Will it fit on my desk? How much work will it take to get to it?

I have learned to ask this question. When I demo products on show floors, I often glaze over the fact that the workstation is set up by a person who is infinitely cleaner than I am. The reality is that, no, I do not have the space for a 27″ Cintiq display, no matter how much it wows me.

However, this goes beyond whether it fits. When I move a keyboard back and forth between two positions, chances are I’ll relegate my drawing display to a second monitor. I hate moving my keyboard. The act disrupts everything else I do. I would rather move my drawing display.

Understanding what drives you crazy is important. When developing the drawing habit, one must learn to push through inconveniences. I learned that I could not overcome these after two weeks. After the luster of the shiny new product faded, I stopped going out of my way to pay attention to it. Be mindful of what nags you and try to find a product that mitigates those as much as possible, rather than hoping that intangible improvements in tech will make those problems go away.

What will this product do to change the way I draw?

Pinpointing my struggles has been integral in finding peace with any purchase. It sounds hokey, but visualizing how your ideal drawing session would go is best. Mine was simple: I don’t always want to be hunched over my desk. I wasn’t drawing because it was physically uncomfortable. After I received a review demo of the Artisul D13 (A real review coming soon, by the way), I started kicking back in my chair and doodling more. It lead me to appreciate portability and ease of use instead of agonizing over whether the product’s technical specs were affecting my experience.

Questions I don’t ask anymore.

Do I need an on-screen tablet?

If I can’t afford it, I can’t buy it. Comfortingly, even if I can’t afford it, I don’t need it. On screen tablets like Cintiqs are an extreme luxury for any learning artist. When I got my first on-screen display, it didn’t improve my drawing ability. In fact, the jump from off-screen to on-screen made my lines wobbly and my strokes imprecise for months. My buyer’s remorse nearly killed me.

How many levels of pressure sensitivity?

This is an engineering spec turned into a marketing phrase. I used to associate higher levels with sensitivity without checking myself. Realistically, the levels don’t matter. They really don’t. I’ve drawn with 512 to 4048 and it doesn’t magically improve my lines. It sounds nice, but I would ask myself, “do I actually know when I’m between 1-512 or 1-2048?” The answer always came back negative. It is not something many people tangibly, physically understand, nor does it translate into smoother strokes. Ironically, minimizing the range of sensitivity is often the key to better lines.

Does it have a skinnier pen?

The barrel design is seems odd because there’s no tool in traditional drawing that functions like it. I just had to get used to it, and I did. Now I find myself not wanting deviations from the barrel design. Handwriting is often done with the wrist, but drawing often comes from the upper arm and shoulder. I know it seems more like a bug than a feature at first, but the less you wiggle your wrist, the better.

Do the corners and sides jitter?

I used to feel like this was a make or break, but as a Manga Studio 5 user, UI problems are something I can always navigate around. Moreover, it’s a mindset problem. If the tablet’s drawing area is 99% functional, why am I worried about the 1%? I used to begrudge demos that had side jitter because all my tools were on the edges. Now, I put them a little farther in. I sacrifice precious real-estate, yes, but I don’t have to deal with an unpredictable and frustrating wiggle that, frankly, never goes away unless I want to throw $1000 more at the problem.

Does it work when I get it home?

I can tell you with absolute certainty that the market for drawing tablets is better. Every vendor has a working product for Windows thanks to Windows Ink as long as driver installation goes smoothly. There was a time when it wasn’t the case.

What questions do you ask?

In an effort to become more involved with blogging and, well, just being a real person, I wonder what you readers think? What questions do you, a hobbyist or perhaps professional, ask when moving to a new product?