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Wacom’s Inkling Turns Pen Drawings into Digital Files

Wacom Inkling

Lots of buzz yesterday over the announcement of Wacom’s new Inkling device. It allows users to sketch directly onto paper using a real pen, and records the strokes, which can then be exported to the computer as a vector file. The consensus amongst various professional artists posting on Twitter appears to be, “Wow, this is a cool gadget, but I’m not sure how it fits into my workflow.” On the plus side, it’s priced at $200 which is a relatively affordable cost of entry for a new technology. Are you excited about the Inkling? Can you envision using it in your film production workflow?

Watch this intro to the Inkling:

  • Matthew Koh

    Will this work on animation paper too?

    • OtherDan

      Now, that might be cool.

    • Morgan

      Maximum size is A4, so unfortunately most animation paper is too big

      • so? draw on smaller animation paper and scale the vector image up with zero quality loss

      • Kyo

        making a vector from a smaller canvas still means a loss in precision, so that’s not quite true

      • Sam

        It would be much better than Plastic Animation paper, that is for sure. While I love that program I miss being able to draw on animation paper. Terrific ideas!

  • Tam

    Definitely a cool gadget, but what worries me the most is the accuracy rate of +/- 2.5 mm. That’s a really big gap, especially considering we’re working with ballpoint pen-width here, which is especially worse for artists who work small. Technical specifications also says that it works best for an A4 paper size (11.7 x 8.3 inches), so people who work bigger than that will also have problems.

    The technology is very impressive, but I will probably wait a while before getting one. I’m excited for Wacom Inkling models of the future, but I don’t know how this is going to help beyond a sketchbook.

    • Morgan

      Yeah, the specifics worry me a bit about this first model. I will hold out for the Cintiq24HD and keep an eye on future models of the inkling.

    • NC

      First rule of technology consumerism “Never buy 1st generation anything.”

  • OtherDan

    Interesting…questions: 1) Why not scan the sketches and convert in illustrator or other vector program? I don’t see a great need to manipulate points on a sketch-maybe just clean it up in Photoshop. 2) Are you limited to sketching that size? 3) Is it pressure sensitive? 4) Isn’t the big benefit of going digital reducing paper use? I’d much rather have a sleeker, portable Cintiq device in the form of a tablet I think.

    • john s

      It’s the difference between drawing with actual vector lines or having your vector lines outlined
      into contained shapes which can’t be altered as lines.

      • You mean drawing with “strokes” as opposed to “outlines”, right? Other than that one clean line demoed in that video, I don’t see evidence of that. What about a truly rough sketch with variable pressures? How could it isolate all those lines and make clean strokes I wonder? Strokes generally are uniform. in diameter. If you bulk up a line and have it taper off, either it’s going t create an outline, or it will simplify your artwork.

  • Billy Batz

    Make sure you stock up on the special ink cartridges, or else it doesn’t work.

    • Madrobot

      Not the case, according to local Wacom guy the pen takes a standard ballpoint ink refill readily available from newsagents etc

    • ponysmasher

      It works with standard ink refills so you don’t have to buy Wacoms own (and Wacom will only have black ink)

  • Andrew

    Would like to see an actual live video tutorial to judge accuracy/ease of use

    • Joe

      I was thinking the same thing. I mean, its a great gadget and all, but I’m not sure it will work well with other artists, and besides i think that the vector option got me a little bummed up, i was expecting more, but oh well. I might get it, but a bit later when we get the real reviews come in. I mean 200 dollars!? Sounds very good.

  • Cool gadget, and impressive technology (and what a slick case!), but definitely doesn’t fit into my workflow. From what I can see without testing it, it’s not exact enough, it’s too small, and it will produce an immense amount of vector points. The resulting image will have all disadvantages of vector drawings.

    That said, it might be useful for meeting situations with a client who wants a clean-up the same day. The vector lines look similar to what I know of RETAS, which are easy to manipulate, compared to something vectorized in Illustrator, which is mostly useless for any animation more complex than cut-out.

    Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer pencil on paper any time. But surely some people will try to use this new tool for animation soon, and it will create another style – like Flash did, like “animating in sketch books without registration” did, like the Cintiq did, and like any other tool does, especially those which aren’t designed for animation at all.

    When I started to use the Cintiq, I traded a bit of exactness for speed. So I adapted my animation style a bit, and the result is good enough. The same will happen here.

  • For me, this might be doable when I’m out in the coffeehouse or elsewhere and I’m not anywhere near a scanner if I need to do any last-minute sketches for a client. It’s more as a convenience thing for me.

  • Peter H

    Very interesting. I guess the fact that it’s recording the pen strokes means that detail will be more accurately maintained than is the case with scanning and vectorizing.

