My Transition to Surface Pro and Manga Studio

Painting in Manga Studio 5
Painting in Manga Studio 5

My fellow creative-industry Apple users: prepare thyselves. Heresy lies ahead. You may not like what I have to say. You may think I’m batty. That’s fine. For myself, I’m at the end of a months-long quest for a more flexible workflow, and I’m having quite a bit of fun. It was a bumpy road getting here, but for me, moving my digital art production from a giant Cintiq to the Surface Pro was the right move. If you have a similar desire to break your desk-bound chains and put on the shackles of forever having your work with you, read on. We can share the crazy.

Evil? No, no, creative person. Not evil.
Evil? No, no, creative person. Not evil.

What I wanted: a truly portable Cintiq replacement with good ergonomics (boo to you, tablet PC), a full OS (boo to you, Samsung Note) and enough horsepower to run professional software with ease (boo to most of the rest of you). Tablet PCs (as opposed to slate PCs/hybrids/whathaveyous) have been around for ages, and initially, I tried one of the latest and greatest, the Fujitsu T902.

Blech.
Blech.

It had tons of power (16 GB of RAM) and the standard Wacom digitizer, but it proved problematic for several reasons. Its hardware was awkward and difficult to hold (for me), its drivers were frustratingly glitchy, and its screen was lackluster. On paper, its hardware specs meant that all my software would run well, so I really wanted to like it. In the end, it just wasn’t the right fit, so I returned it and continued the hunt.

I was initially turned off from the Surface Pro for its smaller screen and RAM limit of 4 GB. Photoshop users who work on large color files know the importance of RAM. Illustrating for print, 4 GB is adequate, but 8GB can make a dramatic difference. To that end, I started looking at a new Thinkpad called the Helix that’s very similar to the Surface Pro, with some nice perks. It has a larger screen, double the pen sensitivity, better battery life, better keyboard, and the option for 8GB of RAM. Unfortunately, it was supposed to come out in January, but missed its ship date several times over, and as of now, it’s still not widely available. After purchasing that T902, I sold my Cintiq, because I play it fast and loose like that. After returning the T902, I was without a digital art tool. You may ask why someone who makes their living with digital art tools would put themselves in such a position. To you, I say, in a child of Bill Cosby voice, “I-DOH-NOH!”

Bye-Bye, Behemoth.
Bye-Bye, Behemoth.

There’s been a lot of mixed press around the Surface, and a whole bunch of Apple users (I’ve been one for years) will forever be set against anything non-Apple. For them, the closest option in this category is the Modbook Pro, but it lacks a keyboard, has a non-touch optimized OS, and is ridiculously expensive. Like, three times the price of a Surface Pro expensive.

Back to the Surface, there’s also the concern for digital artists that several months after its release, it still lacks a pressure-sensitive driver for WinTab coded software. All this gobbledygook means is that the Adobe Creative Suite, Painter, and other major creative applications lack pressure support (imagines self as Microsoft engineer and smacks head). Usually, you can just download a Wacom driver and apply it to a system like this, but in this case, Microsoft monkeyed with the Wacom hardware/software and made it proprietary, meaning, no driver for you. Yikes. Another annoying issue in trying to run the Creative Suite on the Surface: you can’t hold and click the tool bars to access sub-tools with the pen. It’s some kind of problem with the driver not registering a click-and-hold in Adobe software. Beats me. At any rate, those are big points against the Surface. Will these problems be fixed? Microsoft tells me so, but it was almost enough to get me off the boat, until I made an important discovery called Manga Studio 5. More on that later.

Newmar-riffic.
Newmar-riffic.

So what does the Surface Pro get right? I like the shape of it, I like the portability, I like the quality of the screen, in spite of its high resolution making some interface elements tiny. Bifocal users, beware. Ironically, one of its best qualities for my use-case is something Microsoft never intended – laying the screen and keyboard flat so I can work on an inclined surface, like a drafting table, and have access to keyboard shortcuts. One of the things I disliked about my Cintiq was the clunky nature of using a keyboard for shortcuts when that big screen was taking up so much desk space. Wacom tries to fix this by giving you programmable buttons on the Cintiq itself, but somehow those are never enough for me. I guess I use mad keyboard shortcuts. With the Surface, my keyboard shortcuts are directly under that little screen in a very convenient place. It works well for me, especially after I built a little custom lapboard, which supports the keyboard in a solid way and holds everything in place. This way I can use the machine on my desk or on my lap equally well.

One trip to Home Depot later.
One trip to Home Depot later.

Right now, people are either shaking their heads in disbelief or nodding them with nerdly DIY approval. Again, I’m having fun, and it actually works. I can pack the little lapboard in my backpack with the Surface, and head to my studio, or a client’s office, and go to work with naught more than a chair. Just a couple days ago I worked on contract for a local design firm and did 100 storyboards in seven hours with this setup.

But what about the Creative Suite, and all that driver brokenness?

Soon after I picked up the Surface, I faced that problem. I had a job I needed to do, and no functional Creative Suite with which to do it. I went looking for a temporary solution. It turns out that some very good software does support Microsoft’s drivers, including Sketchbook Pro and Manga Studio. I’d never given Manga Studio a chance, because I was so used to Photoshop and got turned off by the clunky interface of older versions. People lauded it, but I was too stubborn and set in my ways. I knew Photoshop wasn’t a good replacement for drawing with pen and paper, so I didn’t expect Manga Studio to be much better. I figured Wacom hardware was the main limit between what I could get from traditional media and what I could get from digital. With digital tools, I’ve been used to getting maybe 50% of the control and finesse I can achieve with good old pencils and brushes on paper- that’s with the pro-grade Cintiq. It’s fine for coloring, edits, and quick and dirty jobs like storyboarding, but from what I’d experienced, it couldn’t hold its own against pencils and paper.

Manga Studio changed that for me in a big way.

Get your Gorshin on with Manga Studio 5.
Get your Gorshin on with Manga Studio 5.

With its latest version (5), Manga Studio has a fancy-pantsy new brush engine. What was already markedly better than Photoshop became hugely better with this latest release. I can now get results that are 90-95% of what I’d expect to get with traditional media, and that’s just the brush engine. There’s also superior capabilities in terms of layout, coloring, and perspective tools. I came to my studio as an evangelist, and immediately got 15 colleagues to make the leap with me. So far, everyone’s digging it, and thanks to the new version’s UI being similar to Photoshop’s, the transition hasn’t been difficult.

They aren’t even paying me to say this, but listen: If you’re an illustrator and haven’t given Manga Studio 5 a shot, please do. I think you’ll be pleased. The current Debut version lacks a few of the capabilities of their previous EX version, but an update’s coming this summer that adds those features back in. In the meantime, you have a fantastic piece of software that has all the brush-creation, actions, CMYK color space, and tools you never thought of, for like, so little money it’s hard to take seriously. Try it.

Pencils in Manga Studio.
Pencils in Manga Studio.

