of the images I have worked on this week is of animals that will be used for a Chinese Checkers game, the other is of an insect themed Ludo game,” he says. “I have been working on these so they are ready for my deadline this week.”

“Working outside really helped inspire me whilst working on the design for the Ludo game,” reveals Richard. “The Cintiq Companion being portable and allowing me to change my working environments, helps me creatively.”

“I have used the camera on the Cintiq Companion to take photos of wood grain, and I have used the photographs to give my product images some texture,” explains Richard. “I am really happy with this effect, as now the images look more like the final products.”

“The rocker ring and expresskeys [controls] that I use are ones such as pan, shift and undo,” he reveals. “For everything else I have been using a keyboard, as the Cintiq Companion is conveniently equipped with full sized USB ports. I use the touch features to zoom and pan around but sometimes I feel I have more control with the keyboard and pen.??”