andatsea
andatsea
3 days march / blog (andatsea)
Hello, I'm Loika. This is my sketchblog. Please refrain from editing, using or reproducing these images without my authorisation. Make sure to read the FAQ before submitting an ask. In general, questions are answered privately. Check the #answers tag for public responses.
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andatsea · 251 days ago
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A cut display.

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andatsea · 2 years ago
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Saline.

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andatsea · 2 years ago
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Beckons, then devours.

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andatsea · 3 years ago
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I drew this with an XP-Pen Artist Pro 24, which the team at XP-Pen kindly sent to me for review. I’ve had to opportunity to use this tablet on-and-off over the course of the past several weeks, and while there were a few issues my overall impression is positive.

Unboxing / Contents

Apart from the 24” display tablet itself, the package comes with the usual cabling peripherals, plus some bonus extras. If your machine supports a USB-C connection for display, you’ll only need the one cable (plus the power connection). Otherwise, there’s a HDMI and a USB-C to USB converter included as well.

The extras include: an additional stylus, a one-size-fits-all artist’s glove, and a microfiber cloth.

The container for the stylus twists open to reveal 8 extra stylus nibs. Its cap can also be removed to use as a stylus holder.

Driver (Installation & General Use)

There were a few issues with installation, mostly tied to interactions between the driver, Windows 10 and Windows Ink.

  • Initially, brush strokes were offset from the stylus’ point of contact with the screen by about 3-4 centimetres when attempting to draw in Photoshop CS6. Random straight strokes also occurred frequently. This same problem did not occur in MS Paint or Photoshop CC 2019. This was fixed by changing the UI scaling setting for the monitor in Windows settings from 125% (which was apparently the default) to 100%.
  • Initially, brush strokes had no pen pressure in Photoshop CC 2019. Photoshop CS6, on the other hand, did (but suffered from the previous offset problem). This was fixed by turning on the Windows Ink setting in the XP-Pen driver menu. So in other words: CC 2019 needs Windows Ink on to recognise pen pressure, while CS6 didn’t, but was affected by UI scaling.
  • Interestingly, if Windows Task Manager was in focus and Windows Ink was not enabled in driver settings, stylus input was not recognised at all. There may be other programs that have this issue, but this was the only one I encountered so far.

I will say that I’ve had many problems with Wacom drivers interacting badly with Windows Ink and other things in the past before, so these types of issues are not exclusive to the XP-Pen drivers.

I’m currently using driver version 3.0.5, a beta build that has a lovely UI; it’s clear and laid out well. I did also try version 1.6.4 initially, which was fine — the UI for that version was similar to the layout you find with Wacom drivers.

Apart from the issues during installation that required troubleshooting, I haven’t had many major complaints with the driver in day-to-day use, I do think that there are a few areas for improvement, however.

  • The driver stops working correctly each time the computer is set to sleep and woken up again. To fix this the driver must be exited from the system tray and then relaunched.
  • There also doesn’t seem to be a way to bind WIN+SHIFT+ARROW to any of the express keys. WIN+SHIFT+ARROW (left or right arrow) is the Windows shortcut to quickly move a focused window to another monitor, so it’s something I use a lot if I’m on a multi-monitor setup. Unfortunately, attempting to set this shortcut in the express keys menu will simply move the actual driver window over to the other monitor while the custom input is not properly recognised in the text field.

The driver does offer a “switch monitor” option for the express keys that when clicked will transfer your stylus input to another monitor, which is extremely useful.

Screen

At 24” with a 2560x1440p QHD resolution, images are sharp and crisp even when viewed from a close range while drawing. Genuinely, it feels great to paint on based off this aspect alone.

The colour temperature is set to 6500K by default in the the driver settings. I think initially it felt just a touch too saturated, but overall I’m fairly happy with the colour display.

The monitor has touch-sensitive inputs on the top right corner: a -/+ for quickly adjusting the brightness, a menu for further settings, and power. I found myself using these to adjust the brightness throughout the day frequently. The power input requires a few seconds of continued contact from your finger to react, which prevents you from accidentally brushing it and turning the monitor on/off.

The monitor comes with a built-in stand. I found it easy to adjust to different viewing angles and also incredibly sturdy. I had no problems leaning on the monitor while drawing.

The monitor also comes with a pre-applied anti-glare screen protector. I wasn’t bothered by it and it seems to be holding out well after several weeks of use. I think the screen itself definitely needs the additional anti-glare, as being a display tablet means that it’s significantly more reflective than my main display.

Stylus

My first impression of the stylus was that it’s lighter in comparison to the Wacom styluses that I’m used to — there is very little to no weighting on the back end of the stylus, which makes it feel noticeably different when gripped. To be honest, though, I forgot about it when I was actually painting. Still, I would prefer a bit more weighting because I do think it makes the stylus more comfortable to hold overall for long periods of time.

There’s also no eraser nib, but I’ve personally never used those on Wacom tablets (I always use shortcuts to switch between brush and eraser instead) so this was a non-issue for me.

The two shortcut buttons on the side of the stylus sit quite flat to the surface, so I think they would be less likely to bother people who don’t use them. I use them a lot, however, and found that they were still easy to click despite being quite flat.

