Wacom Cintiq Companion pro artists and designers' reviews – week 2: getting creative

Week two and our contestants have been getting to grips with the Cintiq Companion. See how they have been getting on.

Welcome to the second of our regular updates for Wacom's 'Show Your Creativity’ contest.

Each week we’ll be giving an update on the progress of our contestants – each of whom 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.

Whether working on new designs or starting afresh, we asked them if using the Companion was a steep learning curve and how they were getting along with their projects. Have they found specific tools especially useful? Which ones are they using and how are they applying them? Read on to see how they got on.

Image, by Liam Brazier

Illustrator and animator Liam Brazier has been enjoying the freedom to draw away from his desk.

“The Companion has really opened my eyes to what a potential sand pit of creativity it can be. I am somewhat known for a particular style of illustration that I was continually told suited the rigid forms achievable in Illustrator (hence my excitement at being able to test myself with it on the Companion), so this week took a couple of hours out to draw some geeky things that I find so fun to see how it compared to my workflow of old."

 Liam was particularly impressed with the amount of customisation available to him and happy to have Dropbox sync.

 “The amount of customisation with the assignable pen keys, rocker ring and so on have really boosted my productivity (coming from a Wacom Bamboo without such added niceties). Learning Adobe Illustrator on the fly as I am having the tools I do know, and do use right there under the pen nib on the radial menu with a click of the thumb is priceless. Dropbox file synchronising meant all my work was right there on installation, and the ability to flip the machine around like I would a sketchpad works as it should, without having to think about it.”

 He has also found the battery life to be quite impressive and prefers the easy touch tablet-like mode the device has to offer.

 “I can charge the thing at my desk and have it ready for hours of work someplace else (hello sofa). I’ve had minimal issues with operating the Companion - Windows will forever be a bit backwards in my mind but that’s merely the odd occurrence of taking an A-C-B route over the more logical alternative. In fact if it were up to me I’d do away with the desktop mode (which is most unfriendly to touch) and make everything run from the well done, tablet-like home screen. But then I also want to be in the new Star Wars film so we can’t have everything I guess.”

Senior designer for Vivienne Westwood Heta Dobrowolski has had some teething problems with the Companion, but with the help of Wacom support she managed to rectify some issues. As a Mac user she has also found the Windows interface challenging to get used to. 

“The Wacom part of it works more or less like the Intuos tablets, so haven't had problems with that. The Windows part is a bit more tricky for a Mac user, especially as I've never worked on a PC with Windows 8. I've had lots of problems with the device, Wacom support has been helping with technical issues. It's good to have a contact there who I can email with questions and problems.

"I've had to wipe everything off the tablet, reset it to factory settings and reinstall all programs. This means I've not been able to work on it, except for a single day. It looks like the problems still persist, but I haven't had time to test it properly. Might be a hardware problem. Admittedly, some of the problems have been due to me struggling with Windows 8."

"I wish the tablet had a Mac system on it instead. Despite all the heartache the misbehaving Cintiq is giving me, I have a feeling it has tremendous potential and could be a truly superb tool for fashion illustration, as well as technical drawings.”

Already being familiar with Intous tablets, Heta found lots of similarities with some of the tools available on the Cintiq. 

“The WacomDesktopCenter is a handy addition, and is super useful. It's great to draw directly on the screen, feels more intuitive than looking at the screen and drawing on a separate tablet. I need to figure out the most ergonomic way of using it, now I'm hunched over it like a 100-year old granny.” 

“The Auto-Rotate function is really good, but unfortunately programs stop working when I try to use the tablet in portrait orientation, although they work fine in left-handed landscape orientation.”

For this week, Heta has provided us with her first ever digital painting. She produced this using Corel Painter which was readily available on the Companion. 

“As I've never used it before and it offers a much wider selection of brushes than Photoshop. I think it might have come with the Intuos4 tablet I bought in Tokyo on a business trip a few years back, but I never installed it. The image I've supplied is an unfinished illustration of a Balenciaga dress from the early 1960's. I'm relatively pleased with it so far, it looks acceptable for a first artwork done with Corel Painter, although I'm really not happy with the shadows of the neck - it needs a fair bit more work done on it."

“Actually it's the first digital 'painting' I've ever done! Working on Corel Painter was easy enough, as a lot of the functions are similar to Photoshop. I'd like to do more work with the program, the combination of the Cintiq tablet and Corel Painter seems ideal for life drawing classes, fashion illustration from a model or going to exhibitions and sketching on location. My usual fashion illustration style can be a bit rigid, and I'm aiming to develop it into a more expressive, free style."