I made the switch to doing all my comics pencils in Manga Studio on the Surface with Batman ’66, which I’m leading off for DC. Likewise, an Eerie short story for Dark Horse. This is an example of my Manga Studio blue-line art, and it’s really indistinguishable from my traditional pencils. I can then print it out on our large format printer and ink it traditionally. That way I don’t have to spend my whole life in front of a screen, and I have original art to sell if I choose to do that (and choose to do that, I will).

Batman

But even if I didn’t want to do inks traditionally, it’s possible to get really good inking results on the Surface with Manga Studio. Here’s an example of our launch art. After they had me execute this (pencils in Manga Studio, then inked traditionally), DC came back and requested I expand all the characters to full figures. I was able to bring the original art into Manga Studio (I’d already colored it there) and expand each figure and their colors with seamless results.

Those elfin shoes crack me up.
Those elfin shoes crack me up.

I’ve even started playing with digital painting, which I haven’t done before, using the Surface/Manga Studio combo, and I’m really digging the results. It makes me want to get out my oil paints, and that’s about as high a compliment as I can pay a digital tool (I’ve kept those paints in a box since college).

By the way, when you get Manga Studio, as you will, be sure to check out Ray Frenden’s MS5 brush set. I’m using it daily, and it’s fabulous.

So that’s my journey so far. There seems to be a lot more on the horizon in terms of these portable solutions, so things will only get better. For the sake of artists who will never leave the Apple ecosystem, it would be great if Cupertino tried their hand at something like this, but Steve Jobs once said, “if they include a stylus, they’ve failed”, so that’s probably not gonna happen. Even so, if you’re well heeled enough to have two Cintiq-like devices, one for your office, and one for the road, I’d recommend something along the lines of the Surface.

Or just be crazy like me. Bite the bullet and make this your sole computer/art tablet/etc. It’s scary, but it’s also the first time that upgrading to a new system actually made me money, since I sold my Cintiq and Macbook for much more than the Surface cost (and they were both four years old).

And now I can run free as bird, unchained by the… oh, yeah. Work’s with me everywhere now.

Back to it!

 

 

 

191 Replies to “My Transition to Surface Pro and Manga Studio”

  1. Jonathan – for giggles, have a look at Fresh Paint in the Windows Store (it’s free). Obviously not in the same ballpark as your regular tools, but for playing with pseudo oil paints it’s fun.

  2. I’ve been wary of buying the surface because of its lack of pressure sensitivity but after reading your write up and two others about Sketchbook and Manga Studios having sensitivity I bought one…and bought Manga Studios. No pressure sensitivity in Manga Studios. No refund either. Not thrilled

  3. Rest assured, there is pressure sensitivity in Manga Studio. You may not have switched the pressure driver from ‘WinTAB’ to ‘Tablet PC’ in Manga Studio’s preferences.

  4. You’re my hero dude. I literally bought the tablet and software today and have been so anxious to finally have a portable digital drawing device I overlooked the setting. Thanks so much

  5. Surface Pro looks really nice coming from a teen writer, student, and animator (stop motion) I could use the stylus in so many ways. Like ever try the Sketchbook Pro app in the store? it is really good for sketching. I would use that as a sci-fi writer to model stuff like: planets, ships, people, etc and then make a 3-D model in Trimble Sketch-Up and if I was rich I could afford to print them out in a 3-D makerbot printer. but alas i can’t afford a beautiful Surface Pro (getting the ATIV smart pc because it has a stylus, windows 8, good cameras, and some ports. nor can i afford a 3-D printer 🙁 so hats off to you for getting a Surface Pro because I want one soooooo bad!!!

  6. Surface Pro coming to Belgium by end of May.

    Surface Pro will launch before the end of May in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Surface Pro will launch in Korea, Malaysia, Russia, Singapore, and Thailand before the end of June.

    Source: http://blog.surface.com/b/surface/archive/2013/04/23/expanding-surface-pro-and-surface-rt-availability.aspx

  7. Hey, how does Manga Studio do in emulation of steel-nib marks? I prefer to use a combination of crowquill, speedball, and one or two narrow-guage flexible steel chiselpoints on bridtol for inking, and so far all the digital implementations in various apps I’ve used really only tackle brush-like marks, leaving angled-nib effects to lame “calligraphic marker” brushes that are poor for fine-line work and lack decent end-of-line dynamics.

  8. Do not fear the ATIV, I have one and it is very much a capable little tablet. I use Sketchbook all the time on it and it is responsive and smooth. 🙂 Only major issue is it can be a bit flaky with palm detection.

  9. Hi Mike-

    I don’t use pens much in my work, so I can’t speak with authority, but I can say that Manga Studio’s end-of-line dynamics is its major selling point for me. It’s much better than Photoshop or Sketchbook Pro. Ray Frenden’s brush set includes some brushes that specifically emulate pens. I’ve played around with them some for lettering purposes, and find them to be really nice. If you check out his work, he gets pretty amazing results with fine crosshatching in MS5.

  10. Yeah, I looked at that one myself. Palm detection on the Surface is much better than I expected, and that may be a result of the limited drivers (Microsoft’s own API vs. WinTAB).

  11. Any chance you could share how you created the custom lapboard? I’d love something similar for my Surface. Great write-up regardless, thanks for the info!

  12. I find that with all of Manga Studio’s toolbars and sidebars, I only have a tiny portion of screen left for actual work.

    I can sort of see in your photos that you’ve moved some things around to make more room — could you talk about your layout?

  13. Yeah, that was annoying for me at first, but just press Tab to toggle all those menus away. It’s very handy, especially on a small screen like the Surface’s. I usually keep my layers and tools/subtools open, then Tab them on and off as I work.

  14. You’ve definitely but a bug in my ear on this one. I’ve been drooling over a Cintiq for years, but I never once considered that the Surface Pro could not only give me an infinite sketchbook with which to practice and become better, but also it could be portable!

    Hmm…now I so want one.

  15. Thanks for the response. I see that MS5 is cross plat; I have a midsize cintiq which I love due to the wacom-ness. I’ve been diligently working through the stuff available for the iPad and found it OK, capable, something you can adjust to, but basically still simply not as responsive as actual paper and ink. Procreate on iPad is somewhat superior to the available options but even with a BT pressure-sensitive stylus for inking applications and end-of-line expression, the Cintiq is better and paper remains best.

    I think the route for me here is to buy MS5 and check it out; if it’s passable (and it sounds like it might be) I should start looking for a gig where I can pop the Surface into the supply budget.

  16. I too am interested in your custom lapboard. It looks like the Helix is finally available, but it doesn’t look like you can lie it flat. I think I’d prefer the setup you’re using with the lapboard.

