Show Your Creativity week 3: exploring creativity 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 third in 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.

This week, our creative contestants have been exploring new aspects and benefits of the Cintiq Companion as well as becoming used to the applications and tools it supports. Most have also been inspired to try out new creative avenues and follow their inspirations to work with the portable interactive Wacom workstation.

Heta Dobrowolski has been having a major fashion crisis this week. “No ideas!" she cries. "Torturous frustration! Despair and self-doubt! So, as I'm not coming up with anything I've put my haute couture project on hold and worked on doing body and pose templates for fashion illustrations."

“I can use these for either digital work, or to be used as templates on a light box and tracing them with pencil," she continues. "Whenever I'm blocked creatively, working on Illustrator helps, as it often feels quite mechanical and soothing. It's also very satisfying producing crisp and clean work, in a messy state of mind."

"I've made a body with 3 different heads and several different hand/arm positions and the same for legs. When I want to draw, I just open the file, choose a head and click through the different layers and choose a suitable pair of legs and right position of arm on each side. The pose is dictated by the shape and look of the garment I want to draw.”

“After finishing the body template I felt like working on flowing/flying hair, to have a bit more drama for an illustration. Happy with the hair, I worked on a drawing of a dress I draped on a 1/2 size tailor's dummy, made of twisted and folded triangles. The inspiration for the dress was origami, especially kusudama - these are balls made with origami techniques and often end looking quite floral. It's great being able to photograph a draped garment and work on it right on the tablet, without having to faff around with a camera.”

“This week's image is a finished illustration of the Kusudama dress, a completely different style from last week's work - all clean and line work only, no shadows."

Talking about her workflow on the Companion, Heta says she has used Corel Painter X3, Illustrator CC and Photoshop CC the most, as well as quite a bit of Spotify and Google Chrome. “Adobe programs are a must, and Corel Painter has been a delightful new discovery,” she explains. “The Cintiq isn't tricky to get used to at all, but it does throw a hissy fit frequently like a proper drama queen. [However] I do love working on the Cintiq, it's great to have the screen closer to me than would be possible with a computer. It would be nice to have a stand that also works in portrait orientation, but for now two thick books will do the job fine.”

“There are several things I can see using in the future for both my professional and personal work,” Heta continues. “The camera would be super useful at fittings, as I could judge immediately if the photo is good enough, given the large screen size. Sometimes photographing black garments can produce photos without enough contrast, making it difficult for my assistant to do a technical drawing from the photo, and it's not so easy to check on a digital camera with a tiny screen. I also think the battery would last longer than a digital camera, we often don't make it through one day of fittings without charging the camera.”

“Trying out Corel Painter has been an eye-opener, and I definitely will continue working on it - it's good for both illustrations and working on print designs for fabrics. Like I said last week, Corel Painter might make it possible to develop a more free illustration style and I could be able to produce eye-catching work for my portfolio - with more ooomph than my usual dainty watercolour work. I really want to go to life drawing and see what I could do with the program! The Cintiq could also replace my physical portfolio, and instead I could show my work directly on the tablet. One environmental big plus is of course not having to print out something on paper, especially during meetings or presentations it would be possible to open a file on the tablet and show it to others, be it a print design, an alternative garment design or a fitting photo.”

“I think above all the Companion is a drawing tool, and an excellent one at that,” says Liam Brazier. “I’ve had the opportunity to freehand sketch, usually with custom pressure sensitive brushes from Frenden, in both Adobe Photoshop and Manga Studio. The ‘feel’, responsiveness, and results more than meet any expectations I may have had.”

“The included stylus feels great on the matte surface of the tablet,” continues Liam. “It’s not glossy or slippery like something like an iPad, and I even prefer it to the surface of my older Bamboo.”

“I have also been creating imagery in Illustrator and the pen in my hand appears to be quicker than that of a mouse in drawing and manipulating elements there too.”

Liam has been thinking about how the Companion can help in his business: “As an illustrator taking a portfolio to client meetings wasn’t the greatest of hassle, but doing the same as an animator required a laptop,” he explains.

“The Companion has a really nice screen for displaying work, both video and illustration, and I can see the touch input being a bonus for clients shifting through pieces with ease, also for me then being able to make any changes to work right there and then on the fly.”

“I’ve been introduced to some third party Illustrator plug-ins by Astute Graphics,” he adds. “They should really help improve my workflow, particularly with the Companion’s pen.”

“I managed to squeeze in another Star Wars doodle after being excited by how quickly I could complete them on the Companion last week,”Liam adds. “I NEVER need an excuse to scribble Star Wars.”

He continues: “A magazine cover piece was completed from sketch to final in a couple of days, uploaded, emailed, signed off, all on the machine. It’s a quicker turnaround than I could have managed [if I didn’t have the device,]. I was away at the weekend, but thankfully I was still able to work. A true sign, to me at least, that the Cintiq Companion is proving it’s worth.”