    But the real result can only be judged when it’s viewed on the screen – as Tam points out, the actual sketch may be satisfactory but the recorded version may not.

    I don’t work any more, but for dinosaurs like me I can see it as more satifactory than trying to draw on the screen. But I expect the cost of ink cartridges will make it a luxury!

    • Many sketches have mostly superfluous lines. Why would you want to record all those lines and likely a large file if you’re going to want to eliminate those same lines in a cleaned up drawing? Why would you want it vectorized if you didn’t want a clean final piece? I guess for scalability. But, how many of us are making banners from our sketches?

  • hb

    This looks very cool, but I’m skeptical about how well it works overall. The layers and especially the playback are really exciting features but beyond that, I don’t see it being an improvement over drawing on paper (of various sizes) and then scanning. Regardless, $200 is quite reasonable and I can see many people getting a lot of use out of it, and I look forward to future developments.

    • I wonder if Wacom stores all those files in a database and can review how you constructed the image. I didn’t think about the playback component. As a skeptic, I wouldn’t want to share how I did it. I think that’s kind of proprietary. It would be interesting to watch a drawing unfold, but I’ve seen blogs where artists record themselves drawing very effectively too.

  • Tim Hodge

    I can see it’s potential in storyboards. Instead of being tied to your Cintiq, you can sketch anywhere. It’s accuracy rate may make it better for roughs, but that’s ok. Hopefully, dowwnloading your sketches is faster than scanning.

    Seems good for drawing in a meeting, too, or at a client lunch.

    I’ve started using my iPad for rough storyboards. Yeah, I have to bump up the resolution in Photoshop, but for a rough pass on a scene it works great. And it’s nice to be able to get out of the office and draw anywhere.

    I’m hoping the Inkling will offer the same sort of benefits. I also hope the next version will have Bluetooth capabilities to transfer files.

    • I use my Lightscribe Echo pen for story boards, which is similar to Inkling, but Lightscribe can also record sound as I draw – so I can provide my own voice over narration and audio notes.

      • Steve Gattuso

        2.5 mm is one hell of a lot of error, especially when using standard letter size instead of A4, but I can see the uses for it. Storyboards, of course, and if you have a loose animation style (like Bill Plympton), then it should work for you well enough.

        However, a brief check of the other devices danno pointed out shows that they are less expensive than this Wacom device, so it may still be better to wait for the early adopter cycle to go through and then try it after a price drop.

  • Am i the only one not falling in love with this?
    OK it’s a wacom, ok it have 1024 pressure sensitive…ok it works on every paper(as most ballpoint pen)but…
    after i saw this one(http://youtu.be/ncSKi2S2j48)that have a more “on time” performance, this wacom gadget only seems to bring the “draw to a computer without one” which most of us do with a camera or a scanner…
    Price is good but i found the DUO(link above)pen for 60€ on the net…
    it’s not a wacom but it’d fills my not-a-cintiq-yet more then this one…but in the end, it’s all about the workflow(clearly not mine ;) )

  • Chris

    Why not just get a 50$ scanner ?!

  • 2011 Adult

    I would need to see how much it preserves the drawn lines, but otherwise, I can see myself using it for small sketches and other occasions.

  • Not new technology.

    I’ve had gadgets that do the same thing for years.

    Livescribe: http://www.livescribe.com/en-us/
    Every thing you sketch is digitally captured. Uses a special paper with dots to do the digitizing. Drawbacks, uses ball point pen refills and the the ink is lousy for drawing. (Just like the Wacom Inkling.)No levels of sensitivity, either.

    IOGEAR Digital Scribe: http://www.iogear.com/product/GPEN200N/
    Uses a matchbox sized dock that you attach to the top of your sketchbook (Just like the Wacom Inkling.) Drawbacks, digitally captured lines are reproduced at a single width, default setting 1 pixel. Still has the same ball point refills as the Livescribe and the Wacom Inkling.

    Both of these were bought for around $70 each. They were designed for taking notes and it shows. The Livescribe even has a built in microphone for recording the audio of your class/meeting as you take notes. The Livescribe is actually a potable computer while the IOGEAR Digital Scribe just digitally records your writing/drawing.

  • It looks really promising however for me the part that I am not seeing much on is how does it work when you are not leaning on a hard surface. Most sketchers hold or cradle their pad so it wouldn’t work for impromptu sketching. Basically it’s like an iPad… you don’t need it but when you have it you wonder how you got along without it.

  • I’d have to try it first to see how it feels to draw with it before I could say whether I’d buy it. The promo film looks interesting, but it’s not showing a lot of actual drawing with the gadget. Could be useful. I’m definitely intrigued.

