Wacom Bamboo Week 2

by Marya Doery, Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Last week, I got a Wacom Bamboo tablet (that's a link to the Wacom site). It cost about $100 (USD). Here's mine:

my Wacom Bamboo

It is not a huge device, about 7x11 inches. The drawing area is substantially smaller. You can get a sense of scale in this blurry photo:

me drawing on the Wacom Bamboo

I've wanted to try out a Wacom tablet for years, and it's hard to explain why I never bothered. Probably my main reason was that I was unconvinced that I could draw comfortably on such a device. I finally caved in and got one, with the thought that I might use it to create animations.

Immediately after bringing it home, I went through the tutorial that comes with the Bamboo. It's helpful, but mainly technical in nature, explaining how to use the pen and hand gestures to control the tablet. It does not give you tips on how to draw using the tablet.

The Bamboo comes with a scratchpad that you can use to practice drawing. I started by drawing curly spirals, which was fairly easy, as long as I didn't care where the lines appeared. As expected, even getting a coarse level of control over the pen was impossible, and my drawings were crude.

Since that first day, I've spent perhaps 2-3 hours in total practicing drawing on the Bamboo. Unfortunately I didn't keep my first efforts. Below is a drawing that I did today. It took less than 30 minutes. It has marked improvements over my earlier attempts, but is still much less controlled than my pencil and paper drawings. It also took longer than I do when drawing on paper.

week 2 drawing Little Bunny greets pink horse

This is a picture of Little Bunny, who is the hero of my comic, The Adventures of Little Bunny. I used the Bamboo together with Gimp to create this. The picture is very experimental, and I'm not happy with it. I was messing around with line thickness, and the bunny's lines are too thick. His arms are placed too low on his body, something I didn't notice as I was drawing. The pink horse's legs are too narrow, and look wobbly, which shows how hard it is to "feel" the distances between lines when using the Bamboo pen. The tree is very awkward. Overall, my hand is just not moving the pen with any level of fine-tuned control, and the drawing looks rather crazy. Even so, I think it's the best one that I've produced on the Bamboo so far. That's encouraging, given how little I've used it.

On the plus side, when creating a drawing electronically, it's really easy to quickly eliminate severe mistakes using Ctrl-Z. On the minus side, I make these mistakes much more frequently.

At this point, I will probably keep the Bamboo. I'm still pretty skeptical that I can achieve the level of control and detail that I get using pencil and paper. Currently, I draw all my comics using a pencil, then ink them, add color using colored pencils, and finally scan them in and add the dialog using Gimp. I'm happy with the quality using this method, but I sometimes make a mistake during the inking process. It would be super nice to be able to easily erase such mistakes. I hope the Bamboo will help with that. I'm also hoping it will be useful for creating some simple animations. It may just be a very expensive toy, though.

P.S. Here's another drawing which I did this evening. It took about 1 hour. In some places I tried to be much more careful, and it shows, but there's still plenty of work to do.

week 2 drawing Little Bunny has a big head