Unfortunately however I ran into a curious issue with using one of the stylus buttons to activate the eyedropper tool. When the “alt” key is mapped to one of the triggers on the stylus, activation of the eyedropper function in Photoshop (tested in both CS6 and CC 2019) is somewhat unreliable. That is, when the “alt” key is held down, the expected result is that once you tap the stylus on the canvas, a “mouse-click” will be triggered and the eyedropper will activate. While this works perfectly fine if you hold down “alt” from the keyboard (or hold down an “alt” that’s bound to one of the 20 express keys), when you hold “alt” from a stylus trigger I found that tapping quickly with the stylus only seemed to activate the eyedropper about 50% of the time. In order to activate it more reliably, I had to press harder and longer with the stylus, which can become tiring and slowed down my painting process. I also found that frequently, pressing down longer would lock me into the eyedropping function until I clicked the trigger key again.

After submitting feedback about this XP-Pen’s R&D department, I was informed that this issue occurs because the stylus is only able to send one message to the tablet at a time. Pressing “alt” on the stylus and trying to “click” at the same time counts as two messages, which may interact with each other unexpectedly. This is why it sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.

The buttons seem to otherwise work completely fine for any other functions that don’t require the stylus to send two simultaneous messages, so unless you’re like me and like to bind “alt” to a stylus trigger, this won’t affect you.

Pen Pressure & Activation Force

Most current-gen tablets flash a big number for the pen pressure levels as a selling point. Having used tablets with 512, 2k, 4k and 8k levels of pressure sensitivity, I’d say I noticed the biggest difference when switching from 512 to 2k, but in my opinion beyond 2k the change is minimal and has no real impact on the way I draw. The XP-Pen Artist Pro 24 comes with 8192 levels of sensitivty, which is a very big number, but in practical application all I can say is that it works the way I expect it to and I don’t have any complaints regarding the transition between pressure levels on the default linear pressure curve.

More importantly I did notice that the IAF (initial activation force) was not as low as I would have liked. Very light input is not recognised, or only partially recognised before dropping off and on again. In a practical sense this doesn’t actually impact me through most of (perhaps 97%) of the painting process, but it did give me pause once in a while when I wanted to make a really light stroke and had to adjust my method. The drivers for this tablet do come with a pressure curve you can adjust to your preferences, so this can help a little, although after some tests I preferred to leave mine on the default setting.

Summary of Drawing Experience (tl;dr)

I think the mark of a good tool or piece of hardware is that it does not draw attention to itself during the course of its use. An ideal drawing experience allows me to be fully immersed in the act of drawing without having my focus shifted to dealing with the tool. With this in mind the XP-Pen Artist Pro performed very well for the most part, but was held back by a couple of issues.

Pros:

  • The monitor resolution honestly feels great to look at; the pixel density means that I can basically forget about pixels even with my face positioned closer to the screen.
  • The parallax between the tip of the stylus and the actual position of input was very minimal and basically not noticeable for me, especially after the simple calibration process offered by the driver.
  • At normal room temperature (say up to about mid-20’s celsius) the monitor screen stays impressively cool to the touch and I was never bothered by resting my drawing hand on its surface even when painting for long sessions.
  • The 20 express keys and 2 roller rings are extremely helpful and I actually found myself using all of them, despite initially thinking that I’d only need half of them. The keys are also comfortable and responsive to click (which sounds like it should obviously be so, but having used some Intuos iterations in the past which had some very annoying-to-click express keys, I don’t take this feature for granted anymore).

Cons:

  • The driver needs to be restarted everytime the computer wakes from sleep in order to work.
  • Higher IAF was noticeable when very light strokes were desirable. Also, the input will on rare occasions glitch by performing a completely straight max opacity + max brush size stroke. This seemed to happen primarily when I was trying to get light strokes to register. (It didn’t happen often enough to bother me much since it’s just a quick undo, but it did happen enough times that I noticed it.)
  • The issue with eyedropping using “alt” mapped to a stylus trigger as detailed above. Quite unlucky for someone like me who has over a decade of muscle memory for this particular mapping.

Overall, as I said at the beginning, my impression of the tablet is positive. While I think it has room for improvement when it comes to driver performance and the initial activation force especially, it also has a lot to offer at a highly competitive price point ($900USD at retail), and it would’ve been amazing if something like this had been available to me back when I first started digital painting. As I do enjoy using it for the most part I’ll probably continue to use it on-and-off in future.

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andatsea · 3 years ago
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Six steps to the sea.

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andatsea · 4 years ago
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Stars shine on the morrow.

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andatsea · 4 years ago
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No leaves in this wind.

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andatsea · 6 years ago
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Temporary passenger.

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andatsea · 6 years ago
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Tell me only of tomorrow’s passing.

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andatsea · 6 years ago
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Numerous beyond the wall.

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andatsea · 8 years ago
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Three suns on clear water.

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andatsea · 8 years ago
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Witch’s river.

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andatsea · 8 years ago
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Then the parting.

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andatsea · 9 years ago
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Eventide.

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andatsea · 10 years ago
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Red veins, blue words.

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andatsea · 10 years ago
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Desert clouds.

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andatsea · 12 years ago
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Rain cloak.

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andatsea · 12 years ago
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The house you rose from.

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