My first impressions with the sp3 i7, i'm an illustrator.

Discussion in 'Microsoft Surface Pro 3' started by romrod, Sep 21, 2014.

  1. romrod

    romrod New Member

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    Hey guys,
    i'm a professional illustrator (you can see my work here and on my blog if you wish to do so) and bought the SP3 i7 because i was hoping to get a one device mobile workstation. Unfortunately as it looks right now the surface pro 3 isn't, because i have to hook up at least a graphic tablet to actually get work done on it.

    Out of the box the drawing experience on the SP3 was abysmal. That didn't come as a suprise, i had described my drawing experience when testing the SP3 in a local store and users on the tabletpcreview forums pointed out, that driver updates were drastically improving the drawing experience. So i did all the updates and the drawing experience improved.
    I installed Manga Studio and Photoshop CC (on my desktop pc i run Manga Studio 5 EX and Photoshop CS5 Ex) and had to do a re-install of Manga Studio because for some reason at first i had massive cursor lag in Manga Studio (and Manga Studio only). A reinstall fixed that mostly.
    So making sure i had all software updated i decided to go through a few joblike scenarios. I sat down yesterday to solely use the SP3 to create a storyboard frame and a few landscape speedpaintings. It didn't work out well.

    Creating a storyboard frame lineart drawing usually takes me about 40min. With the sp3 it took me close to 2,5h. This is mainly due to the inaccuracy of the pen. I had to zoom in to 200-300% in Manga Studio to be able to somewhat draw lines where i needed them. I still had to do each stroke multiple times but in the end i managed to get a drawing that was somewhat rougher than my usual stuff, but useable.
    To match the lineart appearance to the lineart drawings that i usually do i had to adjust the brush pressure curve in Manga Studio for each brush that i wanted to use.
    I then switched to Photoshop CC to do the coloring. Blocking in flats worked as fast and almost as good as usual. Doing selections, filling and going in with a 100% opacity round brush to fill up the spaces up to the lineart. The actual brushwork though didn't really work out. After pushing the minimum opacity value of my brushes to about 50-60% i was able to achieve a somewhat useable endresult, but it was tedious and to be honest i wouldn't want to show such a frame to a client that hired me based on my portfolio. It was ok'ish if you didn't look to closely. Print 5 such frames on a A4 sheet of paper and your good, 2 frames per sheet and the lack of refinement will start to show. 1frame per sheet, blown up to A3 or a projection presentation or testing ... no way.

    Next were some landscape speedpaintings. I did those in Photoshop CC with my usual brushes. Most of my brushes are set to opacity modulation on pen pressure, often there's also texture and scatter involved also dependant on pen pressure. Not a single brush was usable out of the box. It always felt as if i had accidantly pushed the general brush opacity to about 10%. Texture/Scatter modulation was hardly achievable. I could again compensate a bit by pushing the min. values to about 50-60%, but that kills a lot of room for modulation and really isn't good enough.

    Because i didn't get anywhere with my brush based speedpaintings, i decided to try another technique. Switching to lasso-tool, masks and the gradient tool i was able to produce speedpaintings that looked good enough. That's not too suprising because using this techique i didn't really need the pen pressure ability of the sp3 pen. In theory i could achieve the same results with a mouse with this technique.

    After about 8hours of working solely on the sp3 i was very disappointed. As is the sp3 is not useable as a mobile workstation for my purposes. I cannot do accurate lineart drawings on it, i cannot paint on it.
    So with little to loose i decided to install wacom drivers and hook up a intuos 3 graphic tablet that we had lying around. I would have hooked up my old Cintiq 21UX but unfortunately i don't have a mDP to DVI-I adapter.
    I have not used a graphics tablet for i think a good 7 years, i've always been working on Cintiqs and i currently mainly use a Cintiq 24 hdt.
    But even after seven years of not using a graphics tablet i was able to draw better lineart drawings with the intuos 3 than i was able to do with the sp3. And quicker as well.

