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[WU!] Cintiq 20WSX and Flatting

1 Ish Good!

Cintiq 20WSX

Greetings everyone!

Sorry for my hiatus from the blog - I've been busy keeping up with my daily strip quotas! It's a challenge to keep new ideas coming, but one of my biggest time obstacles have always been in flatting.

Flatting is basically the process of laying down the base colors so you can manipulate them later with shading/effects. It's a tedious and time-consuming process, but necessary for cel-style shading (like in nemu*nemu).

For those unfamiliar with the coloring process, this is a quick overview - a full tutorial is forth-coming~:

  1. Once the strip is scanned, pieced together, and cleaned up, I separate the lineart from the background using channels and fill on a new layer. I always lock the transparency so I don't accidentally draw over my original lines. My borders are also on a separate layer, which helps KS when he does the lettering a little later.
  2. I drop-fill some neutral color to the background layer so I make sure I flat my characters cleanly without missing areas. I create a new layer that I usually name "characters" and use the PENCIL tool to color within the lines. The pencil tool is anti-aliased so when I drop fill within enclosed lines, I don't get weird areas that don't fill properly. I also use some color that will stand out from the background fill - not necessarily the character color, BTW.
  3. Once all the characters are colored in (and transparency locked), I then create a new layer and group it/make it a clipping mask it to the "character" layer and start coloring in the clothes, accessories, eyes, hair, etc - leaving the skin areas untouched. I create new layers and group them all together with the "character" layer. When I'm done with all the basic colors, it should look like a kid's coloring book - all colors, no shading. I then return to the locked "character" layer and drop fill it with the skin tone (or color it in manually if there is more than one skin-tone on the page.

Now, this is where the Cintiq 20WSX comes in.

For years, I've been doing this with a Wacom tablet and primarily the lasso tool (and pencil tool for the generalized areas). This is a trick learned from my days coloring comics - where shortcuts help you keep on schedule. Don't get me wrong - a tablet is great for coloring, but can be really tricky for clean detailed lines. Unless I was working at 100%, my lines would come out jagged and messy - a very time-consuming thing to fix manually.

Since San Diego Comic Con this past summer, KS and I have been contemplating investing in a Wacom Cintiq. They have been on the market for years now, without an update - but have turned out to be very invaluable to the artists who now use them. To be honest, it is a hefty investment and we were skeptical. KS read up on some reviews and I watched some other artists via Youtube regarding their techniques and how they choose use to use them. Then, a few weeks ago, Wacom announced the release of 2 NEW Cintiqs - the Cintiq 20WSX (a shorter/wide-screen edition) and a smaller Cintiq 12WX (a 12-inch portable tablet). They still have the larger Cintiq 21UX as well.

After some thought, we decided to purchase the Cintiq 20WSX as it was a little more affordable than the standard Cintiq 21UX and could easily double up as a second monitor for my iMac. It came in less than a week and has been in steady use since arrival.

My thoughts? Read on!

KS and I both agree that for the amount of coloring work I now do, it's well worth the investment.

The tablet can be adjusted to whatever incline and tilted to whatever degree you feel is most comfortable. I always make sure to calibrate my cursor by checking my preferences before starting my work.

Also, as a second monitor, I can keep my work area clean while I keep all my other applications on my desktop. It takes a little while to get used to using the express keys to swap the cursor quickly between monitors, but over all it allows me to utilize the full screen to do my coloring. The Cintiq still takes up a lot of space on my desktop. When not it use, I simply tilt it back up and use it as my monitor.

I color MUCH more efficiently - without having to go over my lines a number of times to get that clean crisp edge. Flatting is much more like coloring directly to paper and feels much more natural. While on average with a tablet, I colored roughly 2 pages a day, I can easily do 4 or so without too much strain.

To test things out further, I also drew the January EOS strip directly to Photoshop - something I never do... as it usually causes a lot more frustration than its worth. I can't say I work more quickly that way, as I still have difficulty judging size ratios on an ever-changing screen, but the linework is much easier to do than before. I would probably do best by sketching my drawings directly to paper, then scanning and digitally inking for the cleanest, sharpest lines.

