To Cintiq or not to Cintiq?

I’m seriously considering the purchase of a Cintiq. For those who don’t know, the Cintiq is a large, sophisticated computer monitor that lets you draw directly on the screen with a special pressure-sensitive pen. For artists working in the digital age, it’s a very impressive tool. The Cintiq’s I saw on display at Comic-Con were basically covered with drool.

A Cintiq is also expensive. The latest models run about $2,500.

For the last few years I’ve been using a Wacom tablet to draw/paint on the computer. Well, mostly I still draw on paper, then I scan in the artwork and color or paint it digitally with the Wacom. The Wacom is a great tool, but it really taxes my eye-hand coordination. Instead of looking at my hand while I’m drawing, I’m looking up at the computer screen. I’ve been working this way for years but it still feels klunky and unnatural, so drawing on paper is still faster for me.

A Cintiq would be nice for several reasons. First, I could draw straight into the computer just as quickly as on paper, and the computer’s “undo” command is much quicker (and less messy) than erasing. Second, I’d no longer have to scan in my artwork and then spend time cleaning up all the dust and scratches. Third, the Cintiq has special buttons off to the side that I can program to do simple but tedious tasks (i.e. changing brush sizes) without having to use pull-down menus. Overall, a Cintiq would (theoritically) make me faster and therefore increase my profitibility on projects. According to a “payback calculator” on the Cintiq website, by my conservative guess a Cintiq would pay for itself in about 8 months.

But there are drawbacks. Some say that since the Cintiq is basically a shallow box, the way your arm rests on the edge makes it uncomfortable to draw on (although I suspect this would be more of a problem for some artists than for others)(EDIT: Now that I own a Cintiq, this problem has never been an issue for me). Some say the thick glass makes a slight “gap” between the pen tip and the line you are drawing, which is problomatic when drawing fine lines and details (others tell me the gap is not really an issue). (EDIT: This is a calibration issue. The Cintiq can be custom calibrated for each artist, so that the gap will disappear for a short, left-handed artist, for example, but will still be there if a tall, right-handed artist uses the same Cintiq).

So I’m wondering, do any of you blog readers own a Cintiq? If so, have you found that it improves your efficiency? Was it worth the steep purchase price? Or is it just a nice luxury item? Let me know what you think.

EDIT: My friend Tom Richmond (who is a brilliant caricature artist for MAD Magazine) just posted a very detailed review of the Cintiq on his blog. Check it out.


5 thoughts on “To Cintiq or not to Cintiq?

  1. Hey Cedric, those Cintiq monitors are definitely easier to paint on. I got the chance to demo one @ work for about a week. I didn’t want to give it back 😦
    The one thing I noticed is that my arm got really tired from taking those big brush strokes. I guess I got used to it after a while. I am considering buying one for home, maybe I can go panhandle or something. I’d be interested to hear your take on it if you get one. Take it easy, man!

  2. We’ve been using them at Cartoon Network for about a year now. I recently broke down and bought one for home… and now I think I can’t live without it. One you get used to not having “tooth”, it’s got a really good feel. And after you scuff it up (invisibly) with the stylus a bit, it actually does get some tooth.

  3. Hey Cedric,

    I really like your artwork…I have seen some of it on the MN Creative and the Portal Interactive sites. Excellent stuff!

    I have been using the Cintiq for about a year and love it. Without a doubt it has paid for itself. I can complete work a lot quicker than I ever have before. Most often, I still use traditional tools to lay the foundation for my work but it is an excellent tool for coloring, cleanup line work, make minor alts, roughing out sketches and just about everything else.

    The only major problem with it was with the way the board sat on my desk…it caused all kind of wrist pain. So I had this custom desk built which really helps…you can see it here:

    I also have an issue with the glass thickness (like a few others have mentioned)…I was hoping to use the tablet with a ruler (laying the ruler right on the screen) but haven’t made that work yet.

    Anyway, drop me a line if I can answer any questions.

  4. It appears you have put a lot of effort into your article and I need a lot more of these using the net these days. I sincerely got a kick from your post. I don’t actually have much to talk about responding, I only wished to comment to reply amazing work.

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