  17. I’m curious as to how you built that lapboard. I’ve been using Sketchbook Pro for a few weeks now so I haven’t needed to use keyboard shortcuts much, but now that I’m trying Manga Studio, having access to the keyboard would be beneficial. Looks like you’ve two two pieces of wood on a hinge with some straps for the display…

  18. Great article. I think I am going to get Manga Studio 5 and play around. Do you use the surface pro pen or another stylus?…and have you considered changing the nibs? Does the eraser on the pen work in Manga Studio?

  19. I just got the Wacom Bamboo Feel Carbon, and I find it to be more accurate. The default pen is certainly nothing to sneeze at, though. It was getting the job done. The eraser does work, across all programs I’ve used.

  20. Manga Studio does have support for pressure sensitivity on Surface Pro. You have to switch it from WinTab to Tablet PC. That should get the pen pressure working in Manga Studio 5.

  21. I’ve used MS5 on my desktop for awhile now, but would love to be able to move back into my studio, so thanks for this. Also, which tool did you use for your pencils? I have been going straight to digital inks, but publishers are requesting pencils and I can’t find ones I like. Yours look really good.

  22. I love the Surface Pro as well, but I wouldn’t blame the Microsoft engineer for the lack of broad pen support.

    Wintab is a third party driver that many software packages use, and it’s a patent nightmare. While Microsoft has had it’s own MS Ink API around for quite some while, some software companies, including Adobe, have refused to adopt it, mainly due to laziness.

    Adobe claims that it would mean a complete rewrite of their Core software, when there’s no technical reason this is true. Much like Manga Studio (and ArtRage Tec) they would have to add support for the free MS API, but they just haven’t bothered.

    Their response on this has been quite disappointing, actually. While I use Adobe products professionally, I’ve all but given up on Photoshop for digital art, having switched to Sketchbook Pro a while ago, but am looking into Manga Studio for some comics work.

    There’s quite the thread about the driver situation (circa 2009) in the Adobe forums for the curious…

    http://forums.adobe.com/message/1994115#1994115

    Though it’s worth pointing out that while in 2009 the MS Ink API was somewhat deficient, it’s now as good or superior than WinTab, with 3D and tilt support, as well as better multitouch and palm rejection methods.

    Sorry for the geekout, but I’ve been using digital pens since the days of the Amiga, and even had the first Wacom tablet hooked up to and Amiga back in the early-mid 90s before that platform disappeared.

  23. Yeah, I’m definitely aware of the issues with Wintab vs. Ink, but I don’t think it’s reasonable that Asus, Fujitsu, Samsung, etc. all ship tablet systems with the same Wacom digitizer and still provide a way to install a WinTab driver, while Microsoft’s flagship device does not. If every other manufacturer is able to incorporate a solution by simply allowing a driver download from Wacom, you would think MS could do likewise until they convince the world to adopt their API- because it’s not just Adobe. There are quite a few other pieces of pro software (Painter, and I think ZBrush among them) that still need a WinTab driver to work.

  24. Frendens brushes look pretty slick. You’ve helped me with something obvious once can you do so again as I am still learning the Manga Studio aspect. How do I install the brushes to MS on the surface? Noob I am

  25. I believe Frenden includes instructions in a PDF along with the brush set that are clearer than I can be, but you essentially just go to your sub tool area and click the little button in the upper corner. That should give you a drop down list of options, including the option to add brushes.

  26. I’ve been a fan of MS for illustration for a couple of years now. I discovered Frenden’s brushes for MS4 a bout a year ago and they’ve become the favourites in my custom toolset. MS itself is a pretty incredible package — for the money as you say. It works fantastic and very smoothly even on my ol’ Toshiba M200 (Win XP).

    Another fantastic natural brush engine– even smoother and with more control is built into a package from France which I only recently discovered. It’s been around since 1991 and it’s called TV Paint. It’s principally for animation but if you’re fearless about exploring digital paint/drawing tools definitely worth a look, if only to give the trial a spin. Hefty ticket for the full package, but it is really awesome.

    I noticed you mentioned the Samsung Note. I’ve got one which I use to sketch a bit with. So far, the best app for that has been AutoDesk Sketchbook — until I discovered there was a TVPaint Android beta that was released and it’s actually fhe full version ported over to Android. Tiny, almost impossible to find/use icons and palettes –BUT, the brush engine smokes anything out there — including AutoDesk. The watercolor and paint brushes in particular are incredible. The guess is that the final Android release will be very affordable and maybe more centered around the natural paint engine.

    Thanks for your intersting article.

  27. If you want to check out the TVPaint Android beta, just beware that it’s only good to the end of this month. They haven’t announced yet where they’re going from there.

    Note too that TVPaint is also available for OSx. Trial version are available at tvpaint.com

    There’s a PDF manual that comes with it, as well as online videos at that site. Somethings are a little quirky in translation, but you should get the hang of it if you block out an afternoon.

    Brush controls include advanced channels like tilt and rotation, if you have a Cintiq to play with, you might want to check that out. In the video tutorials there’s one showing how to make a pencil into a ‘two-mode’ tool using tilt to kick in a wide shading nib — that sort of thing.

    As in the case of Manga Studio, I often wonder why foreign software publishers don’t spend a little more time (and cash) on coming up with product names that ‘ring’ better. ‘TV Paint’ just sounds like something from Nintendo, circa 1996.

    Wait a sec, you have to be careful with brandname calling. Even the humble Nintendo DS has some awesome potential in the right hands: http://goo.gl/lhRS5 (few people realize that the DS has built-in 16 level pressure built-in. Nintendo kind of hushed that up and kept it out of the developer kit too — it is a little too flakey for serious game play purposes)

    Another hardware thing I’ve been considering for my TabletPC drawing is a micro keyboard. Yep, another piece to carry, but more and more I am sketching with the Tablet PC open as a laptop anyways. I really liked your idea of building a lapboard for your MS Surface. Hm… maybe there’s a way to build a lightweight board to do this with my Toshiba.

    And what about the Surface’s stylus data channels? I know the drivers are still pretty young, but is the gear capable of supplying tilt and angle?

    You have heard that Wacom announced plans to release their own tablet, right?

    Makes me wonder how long Apple can hold out on their ‘stylus free’ status. Reminds me of back in the day when Adobe used to loudly complain that postscript apps should never include transparency functions — and then years later quietly rewrote the proprietary end of postscript to insure that their software did transparency even better.

    Cheers.

  28. How is the battery life when you use Manga Studio? ( I want to pick up the surface for illustrator, i’m assuming the battery life should be similar with both programs. )

  29. Loved this article. I recently took the plunge, but a quick question. When I bought my Surface Pro last week at Best Buy, they installed this Zagg shield. It was terrible: super lag on the pen. I took it off and the results were lag free. So my question: Do you keep a screen protector on your Surface Pro? If so, which. Thanks. Love the art and the insight.

  30. I got the Incipio protector as part of a package from Microsoft. It’s smooth (I used Zagg on one of my old phones, and recall it being sort of bumpy). This screen protector works great. No problems with the pen.

