Show Your Creativity week 6: Can using a Wacom Cintiq Companion change your creative workflow?

This week our artists and designers were asked to reveal their techniques using the Cintiq Companion and explain why creative choices were being made

Welcome to week six of our regular updates on Wacom's 'Show Your Creativity’ contest: where our selected 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, describing how a piece of artwork, or section of a project has been created as well as supply regular 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 digging deeper within the capabilities of the Cintiq Companion. This week, in addition to progressing with their projects, we asked them all to start revealing their technique as much as possible and why creative choices were being made.

We also wanted to hear about any colour management or other technical aspects of the workflow they used, as well as how Wacom's portable graphics workstation has had an impact on this.

Liam Brazier has really integrated the Companion into his work routine, which he claims has in many ways enhanced his productivity.

“On a very basic level I was recently diagnosed with a back complaint so being able to work away from the desk when I want, or need to, has been extremely welcome since selling my laptop early this year,” he explains. “I’m pretty sure my wife appreciates me on the sofa next to her (albeit working) rather the alternative too!”

“I took on not only the challenge of the Cintiq these past weeks, but also the butt-kick I needed to finally learn Illustrator,” he says. “Now, six weeks later, I can’t actually imagine working on anything other than a Cintiq for that; the Cintiq has helped bridge the gap between my sketchbook and my computer pieces.”

For years Liam says people have ask him how he created my illustrations, and now we have done so too: “I mostly just – honestly – shrugged,” he says. “The ‘style’ evolved out of college and university collage work where straight lines were easier to cut than curved! It just felt natural to break down an image into parts like that - I’ve never thought too hard about it to be honest. Since adapting the work to digital I started using Photoshop, something I’d learnt on the job working as a retoucher in the early 2000s, and stuck with it since.”

“Now I can answer as many suspected in the first place; that I am working in Adobe Illustrator, with its inbuilt ability to iron out the intricacies and appease my underlying OCD over shapes meeting.”

“A lot of my illustration features a limited palette, so as part of a process I select a range of colours to represent light to dark. Kuler is great for inspiration regarding this, but mainly it harks back to one of the few things I actually learnt at art school about cool and warm hues.”

“I’ll bring this palette into Illustrator with a pieced-together rough composition, usually comprising of several bits of photos, some sketching probably only I understand, and some bad photos of my limbs, lock this layer, and above it start drawing filled shapes, with the InkScribe tool keeping the points as ‘corners’. Colours usually get tweaked several times until I’m happy the form is represented adequately.”

“With Illustrator's tools able to select all shapes on a layer of the same fill colour exactly, it’s actually removed the need for me to break the image up into a lot of layers like I did before.”

“When drawing more traditionally, I lean on the Frenden brush packs for Photoshop and Manga Studio- great real looking pencil and ink setups that help reduce the mental friction of not working directly on paper.”

Liam reveals that his first job out of university was in a print studio and that this has informed his output workflow. “ I have it embedded in my brain somewhere to set the working colour space to Adobe RGB (1998),” he says. “The screen on the Wacom is actually very impressive. I see discernible hue shift between it and my desktop iMac, which is itself very good in my eyes.”

“I use the ever dependable Ripe Digital in Bristol to handle all my final physical prints,” he adds. “I spent years in the agony of mismatched print colours, screen calibration and all the costs and headaches involved therein. These days I’m more than happy to let experts utilise their skills leaving me in the knowledge that what I see on screen will end up on paper.”

Richard Ward feels that he has mastered the Cintiq Companion as well as he can over the period given for the contest. “I think that there is always room for improvement as there is using any tool,” he adds. “The device can be used to do all of my work, although for some jobs I prefer a bigger scree; for drawing there is nothing better except for maybe a bigger Cintiq like the 24HD, but the biggest appeal to me is it being portable and how it can replace my old heavy laptop, large Intuos, and my 12 inch android tablet. The Cintiq Companion is all of these things combined into one.”

“The Cintiq Companion would definitely be lighter and easier to carry around,” continues Richard. “I find that in a lot of situations it’s more useful than a normal PC as it is truly portable I can work in places that I would otherwise be unable to do. Be able to work from the sofa is fantastic.”

The design that Richard has submitted this week is a wooden tree house that slots together. “It has been designed to be enjoyed as a standalone toy, and/or as an add-on for a dolls house,” he explains. “I choose autumn colours, as I wanted to use vibrant colours and thought it would be much more interesting than the usual green tree that springs to mind when you think of a tree.”

