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Tablet recommendations for Affinity Photo, please


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- Mac.

- A high quality one with a good feel and lots of pressure sensitivity. I don't want to say price is *no* object, but I don't want junk.

- Prefer wireless (Wi-Fi), but if it lags then I don't.

- Doesn't need its own screen (because even if I had another port, I don't want to hook up HDMI, and also I'm used to using a mouse while looking at the screen).

- Doesn't need to be big.

I tried using an iPad and an Apple Pencil, but it was not a happening thing at all.

Many thanks.

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Wacom Intuos is the obvious choice if you’re not on a tight budget, but numerous users have reported good experiences with various Huion and XP-Pen models. (I have an XP-Pen Deco 03 that I’m very happy with, but I’m not a Mac user.)

Alfred spacer.png
Affinity Designer/Photo/Publisher 2 for Windows • Windows 10 Home/Pro
Affinity Designer/Photo/Publisher 2 for iPad • iPadOS 17.4.1 (iPad 7th gen)

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2 hours ago, Alfred said:

Wacom Intuos is the obvious choice if you’re not on a tight budget, but numerous users have reported good experiences with various Huion and XP-Pen models. (I have an XP-Pen Deco 03 that I’m very happy with, but I’m not a Mac user.)

Thanks. It does work on Macs, and unless there are connection issues I can't imagine why it would work differently in Affinity Photo.

Also, is there a reason the Wacom Intuos is better? In other words, why is choosing it obvious if you're not on a tight budget? I don't have money to waste, but I want to get one that works well!

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☛ Affinity Designer 1.10.8 ◆ Affinity Photo 1.10.8 ◆ Affinity Publisher 1.10.8 ◆ OSX El Capitan
☛ Affinity V2.3 apps ◆ MacOS Sonoma 14.2 ◆ iPad OS 17.2

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1 hour ago, nickbatz said:

Also, is there a reason the Wacom Intuos is better? In other words, why is choosing it obvious if you're not on a tight budget? I don't have money to waste, but I want to get one that works well!

I could probably have worded that better! What I was trying convey is that Wacom has a very good reputation, so it’s a pretty safe bet and you might therefore be willing to part with extra cash for assured performance and build quality. I’ve only ever owned and used a very small Wacom tablet, so I’m not in a position to make a personal recommendation about comparative experiences of my XP-Pen tablet and similar Wacom models.

Alfred spacer.png
Affinity Designer/Photo/Publisher 2 for Windows • Windows 10 Home/Pro
Affinity Designer/Photo/Publisher 2 for iPad • iPadOS 17.4.1 (iPad 7th gen)

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Thanks v_kyr and Alfred.

v_kyr, I actually did see the most of those, but I was hoping to get some input from people like Alfred who use these things with Affinity Photo. These days it's hard to know who's a professional journalist and who's just some Internet tosser. :)

One hint is when they have categories set up so no one looks bad - Best Overall (and click on our affiliate link), Best Budget Model, Best For People Who Wear Pink Gloves on Odd Calendar Days...

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15 minutes ago, nickbatz said:

These days it's hard to know who's a professional journalist and who's just some Internet tosser.

That's sadly true, there are overall too much click-bates and paid affiliates, especially those on Youtube which try to do a living out of these things.

However, I would look over the internet about artist & design sites and what people there do recommend & review, so maybe more sites and links like ...

Personally I use a plain and old Wacom Bamboo CTH-470 under an older MacOS.

☛ Affinity Designer 1.10.8 ◆ Affinity Photo 1.10.8 ◆ Affinity Publisher 1.10.8 ◆ OSX El Capitan
☛ Affinity V2.3 apps ◆ MacOS Sonoma 14.2 ◆ iPad OS 17.2

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20 hours ago, v_kyr said:

 

So it looks like the Xencelabs one is a good choice. Thanks again.

Some questions about how tablets work in general with Affinity Photo:

1. What happens to the drawing area if you're working in portrait rather than landscape - does it shrink, or do you have to rotate the tablet?

2. Does the drawing area automatically cover the whole document, so if you resize it from 72 DPI to 300 DPI does it know?

3. Pressure sensitivity - does it change the Affinity Photo brush width? If so, does that work well? I vaguely remember reading something about this in the Affinity documentation, but if so I can't find it now.

Thanks.

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7 minutes ago, nickbatz said:

Some questions about how tablets work in general with Affinity Photo:

1. What happens to the drawing area if you're working in portrait rather than landscape - does it shrink, or do you have to rotate the tablet?

2. Does the drawing area automatically cover the whole document, so if you resize it from 72 DPI to 300 DPI does it know?

3. Pressure sensitivity - does it change the Affinity Photo brush width? If so, does that work well? I vaguely remember reading something about this in the Affinity documentation, but if so I can't find it now.