  31. I’m an illustrator and I was looking into the surface pro. My brother who is a computer engineer actually has it and I was talking to him about the problem with win tab and pressure sensitivity so he did a little digging and found out that the missing wintab drivers/add ons (idk I’m not the computer engineer haha) are going to be coming soon!

    TL;DR my brother found out that this pressure sensitivity will be fixed because the missing driver things are coming soon. WOOP. Surface pro here I come yo.

  32. I just found this post today, and in the nick of time. I’ve been searching for a new computer to work on for a while, and was against getting a Surface until I knew for sure that I could use MS and Photoshop on it. One question, though: You mentioned that you now print your pencils off and ink by hand. How do you print them off for inking? If you have a blog already about it, I’d love to read about the process.

  33. You mentioned Frenden’s brushes and they’re great, love ’em. Zac Gorman also has a few brushes out for sale and they’re pretty nice too for just just a buck. His pencil tool is the nicest I’ve seen.

  34. I’m not too familiar with terms for different pens, but as far as I know, Manga Studio has always tried to mimic the look of fountain pen nibs, having options like “G-pen ” and “turnip pen”, which I know are fountain pen nibs often used in Japan for making manga and comics.

  35. I was wondering how responsive your surface pro pen is. I have a surface pro but I find that I need to press down harder against the tablet to get a click/stroke to register, compared to my bamboo tablet where just the slightest touch would make a mark. I mean the sensitivity is probably the same as a bamboo tablet, but I need to press down harder to get the tablet to register that the pen is being pressed down.

  36. Hey Jonathan, love the article, and think it would be great to see a bit more on that DIY lap pad you’ve got set up. I would love to build one out myself, and was curious as to how you went about it and if it’s working well still! Thanks a lot, I direct a lot of people to this article for the low down on this device as an artist!

  37. Came across your blog and this very topic, which I’m very curious about, as I am in need of acquiring vector-based software and thought I saw something about this functionality with Manga Studio 5. Assuming this software is able to convert hand-drawn line art into smooth vector lines, how easy is that process to initiate, any sort of learning curve to be aware of? I’ve got a client that needs me to do a project PDQ. Thanks in advance for your help!

  38. Hi, great text! But I hear that surface pro have overheat problem, what is your expirience? tnx, Marko

  39. Hello friend, I am interested in the laptop and I think I believe everything you say perfectly … I basically want to design clothing and graphic screen printing, not for something as advanced as 3D or photo retouching … Would you prefer the helix surface lenovo or pro?

  40. I’m looking to go to college for animation or possibly graphic design. I was wondering if getting a surface would be a good idea or not. I was looking for something that I could hopefully do drawing, animating, possible even 3D modeling with. From what I’ve seen it seems to do great with the drawing aspect, do you think it has enough power for animating in 2D possibly 3D? I say possibly because I built a PC that can handle almost everything, I just wanted another device that I could carry around and do work on, I haven’t purchased a drawing tablet ever, and I thought it would be better to just get a tablet I could draw on, I want to be able to draw on the screen, not a plastic sheet where I have to guess where I’m drawing.

  41. P.S. That last sentence was a huge run-on.

    P.P.S. I saw your drawings in todays SourceFedNERD youtube video.

  42. Hi Benjamin- I don’t use 3D programs much, but sketchup runs fine, and I know people use machines like the Surface Pro for ZBrush. I doubt it would be up to a Maya or 3D Studio challenge, but I really don’t know. Send me a link to that youtube video if you would!

  43. This post convinced me to purchase Manga Studio 5 and I’m loving it. I’ve never liked any of the color work i’ve done digitally before untill i got manga Studio.

    I actually have the Samsung Equivalent to the surface pro. The Samsung 700T. mainly opted for it over the surface pro fro the extra inch of screen realestate.

    Just wanted to say thanks for convincing me to buy Manga Studio and to let you know I was linking to this post on my site tomorrow.

  44. i’d say wait till it comes with haswell. haswell is going to be so much more powerful, the battery life is a lot better, and it will be “future proof” better than ivy bridge.

  45. Very interesting read. So much of what you’re saying mirrors my own journey. I have one of the “blech” tablet PCs. It’s clunky and all that, but it works very well. But I also use it on my drafting table and obviously came across similar experiences to what you’re describing. Initially I was excited about the Surface Pro, until I found that the screen would be so small and landscape. That killed it completely for me. I also looked long and hard at the exact same Fujitsu you have there in the pic! Instead, I bought a Cintiq. The Cintiq is amazing, but the software matters, and it takes time to get the buttons assigned in a way that allows you to work fluidly. But I definitely prefer the Cintiq over the tablet PC if for no reason other than the huge screen.

    It’s too bad all new Windows tablets are focused on competing with ipads and Android tablets. There’s no real focus for graphic work so we’re lucky we can get these tools to work for us.

    And the one question I always pose to all my Mac loving friends is this. If Apple is the better choice for graphics professionals, then shouldn’t Apple have been the company pioneering such tools as the tablet PC?

  46. Jonathon, I’m very glad I ran across your blog… I’ve been a frustrated owner of the new Sony Duo 11, which features the ‘Wintab challenged’ N-Trig digitizer. So I’ve been limited to SBP and Artrage. Manga 5 seems to offer what I wanted Photoshop for… a professional app with great brushes capable of blending with pressure. Ray’s brushes make all of the difference! I’m not getting pressure sensitivity however… I’m not sure if I’m missing a setting, or it’s as Wintab feature? I seem to recall and upstream comment of yours suggesting that you had palm rejection before Wacom released the new Pro drivers, so I would think you have it using TabletPC option. The new Sony Duo 13 might be good choice for some folks now that there is a good software choice for art. But even better is that new ATIV Q hybrid. Holy Cow! PS., ditto on TVP for the Galaxy Note 10.1. Its interface is not very tablet friendly but the brushes are better than other Android apps. Android still needs a killer art app IMO… something like Procreate.

  47. Hi Jorj. Before the wacom driver came out, I was using Manga Studio with pressure sensitivity via the TabletPC toggle in preferences. I don’t know if that will work with the N-trig, but it should. Good luck!

  48. In your opinion ( not only yours, any other open minded guy here 🙂 ) the Galaxy Note 10.1 isn’t worh the money for a digital artist ? I’m aware of the lack of an decent Android art app, but it got potential, S-Pen is neat too. But it is a matter of cost. Here in Brazil, comes down to this prices.

    Galaxy Note 10.1 – Around 500 USD ( american dollars ), that is it.

    Ipad 3 – Roughly if you found cheap or with discount 750~800, this is the most cheap you can get…

    Major problem is the Surface Pro.

    If you find cheap here you pay 1.350~1.500 USD, that is the price of a near top-tear PC here. It is worth that much in your opinion ?

