Crabfu reviews the Wacom Inkling

[Video Link] My friend I-Wei Huang, who makes steam powered remote-controlled vehicles, and also designed all the characters in Sklylanders, reviewed the Wacom Inkling, a drawing pen that digitizes your sketches. He likes it, but has some problems with it.


Check out more of his fine sketches on his blog.


    1. I find a great difference among the two. The cooler benefit of using this is that one) you don’t have to clean up the sketch and two) you can edit the lines as effing VECTORS. That certainly beats sketching a logo, scanning it and tracing it by hand using Illustrator.

      1. Well, the last few releases of Illustrator do come with “live trace” but it does add a step or two.

    1. The Samsung S7 slate isn’t far off… wacom digitizer, touch screen, decently powerful processor, and full Windows.  It has its drawbacks (including some build quality issues with the screen adhesive, and pricy compared to other tablets), but overall it seems to be a good device.

        1. The Asus EP121 is also an interesting one, and there is an autohotkey script floating around that even gives it a set of on-screen buttons and sliders you can use to control a couple of drawing programs.  The Samsung one is lighter, faster, and has better battery lifetime.. but it’s also pricier, harder to find accessories for, and has the build quality problem I mentioned.  I personally went with the Samsung, but it wasn’t a foregone conclusion.  I’m not much of an artist, but I have played around with some sketching with GIMP and it worked great.

          And rather than derail too much.. I’ve also been looking very hard at the Inkling.  I do like to draw from time to time and this looks like a great way to get the feel of drawing on paper while still making it easy to pull the results into the computer.  My only concern is, what happens if you have to take it off the paper or it gets moved while you’re in mid-drawing for whatever reason?I suppose you could start a new layer and align them on the computer when you’re done, but that seems like it would take a lot of work.

    2. I am now convinced that the industry has secretly developed dozens of awesome tablet PCs that come with pressure-sensitive styluses but they’re keeping them all locked away just to fuck with us artist types.

      Seriously, how many illustrators would kill just to get the love child of a wacom tablet and an iPad (or Android) running some version of Photoshop or Sketchbook Pro?

  1. There’s always an energy in my first sketch that never makes it to the final vector product. What with them being 2 very different mediums, I should get on and accept the virtues of each. And yet: something like this taps right into that desire to see that loose spontaneous line continue to contribute long into the considered and contrived vector illustration. Huh.

  2. I agree with pencil + paper + scanner.  I don’t see this product doing anything that you can’t do with cheaper/easier technology.  And don’t get me started on cintiq. ergonomically the worst of both worlds, crappy as a monitor, defeats one of the best things about a tablet (which is to get your hand off of the image), it lags, and is imprecise.

    1. Scanning doesn’t give you the benefit of layers or working in vector. Plus, you could easily backup your whole sketchbook in case of theft or damage. If you just process images by raster and really like flipping pages and scanning, I could see your point, but them seems pretty great to me.

      1. Agree totally. I’m willing to put up with some loss of detail to get an editable vector version of my artwork, in layers. His review pretty much sold me on the accuracy of the pen. I’ve sketched and scanned, and then struggled with either autotracing, or removing the raster BG in photoshop, and neither would be as precise. I think the time this thing would save is considerable.

  3. Considering that I already have an Intuos and a brand-new scanner, I’d have trouble justifying this…

    However, the prospect of turning sketches directly into vector is pretty darn sweet (and Christmas is around the corner). I only wonder whether the lines are turned into open or closed shapes.

    1. That’s one of my questions as well- are sketches converted to vectors as closed shapes, stroked paths, or (ugh) a combination of the two…

  4. I love little gadgets like this. Don’t even care if I can’t draw. I won’t buy it … but I’m tempted, especially with the price.

  5. Cool hands-on there.  I was kinda expecting the bundled software to be crap; t’is the way of the world.  Not a dealbreaker in the slightest… now, has anyone played with this and Inkscape?

  6. Ohhhhh. Thanks for this post! I’m glad I didn’t lunge for it the second it came out, as was my impulse. Hope they get some of the rough edges smoothed out soon. Droooool…

  7. Where, exactly, is this device listed as for sale?  Not on Amazon, and, er, not on the Wacom site store, either.  Ain’t a-happening in either locale.  I’m intrigued, but the compleat lack of a buy-now clickybutton on the manufacturer website (it’s not listed as one of their products, in fact, and appears not to exist in their store) makes me nervous.  I was pleased that it physically exists in an artist’s hand, but…any idea when this goes on sale again, anybody?

  8. Livescribe, anyone?

    It needs paper with a special pattern printed on it (you can print your own with the right printer).  The patent/concept behind the printer pattern is very cool.

    Unfortunately, Livescribe discontinued their SDK.  Which makes this a dead-end technology, IMHO.

  9. SO! This guy’s the one to blame for screwing the design of an iconic character so much that it basically turned off the entire pre-existing fanbase?

    Look, I love Skylanders. it’s a great little game. and the character designs fir original characters are top notch! But to screw with The title character so much that he goes from a plucky, young, smart-alec dragon whelp to what has been called “A bulldog with scales” by some is just unacceptable.

    Uhh.. anyway. Pen thing. No proper pressure sensitivity? bleh, i’d rather fingerpaint on an iPad. 

  10. The reviewer has hit the nail on the head when he says that the Inkling is good for loose strokes where accuracy doesn’t matter so much. I pre-ordered mine and after seeing all the reviews was salivating when it arrived. I draw mainly fantasy maps where accuracy of line is pretty important, for example if you draw a rectangle for a house with  lines joining the diagonals to represent roof lines.  The main reason why I wanted an Inkling, apart from the portability, and the layers, was that it would allow me to effortlessly rotate the paper so I work to the natural movement of my hand.  The only problem is that the moment you rotate the paper, the accuracy goes off by about 2mm or so, which for my purposes is useless.  Also, I found (as did the reviewer) that quite often the lines were really wiggly on the Inkling even though they looked reasonably straight on the paper.

    FWIW attached is a link to the tests I did. The reference to ‘angle’ is the angle of the nib to the paper.

  11. The other thing I should have added is that the vector lines it draws are very thin enclosed shapes (so it can accept the pressure sensitivity). It would have been nice to have had an option to have a true vector line without the pressure sensitivity so you could draw enclosed shapes.

    1. Ah, this answers my question. So it renders each sketch line as a closed shape, with vector curves to define the variable width of the line weight? This makes it harder to adjust the final output in vector format. I’d like to try it hands on now. My concern is that when you edit in Illustrator, overlapping “strokes” become a mess of positive/negative space or pre-grouped compound paths, and basically the time saved could be lost if you have to edit your vector drawing very much…

      1. Yes, it does.

        I don’t use Illy, but this is certainly true of the SVG output. I suspect it will be the same with the .ai files too. It’s such a shame, for me this was such a ‘nearly there’ product. The packaging and concept are beautiful, it just needs to be accurate to about 1/4 mm rather than 2.5 mm and it will be a winner.

  12. I think this would be a great tool for UI designers like myself. I often have to make the choice between quick, hard-to-share sketches and time consuming digital designs, and this seems like it will help bridge the gap.

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