1. The tablet is mapped to the screen, not the document (otherwise you wouldn’t be able to access the menus, tools or studio panels).

2. See 1.

3. Yes, and yes.

Alfred spacer.png
Affinity Designer/Photo/Publisher 2 for Windows • Windows 10 Home/Pro
Affinity Designer/Photo/Publisher 2 for iPad • iPadOS 17.4.1 (iPad 7th gen)

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Just now, Alfred said:

1. The tablet is mapped to the screen, not the document (otherwise you wouldn’t be able to access the menus, tools or studio panels).

2. See 1.

3. Yes, and yes.

1. Of course. Got it.

2. Of course. Got it.

3. Thanks and thanks again. :)

Okay, since everyone is waiting with bated breath to hear how this goes, I'll report back.

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Medium Xencelabs with the Quickkeys remote control thing shall be ordered. A decision has been made.

Thanks for the help, will report on how it works.

(When I first saw Quickkeys I thought it was the old Mac macro program from the '90s. The company was run by totally obnoxious people, and I would have stayed clear!)

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On 3/31/2023 at 10:42 PM, nickbatz said:

1. What happens to the drawing area if you're working in portrait rather than landscape - does it shrink, or do you have to rotate the tablet?

2. Does the drawing area automatically cover the whole document, so if you resize it from 72 DPI to 300 DPI does it know?

3. Pressure sensitivity - does it change the Affinity Photo brush width? If so, does that work well? I vaguely remember reading something about this in the Affinity documentation, but if so I can't find it now.

These 3 questions may possibly point to differences between Wacom and other brands. I used Wacom tablets only (from A3 to A5 size) and don't know other brands, but @Alfred's answer for your question 1. & 2. surprised me. So, just in case this would be Wacom specific: The Wacom software has the option to define a certain, customized area for the tablet, so it is possible to specify the canvas size only for instance, or, if two monitors are in use, to choose whether the tablet should cover both or one monitor only … which accordingly requires an additional device (mouse, trackpad) to reach the screen areas outside the tablet area. Also, if wanted, for instance to get the maximum tablet area for a canvas in portrait format, you can rotate the tablet by 90º.

Generally a smaller tablet area needs less movements but more drawing precision whereas a larger tablet area requires accordingly longer ways for the pen. If the tablet is too small in relation to the screen area then it turns to get useless because you can't work precisely. Also, depending on your chosen driver settings, the aspect ratio may differ: then drawing a perfect circle (or square) on the tablet would create an ellipse (or rectangle) on screen … and vice versa.

As far I remember pressure sensitivity respectively the resolution of the tablet can vary between different brands. Insufficient values can cause tiny but disturbing delays when drawing and unexpected results on screen.

Finally the connection may matter: A cable connection is more stable while a Bluetooth connection can get unreliable (for technical reasons) and may cause delays, too.

macOS 10.14.6 | MacBookPro Retina 15" | Eizo 27" | Affinity V1

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52 minutes ago, thomaso said:

These 3 questions may possibly point to differences between Wacom and other brands. I used Wacom tablets only (from A3 to A5 size) and don't know other brands, but @Alfred's answer for your question 1. & 2. surprised me. So, just in case this would be Wacom specific: The Wacom software has the option to define a certain, customized area for the tablet, so it is possible to specify the canvas size only for instance, or, if two monitors are in use, to choose whether the tablet should cover both or one monitor only … which accordingly requires an additional device (mouse, trackpad) to reach the screen areas outside the tablet area. Also, if wanted, for instance to get the maximum tablet area for a canvas in portrait format, you can rotate the tablet by 90º.

Generally a smaller tablet area needs less movements but more drawing precision whereas a larger tablet area requires accordingly longer ways for the pen. If the tablet is too small in relation to the screen area then it turns to get useless because you can't work precisely. Also, depending on your chosen driver settings, the aspect ratio may differ: then drawing a perfect circle (or square) on the tablet would create an ellipse (or rectangle) on screen … and vice versa.

As far I remember pressure sensitivity respectively the resolution of the tablet can vary between different brands. Insufficient values can cause tiny but disturbing delays when drawing and unexpected results on screen.

Finally the connection may matter: A cable connection is more stable while a Bluetooth connection can get unreliable (for technical reasons) and may cause delays, too.

Thanks Thomas.

So what you're saying says that the Xenclkasdfl;adsjf (bad company name!) probably is the best choice. Even if the active area is set, I use one main monitor 99% of the time and 100% of the time I use Affinity Photo.

A lot of reviews and user reports say that its Bluetooth connection (using an included USB dongle) is very solid, and I'm close to the computer, so I'm not worried.

The only negative things I've read are about the build quality of its separate Quickkeys programmable remote. There are positive reviews too, so fingers crossed.

