Surface Pro and Windows tablet PC users have an amazing array of great software at their disposal and most of it costs only a fraction of what you will pay for a license from Adobe or Corel.
The tech blog WinBeta.org sent artist Oliver Fuh to test a Surface Pro 4 and he wrote up an exhaustive post on his first impressions.
Rather than test with the default apps or Sketchable, Oliver was able to install the PaintTool SAI 2.0 beta. He captured the following video.
The store staff also allowed him to test the new pen nibs and his findings are fascinating and somewhat disappointing.
2H – the thickest nib of the four, and it’s SUPER slick. The slipperiest drawing experience I’ve ever had on a digital display, and that says a lot, as most of them are pretty slippery. It also feels like the softest of the four. I’d love to use this for super fast sketching, or for drawing extremely long, flowing curves.
H – similar to 2H in slipperiness, but with a much thinner, even a bit harder tip. It feels much more conducive to precision drawing. It’s extremely faint, but I detect just a bit more resistance when drawing with this nib.
HB – I’m can’t exactly recall, but this might be the same as the standard nib that comes with the pen. I haven’t confirmed that for sure though. This feels very similar the standard pen nib, which has a strong, if even slightly rubbery, surface resistance. This, and the standard pen (if they’re not same thing) both feel great for standard note-taking and precision stroke drawing.
B – the most grippy of the four, but only slightly more so than HB/standard. Truth be told, I had a really hard time discerning the difference between this and HB.
You can find the full post over at WinBeta.org.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I can't believe I haven't updated this post since September 2014. Spring 2015 brings the regular round of 3d application updates!
Many of you have asked, so I have noted where programs support multitouch gestures.
- Illustrator 18.0.0 x64 (CC 2014) - runs (intermittent pen with N-Trig Wintab R16, R17)
- Illustrator CC 17.1.0 x64 - runs (intermittent pen with N-Trig Wintab driver 14-17)
- Illustrator CS5 - runs
- Photoshop 15 (CC 2014) - runs, no Wintab driver required
- Photoshop 14.2.1 x64, CS6 Extended 13.0 x64, CS5 x64 - runs (requires N-Trig Wintab driver 14 or higher)
- Premiere Pro 8.0.0 (169) Build aka CC 2014.0, 7.2.2 (33) - runs
- After Effects 18.104.22.168 (CC 2014), 22.214.171.124 - runs
- Flash Professional 126.96.36.199 (CC 2014), CC 188.8.131.52 - runs
- Substance Painter 0.7.1, 0.5.0 - runs (UI does not scale)
- Substance Designer 4.3.1 - runs (UI does not scale)
- ArtRage 4.0.6, 4.0.5 - runs
- 3DS Max 2016, 2015 SP1 - runs (supports multi-touch)
- Sketchbook Pro 7, 6.2.5 - runs (recommended)
- Maya 2016, 2015 SP2 - runs (2016 supports multi-touch)
- Maya LT 2016 - runs, supports multi-touch
- Mudbox 2016, 2015 SP1 - runs (2016 supports multi-touch), (no multi-touch in 2015)
- Mudbox 2015- no pen or touch, works with mouse or touchpad
- Softimage 2015 - runs
- AZDrawing 1.13 - runs
- Blender 2.71, 2.70 - runs
- CorelDraw X7 184.108.40.2067 - RealTimeStylus support added, all prior versions - no pressure
- Painter 15 220.127.116.115 - runs
- Painter X3 18.104.22.1680 - runs
- Photo-Paint X7 22.214.171.1241 - no pressure
- Modo 801 SP4, SP3, SP2, SP1, 801 - runs
- FireAlpaca 1.0.51 - runs
- GIMP 2.8.10 - runs
- Sketchtime - runs, software not pressure sensitive
- Krita 2.8.3 x64 - runs
Krogh Mortensen Animation
- Plastic Animation Paper 4.0 - runs (can't configure pen buttons)
- Cinema 4D R15.057 - runs
- Fresh Paint - runs
- MyPaint 1.0.0 - runs
- Silo 2.3 - runs
- Chronosculpt 1.0.1 x64 - runs
- Lightwave 3D 11.6.3 x64 - runs
- openCanvas 6.0.02 (64bit) - runs
- 3D-Coat 4.1.04A - runs (DX64 only)
- Sculptris - runs
- ZBrush 4R6 - runs
- Howler 9 4.00.9.2 - runs
- DrawPlus X6 126.96.36.199 x64 - runs
- Houdini FX 14.0.291 - does not run. Program loads, but objects do not display. Touch not supported.