    Thanks man

  49. Hi

    I am also looking something portable that you can take outside or in the sofa for sketching and illustrating. Initially i was thinking iPad since it also has some nice drawing and painting apps but pens accuracy and pressure is big issue, therefore surface sounds much more interesting. But how well can you use it without keyboard. I don´t find dragging keyboard around very appealing. I have manga studio 5 and ps, sketchbook pro, zbrush, art rage that i would use with it. (I do have cintiq 24hd but sometimes its just nice to get out of your office and also cintiq is bit clunky and big, keyboard placement is issue and screen is bit darkish and dpi is low, especially compared to tablets that has same or better res in much smaller screen).

  50. It works fine as just a tablet for art. Manga Studio, as you know, has a better mouse-based interface than Photoshop, so you can work fairly efficiently. Also, the new Wacom driver allows for more pen-based shortcuts. I just never remove the keyboard.

  51. If you’re considering the Galaxy Note but don’t want to pay Surface Pro prices, you might look at the Asus VivoTab or the Thinkpad Tablet 2. Those are less expensive (less powerful too, but better for productivity than a Note). Good luck!

  52. Hi, well i need it for working and i already have software for windows/mac so win 8 tablet would be best with good quality full hd screen (unless apple finally decides to implement proper pen tech into next iPad, then ipad would be interesting also). Anyway maybe some small apple-ish bluetooth keyboard might be handy enough with surface for shortcuts even when drawing on couch or outside.

    By the way what do you think are advantages/disadvantages compared to cintiq. I do use mine (24hd) quite a lot but there are several things that bug me. Size for one, keyboard is quite far away on the left so its ergonomically not the most comfortable thing to work with, also i tend to draw/paint in small area anyway, then screen quality is not so great, my iMac and pc screens are both superior over cintiq, more vivid and sharp. Also the gap between pen tip and screen is more then i would like.

  53. One more question since you have used manga studio 5 with mac and cintiq. Did you experience high lag occasionally. I have had this lag issue quite often when the brush really starts to drag, like reeaally slow motion. Not so in pc though. Its very random and unpredictable, sometimes lag comes with very simple drawing, sometimes works fine with lots of layers. Only quitting manga studio removes the lag, for a while. I havent tested latest wacom drivers though since it drove me nuts and i installed manga studio on my pc.
    Cheers!

  54. I haven’t experienced that lag issue, sorry!

    As far as comparing it to working on a Cintiq, I like it much better for the ergonomic reasons you bring up. I’m more in control of the device’s placement, and with my own system, I have perfect access to the keyboard shortcuts that are essential to my workflow. As far as the performance of the digitizer vs. the Cintiq, it’s kind of a wash for me. I also draw on a relatively small area, so even if I’m working across multiple windows on the 10 inch screen, I’m comfortable. It just took a little time to adjust.

  55. Can you disable finger-touch while drawing so you don’t cause cursor issues when the side of your hand touches the screen? I am using an ASUS EP121 and I have “finger touch” disabled so it’s not an issue, hoping I can do something similar with Surface Pro.

  56. Mr. Case! Big fan, big fan!

    Really thankful I came upon your your column! I almost plunked down the money for the T902 and your information on the Surface makes it sound much more desirable.

    I work on a HP Touchsmart tm2 with a 10.1″ and I’m looking for a larger drawing area.

    The rumored 14.6″ Microscoft Surface has me really excited now (after your review of the current model).

    I’m so hopeful to hear something soon on the larger screen front.

    Again, very thankful for your thoughts on the Surface and Manga Studio 5!

  57. I’ve been using a tablet pc and sketchbook pro and manga studio for years now but its far from elegant.

    Looking for ways to move forward, I found this review. Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences. I’m looking at a Surface Pro a little more, now.

  58. I have a Surface Pro and have been using Sketchbook Pro which I love due to the responsiveness when pinching to zoom in/out and to move from one part of the page to the other. (you can download the awesome free app sketchbook express to try it out)

    I just downloaded MS5 hoping it would be similar in terms of pinching but it seems a lot less responsive and fluid. it takes me about one pinch to zoom in to where i want on sketchbook pro as opposed to a couple of slower tries in MS5. i also cant seem to use pinching to navigate throughout the page like i can in sketchbook and have to use the scroll bars.

    is there a way to change this in MS5 or is it just less Surface Pro friendly than Sketchbook pro?

  59. Hi Claudio-
    I’ve never really tried using pinch and zoom in MS5, since I use keyboard shortcuts for everything. It’s just a faster workflow for me (Cntrl/space to zoom). I also have Sketchbook Pro. I enjoyed using it for a while before I started using Manga Studio, but I haven’t gone back to it.

  60. Jonathan, which drivers am I suppose to turn off to disable touch and only use the pen? Im having an issue in manga studio with my palm making a little dot on my page. Thanks.

  61. I picked up a Surface Pro about a month ago for digital work… first thing I did was put Photoshop on it and was instantly disappointed at the small size of the UI and the lack of good pen / touch support (I only have CS2)

    I also tried out Sketchbook Pro and I’ve been floored by it, but I’ve been considering Manga Studio 5 for a little while as it seems a bit more robust but I was concerned about having the UI too small to be utilized.

  62. Hi Reginald- I’ve done about 70 pages of comics on the Surface Pro in Manga Studio now, and don’t have an issue with the ui. That said, I just tried out the Sony Duo 13 today, and it’s a lovely thing. Bigger screen, great color accuracy, and tons of power/battery life.

  63. Hi jonathan,

    Nice article! I have been waiting for a portable drawing device since 2~3 years and keep surveying.
    The last expecting device was wacom tablet pc but after the leaked of it,s running android OS then i am finally give up my hope and going for surface pro.
    And might get manga studio later.

    Last portable device i owned was asus eeenote + macbookpro. After 2 yrs i still dun get to it.

    Beside i tested sony duo 13. the pressure sensitivity is below 512 i guess. N its a n-string pen.

  64. How big are the documents you are producing on the Surface? I usually work in A4 sized documents at 300dpi in photoshop and am wondering if the Surface could handle that with little to no lag.

  65. All my stuff is 11×17 at 600 dpi. There’s some lag if I get a bunch of layers going, 3D models, etc. I haven’t worked at 300 dpi much, but I did find it to be very smooth.

  66. Do you know if the Surface supports screen rotation? I’d like to be able to draw with the tablet in portrait mode using either Photoshop or Manga.

    Thanks for the great informative post!

  67. I bought it! I love it! I am curious to know if you have found a way to calibrate the stylus in portrait mode. I can’t seem to figure it out.

  68. I don’t use it in portrait, so I can’t really speak to that. I can say that if you adjust calibration one way, the other orientation will be off dramatically. There doesn’t seem to be a way to create an independent calibration for each orientation, but I have found that the out of the box calibration is as good as I could get. Using a different stylus made the most positive difference for me.

  69. Does the Surface Pro support tilt recognition from the pen? My favorite programs for sketching are Painter and Manga Studio and both of them support tilt functionality so that my digital pencil will act like a real pencil on paper. This is a pretty important feature for me.

  70. Hey Jonathan!

    Just got a surface pro and drew my first PvP comic strip in MS5 on it today. Definitely some learning curves for me.

