Wacom's amazing new tablet lets illustrator Sandra Dieckmann draw on paper and on-screen at the same time

Artist Sandra Dieckmann tells us about creating beautiful illustrations using a mix of pens-&-paper and Photoshop – and how Wacom's new Intuos Pro tablet lets her use both mediums at once.

You may know her illustrations from Etsy or her shop and studio, Mama Wolf, at Hackney Downs Studios in East London. The natural world is a theme that runs through her beautiful artwork. Bears, foxes, cats and wolfs abound across her work, which adorns snowboards, fashion, children’s wear, prints and cards.

Sandra is the ideal person, then, to share her thoughts on Wacom’s new Intuos Pro Paper Edition, a pen and touch tablet that brings a wealth of new features and benefits to artists, designers and photographers, including some you’ll never have expected.

It has a unique paper to digital workflow, a choice of pens and ways of working, plus an innovative connectivity feature that allows you to share and export your creations with ease.

Suitably enough for an artist working across media, her first impressions were that the Intuos Pro Paper Edition’s packaging is “absolutely beautiful”.

The tablet is available in medium and large sizes – Sandra explored the latter. Although she works across traditional media – pencil sketches, gouache and watercolour – she is also a long-term user of Wacom kit.

“I use digital media to master my work,” she explains. “When I get my sketches done, I scan them in and progress on to the computer to colour them in Photoshop, and also to be able to move things around and play with them. [Wacom tablets] have really been added to my toolbox to give me more possibilities in the creative process.”

Sandra was thus able to make some key comparisons with other Wacom tablets she has used. “The tablet has a really slick feel, the surface is really nice. The pen is a great improvement and the power adaptor is much better – it’s now designed to run alongside the tablet.”

Built using premium materials, including black anodised aluminium and fibreglass composite resin, Wacom’s latest pen tablet has a smaller, more compact footprint than previous models and is just 8mm thick.

It features a Touch Ring, Radial Menus and has eight ExpressKeys for the creation of customised shortcuts to speed up the creative workflow.

The screen offers a resolution of 5080lpi and recognizes multi-touch gestures. Sandra observes how intuitive this makes the tablet: “Usually, you have the hand on your mouse, but now when you have your hand on the actual tablet, you can pinch-zoom and move with your hand on the actual pad, which is really great.”

Supplied with a 2m USB cable, the tablet works with the latest versions of both Windows and macOS. It comes with Bluetooth Classic for wireless connection, and is easy to carry in a backpack or laptop bag, so you can use it on the daily commute or a business trip.

Comparing it with the update to Jean-Luc Picard’s USS Enterprise from the starship in the original Star Trek, Sanda says, “Wacom has done a great job on everything that was already working well. It’s very sleek, very beautiful to work with and very intuitive to use.”

She also found the set-up experience to be seamless. “Wacom makes it super easy,” she enthuses. “Go online, download the driver, update the system, and off you go.”

While offering all the benefits and functions of a normal Intuos Pro, the killer feature of Wacom’s latest tablet is in the name: Paper. Using the supplied Paper Clip, you can attach paper to the surface of the tablet and sketch as normal. The medium model allows you to work on A5 sheets (half-letter size), while the large tablet lets you use A4 paper (letter size). The clip keeps up to 10 sheets fixed on your tablet when sketching.

Sandra was intrigued to see whether you could use only the sheets supplied by Wacom or the art paper she was used to. “I did a few test runs and used up to 300gsm Bristol Board,” she says, “so it was really nice to see that it picks up just as much detail when you are using your own paper.”

These ink-on-paper drawings are captured and stored digitally on board the Intuos Pro Paper Edition and can be exported using the Inkspace app and refined later on a computer.

Besides exporting your paper sketches in layered raster and vector formats, the app also allows users to easily share their artwork. Furthermore, the tablet can store up to 200 pages with unlimited layers or 1,000 one-layered drawings, so you’re not tied to a computer.

Sandra sees this workflow as another great feature. “If you’re drawing an object on your paper on the Wacom and you want to move onto the background, you don’t need to take another piece of paper and start again. You just click the plus button and it automatically gives you another layer to work on and create your background, so you’re already creating a layered file, which you can export as a PSD and open in Photoshop to colour. It’s a really genius idea.”

Unlike other tablet computers, the Intuos Pro Paper Edition is supplied with two pressure-sensitive, cordless, battery-free pens. Wacom’s new 0.4mm diameter Finetip Pen is a smooth gel-ink stylus that works in harmony with the tablet. The gel ink and small diameter allow for very fine, smooth, dark black and detailed sketching on paper. When used on top of the tablet each stroke is accurately captured digitally in a lossless format.

Also available as an optional extra is Wacom’s new Ballpoint Pen, which offers a thicker 1mm nib and a long-lasting black oil ink cartridge for sketching. Both pens offer 8,192 pressure levels and come with three replacement refills.

“I work in a variety of different media, so I use a lot of coloured pencils and graphite to really start working with. I use different thicknesses, so line variety is really important to me,” explains Sandra, adding that she’d like to see Wacom make a few more pens available.

Also included in the box is the Pro Pen 2, Wacom’s new pressure-sensitive stylus for professional use. Like the pens mentioned above, it has 8,192 pressure levels, both for the tip and eraser, and 60 levels of tilt recognition.

Sandra says it’s a great improvement over its predecessor. “It’s much more sensitive to the touch, especially if you’re working in a variety of stroke qualities. I will often work in pencil on paper, but to imitate that in Photoshop on the Wacom, you need something that can pick up how my hand is moving. It does that really beautifully. The pen has four times as much sensitivity to touch and I think that really shows when you’re working with it. I’ve tried out the standard nib and also the textured nib, which I like to use in my illustration.”

Design has been well considered where the Pro Pen 2 is concerned: 10 nibs (six standard and four felt) are arranged and stored in the pen stand itself.

“When you open the box, you have the radial display of the nibs,” Sandra explains. “You’re not just trying to pull one out and see what it’s like, but you can actually see what you’re going to be working with.”

As well as storing the spare nibs, the new Pen stand has a built-in tool that makes replacing them a simple job.

The Intuos Pro Paper Edition also comes with a soft case for protecting your Paper Clip, pens and other accessories.

Sandra is delighted at the prospect of having digital ink versions of her sketches available at the touch of a button. “The Intuos Pro Paper Edition really allows me the option of sketching a character idea up,” she says, adding that the facility to sketch on paper means she has the option to truly work anywhere. “I can sit outside, on the sofa or be at my desk. I can just sketch the lines down and put it into Photoshop and play with the composition. I don’t have to do any more scanning, I don’t have to waste any more time.

“I started as an analogue artist working on paper, I was always quite scared of using tablets. When I tried my first Wacom I was really surprised at how easy it was to use it. [The Intuos Pro Paper Edition] is just a dream: it just works seamlessly with what I want to do.”