At most every talk I do, kids and parents are curious about just how I "draw on the computer". I've been using a Cintiq for the past 4-5 years, but for demos, I bring along my ginormous 9 x 12-Inch Intuos 3 tablet, which is just too large for most people. I usually recommend the more affordable, student-grade Wacom Bamboo Line for beginners -- which can be found at most Apple stores, but I recently found an even cheaper option that just might be what blossoming artists may be looking for.
I first heard about the Monoprice tablets on twitter. Fellow artists were raving about not only how great the tablet was, but the price.
What do I mean by price? The 10 x 6.25" Monoprice tablet I picked up was under $50.
To top it off, the whole order arrived in about 2 days.
So, how does it compare?
The design of the stylus are similar (note, I switched the grip on my Cintiq stylus -- it usually has a similar grip to the Monoprice one). The Monoprice stylus does not come with an "eraser" tip and requires a AAA battery to operate.
I don't feel the battery makes the pen -that- much heavier. The stylus also comes with a plastic stand, which is perfectly sturdy -- just not as well constructed as the higher-end weighted wacom version.
It also comes with this warning taped to the pen barrel:
The tablet itself is well constructed. There are "feet" on the bottom of the tablet to provide stability. The surface also has some tooth, which I'm guessing gives the sensation of drawing on paper.
The tablet isn't as sleek-ly constructed as their Wacom counterparts, but it's nicely designed and feels nice to work on.
There are also built in "hot cells" that can be programmed:
Simply tap on the buttons, which can be programmed in their Tablet Settings "app". I set a couple of mine to launch MangaStudio and Photoshop - my 2 most often used drawing programs.
Note, I am writing this from a MAC OSX Lion experience. Things may differ with a PC version.
First off, you'll need to install the proper driver before plugging the tablet in. Instead of inserting the CD, I recommend downloading it from the UC-Logic site.
After inserting the battery (look closely for the +/- on the bar) and plugging the tablet in, it should work. In order to load the "system preferences", you'll actually have to open an app called TabletSettings in your LaunchPad. (It will not show up in your System Preferences.)
There you can make all the adjustments to your "hot cells", pressure sensitivity, buttons, scope, etc. I recommend playing around with the settings until you are comfortable and making adjustments as necessary.
I launched MangaStudio first and found myself a little disoriented. It's been a while since I last worked on a tablet and getting used to the screen ratio via hand-eye-coordination took some time.
I found my lines came out a little jagged, so I launched Photoshop to try a few sketches there:
After the first two figures, I started making adjustments to the pressure sensitivity and the tablet scope. By the last couple figures and hands, I think I got a pretty good feel for the tablet. It seemed to capture most of my gestures, but to get the fine lines nice and clean, you'd need to zoom in -- and even then the lines occasionally had a jagged appearance. (Though I'm not sure if that's due to the tablet surface, my hand, or something else? I'm still testing things out.)
Overall, this is a -great- tablet. It does exactly what it needs to and for the most part, I find it does the job well. For the price point of under $50, it's practically a steal. It's an easy entry-point for someone who wants to get started with digital drawing and coloring and won't feel like a massive investment.
I had purchased this for the purpose of taking it along with me to talks/demonstrations and I think it'll do the job swimmingly. Additionally, if Scott ever needed a tablet to work on, I think he'd be more comfortable working on one this size.
Will I be swapping my Cintiq for the Monoprice tablet? No. The Cintiq will remain a part of my daily work set-up.
In short, my advice?
+ If you're looking to get started with a tablet, the Monoprice is a great choice. It's right on par with the Wacom Bamboo model.
+ If you are looking for a beater tablet to travel around with when you work, Monoprice is right for you.
+ If you do a lot of digital work already via mouse (i.e. Illustrator) and would like to try out a tablet, the Monoprice is a great choice.
+ If you already have a tablet of Bamboo grade or higher, I still recommend the Wacom Intuos Line.
+ If almost all of your work is digital and that's your daily work -- if you can afford it, get a Cintiq. You'll save so much time by not having to guess where your lines start and end.
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You can find the tablet at Monoprice.com by searching for "tablet" or "graphic tablet" or "drawing tablet".
In fact, you can find a ton of computer-related stuff there for amazingly cheap prices. I think we picked up a battery pack for our cellphones, a headphone cable, a stereo plug, and a few other things. ♥
If you have one, let me know what you think! Likewise, if you're thinking of picking one up and have some questions, feel free to ask. :D