- Sketchable - runs
- Mischief 1.12 - runs
Smith Micro (Celsys)
- Manga Studio 5.0.4 (Clip Studio Paint 1.3.1) - runs
- Paint Tool SAI 1.2.0 - runs
- Verve Painter v0.99u.11 -runs
- Toon Boom Animate Pro 3 PLE - runs
Triple Squid Software
- Moment of Inspiration (MoI3D) 3.0 beta (June 27, March 24, 2014) - runs
- TVPaint 10.5.7 x64 - runs
- Unity 5.0.0f4 - runs
- Unity 4.60b9, 4.5 - runs (requires mouse or touchpad, no pen or touch response)
Huion’s new 21.5-inch Interactive IPS Pen Display, the GT-220, is close to a dream come true.
My issues with the Monoprice are well documented but mainly had to do with its inferior TFT display. The Yiynova is a much better device, but aesthetic and build quality issues leave a lot to be desired.
The GT-220 is attractive, thin, very well constructed, has excellent viewing angles and most importantly a fantastic 2048 level pressure range. In fact, I was so giddy after unboxing my GT-220, hooking it up, installing drivers and testing with Manga Studio that I was tempted to post my review immediately.
If all you use is Manga Studio or Clip Studio Paint, you can stop reading right here and just break out your credit card. (See the convenient Amazon link below. Seriously, this blog needs your support).
But I know you read my reviews for my blunt assessments of the products I test. And as much as I love the GT-220, it’s definitely not without its flaws.
Having already experienced the setup of the Monoprice and Huion W58 pen tablet, I was prepared for what to expect from the installation experience. But even so, it didn't go 100% smoothly.
It's essential when installing Huion drivers to install them before connecting the monitor via USB. In my case, since I already had the GT-190 version installed, I decided to give them a whirl just to see what would happen.
When I plugged in the USB, the pen was immediately recognized and I could run the driver's control panel and even calibrate. But when I tried using Manga Studio, the pen was off by several inches. I guess that the GT-190 driver is tuned to its 1440x900 resolution and doesn't understand the 1920x1080 GT-220.
I uninstalled the older driver and rather than use the installation discs, headed for the Huion website and downloaded the latest version I could find there.
After running the calibration tool and adjusting pen sensitivity, drawing is wonderful. The screen protector has a satiny finish much better suited to the pen's hard plastic nibs than bare glass.
Edge parallax is a bit of a problem, especially in the upper left corner of the display. In Manga Studio, I found myself relying on the Display Application Menu icon located just above the New Canvas tab rather than going up to the file menu. The cursor and the pen tip are perfectly aligned just below the command bar, but at the menu bar, there's about a quarter-inch offset. I can deal with it, but it does require a pause to concentrate to target the menu items.
UPDATE 8/25/14 After working with the GT-220 for several more days, I've become more aware of the device's parallax issues. Besides the cursor drift problems I cite above, the pen display also has a significant gap between the glass and the screen. This separation is more pronounced as you view your work from an angle. In Manga Studio, there is never less than an 1/8-inch gap between the cursor and the pen tip, so inking precisely requires more concentration than I'm accustomed to on Windows tablets. Huion tells me that they're working on improving this via a driver update.
Moving on to Photoshop CC 2014, it took some Googling to learn that the software now requires a PSUserConfig.txt file entry in order to work with any Wintab tablet.
Create a text file named PSUserConfig.txt and place it in the Users/UserName/AppData/Roaming/Adobe/Adobe Photoshop CC 2014/Adobe Photoshop CC 2014 Settings. The contents of the text file should read:
# Use WinTab UseSystemStylus 0
I still couldn't get pen pressure to work until I discovered that Huion just published an updated driver here: http://huion-tablet.tumblr.com/post/95172457923/huion-new-driver-updated-20140818-pressure
No matter what I tried I couldn't get pressure sensitivity in Sketchbook Pro 7. This experience bodes ill for all tablet users as software migrates to RealTimeStylus or Microsoft's INK API. Device manufacturers are going to probably need to issue new drivers for older devices or software developers are going to need to come up with better backward compatibility.
