01 April 2012

Wacom Inkling -first impressions

I have been very excited waiting for delivery of my long overdue Christmas present of the new Wacom Inkling. It arrived on Friday and I have had the weekend to play and experiment with it. I really really wanted this to live up to the hype, as I thought it would be the ideal tool to make me sketch more, and save time in the process.
The idea behind the pen is that you can sketch directly onto paper and a sensor electronically records your pen strokes. When you plug the sensor in to to the computer, the sketch is automatically transformed to either vector line art or raster art for Photoshop or other raster editing software.
Magic!..or is it?
 'Live Trace' in Illustrator CS5 is useful for converting sketches to vector line art too, but I had hoped that the Inkling would add a new dimension to my illustrations - making the vector version closer to the original sketch and more authentic- more hand drawn.
My impressions are so far, disappointing.
Once all the green sensor light on the devices came on, and let me know all was well technically, I charged on and traced an old sketch to see how the Inkling would record my artwork.
Here are my first results:

Just look at the inkling rendition! Obviously no good- but since posting these images, I have discovered that I need to draw at a bigger scale to get good results.
(Read on below) 

2nd April 2012:
Update- Having read this review from macworld.com I can see that my original sketch is too small to record accurately. it seems that drawing on a bigger scale would give me better results. However, most of the sketches I want to make are doodles in my a4 sketchbook and they are always small- it's just how I work to begin with. I could scan the sketches, blow them up and re-trace the bigger size sketch with the Inkling to achieve more accurate results. But what would be the point? I might as well scan my sketch in and simply use Live Trace in Illustrator. So very disappointed with this device so far.
Will add to updates as I go along. Please do comment and advise if you have the Inkling and are happy with it- I would love to love it!

Ok I have tried drawing bigger, and the results are way better- I have to say.
It's not 100% accurate to my original (very quick) sketch-some tiny lines are missing or change a bit- but you have to look hard to find them- and it can all be edited in Illustrator anyway.
One thing I hadn't expected is the huge amount of points that the paths have- you can see what I mean in the comparison pictures below. 
It is fairly easy to correct this  in Illustrator though, by going to 'object-path-simplify' from the menu, and playing with the settings, and I don't have a problem with this really.

I'm much happier with these results from the Inkling, but I don't normally sketch ideas out in this scale, and not sure if I can work spontaneously this way.

You can see some comparisons below and I will post more updates throughout this month.
1. Above: My original sketch

2.Above: Sketch recorded via Inkling

You can see this is fairly accurate, but if you look at areas such as the girl on the right's bag, for instance, you can see the lines have actually altered, and some parts of her hair are in different places from original.
To be fair, this may be paper moving slightly, or my rushing the sketch so I could check this comparison out right away. I think from reading other reviews, it will take some time to get used to the pen and learn it's quirks.

3. Above: This is my sketch scanned and vectorised using 'Live trace' in Illustrator CS5
Personally- I prefer this as the strokes are nearer my original and nothing has moved.
It's still not 100% same as original sketch, but better, I think, than the Inkling version. This method does involve two more stages, (scanning and then tracing using Live Trace) but time doing this is minimal, and at this point, to me, worth the effort.

Above: These are the two vectorised illustrations in outline mode so you can see the points on the path.
The top one is the Inkling version, and bottom is my 'Live Trace' version.

I will carry on updating, and please, please do comment and help me out if you have an Inkling-thank you!

April 2nd- afternoon update:
I've been sketching on and off this afternoon, and still haven't decided whether this is a useful tool to me!
It's such fun drawing and then just plugging  in and scanning etc- but the results are unpredictable.

Some areas are perfect, others unusable.
I created a floral sketch repeat pattern using the pen which I enjoyed creating and didn't take me too long- this was fun, I have to say. However, I made sure the sketch was big- it covered about half of the A4 page.

*These have all been cleaned up in Illustrator, so although it doesn't show the inkling sketch- I can confirm it was very near the original. It took me about 25 minutes to clean up the sketch (which I would have done with a scanned drawing too):

So far so good then, and encouraged, I pressed on to do some quick ideas for a kids project I am working on.
I kept to the A4 page, but I found it impossible to draw naturally any bigger than the scale you see here.
Results, as I sort of expected, are not so good.
Especially the castle at the bottom left of image- it's very distorted.

I think the pen will suit fine if I have projects where I am comfortable drawing on a bigger scale- a bit limiting though. Disappointed, as I'd hoped to take the pen out and about with me /pretty much attach it to my sketchbook and sketch as I normally would. It doesn't look like this is going to be an option, unless I fill each page of my sketchbook with large sketches each time- which is not how I'd work naturally.

I will continue to experiment and publish my results!


  1. What a shame this could be a great tool if it actually worked! :-(

    1. It is a shame, Emma, although in fairness, when the pen does works, it is fun-I feel Wacom released this a tad too soon before the little quirks were ironed out.

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  3. Thanks so much for your comments! Very encouraging


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