Maybe I can even give Painter a try... again.

In short, so far, so good! :D

Share your thoughts

26 Replies

  • Gren

    I want one.But I'm not artist nor rich lol.

  • FC

    Wow -Glad the new Cintiq is working out for you! it's definitely something I will need to look in to after grad and a new desktop unit. Thanks for this review!

  • jragin

    What size iMac is that you have there?

  • Dave Wolland

    Did you check out the Cintiq 12WX before getting the 20WSX? I see you wear a glove - is that because of the heat or just keeping your screen clean? Cheers Dave

  • kitsy

    Hi folks!

    jragin: I have a 24" iMac~ :D

    Dave: I did take a look at the 12WX specs online before purchasing the 20WSX. Because I have a 6x8 Intuos3, I figured if I needed portability, I could just take that along. Thankfully, I do have desk space to accommodate the Cintiq - it's really like having a second monitor, but bigger!

    I also wear the glove (SmudgeGuards!) for 2 reasons:

    1) Because the Cintiq heats up quickly, when my hand drag across the screen, it gets "sticky". After a while, this can really affect your pen strokes. The glove keeps my wrist/palm from touching the screen and allows for smooth wrist movement.

    2) The glove does help to keep the screen clean to a degree~ Although you do need to wipe down the surface every once in a while as "build-up" seems to occur? (You can feel the "grunge" with your stylus when you draw, while it may not always be "visible".)

    Hope this helps!

  • Dave Wolland

    G'day again,
    Thanks for your reply. I checked out the 12 WX and found it quite small and the edge of the screen almost uncomfortably warm exactly where your rest your wrist. The 21 UX was even hotter over the whole screen. How warm is does your 20 WSX get - is it as warm as your monitor? Cheers Dave

  • kitsy

    Hi Dave~

    Because the Cintiq is a a monitor-of-sorts, it will heat up with use. I can't say I can compare the heat of the 20WSX to the 21UX because I've only tested it once at SDCC last year. What I can say is that it may get uncomfortably warm - especially if you're using it for long periods of time in a not-so-well ventilated/non AC area. The heat is usually close to the power button at the top of the screen, but I use primarily the lower half for most of my work.

  • Johnny

    I've had the 6x11 intuos 3 for about 6 months and love it, and last week got the 12wx for my digital sketchign and inking needs. I realized within a couple of days that for inking the screen is a bit too small without constant zooming and panning. The one thing I was wondering about, and this is kind of the "return it within the alloted 14 days for the 20wsx" question - with the 12wx there is almost NO lag behind the pen on quick strokes. How is the 20 on that? The local Fry's has it on demo but no software installed and the lag looks *horrible* there. I was wondering how your experience was with that since I can't find anyone else with one of these models yet...

  • kitsy

    Hi Johnny -

    The only time I experience lag is when I'm working on super huge files (600dpi + and multiple layers) - or have multiple applications hogging memory. I also recently upgraded to 4GB ram (from 3) and things have been running pretty smoothly. If your computer is up-to-speed, it should work fine for you.

    Because the Cintiq 20WSX acts like a second monitor, it's really nice to move all my unnecessary palettes and windows to my main monitor and have dedicated drawing and coloring space. However, it takes up a LOT of space of my desktop, especially when adjusted to lay "flat". My desk (as seen in the photo) is roughly 30" wide. The Cintiq display is about 14.5" high - not including the mount - but if you have a 6x11 Intuos3, you shouldn't have too much of a problem, methinks.

  • kimonostereo

    I'd just like to add that a very good video card will be the best investment you can make if you are going to run a second monitor.

    If I had foresight, I would have gotten Kitsy a MacPro instead of the iMac. The iMac is only able to drive the Cintiq 20WSX using analog mode. If the video card had more RAM, it would be able to do digital video out. No real big deal, but I'm sure the resolution would be TONS better using digital instead of analog.

    Next goal (at least for me) is to get her a MacPro so she can really do some work.

    Still having a 24" screen in the iMac and a separate 20" screen for the Cintiq sure is nice!

    The more RAM you can put in, the better your performance will be.