I also tested with Krita Desktop and Paint Tool SAI 1.2 and both worked fine. Corel Painter 2015 recognized pen pressure, but as on other tablets I've tried (including the Surface Pro 3), some brushes have their initial activation pressure set so high many strokes are not recognized.
As of this writing I haven't tried hooking the GT-220 up to a Surface Pro. I'm reluctant to do so with the Surface Pro 3 because I have too much software on it that requires the N-Trig Wintab driver. Installing the Huion drivers will overwrite any Wintab driver on the system. So if you want to use the pen display with a tablet pc, software has to have an easy way to switch between RealTimeStylus (TabletPC) and Wintab. Very few applications handle this as elegantly as Manga Studio/Clip Studio Paint.
As I wrote at the outset, the Huion GT-220 isn't perfect and depending on your software preference may not be useable at the moment. But if you're a Manga Studio/Clip Studio Paint user, it's a great asset despite its few kinks.
I know I'll certainly be very happy with it until someone comes along with a multi-touch capable pen display, a combination only available currently in the highest end Wacom Cintiqs, the 22HD Touch and the 24HD Touch, which retail for $2499 and $2999 respectively. (For a minimum $1600 savings, I can live without mult-touch gestures.)
At the dawn of Windows 8, before I started the quest for knowledge that led to the creation of this blog, I dreamed of finding a penabled all-in-one from one of the major OEMs like Dell or HP. I still can't understand why that hasn't happened.
Perhaps it will be up to Microsoft to make this dream device. I can't help but fantasize about a 22+-inch Surface Pro all-in-one with a Huion digitizer. Now that would be real dream machine.
In the meantime, the $899 Huion Interactive IPS Pen Display GT-220 will turn any pc into the next best thing.
So you're dying to max out your credit card on a new Surface Pro 2 but are worried your favorite won't run. Or you've got the Microsoft wonder tablet but don't want to plunk down a bunch of cash on a graphics app that will blow up your new machine.
Fear not. You've come to the right place. "What Run, What Doesn't V1" was the raison d'etre for this blog and we're proud to present the Surface Pro 2/Windows 8.1 version. Rather than update the original, we'll keep that one in place for anyone who chooses not to update to Windows 8.1. (Don't know why any of you would do that, but we know there are paranoid folks out there who fear change).
Important note: the list below contains only versions I've personally tested on my Surface Pro 2. It's very likely that older versions listed in the original feature will still operate, but we won't be able to re-test those older apps for Windows 8.1 compatibility.
Recommendations are based on UI suitability to pen and touch navigation.
The list below will grow as we install more software. Since most graphics apps limit the number of installations, we're have to be somewhat deliberate in how much we migrate at a time.
As always, if you've got a specific tool you'd like us to test, please let us know in the comments section below.
- Photoshop CC - runs, requires Wacom feel driver, recommend UI scaling hack
- Illustrator CC - runs, requires Wacom feel driver, recommend UI scaling hack
- Substance Painter 0.3.0 (beta) - runs
- ArtRage 4.0.6 - runs, recommended
- 3DS Max 2015, 2014 - runs, mouse strongly recommended
- Maya 2015, 2014 - runs, mouse strongly recommended
- Maya LT 2014 - runs
- Mudbox 2015 SP1 - runs, multi-touch rotation unresponsive. Requires May 21, 2014 Intel HD graphics driver or higher.
