Another Try at Digital Artwork

Just over a year ago, I wrote about my first ever attempt at using a tablet and digital pen to draw. I bought an XP-Pen Deco 01 tablet and downloaded Krita’s open source painting software to give it a shot. As I mentioned in last year’s post, this was quite a bit more difficult than I thought it would be. Although the pen was pretty responsive with good pressure sensitivity, I had a great deal of trouble coping with the pen not marking directly on my writing surface. This particular tablet doesn’t have a screen – captured pen strokes are translated to a connected computer. That was really difficult for me for some reason. I could see how practice would have helped, but ultimately I just abandoned it.

Fast forward to a month ago. I was about to leave for some extended travel, and decided it would be nice to have a tablet. I thought it would be great for watching movies on plane rides, but also for general use at home later. When I’m sitting with the kids and they’re watching cartoons, I often use my phone for internet browsing. I figured a larger screen might be better for that sort of activity. After some research, I decided to go with a Samsung Galaxy Tab S4. I considered an iPad since Apple seems to dominate the tablet realm, but I’m an Android guy, so I wanted to stay in that operating system.

I wasn’t specifically seeking something with drawing capabilities, but it turns out these Galaxy Tabs come with something called an S Pen. After getting the tablet set up (which I really love overall, by the way), I did some additional research to see which app might work for drawing. I didn’t have any expectations that it would go beyond my experience with the XP-Pen tablet, but I had some time to kill during my travels, so why not experiment? I sampled a couple app options, and settled on Autodesk Sketchbook.

Testing out the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4

To my great surprise, I’ve actually really taken to digital drawing on this tablet! I’ve been trying to put my finger on why exactly it’s become so appealing this time versus my attempt last year. As I alluded to above, I think the biggest reason is that I can actually see what I’m drawing from pen-to-tablet, without a need to view on a separate monitor. That instant tactile and visual input is huge for me apparently. Another major plus is the easy, almost instant access to it. Because I’m already using the tablet for other things, it’s not difficult to just pop the pen out, open an app, and do some casual sketching. With the other tablet, the barrier to using it was just a bit too high.

To this point, I’ve done four sketches with it (my oldest daughter has me beat with 12 sketches on this device already!). I’m going to break this into three separate posts I think, because it seems the topics sort of make sense that way. In this one, I’ll share my first two that were fairly rough. Next, I’ll provide a bit more detail on what I’ve liked about using the Autodesk Sketchbook app and a portrait that highlights some of what I’ve learned. The last post will be about my best digital portrait to date, which I believe shows major progress from my initial attempts.

So, here’s the first one I tried:

A self-portrait, the first digital painting I attempted. Done using a Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 and the Autodesk Sketchbook app.

I figured it might make sense to try a self-portrait, since that’s how I started out on the XP-Pen tablet from last year. It’s obviously no masterpiece, but already this is better than what I was able to do on the previous tablet. Whereas before my lines were very unsteady, with this tablet I immediately felt more comfortable guiding lines where I needed them. At this point, I lacked familiarity with the many painting/drawing options in the app, but I definitely felt more comfortable overall than the first go-around. I didn’t spend too much time on this self-portrait, but it felt like an encouraging start.

Next, I did a sketch of my sister’s cat, Biscuit:

Biscuit the Cat, the first digital painting I attempted. Done using a Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 and the Autodesk Sketchbook app.

I’ve drawn Biscuit before using my standard Prismacolor pencils; this time, I went with Biscuit as a kitten. Again, this is not a great piece of art. In some ways, aesthetically it’s a bit worse than the self-portrait. But I could still feel some creeping sense of understanding how digital painting could work for me. I tried a few new brushes, experimented with layers, and continued the learning process. I think I can attribute some of the self-perceived step down in quality due to the fact that this is an animal rather than a person; I’ve long been most comfortable with head-and-shoulder human portraits.

And just a little bonus, here are some of my daughter’s many sketches with this tablet:

My oldest daughter’s already massive collection of digital artwork. All done using the same Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 and the Autodesk Sketchbook app.

I think she’s enjoyed digital drawing just as much as I have! Even though the Autodesk app is not made for kids (it even says so in the app description), she’s actually gotten quite adept at using it. She can select colors, change brushes, and switch to an eraser pretty easily now. Anyhow, stand by for part two of this series (as soon as I finish typing it up – hopefully tomorrow)!


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