“With any project I start off with the idea in my head. The next step is visualising the idea into a form that I can use to show other people. After the idea has been approved I then create all the illustrations and technical drawings to send to the factories for the toys to be made.”

“Usually my technique is to start off with a sketch, and then move it to Illustrator to create the vector artwork. I have been using Corel Painter and Adobe Illustrator with the Cintiq Companion.”

“In Corel Painter I use the pencil tool for sketching, the scratchboard tool for inking and either the real soft pastel brush or digital airbrush for colouring. It doesn’t matter too much what brush is used as long as it gets the job done. I use a lot of layers and often create new layers for difficult parts of a drawing and then later merge the layers together. I usually sketch in 3D as the designs will be made into toys, the Cintiq Companion is really good for this as It’s easy to draw straight lines and the feeling of the pen against the surface is just right.”

“I then move the sketch to Adobe Illustrator. I will create the shapes using the pen/pencil tool as well as all the tools to manipulate the anchor points. I use clipping masks where one shape is within another.”

“After I have finished making all of the shapes I can then add the colours. Depending on how it will be manufactured will determine whether I have to use Pantone Colours or not. All illustrations will be printed onto wood using methods such as silk screening and heat film transfer at the factories.”

For the last stage of this design of the tree house, Richard also added some shadows in Photoshop. The next step would be to create the technical illustration in Adobe Illustrator for the toy to be made by the factories.

By this stage Ryan McAllister feels very comfortable using the Companion, as is obvious from his artwork. “This week I have been working on a more detailed piece to continue developing my freehand skills using the Companion, “ he says. “I have also started creating a logo design for a travel photographer.”

“My workflow normally started out in a sketchbook, followed by me then taking my work into Illustrator or Photoshop for further development,” he says. “With the Companion, in a lot of instances, I feel I can jump this part entirely. This is a major step for me as it allows me to experiment 'on the fly' with my rough work and make changes instantly instead of re-drawing a piece.”

“My working process tends to vary from piece to piece, but I feel like I follow similar trends,” he reveals. “With the Companion, I normally start drawing up the rough in Illustrator. I like to keep line smoothing on a minimum setting to preserve as much of the original shape of the my strokes as possible. Normally I keep line widths around the same for each piece. However, one of the reasons I use Illustrator is the ease with which to make quick subsequent adjustments to line widths if required.”

“I'll commonly use layers when grouping certain similar shapes or objects together or when working with particular palettes, so that I can break everything up into individual colours. I experiment a lot with rearranging the colouring of certain sections of a piece, swapping out one colour for another quickly.”

“When I'm not using a lot of layers in a piece, or when creating detailed freehand designs where I haven't used shapes or objects, I will take the image into Photoshop for colour filling. For me there is always something very exciting about this stage of the process; it reminds me of filling in colouring books as a kid and seeing them come to life.”

Ryan also reveals he has recently started using Adobe Kuler and Copaso to come up new ideas for colour schemes. “I find the Kuler mobile app especially useful as I can capture an image almost anywhere with my phone camera and pick certain colours from it to create a scheme,” he explains. “The colour schemes are then synced straight to Adobe Creative Cloud for use in Illustrator or Photoshop. This really ties into the advantage of having the Companion as a mobile device, as you have the ability to then work on those ideas immediately without the need to be sat back at your desk to access the software.”

“After my near-catastrophic start with the Cintiq, I've managed to make friends with the little fellow,” says Heta Dobrowolski. “I'd say it still has some secrets to divulge, but I'm so used to working with it now I actually haven't touched my iMac or Macbook Pro in several weeks for any creative work. I just work on the Cintiq only, and am super pleased I'm such a hard-headed woman I didn't give up the fight against the initial major hiccups.”

Heta has tried out different styles and techniques every week with the Cintiq : “I wanted to learn as much as I could in the time I have it,” she says.

In this 6th week, Heta has been using Corel Painter, sketching from a live model with pastels, airbrush, watercolour and gouache, as well as creating traditional watercolour vs Corel Painter 'real' watercolour comparison illustrations.

“This week I went to a fashion illustration class to try out sketching from a live model on the Cintiq,” Heta continues. “I'm quite atrocious in life drawing, but it's still good fun. I worked in Corel Painter, saving each drawing in the same file on different layers, hiding each layer when moving to a different pose. The pace of the class is so quick that this really helps."

