Digital Painting On A Budget, Part 2

Okay, so now you have your painting and photo manipulation software, if you read my previous post, that is; you can begin to paint straight away using your mouse. For more controlled use, however, you really would be wise to invest some money in a dedicated graphics drawing tablet and pen. Good grief, i hear you say. More money to splash out? Well, yes, but the cost needn’t be prohibitive, as you will soon see.

If you’re someone with money to burn, then by all means splash out on one of the latest all-singing, all-dancing top-of-the-range tablet and pens from Wacom or Aiptek or one of the other “big boys”. If, however, you’re simply after a tablet and pen that doesn’t cost the earth and can give you a comparable experience to the more expensive tablets, then i suggest that you read on, because i have some more good news for you!

It came to my attention recently that a company called Monoprice make a range of drawing tablets that are fast becoming a favourite among many digital artists and are getting very favourable reviews from their users. I bought one recently too, opting to buy the MP1060-HA60 which has a drawing area of 10 x 6 inches.

Monoprice MP60-HA60 tablet and pen

Monoprice MP60-HA60 tablet and pen

Compared to the nearest equivalent from its more expensive competitors, it cost approximately ONE THIRD of the price!

Out of the box, It is supported by Microsoft Windows (XP, Vista and 7) and Mac OS X. Check the Monoprice website for exact system requirements.

The beauty of these cheaper brands is that they are clones of the UC-Logic range and so the drivers for them are easily available. People have reported problems when using them, but that is because you need to install the drivers in a specific way, removing ALL other graphics tablet drivers on your system before installing the drivers for the Monoprice unit. You must not plug the tablet in before you have installed the drivers, and neither should you plug it in until your system is fully booted and everything is loaded in. Another thing to be aware of is that you should always use the tablet to start your painting software. There are tutorials on the web telling you how to do all that i have mentioned, so get Googling, peeps!

These tablets have decent specs and perform admirably. To get the best from them, as with all other tablets, one must fine tune the tablet’s performance once you are up and running with it in your painting software of choice. Getting used to pen pressure sensitivity which affects the brush strokes is probably the main thing you need worry about to begin with.

The pen itself is battery powered, using one AAA battery (AAA is a British standard, so you’ll have to find out what the equivalent is in your country, though i an guessing that it will be called an LR03 AM-4 1.5v), and you should get around 5000 hours of use from a single battery.

Other accessories included with the tablet and pen are: 3 extra tips for the pen, a pen holder and a disc containing the drivers and bonus software. As far as i know, the bonus software is not compatible with Windows 7, so please be aware of this. You don’t need the bonus software anyway!

I nearly forgot to mention that the tablet itself has 8 programmable buttons on the left side, which is extremely useful! Okay, you got me! I did in fact forget to mention it and have had to come back to this blog and edit it *blush*

Another piece of software I’d like to steer you towards because it’s FREE and it’s EXCELLENT is Inkscape, a marvellous program used to make scalable vector graphics. Vector graphics can be re-sized without image quality loss, so it’s a great piece of software to have around. It is comparable to Adobe Illustrator and Xara X, and so there’s a steep learning curve, but it is well worth learning to use.

Source tarballs for GNU/Linux are available from the Inkscape website, but check your Linux distributor for ready made binary packages designed for your distro. Inkscape is successfully used on FreeBSD and other Unix-like operating systems. The packages for Windows XP/Vista/7 are available as a fully self-contained installer, but older Windows versions (98/ME and 2000) are no longer supported. Inkscape is also available for Mac OS X.

Check it out, get playing, and have lots of fun. Go on, get creating some masterpieces!

Inkscape, the fantastic open source, FREE scalable vector graphics program

Inkscape, the fantastic open source, FREE scalable vector graphics program


One thought on “Digital Painting On A Budget, Part 2

  1. Kimberli

    Thank you so very much for your detailed & straightforward review of the Monoprice MP 1060-HA60 Graphic Tablet! I was trying to decide between 3 options for a tablet for my twins. You made my decision infinitely easier! Too bad all reviews & people we encounter (or at least those I seem to encounter) aren’t so detail-oriented, well-written, & thorough. Thanks again! Happy Holidays!!!

    Kimberli Vida

    P.S. – I love the dichotomy of your blog’s title as well as the graphics surrounding your picture! Very cool!


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