“It's been a little tricky for me to really use the Cintiq this last week, although I did use it as my travelling computer on a couple of days,” says motion design director Estelle Baylis. “At least I got to check out what it's like for day to day things such as email and research. Obviously I'm not using it to it's full potential but at least using it in a small way.”

Estelle says she has been realising the real benefits of using the Companion for sketching and illustration. “For my extra curricular projects, it's been a great tool for illustration, but I'm not sure I'd particularly use it for my day job of animation. Therefore, as I also teach Adobe Illustrator at the City Lit College in London, I'm going to aim to create something I can use in class. I'm always recommending the students purchase a Wacom tablet to avoid RSI, so it would be nice to be able to show them something created on the Cintiq.”

For this week’s image, Estelle made use of the Companion in a new way. “I used the in-built camera in the Cintiq, photographed some plants on my balcony, and then used this to trace over in Illustrator, only using the brushes. I've then dropped this through Processing to create the image.”

Product designer and illustrator Richard Ward has been inspired to undertake a few projects this week. “One is artwork for a wooden safari puzzle and the other is a design sketch for a wooden slot-together toy pirate ship,” he explains. “The Cintiq Companion has aided my creativity, as by drawing directly to screen it speeds up my workflow in Corel Painter and Adobe Illustrator, allowing me to sketch out ideas much quicker. Generally I work in Illustrator to create the final artwork of the toys and the technical drawings that get passed on to the factories.”

Richard likes the freedom of working with the companion. “It is similar to traditional pen and paper, which means working at a good pace,” he adds. “The portability of the device means I can work in a more inspirational environment; it's especially good to get out of my small cramped office space when I am working on my home computer. I can work in any space and surround myself with creativity.”

“I’m having so many ideas and being inspired by all sorts of things,” says Richard. “The Cintiq Companion allows me to get ideas down as sketches, so when my workload is high I’m able to store them on the device, no sketch pads/bits of paper to go missing. The Companion is perfect in this way, because when I have time, I can go back though the sketches and turn them into final product designs all on the one device, wherever I am and whenever I have the time.”

Richard feels that the Cintiq Companion could become a vital part of his work process. “It would have been very useful on my recent work trip to factories in China,” he explains. “I would have been able to carry all my work around with me on the same device and been able to sketch new ideas, as well as make amendments to the files that needed changes. Being able to get everything done on the go with a compact device for travelling – it sounds like a dream.”

“I’ve been mostly using Illustrator, Photoshop and Corel Painter,” reveals Richard when asked about his use of applications. “The advantage of the Companion compared to other tablets is that is runs Windows 8, which means that you can run desktop software and can work anywhere without the need for a normal PC. For my work I need Adobe Illustrator and another program for sketching, such as Corel Painter or Photoshop, so that I am able to get the best out of the device.”

“The main advantage of the Cintiq Companion is the ability to draw directly to screen, which makes the drawing experience much more like traditional pencil and paper. It makes sketching in Photoshop and Corel Painter as easy as it can get; for most people in creative industries the Cintiq Companion would be a delight to work with.”

This week Ryan McAllister has been producing some illustrations for an animation about men trying to deal with pregnancy, which he has been working on with another designer.

“This was the first real opportunity I have had to work on character illustrations since I have had the device,” says Ryan. “I forced myself to try to do everything on the Companion and not reach for the sketchbook. In the end I was pretty pleased with the results.”

Talking about how his Companion workflow is developing, Ryan says he most commonly uses Illustrator. “I feel it is best suited to my requirements,” he adds. “I think that any user of the Companion really needs to get to grips with the shortcut and radial menu tools. These are a really important time saving features which help get around not having a keyboard immediately to hand for shortcuts."

He continues: "The level of configuration is excellent, and when customised correctly really helps keep the creative flow running.” 

“I have been on holiday for a few days this week and have been able to continue working on the illustrations on coaches and ferries! The ability to continue working on projects, in most cases despite the environment, is a real plus for me.”

Gidi Meir Morris is sticking to Photoshop when exploring the Cintiq Companion. “I've been using Photoshop for over a decade and that's where I feel at home,” he explains. “But I believe the Cintiq would almost definitely prove itself the ideal platform for a painting app like Corel painter, so I hope to start playing around with it soon.”

As we saw last week, Gidi shot the second set of portraits for his Kalopsia project, and so has spent the last few days editing on the Cintiq. “This series is now complete [the last portraits are shown here],”he says

“What I'm really excited about is that I finally got around to getting a test print done for the digital painting I revealed last week, and am extremely happy with the result,” he continues. “I am now itching to start a new painting which I'll get to this weekend. It will probably be a companion painting to go with the previous one.”

“Though I come from a painting background, it seems I've been so deep in the photography world that I've forgotten how liberating free hand painting can be... the Cintiq has definitely brought this out in me again.”