Scarygoround comic author and artist John Allison spends some time with Wacom's desk-conquering screen/tablet combo the Cintiq 24HD.
Wacom’s Cintiq line of pen tablets has long been a holy grail for artists and designers. Despite a hefty price tag, these tablets lend a fluency and efficiency to illustration that will usually repay the outlay for professionals. There’s a reason that they’re ubiquitous in the animation industry – a Cintiq is the fastest way to get a lot of drawing done.
A Cintiq overlays Wacom’s pressure-sensitive tablet technology on a monitor, removing the cognitive dissonance of working on a tablet while looking at the screen. The Cintiq 24HD, like the 21UX and the Intuos4 range, has 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity. It uses a two-button, wireless, battery-free pen with a rubber grip and a pressure-sensitive eraser on the other end. If you don’t like the pen’s buttons, you can remove them and cover up the hole with a second supplied grip.
For people used to working in Photoshop, Manga Studio, Sketchbook Pro or Painter with older Wacom models, it means a lot more finesse with a gentle touch. And at 24.1in widescreen (1,920 x 1,200 pixels) it’s almost disconcertingly vast.
Unlike the older 18-inch and 21-inch Cintiqs, the 24HD doesn’t have a pivot to rotate the screen as you work. Instead, it’s robustly hinged on either side, and can be elevated to an upright position, adjusted to a drawing board angle, or dropped down over the desk's edge and into the user’s lap. It even has two flip-out feet so the keyboard can be placed just underneath it.
The Cintiq 24HD is extremely comfortable to work with, however, given its size you’ll have to say goodbye to a large part of your workspace. The footprint when laid flat is 80 x 60cm and it's 37cm deep when the screen is fully raised. What at first seems like a vulgar, unnecessary amount of real estate becomes second nature in a terrifyingly short space of time.
As with all Cintiqs, calibration is the key issue. The cursor is a few millimetres below where the pen nib hits the glass, so the user has to calibrate the cursor to match up with their line of sight. Despite the large expanse of the 24HD screen (and the fact that the human head has a tendency to move) after a couple of tries the calibration was excellent.
Unlike earlier models (which had tough plastic screens), current Cintiqs have a glass screen with an anti-glare coating, which lends a very slight, pleasant resistance to the pen. This coating will, however, eventually scratch due to dirt and grease getting between the screen and the pen nib. Third-party screen protectors are available, but their application is not for the faint hearted.
Using the 24HD simultaneously with the keyboard is challenging, but fortunately the tablet features 16 programmable Expresskeys. The touchstrips of previous models, useful in theory but all too often brushed in error (they ended up living in shame on the back of the last model), have been replaced with two recessed touch-sensitive dials. This is just one of many welcome pieces of thoughtful, graceful industrial design.
The Cintiq 24HD is a heavyweight offering in every sense of the word. But if the devil’s greatest trick was convincing the world he didn’t exist, the Cintiq 24HD’s is convincing you that a 30kg device is invisible when you’re working on it.
For digital artists, designers and animation pros – anyone drawing onscreen who wants to work faster – there is no substitute. As an upgrade, it doesn’t represent a quantum leap over 2010’s 21UX, but taken alone it represents a valuable investment for creatives looking to squeeze more out of their workday.