  • jragin

    I just purchased the Cintiq 20WSX and I’m really disappointed with the calibration of the cursor at the screen edges (top right and bottom left). I was surprised that it only uses a 2-point calibration versus the Tablet PC 4-point calibration. I’ve only had it for one night and I am about to ship it back (I’ll give it a week).

    Just wondering, are you having the same problems with the calibration of the cursor at screen edges?

  • kitsy

    jragin: Because there is a "glass" between the stylus point and the cursor, there probably will never be a true 1:1 ratio of calibration. I notice not much more than 1/4 of an inch difference, often when I work on the far right or upper corners. What's most important for me is to make sure the center area where I usually draw/color is calibrated.

    When calibrating, you have to make sure that you are holding the stylus exactly how you hold the pen when you draw over those areas-exactly as you prefer to be seated over your tablet (tilt, angle, etc should all be adjusted to your preference.) I believe the Cintiq takes into account your stylus' angle to best average out the calibration between points.

    For example, I like to sit on the lower right hand side of my tablet and have it tilted as far down as it will go and rotated at about 20-30 degrees clockwise. When I am comfortable, then I calibrate my Cintiq. I usually do this before I start working.

    KS suggests that resolution might play a factor as well? I'm running mine on the analog setting (VGA) as my iMac isn't capable of handling digital output (DVI). Perhaps trying different display settings on your Cintiq might make a difference?

    I hope you give it another shot~ I found it takes a few days to really adjust to how the Cintiq works, getting a good feel for how it responds.

    If you have any other questions, feel free to ask~ I'm more than happy to offer my 2 cents~ ^^

  • jragin

    I don’t have that issue with my Tablet PC. I own a Toshiba M200 and it uses a 4-point calibration (all four corners). My 20WSX uses a 2-point calibration (top left and bottom right) and those are the exact same areas that aren’t calibrated right, where the cursor is off. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I am running my Cintiq on a windows XP machine and I can’t even close applications the way I normally would, I have do file > close.

    As far as my video car goes, you might be on to something because I do have an older video card. I’m not just going to send it back after 1 night though; I will give it a good work over to see if I can iron out the kinks. In fact I plan on hooking it up to my M200 tonight and see what happens.

    Oh and what exactly is the problem, why can’t you run your iMac in DVI mode? I asked because I am thinking about getting a Mac Mini (it would be my first Mac). =]

  • kimonostereo

    The reason she can't run the Mac with the DVI adapter is that the internal graphics card in the iMac doesn't have enough video RAM to drive 2 large displays at once in DVI mode (or at least this is what I gather)

    Kitsy's iMac is 24" and attached is the 20" Cintiq.

    When I first tried to get it working via the DVI adapter, I couldn't get full screen resolution at all. I could get skewed resolution just fine though :-/

    Switching to the analog VGA adapter was the only way to get it to work with the iMac. Perhaps it's because the monitor isn't a typical 20" it's a wide screen 20".

    You should have no problems driving the Cintiq with the Mac Mini as it will be your sole monitor. I wouldn't worry at all about it since I've seen Mac Mini's drive the 30" displays.

  • kitsy

    jragin: When I check my cursor against the screen, I notice the most offset in the mid-to-upper right hand corners. I'm not sure how the drivers differ between a Windows and Mac?

    I'm somewhat perplexed about your difficulty to close files. I realize that Windows windows have their close/minimize buttons on the right hand side- and my cursor offset does affect this to a degree, but I find when I work on the Cintiq, I concentrate on the cursor rather than my stylus point?

    Implementing a 4-point calibration system might be something worth advising Wacom of- I can definitely see its merit.

    My current video card just doesn't have enough juice to handle 2 digital monitors. As KS mentioned above, the resolution is sacrificed, but it doesn't bother me too much as I can just drag my working window onto the main screen and check for colors there. In retrospect, we should have just invested in the Mac Pro - which really is the work-horse system.

  • jragin

    I really appreciate ya’ll responding.

    Wow I’m sure glad I didn’t go out and buy that 20” iMac I was thinking about getting. Maybe I’m not giving my Cintiq a chance. I will continue to test it over the next few days and see if I still feel the same way. I’ll also check to see if I have the latest drivers.