 

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Preliminary update, after setting up the Xencelabs tablet and trying it briefly.

General comment: it's going to take some getting used to, and I'm not even sure I'm going to like working with any pen tablet. But the Xencelabs one is trivial to set up and seems to be very good. (The one thing I didn't try to get working yet is pressure sensitivity - I hope that works.)

The first thing to get used to is it not behaving like a regular mouse. If you want to reach a menu item, for example, pointing and clicking is very awkward - at least it is so far. And it's not all that easy to control the pen's direction, for example if you're writing.

I think I like the Quickkeys remote thing, especially the wheel for adjusting the tool size. Hopefully I can program it to adjust the softness as well.

What I wish is that you could hold a clutch key and have it accelerate and track like a regular mouse when it's not touching the drawing surface, so you don't have to move so far and put your hand in an uncomfortable position when you're not actively drawing. That's what I found most frustrating, although I'm also not sold on the tablet-to-picture scaling either.

But this is after a few minutes. We'll see whether it grows on me.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Okay, after using it a little... it still feels clunky as hell.

I have to move very slowly to get the cursor (or tool) to go where I want it to. But the biggest issue is when I drop the pen to the tablet surface. It never goes to the exact spot.

So far I feel like this was a big waste of money. I sure hope I change my mind.

Note that this is not the Xencelabs product, it's the nature of the tool that I find disappointing so far. Really, I was hoping it would be intuitive.

Hopefully I'll change my mind.

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3 hours ago, nickbatz said:

I have to move very slowly to get the cursor (or tool) to go where I want it to. But the biggest issue is when I drop the pen to the tablet surface. It never goes to the exact spot.

The first is mainly a matter of the tablet size versus the screen size. As mentioned, if they differ too much the tablet can feel useless because precision is hard to achieve (small movement on the tablet = large movement on screen). Of course it is also a matter of training if working with a tablet is new for you.

The second is more a matter of exercise. As you noticed, it is not like a mouse (or trackpad) which may have any position on your desk, you rather need to learn to / get used to the feeling for the according positions on the tablet. It may help to use the pen exclusively / as often as possible to train the hand-brain-eye connection. (a bit like riding a bicycle: it felt quite unstable in the beginning)

macOS 10.14.6 | MacBookPro Retina 15" | Eizo 27" | Affinity V1

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14 hours ago, nickbatz said:

But the biggest issue is when I drop the pen to the tablet surface. It never goes to the exact spot.

Did you calibrated/recalibrated your device and pen? - Also check the solutions articles for your device and their forum there in order to get some hints for possible best customizations and driver updates etc.

 

☛ Affinity Designer 1.10.8 ◆ Affinity Photo 1.10.8 ◆ Affinity Publisher 1.10.8 ◆ OSX El Capitan
☛ Affinity V2.3 apps ◆ MacOS Sonoma 14.2 ◆ iPad OS 17.2

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Weird. I replied to thomaso's and v_kyr's messages from my phone earlier today but they didn't appear. Anyway...

thomaso wrote:

"The first is mainly a matter of the tablet size versus the screen size. As mentioned, if they differ too much the tablet can feel useless because precision is hard to achieve (small movement on the tablet = large movement on screen). Of course it is also a matter of training if working with a tablet is new for you."

Yes, I really do understand how that works, thomaso. :)

In my case the first is because the pen is off the surface when you're moving it to point, and you have to put it down exactly below where it's floating to click. The way to minimize that is to keep it lower so there's less room for it to move move. But so far I don't just dislike this, I absolutely despise it.

[EDIT: turning off Tilt solved that problem. What an utterly execrable feature, especially to have turned on by default!]

As to the second, I would like it to behave like a mouse when I want it to. And a clutch to put it into a relative position mode rather than absolute 1:1 with the screen shouldn't be a difficult feature to implement.

[EDIT: there is a Mouse mode after all. Why is it hidden?]

What i was hoping for was something that feels like a mouse only with more precision for drawing. So at this point it's the opposite - something that feels worse than a mouse and that takes conscious effort to control.

I will give it time, but if I don't like it exponentially more after a few days I'm either going to return it or put it on the used market and cut my losses.

[EDIT: this is an excellent lesson in How to make a customer absolutely hate your product by making the initial user experience unnecessarily horrible.]

 

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10 hours ago, v_kyr said:

Did you calibrated/recalibrated your device and pen? - Also check the solutions articles for your device and their forum there in order to get some hints for possible best customizations and driver updates etc.

 

Thanks v_kyr. I do need to customize it more, but there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with it, the problem is that so far I just hate it.

Again, my hope is that I change my mind. I may well.

[EDIT: this was written in frustration. I still have to get used to it, but I don't completely despise it any more.]

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