Drawing Tablet and Tools for Drawing Digital Illustrations

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Written by Juha

I thought about writing some basics for a change. Kind of my thoughts on a drawing tablet and tools for drawing. When I first started out drawing with a photoshop back in the days. I did it with a laptop that didn’t have too much processing power.

Painful memories just thinking about how the program would take ages to complete different effects and transformations to the image.

Even saving the file was a pain in the… I also searched for information from online forums, collecting bits of information here and there.

Trying to get that complete picture of how things worked. What was needed to make the drawing experience awesome, fast, efficient, precise and a joy? It was a massive search for information until I figured it all out. Or at least enough to make the drawing feel as easy as possible. Also, as fast as possible.

This is my collection and view on what hardware/settings are good for fast and efficient drawing. These could change over time but not likely in the next few years.

If new memory innovation or something is invented these could change. That is a long way to go through though.

I have tried my best to give you some insight into what is important and what you should take into consideration when buying a new computer.

We all hate the feeling of buying a new product just to see that it wasn’t what we wanted. You know what I mean. It sucks.

My setup and hardware for drawing digital art

I decided to show you the hardware I use to create my drawings. This whole set is built with speed, silence, and heat in mind. Yes, you can combine them. This set does not overheat because of low TDP (Thermal Design Power) processors.

These days processors are more than capable of doing an awesome job with low heat levels. I wanted the computer to be as fast as possible, silent as possible and as cool as possible. I think I nailed it with the hardware set below. There is also a link so you can check it yourself.

  • Motherboard:
    • Gigabyte Z270N-WIFI mITX
  • Memory:
    • Corsair 32GB (2x16GB) Vengeance LPX, DDR4 3000MHz
  • Case:
    • Silverstone Fortress FT03-MINI
  • Case Cooler:
    • Noctua NF-A14 PWM
  • Power:
    • Silverstone 550W SX550 SFX, 80 PLUS Gold
  • Graphics Card
    • EVGA GeForce GTX 1050 Gaming
  • Processor:
    • Intel Kaby Lake i5-7500, LGA1151
  • Processor Cooler:
    • Noctua NH-L9i
  • M.2 SSD:
    • Samsung 1TB 960 EVO SSD M.2, NVMe
  • HDD:
    • Western Digital 6TB WD60EFRX, WD Red NAS
  • Keyboard:
    • Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard
  • Mouse:
    • Logitech MX Master Wireless Mouse
  • OS:
    • Microsoft Windows 10 Professional 64bit
  • Tablet:
    • Wacom Cintiq 12WX
  • Display:
    • HP LP2475w

Good computer for Drawing

Even though I don’t do photo manipulation, I think the same hardware principles can be used for drawing. What I have found out and this is only my experience and not a given fact. Memory or RAM memory to be specific is the most important part of your hardware when doing digital art.

More memory, the better. With more RAM memory you can allocate for the drawing program (photoshop, clip studio paint e.g.) to use.

The better and more fluid the drawing experience will be. Rather than explaining it further, do visit Adobe’s site for more information. They have nicely covered the Photoshop portion of memory usage there. As for Clip Studio Paint, the settings are relatively the same. I have attached an image of my own settings for you to look at and compare (Clip Studio Paint settings – Rather the same in the Photoshop side).

As you can see, I have given memory rather a lot for the program to use. That is because I use to work on a rather big canvas size (sometimes 16 000 x 10 000 px). So I need a lot of memory. With 32GB RAM I am able to handle quite large files.

I do have to admit that even this amount of memory. The memory sometimes gets used up and then the art programs switch to virtual memory. Virtual memory is created to the scratch disk and things get slower but not much, thanks to the M.2 drive.

Scratch Disk / Working Disk when Drawing

Thankfully we live in an era where SSD drives exist and the speed of write/read operations has increased massively. SSD drives have enabled faster access times, loading times, writing times and whatnot. I am using M.2 (Samsung 1TB 960 EVO) drive for the scratch disk but also as a working disk.

And by working disk, I mean using it as a storage for my work in progress files. I grew tired when I had a traditional HDD in place and loading and saving the drawings took like forever. So when I built this new computer I focused on speed and silence. I did achieve both but it didn’t come cheap. I also have a lot of artworks saved from different sites, like DeviantArt, Pixiv, Artstation, Behance and so on which also reside on the M.2 drive.

That is because looking and finding inspiration and reference images with the old HDD were too slow for me.

I want things to be done fast or at least the information should be acquired as fast as possible. Efficiency and speed are a must for me. So I put an effort (and money) into it. So as a summary, more memory, more speed. More allocated memory, more speed to your drawing program. But do bear in mind that increasing memory also affects other programs. So the other programs might not be as responsive as they were before.

Choosing Processor for Drawing

The processor is kind of important also but while drawing you won’t be using processor too much so this is not so relevant. However, if you record your drawings and later on do some video editing. Then the processor comes into play and that is when you have to have an excellent processor on your computer.

I can easily recommend Intel processors. I have always used them and they deliver excellent performance. Always. I chose my processor based on TDP, cores, and threads. The best balance was to get the Intel Kaby Lake i5-7500, LGA1151 processor. It was the best choice for me at this point in time. It does not create heat so much and is an excellent choice for a smaller case.

Wacom tablet settings for Cintiq 12WX

So what settings should be done to CSP, Photoshop, Wacom, etc. Those will be covered in this part. As I have a Wacom tablet and a proud owner of one I will be posting my settings here. Keyboard shortcuts and things like that you should customize based on your own needs and customs.

I have made a few settings to CSP which are essential for me. Fill I use when I am searching for that one right base color for different parts of the drawing. So when I am drawing. I use button F in my keyboard and at the same time select new colors from the color wheel with my pen on my tablet. It is the best way for me to find the perfect colors.

One which I have thought about would be to use the Hue/Saturation/Luminosity setting but haven’t tried that yet. It could be effective and fast but I dunno. It is always one’s preferences and what one is used to do.

I remember one artist using the number pad to select brush opacity. I think it was Dave Rapoza. Switching between different opacities while drawing. It sounds super hard technique and even time-consuming. But then again, it worked for him and even seemed rather fast and all. Dave’s art is awesome. Just as a side note.

So it is up to you how you set-up your working space. Decide what things you want to do in what way.

Windows & Adobe Photoshop specific settings

This prevents the loading circle from coming up when you start to draw.
Search Windows – write Flicks (your drawing tablet has to be turned on)

I have the following settings and have found out that this worked for me and prevented the circle coming up. You can’t truly use Photoshop as drawing software if these settings are not done.

As we all know. Any new driver update to your drawing tablet or OS system update may break up your current settings. Something changed in the OS level and one day your settings might not work anymore. That is one reason I hate driver updates.

You have just got something to work and BAM one day nothing works. Infuriating. Driver updates are meant to fix things but the cruel reality is that they usually break some other feature that worked before. What to do other than wonder and accept the fate there. Once I got a working driver for my tablet, you can be sure I won’t be updating it ever again. Not until it breaks and I have to update it.

drawing tablet and tools for drawing

As years go by and technology advances it could be that this post comes irrelevant at some point but I believe the next couple of years should be covered with this information.

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