"Sketching on the tablet feels quite natural, the only problem here would be lack of actual drawing skills. My drawings with traditional pencil and paper are just as terrible. I tried out a few different pastel chalks, airbrushes, gouache and a bit of watercolour. The teacher had just come back from Burning Man festival, so the outfits were...well, not very fashion but more like weird esoteric festival gear.”

“The other artwork compares my usual fashion illustration technique of traditional watercolour, with digital watercolour,” continues Heta. “I was really intrigued to try it out, to see if it would be possible to replicate my usual style on the Cintiq. I spent hours trying out all the watercolour brushes, and tweaking the ones that seemed most promising. I'd definitely need more time to get to grips with the watercolour brushes in Corel Painter, there are probably 60 or more of them! No matter how I tweaked them I couldn't get the hard, dark edge I wanted for the watercolour. In the end I chose the Fractal Wash Wet brush, tweaked it a bit and had a go at replicating a watercolour illustration I'd done earlier this week.”

“I'm not happy with the result, even after a lot of retouching, but it's interesting to see the images side by side. I also made the line drawing in Corel Painter, and I'm quite pleased with the look as it really does look like a pencil line drawing. The pencils didn't get the look right so I made it with a grainy pastel instead.”

“ I worked on several layers: canvas, the pencil drawing, scan of original real pencil drawing, watercolour layer and a scanned watercolour paper added at the end, for texture.”

Heta says this outfit is part of a small portfolio project inspired by two films, American Gigolo (for the colours) and Annie Hall (look and silhouettes).

“One reason of doing these illustrations was also to show how vastly different my usual style is to the work I've done on the Cintiq so far. The digital illustrations I've done on the Cintiq in the previous weeks make me super happy and I just want to do more of them. Lots more!”

Gidi Meir Morris doesn't think a device like the Cintiq can be mastered quickly: “Its a very complex device which requires you to make a major shift in your approach to your art work and process,” he explains.

“I don't think the Cintiq would replace my workflow, but rather it would push my work into a new process, which didn't exist before,” he continues. “As I have mentioned several times over the past month, the Cintiq has reignited my painting passion and has pushed me into trying something which is very different than my usual work and has hence started a brand new and exciting project for me.”

Gidi is keen to describe his approach to brush painting using the Cintiq: “As my main tool on the Cintiq is Photoshop, I have opted for using a variety of custom brushes, which can be found on many creative communities, such as of which I have been a member for about a decade now.”

“I then play around with the brush presets to create truly unique brushes by warping them, setting the brush tip to completely random angles, transfer, scatter and so on, which can be randomised further by changing the pressure and angle on the Cintiq's pen.”

“This provides me with two things: firstly, it gives my strokes a truly unique look, which is uneven and further resembles a non -digital medium; second, it adds an element of randomness to the result, which I have found fuels my own creative juices further and helps me explore my work as it progresses.”

Regarding colour management, Gidi can't stress enough how important it is to calibrate your monitor. “I use the X-Rite i1, though any high quality brand will work, and I make sure my monitor is calibrated once a week. There is nothing worse than spending days on an image just to send it to the printer and have it come out too dark or different colours than I expected.

Estelle Baylis says she has really enjoyed the opportunity to use the Cintiq, especially working directly to the screen.

However, she would consider it only as a complementary addition to her workflow, not a replacement. “I can't seem to get along with the Cintiq without a keyboard,” she explains. 'The PC environment has also been a bit of a struggle. However, I've really enjoyed working directly to the screen which feels more natural, so if I were to own one it would be as a secondary device specifically for drawing.”

Estelle says most of the work she has created has been formed either from a photo (taken with the Cintiq) or by drawing straight into Illustrator.

“A few of my earlier examples were created in Illustrator and then dropped through Processing, which enables me to generate random colours, sizes and rotations,” she adds. “For some of my pieces, I've used the calligraphic brushes to give variation to my line work. I also like to use the width profile brushes within Illustrator for this reason.”

“For other pieces, I've used the pen and shapes tool using one continuous line width. Some of the pieces I've submitted are made in greyscale within Illustrator as colour is applied in the Processing software."

"I tend to choose colours a little intuitively although I also use Kuler to get inspiration. I would highly recommend the Kuler iPhone app as you can get colour references from anything!”