- Mudbox 2015*, 2014.5, 2014** - runs, *requires Intel HD display driver update, **crashes on several primitive objects
- Mudbox 2013, 2012 - incompatible, require discrete graphics
- Mudbox 2011 x64 - runs
- Sketchbook Pro 6.2.5, 6.2.4, 6.2.3 - runs, recommended
- Softimage 2015, 2014 - runs, three-button mouse required
- Blender 2.7, 2.69 - runs, mouse recommended
- Clip Studio Paint 1.2.8 (Japanese) - runs
- Clip Studio Paint 1.3.1, 1.2.7 (English) - runs, recommended
- Corel Painter X3 - runs
- DAZ Studio 4.6 - runs
- Shade 3D Professional 14 - runs
- Modo 801 SP1, 801, 701 SP5 - runs
- Inkscape 0.48.4 - runs
The Krita Foundation
- Krita Desktop 188.8.131.52 - runs
- Silo 2.3, 2.2 - runs
- TwistedBrush Pro Studio 20.06 - runs
- Sculptris Alpha 6 - runs, recommended
- ZBrush 4R6 - runs, not recommended due to small UI
- Comic Life 3.0b1 - runs
- DrawPlus X6 - runs
- Mischief 1.11, 1.10, 1.09 - runs, no multi-touch support
- Manga Studio 5.0.4, 5.0.3 - runs, recommended
- Paint Tool SAI 2 (beta), 1.1 - runs, pressure sensitivity works, but there is limited touch rejection. Very easy to leave stray marks. No touch pan, rotate or zoom.
- Metasequoia 4.1.2 (64-bit) - runs
- SketchUp Make 14.0.4900 - runs
Triple Squid Software Design
- Moments of Inspiration (MoI3D) 3.0 beta, 2.0 - runs, recommended
- TVPaint Animation 10 Pro - runs
Unity Pro 4.3.0b6 - runs, requires mouse
Web Technology Corp.
- Comipo! 1.81.00 - runs
UPDATE: Additional testing of the Flip has surfaced a much more serious issue than pen pressure or fan noise. I must recommend that you avoid the device until the issue is corrected. See this post for more information: http://surfaceproartist.com/blog/2013/11/14/the-real-dealbreaker-for-sony-vaio-flip-15a-frequent-loss-of-pen-touch-control
And in case you're interested, Autodesk Sketchbook Pro 6.0.4 runs well and with pressure sensitivity.
* * *
I had the chance to install two additional applications on the Sony VAIO Flip 15 A this afternoon and I'm sorry to report that neither program runs perfectly.
Paint Tool SAI
It doesn't really surprise me that pen pressure in Systemax's Paint Tool SAI v1.1 doesn't work. This version was released in 2008.
I must thanks Twitter follower Dave Barrack (@grrlpowercomic) who explained that pressure sensitivity in SAI is set on a per brush basis under Advanced Settings, Hard <-> Soft.
Unfortunately, no value from 0 to 200 yields a pressure sensitive brush stroke.
The program doesn't have multi-touch support either, so it's not possible to pan or zoom with one's fingers. Though palm rejection works for the most part, it's still possible to create stray marks with one's pinky or knuckle even though the pen is also in the screen's proximity.
There supposedly are more recent beta versions of SAI available for download, but I was unable to find them.
The SAI interface is also not ideal for a tablet. Even on the Flip's ample 15.5 inch screen, touch targets are very small and need to be selected with the pen tip.
UPDATE: Thanks to Twitter follower Yenny (@Nashoki44), I found the latest beta download for SAI 1.2b5. Unfortunately, that version did not correct the lack of pen pressure.
Although the latest update of Ambient Design's ArtRage 4 recognizes pressure and supports multi-touch with the N-Trig digitizer, I was disappointed to learn that it's still possible to create errant marks as you draw.
If you need proof positive that pc manufacturers haven't a clue, look no further than Sony's decision to bundle ArtRage 3.5.5 Studio with each Flip sold in the U.S.
I'm sure that retailers display that program when potential buyers ask about paint capability and I'm equally certain that savvy buyers will quickly cross the Flip off their lists based on its buggy performance. Any finger gesture may result in unwanted drawing and sometimes in the middle of a two finger zoom or even a pen drawing, unwanted lines will start shooting across the screen.
ArtRage 4 has been out at least since the beginning of this year and it has far fewer issues. Why Sony chose to package the older version baffles me.
If you can keep your pinky or knuckle from tapping on the screen as you draw, you'll be very happy with the results. Otherwise, you'll need to stay vigilant and frequently use Undo.