    A couple things I wonder if you’ve noticed.

    – Two or three times, I managed to lock up Manga Studio in a way where it was still responding but unresponsive to touch or pen taps. If I tried to close the program it would ask me if I wanted to save my work, so I know the program wasn’t locked up. But I couldn’t click on anything with my finger or pen. I feel like I confused it somehow. Like I tricked the palm recognition. Have you ever experienced this?

    – I also noticed that my pressure sensitivity seemed altered depending how zoomed in I was. On a 600dpi document, if I zoomed in to draw, say a character’s eye. My 20pt brush was a very fine line without a LOT of pressure. Zoom out and very little pressure with the same brush gave me a very thick line.

    Have you had similar experiences?

  71. Hi Scott!

    I’m not sure my experience will parallel yours directly, but I’ll try to speak to what you’re seeing.

    On making MS5 hang: I work in full color at 600 dpi too, and one of the limitations of the Surface in that scenario is lack of RAM. Usually, if I’m doing some major adjustments or say, copying and pasting a dozen layers, the application appears to hang (the screen greys out, or a prompt comes up telling you it’s not responding), but it’s just having to grind through scratch disk/virtual memory (presumably, if it’s at all like Photoshop). In six months of use, I’ve only encountered maybe one or two instances where it didn’t responsd again after just grinding through that for a half minute or so. Again, your mileage may vary. Generally, when it says “I’m not responding”, in my experience, it just needs time.

    The second issue your brought up is probably related to how your particular brush is set to respond to zoom level. You can actually adjust those brush attributes in the tool (I think subtool) preferences- there’s one there that defines how a brush adjusts its size dynamically (or not) based on your level of zoom. You might try messing with that and seeing if you don’t get the results you want.

    Good luck!

  72. I am glad I read your post. I have been looking for a portable drawing tablet . while there is some learning and adjusting. So far this is a great solution. Thanks

  73. Wow finally a review of a Surface Pro with the right software I needed! That looks awesome, I have been thinking of getting a Galaxy Note 8 for a while now because there was not much option for a good portable windows 8 tablet with stylus. I’ve even prepared myself with the reduced dpi and size limitation.

    But with a fellow MS user proofing that the Surface Pro works wonderfully, I think I will start saving for this one!

  74. Hey there, sir! I don’t know that you’ll actually get to read this so long after writing this article, but your revelations about Manga Studio were so helpful. I studied graphic design, and have dearly wanted to try my hands at digital painting… Let’s just say, I’ve been so excited and having fun flailing my way through drawing.

    I’ve been an Apple user for seven years, and have recently bought my first Microsoft PC since my mother’s Gateway in the early 90’s. I’ve personally been very impressed with Surface, and even purchased the Booboo Feel stylus to accompany on this new journey. Oh, and by the way… Any chance you’d share your homemade easel specs? I’d greatly appreciate it! And if you don’t want to… I suppose I’ll just pout about it and update my Facebook status with some brooding remark. ;P

    Anyway, best to you! Thanks for a fantastic article. Now to peruse the rest of your site.

  75. GREAT ARTICLE!! Definitely convinced me to get a Surface Pro 2 with 8 GB RAM. One question, I read the SP2 can support multiple monitors, was wondering if you can use the SP2 as a desktop running manga studio with multiple monitors. What I mean is the SP2 will be your main drawing area and if you can locate your manga studio tools on another monitor?

  76. Have you tried out either the Wacom Companion or Hybrid yet? The Companion is basically a small cintiq with a PC inside and the Hybrid is a Cintiq that is also an Android tablet but can plug into a laptop or destop like a regular Cintiq. We’ve been purely Apple in our studio for 20+ years of comic work but next week I’ll have a Companion so I have to learn my way around the PC environment again. I got to use one for a while at NYCC and have to say they are both pretty amazing. They don’t come with a keyboard but Wacom does have a Bluetooth version available as an accessory. I can’t wait to get photoshop and Manga Studio running on it when it arrives.

  77. I have the Companion and keyboard (using it now!) It’s a great machine. A few small issues aside, it’s the best solution right now. The keyboard’s definitely nice, too. Good action, but small enough to tote around.

  78. Thank you so much for this Review. Wanted to know if the surface pro is a good replacement for a cintiq! thanks so much

  79. Johathan – thanks for the insight. A few questions. Are you using the Surface Pro or the Surface Pro 2? Also, do you find the screen a bit too small for when you are trying to do large layouts, covers, double page spreads?

    Thanks

  80. Let me first disclose I am a Microsoft employee. Someone asked if you can use multiple monitors with your Surface Pro. The answer is yes you can, we even have a new docking station available (with a built in mini display port) that works with both the Surface Pro 2 and the original Surface Pro. I actually am using a Targus USB 3.0 docking station and I am able to connect 2 external monitors while also simultaneously being able to use the Surface display (for a total of 3 monitors). It works great.

  81. Hello there! I knopw this is kinda off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could
    get a captcha plugin for my comment form? I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having
    problems finding one? Thanks a lot!

  82. I am looking for a MS alternative to Brushes app for Mac. I’m specifically looking for a playback feature. It looks like I’ll need to go with an animation program.

    I have a Surface Pro 2 and I really like it so far, but I want to create an animation like David Hockney’s drawings on the iPad! I read at the museum that he used Photoshop, but online all I read is that he used Brushes.

    There is a somewhat similar app for MS called Colors! which has a playback feature, but on Surface, it has some serious problems that haven’t been addressed in nearly a year and no eta on a fix. That is,drawing area doesn’t fill the screen but the buttons are where they would be if the image did fill the screen. You have to guess where the playback and save screen buttons are. If you manage to save an image, there’s no playback anyway.

    What do you think? Thanks!!!

  83. Just wondering … the Manga Studio website seems only to offer a physical disk version and the Surface Pro doesn’t seem to have a disk drive. Did you have to use an external drive to install or are they offering a digital copy I’m not seeing?

  84. Hi Jonathon! Love your work on Batman 66! (I’m doing Teen Titans Go! and using Manga Syudio and Frenden brushes.)
    I was wondering, since Manga Studio 5 is CD-only, how i the world can I install it on the Surface?

  85. Thanks, Lea! Batman ’66 is great fun.

    You can install MS5 using a USB disc drive, another computer’s disc drive shared over a network, or by ripping the Manga Studio disc on another computer and loading the image onto a thumb drive.

  86. Your blog among several other artists approval of Surface Pro 2 has sealed my decision. I’ll be getting the Surface Pro 2 soon!

    BTW – one tip.

    If you don’t have Manga Studio, wait! You do NOT need to buy an external CD drive. You can buy the digital version of Manga Studio called Clip Studio Paint. It’s the same software as Manga Studio but comes in digital download form directly from the developers.

  87. Hi Jonathan

    Just wanted to stop by and say thanks for writing this and related articles. Helped greatly in deciding on such a large investment. Much appreciated!