“I'm usually a pencil sketching and watercolour type when doing illustrations, digital painting might be a good way to try painting - which I'm quite atrocious at with real paints to be honest. Usually I do a nice sketch and then completely ruin it with paint. On the Cintiq I have the luxury of erasing mistakes and undoing wrong choices, I have to say I'm finding it quite seductive.”

Like many of the participants, motion design director Estelle Baylis sways to the Mac side of technology, but she has been persevering with the Wacom PC experience. 

“I’m still continuing my explorations within Processing, using Illustrator to create the shapes. I'm certainly enjoying the device once in the software (i.e., Illustrator) but still not so keen on the PC environment."

“I find the interfaces/menus a little too small. On the plus side, as I suffer from the usual graphic designer's upper back/shoulder pains, it's quite helpful for me to work with the Cintiq in it's upright position and draw straight on to screen, so that's been a real bonus for me.”

Estelle has also found the online instructional user videos beneficial to try out new techniques. 

"After watching through a few other artists' YouTube videos, I did have a little play within the Painter software just to try out the brush settings and thought this was pretty impressive. Sadly I don't really 'paint' with software in the same way as a character designer/illustrator, but could see the potential for sketching out storyboards."

Over the next week Estelle is going to keep tackling the Painter software within her work environment and looks forward to showing us what she has been up to next week."

Freelance illustrator Ryan McAllister has been trucking along nicely with the Wacom Cintiq, and week two is proving to be a more comfortable experience for him. User videos proved a valuable resource in finding the right tools to benefit his designs.

“Having used the device for a couple of weeks now I am feeling much more familiar with it. After initially playing around and getting the feel of using the device I felt like I needed to customise it to my specific requirements. I watched a number of video guides and read some articles on how the device can be configured to maximise its potential.”

Ryan has also found some very useful shortcuts to fit around his workflow and improve the usability of the Cintiq device. 

“I've found that the shortcut, gesture and radial menu features really helped me improve me workflow. I used these to create custom shortcuts and gestures for Illustrator and Photoshop so that I can quickly switch between tools without the need for keyboard shortcuts. The ability to switch between functions with minimal clicks of a button is a must to keep creativity flowing.”

“In the last week I have been continuing some work on various patterns which I am planning to develop into a screenprint design for T-Shirts. I've also been working with a Health and Wellbeing organisation to come up with a logo for one their fitness retreats.”

Portrait/studio photographer Gidi Meir Morris has been focusing the past week on completing his digital painting. This was done from start to finish on the Companion.

“I’ve used the Cintiq over the past few days mostly to complete my digital painting, now titled ‘Only the Winds’. The more I use the device the more natural the painting experience become, I can’t think of a better way to describe it. It just makes me want to put down everything else I have to do, sit down, and paint.”

Like Liam, Gidi has also found the portability on the Cintiq libirating. He was able to use it outside his ‘office’ environment with ease and on location at a recent photo shoot.

“The Cintiq and I have had a busy week! At the end of last week it accompanied me onto the set for the second photo shoot for the Kalopsia series. We used it to look over references for the shoot and overview different edits of the other three portraits, which were created the week before, to see how we want to approach this new set of portraits.”

You can check out a sneak peak on Gidi’s photo shoot on this link

Richard Ward is a Product Designer and Illustrator at Bigjigs Toys. This is actually his first week working with the Cintiq companion, but having used Wacom products in the past he hit the ground running and has already worked on two designs.

“I have used other Wacom products before so I knew a bit about what to expect. The Cintiq Companion was very intuitive for drawing; the experience is similar drawing on paper, this is important to me as I am drawing a lot for my job, and it means that I can be more productive.

“I have used other Wacom products before so I knew a bit about what to expect. The Cintiq Companion was very intuitive for drawing; the experience is similar drawing on paper, this is important to me as I am drawing a lot for my job, and it means that I can be more productive.

My first thought about the Cintiq companion was that it makes drawing digitally a lot easier and quicker. The stylus is very precise and easy to calibrate, drawing with it feels very natural. I like that it is portable, I am able to work where ever I want to, although the device was larger and heavier than I expected which means that I’ll be less likely to take it with me everywhere. The quality of the device seems to be a very high standard and it comes with a decent case for the Cintiq and the pen.

With the Cintiq companion I have been finishing off a new design for a wooden campervan toy that includes a compartment in the back to store luggage and it also comes with people that can stand up as well as sit inside the van at the front. The other product which I have only just begun is a jungle themed block puzzle that will be made up of 16 wooden blocks. There will be 5 additional jungle images when it is finished all of different animals”