    I will be working at a clients offices for the next three days. I'll take the sp3 with, but i'll also take with the intuos 3 and i'm considering taking with the 21UX and a old laptop which i know i can hook up to the 21UX.
    As mentioned before for my purposes the SP3 i7 256gbyte doesn't work as a mobile workstation. It looks nice, it feels nice. But it doesn't work.

    If you are an illustrator who needs accurate pen input and pen pressure and who's considering the SP3 i would advise you to wait and see if Microsoft will release a pen pressure control panel. Because if they don't you won't get happy with the SP3, i certainly won't and i'll probably return it before my 30days are up.

    Best,Steven
     
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  2. grumpy

    grumpy Active Member

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    You may want to give the SP2 a try. It might give you a better pen experience since it uses a Wacom digitizer.
     
  3. romrod

    romrod New Member

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    The SP2 is too small for me. If i have to return the SP3 i will give the Cintiq Companion a try, even though the cintiq companions hardware is hardly worth the price they are asking for it. Or look for another >12" device.
     
  4. GreyFox7

    GreyFox7 Super Moderator Staff Member

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  5. romrod

    romrod New Member

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    I don't know what OOB and YOIYO stands for.
    I'm familiar with Surfaceproartists blog and also with the linked to surface-blog-post.
    The surface blog post was written on may 22nd. It's now september 21st. No pen pressure control panel has been released afaik. So if you're not using Manga Studio/Clip Studio Paint you don't have a chance to adjust the pen pressure curve.
    As i mentioned with Manga Studio i was able to get to a somewhat similar brush-look through adjusting the pen pressure curve. Here's the thing though... you have to do that for every single brush. That might be 3 brushes, or 10, or 200.
    It is not possible to simply take your brushes from your desktop setup, load them onto the sp3, load Manga Studio and draw like you are used to. Far from it.

    As for accuracy... the pen calibration module doesn't really help much with pen accuracy. At least i didn't notice it. I've calibrated and recalibrated again and again and really it doesn't improve the accuracy noticeably.
    Also when loading the module the first time you get a 16point calibration, when loading it up a second time you only get 4 point calibration unless you reset to default before.
    It is my impression that the calibration module helps accuracy a bit close to the edges, enabling you to hit menus etc. on the edge of the screen. But it doesn't improve overall pen accuracy to a point where you're able to draw reliably.

    Yes your mileage may vary. That's why i linked to my work and described what i was doing, so everybody who reads this thread is able to judge for themselves if their work scenario might be somewhat similar.
     
  6. GreyFox7

    GreyFox7 Super Moderator Staff Member

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    That's why I linked the other articles. So people could judge for themselves.
    OOB Out of Box
    YOIYO your opinion is your opinion.
     
  7. ctitanic

    ctitanic Well-Known Member

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    Your opinion is valuable. That's all I can say.
     
  8. wertzius

    wertzius Member

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    You could also try another pen. The HTC Scribe Pen has a completely different pressure feeling.
     
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  9. benjitek

    benjitek Active Member

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    I think the pen is more for note-taking and light graphics work.
     
  10. ctitanic

    ctitanic Well-Known Member

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    That's true.
     
  11. BillJ

    BillJ Active Member

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    I want to thank the OP for offering his experience to this forum. It is indeed very helpful to hear from people who have specific uses for new technology.
    I conclude from his statements that the SP3 will not replace a full-sized Wacom tablet for his needs.

    I think this is fair, and we shouldn't feel threatened by this at all. It is like a NASCAR driver saying that your Ford hybrid will not win him any races.

    By hearing from tech uses with specific needs, the designers of these devices will be able to determine which improvements to make; we will all benefit from this in the long run
     
  12. ctitanic

    ctitanic Well-Known Member

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    I totally agree. I have learned a lot and tried to transmit his experience to the appropriate channels.
     

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