    Maybe it’s my machine (only able to run Cintiq at 1280x1024), who knows.

  • kitsy

    I contacted Wacom tech support in regards to the concerns above - this was their response:

    "I don’t know why they use only 2 points but it’s how they’ve calibrated the Cintiq. The offset is normal because there is a small space between the pen tip and the actual cursor on the computer screen. The off-set is going to be relative to the angle at which the user has the Cintiq21ux. If you calibrate the tablet and hold the pen still, you can change the location of your head and you’ll notice it slowing shifting as your head location changes. Calibration is something that needs to be done whenever the work environment is changed.

    As well, most of our power users typically off-set the cursor to the left and up from the pen tip because they actually find the pen tip and their hand to get in the way (assuming you’re right handed)."

  • Mike

    Thanks for the review. I travel a lot and use a MacBook Pro for my primary machine, so I've been debating between getting this one because of its huge usable area, or the 12wx for its portability factor.

    It's probably a question of style, but do you find yourself using all 20 inches of this beast? For someone who does travel a good bit, do you think a 12" would be cramped or acceptable?

    Unfortunately, I don't seem to have any brick-and-mortar stores nearby that carry the things, so it's hard to try out.

  • kitsy

    Hi Mike! (Love your gravatar! XD)

    From what I hear from 12WX users is that they find they have to zoom in a lot to do their work and sometimes the space they have to work with is a little too small for comfort. If you are used to working on a smaller laptop screen, I believe working on the 12WX is very similar.

    I personally like using large sweeping strokes when I work, so 20 inches is a good size for me. I also maximize a lot of my windows/palettes for quick access.

    What I would suggest is - if you need a monitor or the full screen of a Cintiq, purchase the 20-21" version for work at home/the office and go back to using a standard tablet for your travel needs for a couple reasons:

    1) You don't want to lose/damage your Cintiq on the go. I had to replace my screen from a scratch I had on it from the get-go. Because the Cintiqs are so new, they didn't have replacement parts on hand and I had to wait about 2 months for it to get fixed. Not fun.

    2) You will likely need an additional power supply to run the Cintiq, rather than simply using the USB ports. So unless those are handy, you may not be able to run the cintiq as a monitor.

    I believe it all depends on what is most important for you - space and cost versus portability/accessibility?

  • kimonostereo

    Cintiq UPDATE!
    Interestingly enough, when Kitsy got her Cintiq back from Wacom, the DVI mini to DVI adapter NOW WORKS with her iMac 24"! So this is great news for anyone who wants to use their Cintiq with a 24" iMac!

    Originally I thought perhaps the iMac didn't have enough RAM to power the Cintiq since it was having a hard time syncing and displaying at the proper resolution. But now, for some odd reason, it works! I'm not gonna grumble!

    So to make it clear: Yes, DVI out works with a 24" iMac.

  • jragin


    I recently bought a 24" iMac, use to use my 20WSX with my Mac Mini. I am having a really hard time with the dual monitor setup on in OSX because I am use to MS Windows. My problem is with the menubar only being on the primary monitor. Do you have any tips?

  • kimonostereo

    Unfortunately you can only choose to have your menu bar on one screen or the other UNLESS you are in Mirror mode. BUT Mirror mode may not give you the resolution you need.

    You can always switch the menu bar to whatever screen you want to by going into System Preferences > Displays > Arrange. Simply drag and drop the menu bar to the monitor you want to see it on. You can also arrange your Cintq to the right or left of the main iMac monitor.

    Kitsy has been playing with Spaces in OSX 10.5 Leopard. Not sure how she likes it, but many swear by it as it gives them different apps in preset to each space.

  • jragin

    Spaces huh? I'll have to check that out because I don't know if I will ever get use to not having a menubar on both monitors. Thanks for the help.

  • jragin

    I found a nice little application call DejaMenu that will display the current application’s main menu as a context menu when a key combination is pressed.

  • James Badger

    Hi there, i own the Cintiq 20" WSX and I am currently just using on my PC. I want to upgrade to a IMAC 24" possibly. Any issues using it with the IMAC monitor together?
    Thanks ahead of time,