Thursday, October 9, 2014

Draw Pad: Mapping, Proximity and Contours

Recently, the Aesop Games studio has acquired a Wacom Intuos Pen and UnityGirl is in art heaven. Here to share some of the joy and knowledge, we're going to go over the basics of draw pad usage.


Getting Started
Surely if I hold out my hand long enough, it will fill with ink.
First Draw Pad Doodle
Some of the first things I learned were

  • You can totally install the drivers from the web site without having to put the CD Drive back into your computer to finish installation
  • For at least the first day, you'll be using the pen as your new mouse.
  • Don't leave the pen on the tablet, it'll mess up the sensitivity.
  • It CAN survive being fumbled
  • It can handle multiple monitors


Actually, one of the coolest things about the draw pad is that it will map to almost anything. Basically, mapping is the relationship between the surface area of the draw pad and the area you want it to be able to draw in. I have two screens, but prefer very small hand strokes to draw, therefore I leave it mapped to span both screens. If you're doing super detail work, or just don't want the pen to leave your work-area, you can map it to a specific small section of the screen.

It also has advanced settings for multiple display use, but I won't post on it until I've played with those more.


This is where you use your draw pen for your mouse the whole first day. Perhaps the coolest thing on that first day is realizing that when you hover your pen at-the-ready, the pad can tell. It's all about proximity.

When the tip of the pen is near the pad, the indicator light lights up and your pen takes over the cursor on your screen. I personally felt like a god of wireless control at the time.When you're ready to draw (or click, or drag) just press the tip of the pen to the pad. 

What it Takes Getting Used To
  • The mapping of the draw pad means the location of the pen is absolute, not relative like the mouse.
  • The tip of your pen doesn't "roll" like that of a ball point
  • Pressure only applies as much as the program and your settings allow - don't push too hard.

Now where did I leave my eyebrows?The two major revolutions from mouse-based computer art to draw-pad based are pressure and control. Like most artists who started analog, I find the mouse lacking in finesse for the fine arch of a girl's forearm..... I mean UI elements. However, even for mouse-wizards, the draw pad pen offers the feature of Pressure.

Either way, the extra detail and control offered with the draw pad setup are remarkable. In a matter of days my image work has improved from Frankenstein-ian clip-art creations to pretty nice original art if I do say so myself.

The next time we talk about Draw Pads, we'll combine it with Inkscape and the sculpting tool.


All blog posts by UnityGirl are inspired by my work with Brunelleschi: Age of Architects on the Aesop Games team. Check out our Crowd Funding page(s)!

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