  88. Great read, and i can’t wait to grab the surface. For me i moved to digital creation for the pure love it. Digital has become one in the same, where one doesn’t have to do one or the other. I come from the fine art world, and i quickly fell in love with the graphic arts and digital illustration and painting. I truly love it and prefer it over anything else. It’s just the perfect way for me to express myself and get my art out there. I like to make art that can be on a shirt, or a poster, or a canvas print so many people can have that piece, and i love that so many masters like Glen Vilippu have also adopted digital, and they love it.

    Manga Studio/ Clip Studio paint which is what Manga Studio is called in the US is the finest digital creation software ever made. They are the first ones who have got the feel and brush engines right. The user interface is a joy to work in, and the tools they give are just blow away. Once you use Manga Studio you will never try to draw something in photoshop again. Photoshop is not and never will be made for the artist. It’s made for the photo editor and adobe knows that, they’ve never made the tools better for it for a reason. The market for photoshop is for photos.

    I still use adobe illustrator daily for many projects, because i also enjoy vector art work. Though, illustrator is another adobe software that is stale. Adobe just doesn’t get it. I have an iPad app called iDraw that blows illustrator away. Not kidding.

    If you are a digital artist, make the transition to Manga Studio. It’s the only creative software out there that’s worth it in my opinion. It trumps sketchbook pro in everyway, and adobes software can’t even compete with it.

  89. Hello Jonathan,

    I just wanted to say a massive thank-you for this article.

    Backstory – I bought a Surface Pro a while back with the exclusive intention of using it for digital painting. All I had at the time was a copy of Paint Tool SAI, Photoshop and Artrage. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t produce a single image I was happy with. My lines were terrible (even after the Wacom driver patch), and my software barely seemed to recognise pressure inputs/ make sure of touch functionality (i.e. rotating the page, etc.). Put simply, I felt like I’d wasted a whole lot of money.

    I looked around the net to find out if it was just me, or a shared experience… which is when I stumbled across your article. I bought Manga Studio 5 on your recommendation as a final attempt to make use of the Surface, and intended to finally sell on the device (at a heavy loss) if it didn’t work as hoped.

    Thankfully, everything has turned around. Just like your experiences, my lines and paint strokes are far more accurate now in MS5 and I love that I can boot it up and get sketching without fighting with software anywhere I want without Wacom tablets and heavy laptops. This was the major appeal all along, and I can finally do that now. I want to try and make a board similar to what you’ve made; at the moment I lay the type cover and tablet out flat on a cushioned dinner tray but it slips around at times … Not ideal! XD

    Anyway, thanks again.

    Simon

  90. Hi Jonathan,
    Nice article. I’ve gone the Cintiq Companion route myself. I found that the Surface Pro 2 was just not big enough for my fat fingers. I love my Cintiq Companion and for about the same price as the 128GB Surface Pro 2 it’s a great deal.
    Manga Studio 5 is awesome, just love it.

  91. Got the original Surface Pro based mostly on this review (thank you!) and the discounted price, but now I’m wondering if I should keep the Type Cover 2 I bought with it. I got it for $90 but to me that still seems a little much for a keyboard and front cover (I plan on getting some sort of case for it anyways.) I’m still relatively new to Manga Studio – what hot keys/shortcuts specifically do you use and can you quantify how much the keyboard added to your productivity? I don’t use any keyboard shortcuts yet and came from an Intuos where I only used the controls on the tablet.

    I already have a laptop and find the typing on the Surface Pro to be much better than other tablets so I don’t think I’ll need the keyboard, but if its useful enough for Manga Studio and Photoshop I may keep it. Actually still contemplating on if I will keep the actual computer or not too, wish I was able to snag it when it was $500!

  92. Hi Tony!

    I actually use 30-40 shortcuts in both Photoshop and Manga Studio- everything from pans to quick saves, to multiple functions per tool/sub tool. For me, I’d lose at least 50% of my time not having those inputs. So for me, they’re essential!

  93. This review is making me take a 3rd look at the Surface…I am in Apple’s ecosystem but feeling less and less so since my tablet is a Google Nexus. Thanks for taking the time to let us know, and about Manga Studio as well.

  94. Thanks Jonathan! I think I’m definitely going with a keyboard. How hard is it to use the shortcuts with the keyboard directly under the screen and attached to the tablet? I’m wondering if a Bluetooth keyboard like the Wedge would be more helpful since I can put it to the left of the screen or wherever its more comfortable.

  95. Firstly, I just want to say thank you for the incredibly informative article. It has really impacted my decision of what I’m looking for to develop some digital art skills. My question, which I’ll state in advance is probably a silly one, is whether the 64GB original Surface Pro would be adequate for running MS5. I know the space is limited after pre-installed software, but I’m trying to be as financially responsible as can be expected of a mid-twenties sensitive-artist type, and I already have an old laptop for storing music and video. If it’s going to be a significant hindrance, I’ll wait it out until I can afford something newer, or at least with more hard drive capacity, but I’m just excited to start learning some new stuff! I was also wondering if you had any opinion on the learning curve on that software for somebody who is starting with absolutely zero knowledge of any digital art software.

    Thanks in advance!
    -Jeff M

    P.S. It was this exact hardware/software recommendation search that introduced me to your work, so if nothing else, I’m glad for that! I won’t try to dress it up and try to sound cool about it, I’ll just state flat-out that your art is crazy awesome, and I look forward to following you more closely in the future!

  96. Thanks for the kind words, Jeff. A 64 GB Surface will run MS5 pretty much as well as the 128 GB version, unless you really fill up your disk and have no room for a scratch disk (the hard drive space your computer puts working data when it runs out of RAM). That said, if you work on images suited for print, you will likely run out of storage after 20-30 images (maybe less if you use lots of layers). You can put those on an SD card or external drive (Which you should for backup anyway), but that’s more expense.

    MS5 is easy to get started in with the instructional videos, but it is a deep program, and will take some time to learn. A lot of stuff isn’t necessary to a given individual’s workflow, so you can pick and choose what you want to learn to some degree.

  97. I like the keyboard under the screen, as long as it’s on a supportive platform, ala my lap board (see my other posts on the lap board for construction tips).

  98. Hi Jonathan.
    I’m extremely psyched over your whole description and i’m giving serious thought to sell my Wacom Cintiq and going portable and running free 🙂
    Just about my only concern is screen space in order to have good overview…i might go to the store and see the screen size in real life.

    Thanks for great breakdown!

  99. A quick question: I’ve just recently picked up the Surface pro and Manga Studio 5. What I’m curious about is did you have any issues with the touch screen while using the surface? I find that when I rest my hand on the screen to draw that I often mess things up, change layers, change tools, whatever. Am I missing something super simple, like being able to turn off the touch screen functionality and just work pen only?

