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September 2014
Issue: March 1, 2008

REVIEW: WACOM CINTIQ 12WX

By: Susie Jang
PRODUCT: Wacom Cintiq 12WX

WEBSITE: www.wacom.com

PRICE: $999

- Direct pen-on-screen tablet lets you take advantage of natural hand-eye coordination and provides the feel of natural media.

- Ergonomic design provides a comfortable grip and natural feel along with smooth, flat surface.

- Optimized for a multi-monitor work environment, gives control and precision over work and helps speed production.

Recently, I was working on a project that required me to pick up a pen and tablet for adding fine detail to 3D geometry modeled in Softimage|XSI. While sculpting and adding details in the Pixologic Z-brush application using the Wacom Intuos 4x6 tablet, a co-worker looked over my shoulder and suggested I should try using the Wacom Cintiq 12WX tablet. Cintiq is a direct pen-on-screen device that comes with a video control unit, which provides video, USB and power connections for compatibility with notebooks, desktops and workstations.

My first encounter with Cintiq was briefly at the 2007 SIGGRAPH conference. People were lined up at the Wacom booth to give it a try. While the notion of being able to draw directly on screen seemed appealing and tempting at first glance, the price of Wacom’s existing Cintiq tablets made me hesitate, and I felt I had to go with the alternative — my existing Wacom tablet, which has the same functionality but is a less direct-input method. Being used to working  with the Wacom Intuos tablet and having never felt disabled using it kept me from being overly fascinated with this innovative invention.

JUMPING IN

I spent about 10 minutes setting up the Cintiq 12WX on my workstation and gave it a try for a project I was working on. My jaw dropped and stayed wide open while testing out the product with ZBrush. I could not believe how comfortable and natural it felt — I grabbed everyone in the office and let them try the tablet.

It was as if I was working with traditional mediums like paper and pencil, freely making strokes combined with the flexible digital functionality. The fact you can make strokes directly on the screen and see the result right beneath provided greater control and comfort. Being able to draw right on the screen and see the geometry being sculpted right under the pen tip made me feel directly engaged in the digital sculpting process and allowed me to speed up my workflow.

I find any product in the Cintiq line a great investment if you are a hardcore illustrator, Matte painter, 3D sculptor or even a hobbyist. For those who come from a traditional art background and who have been working digitally, the Cintiq is an artist’s dream come true, for it allows you to combine the advantages of natural hand-eye coordination and the intuitive pen-on-paper feel of traditional media with the benefits of a digital workflow.

 The ergonomic design of the pen minimizes the grip effort for hours of comfortable use — I did not feel tired at all, even after long hours of 3D sculpting.

The one downside I found was the tablet’s lack of portability — not that Wacom claims the system is portable. Because the Cintiq screen tablet needs to be connected to the VGA port, it requires being connected to the Video Control Unit that the Cintiq comes with, as well as the power adaptor. After all the devices are connected and the driver is installed, you need to assign the screen tablet to be recognized as your secondary monitor. This means if you want to move your Cintiq to another computer, you will need to crawl to the back of your computer, unplug the devices and power cables and so forth. (Pretty much the same thing as switching your monitor to another machine.) While the Cintiq makes the digital creation process a lot more comfortable and natural, I have been spoiled with the simple and quick set up of a standard Wacom tablet. So, the lack of portability was a downside for me, even though the Cintiq 12WX has a low profile and lightweight design compared to Cintiq 21UX ($2,499) and Cintiq 20WSX ($1,999).

FINAL THOUGHTS

If you are a professional matte painter or a digital illustrator and would like to max up your digital workflow to its fullest, getting the Cintiq tablet is a good investment. I can almost guarantee you won’t regret it — the Cintiq will give you more than what you need. Working this way is a truly joyous experience.

While the Cintiq 21UX and Cintiq 20WSX both provide larger surfaces and can act as your secondary monitor, I find the products too pricey. I personally prefer the smaller size tablet — 12.1-inches diaginally — when making digital artwork. My reason being, it takes up less space on your desktop and often it’s easier to make smooth strokes when the tablet is not that big. For that reason, the Cintiq 12WX seems like the most suitable and affordable choice for people that are considering making an investment.

If you have not had the chance to test one yet, I strongly urge you to play with it. It’s pretty amazing


Susie Jang is a 3D Animator at UVPhactory in New York City (www.uvph.com).