  100. “print it out on our large format printer and ink it traditionally” I’m curious, do you still see the blue lines on the finished piece that you sell ? Also, what printer do you have or that you recommend at a reasonable price ? – Great article, thanks

  101. sorry “yes” manga studio 5 + and sktechbook pro does have pressure sensitivity you just have to clikc on the burshes to set them up for what you want and how much read the tut or watch tut video how to use manga studio 5 it will show you how to set it for it.
    I used both photoshop and manga studio 5 and sketchbook pro 6 on my surface pro 2.
    and it works great all of them do.

  102. Jonathan – based on this article, I went out and purchased a Surface and Manga 5. They are working fantastically! Thank you thank you!

  103. Hi Geoff- I mostly overcome that on these units by making sure my hand doesn’t contact the screen before the pen tip. Some people I know wear a glove, but it’s seemed a little overkill to me.

  104. Hey jonathan i have a question i wanted to know which one would youprefer the cintiq companion or the surface pro 2. An also i am. Beginner but am a really good drawer. And one other question about the the surface pro 2 is the screen too small and does working on the screen feel natural. Because the cintiq companions screen is matte and has a special kind of feeling which makes it feel more like paper. So which one would you prefer and why?
    THANK YOU

  105. After playing around with Manga Studio 5, I started researching tablets and I’m going for the Surface Pro 3. Thanks for this article, it answered a lot of my questions.

  106. How do one install software of surface. I’m still using Adobe CS 3 and I need to buy something so I can work on my trip.

    Thank you. I hope you reply.

  107. Jonathan,
    I recently became disabled and need to go to digital art with line stabilization. I got Manga Studio 5 and love it with my Intuos tablet but was about to buy a 19 inch interactive monitor when I came across your page. I’d like your thoughts on going with a Surface Pro for its total portability over a large monitor for in my studio. I am currently a Mac user and have been for a number of years. But it seems going with a Surface covers a lot more options except for size..
    I am worried about the small screen size for all work. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

  108. The surface is a great tool for digital art, but if you’re worried about screen size, you might consider the Wacom Cintas Companion or the Surface Pro 3 (though its digitizer is less versatile than the previous versions).

  109. You can download a digital copy from your software publisher, connect an external drive, or rip the disc image to a hard drive on another computer. In short, there are many ways if you are only able to get a disc version- it just depends on your equipment.

  110. I like the Companion best for drawing, and the Surface Pro for its versatility. Ultimately I chose the Companion. Screen size isn’t a factor to me, as you can zoom and pan easily on either one.

  111. I experienced the same: While it’s enough for a pen to touch a Cintiq/Intuos display to create a light stroke, the same doesn’t work for the Surface Pro 2 pen (nor Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014). You wrote you have a new pen without this problem – which is it?

    And do you recommend to use a pen which was included in Wacom penabled devices (Notebooks etc.) on Surface Pro (2)? Are they better than Bamboo Feel?

    Thank you for helping me out!

  112. Thanks for this article man! I’ve really been going through the big debate for about a month as to whether I wanted to destroy my marriage by buying the 22HD Cintiq. I’ve been using the Cintiq 12WX for a couple of years and it’s not great. It’s better than nothing but poor image/ screen quality. I’m a huge Manga Studio fan, and I was almost convinced that the best route would be to buy a Galaxy S and export single panels drawn in Autodesk Sketchbook and then import them into MS on my desktop. Not anymore. I just purchased a Surface and haven’t received it yet. I have high high hopes that it will solve my issue. If it all works out (which is should) I’m going to owe you.

  113. Hi Jonathan,

    I was wondering if you could advise me on updating my creative suite of tech gear. I am talking to Image science about products at the moment but interested to hear your thoughts. I’m not super techie myself as I didn’t really have suitable gear when I was at university and ended up doing hand illustrated stuff and photograpy. That was pre 2000.

    Please look at my website and you’ll get some idea. After university I went into other creative fields and now I’m hoping to work from home in illustration. I’m thinking about moving to wacom or similar tablet and learning Adobe illustrator.

    cheers, Anna

  114. Help! Do you, Jonathan, or anybody else knoe, if a cintiq companion hybrid will work with Manga Studio 5 ex. The program description doesn’t say it running on android… All the best…

  115. Hi Jonathan

    Thanks for the article. Most useful indeed.

    What spec was your SP?

    I can’t see it stated anywhere in the article.

    Cheers!

    Dom Finnigan

  116. Hi John,

    Just was hoping to get the final specs of the Microsoft Surface 2 that you had

    1) Was it an 8GB Ram model, and how much Hard Drive space did you get?

    2) Were you able to switch the buttons on the pen, like right click is the first button?

    3) Were you able to make the right click button work with out having to actually tap the screen?

    Thanks a Bunch,

    Matt Graves
    @gravymatt

  117. I didn’t have the 2. It was the V1, which only had one spec, plus varying GBs. I had the 128 GB model. You can, to my recollection, adjust the buttons. I don’t recall whether I had to touch the screen – I don’t THINK so.

  118. Two years later…do you still recommend this combo including the Bamboo feel? Have you switched to MS Ex? Thanks…

  119. How do you get along without the pen tilt feature? I use this all the time on my wacom intuos 5 and photoshop or corel painter? I ended up returning my SP4 because of that but I loved everything else about it. Slays the ipad pro

  120. You have no idea how I have been looking for honest info on this .. I have an ipad Pro large screen with pencil and AstroPad app that let’s me use Clip Studio Paint ( Menga Studio with name change )from any of my Apple computers, and I have pressure also … have any of your friends used this ? Am still attempting to get wiggles out of Apple pencil …it is so sensitive. Straight lines are … well if it is just for doing blue line … heck … than that is all I need ..then ink by hand and sell it … you had great ideas … so please update me on if AstroPad is a good work around ..now a few years have gone by …

  121. I don’t use Astropad or the iPad Pro, sorry! I have the Wacom Cintiq Companion, and it suits my needs the best from what I’ve found. I tested the iPad pro, but I just can’t get the work done on an iOS/Android device that I need. Astropad sounds like a neat workaround, but I’d rather have real portability and hardware buttons (which the Companion has).

  122. thank you so much for your review and opinions. I bought the Surface Pro 3 a few months ago specifically so I could go digital with my illustrations but Im going crazy with Photoshop 6. I thought I was missing something. Im a huge fan of Adobe and didnt even consider using a diff programme, Im excited now to download a trial version of Manga unless there is now a better option for me?
    I see you write the Surface Pro 3 is LESS suitable for drawing than the older versions, why do u think that?

  123. Hi Chava – I found the Pro 3’s pen performance to be sluggish around the sides of the screen (where important interface elements exist) and less accurate than the original Wacom hardware (they now use N-trig, likely for cost considerations). Your mileage may vary, and it’s possibly they’ve improved the drivers with time.

    As for the software, I still think Manga Studio/Clip Studio Paint (it’s new, awkward handle) is the best comics illustration software out that I’ve found. I find it’s much more robust than other options when it comes to making comics.

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