    You asked:

    “Can you envision using it in your film production workflow”

    It’s an ink pen, so ok for casual sketchbook work , but for animation production I’d prefer something I can erase with, like a Wacom Cintiq tablet or good ol’ pencil and paper. Again, I’d have to use the thing first to get a feel for whether it has the flow and line quality I’d need.

    Looks like a cool gadget, but since you’re asking … oh, wait , you weren’t. But anyway … what I wish Wacom would concentrate on is developing a true tablet computer marketed to artists, with Wacom pen pressure sensitivity built in, with versions that would run Mac OS, Windows OS, and Linux OS depending on the user’s preference. 15″ to 17″ screen please so there is a fair amount of screen real estate for tool bars and in needs to have 2k screen resolution (not these tiny 7″ to 10″ screens with only 1024 x 768 resolution on the current crop of Android and iPad tablets) USB ports, Firewire port(s) , HDMI port. A truly portable Cintiq , self-contained tablet computer. (like what the Modbook was attempting to be for Mac users , or the Motion Computing LE 1700 for Windows.) Android tablets and iPads are fine for what they are , but they don’t run full versions of my go-to applications (TVPaint, Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, Final Cut Pro, After Effects) and the lack of pen pressure sensitivity makes drawing on an iPad or Android feel VERY clunky compared to drawing on a Wacom Cintiq.

  • First reaction: I want it! Looks like the perfect tool for the kind of loose, on the fly sketching I’m always doing (full disclosure: professional writer but amateur artist). But I want to know how much replacement cartridges are before I’ll commit to getting one. Could be like inkjet printers–relatively cheap hardware but expensive ink.

  • I`m a comic strip artist, not an animator.

    This definitively doesn`t substitute a tablet. But I can see how useful it would be if I have to work on something while I`m traveling.

  • They are related on a quantum level.

    so far as the actual topic at hand, you have to take your hat off to those lads, they really are the best when it comes to benefitting cartooners. Of course I’ll never use this latest device because change of any kind brings out cold sweats

  • Kate


    Seriously, my mind was blown when I saw the demonstration video. I’m not sure when I’d use this, but if it’s on display anywhere, I’ll definitely give it a go. It sounds amazing. Yay for innovation! :D

  • there’s no undo! :(

    the device looks cool, but right now does not fit professional production, i think…

  • The Cintiq is still a bit pricey, and I like to feel of drawing on paper. So, initially, I envisioned the Inkling as an alternate means to do rough animation, without having to use a line tester. (I imagine clean-up drawings would still have to be scanned). But there are a few things that would have to be overcome before that could work. And, even then, would it be practical?

    A) How do you keep it from interfering with flipping? The video above shows it clipped to the top of the page, which obviously won’t work for bottom-peg animators. But even if were built to fit over the pegs, it would be a royal pain to remove every time you wanted to add a sheet.

    B) I can’t see myself roughing in ink. If it were a sheath that fit over a graphite or Col-Erase pencil, that could help. But then you’d have to solve another problem:

    C) What if you want to erase?

    D) It can’t handle 12FLD paper (as Morgan pointed out)

    E) It appears to automatically center and scale drawings. Can that be disabled, or would you have to put registration marks on every drawing?

    F) What about when you need to make adjustments to multiple drawings? Would you need a keypad to tell it what drawing you’re working on?

    It sounds like it would be a pain (for developer *and* user) to make animation possible with the Inkling. Definitely less excited about it today than I was yesterday.

  • I’m really excited for the Inkling because it means I can cut out the scanning process. I HATE scanning; it’s clunky and awkward, takes forever, and I always accidentally scan at the wrong resolution or the scan looks bad, etc. Most of the things I scan are just sketches from my sketchbook anyway. So I think the Inkling will help me out a lot.

    Although the downside is that if I forget to attach the Inkling to the page or accidentally leave it at home if I’m on the go, I’m stuck with scanning anyway…

    I’d also love to test out if it works to draw in Col-erase pencil and then do a second pass over it with ballpoint… that could be REALLY useful, especially with the layer feature.

  • This can be pretty helpful I think…

    I’d like to see how the pen feels (weight/comfort)
    and also check out the pressure sensitivity as others have mentioned, but I do dig the concept.

    Cutting out scanning is always a good thing. :)

  • Brad Constantine

    I need one for a whiteboard! Cool little drawing toy more than a production tool. If you sketch constantly, this may be good for you.If you need a suite of tools(undo erase, scale, rotate) with yer drawing pen, then this may not do the trick.

  • anonymous

    Don’t we already have enough non essiential gadgets on the market, what’s wrong with scanning? I’m sure people will find a way to make this thing sound ultra revolutionary. At this point this just sounds lazy to me. And you don’t need this to animate, flip your animation for god’s sake.

  • pspector

    Not that I’m in the animation racket, but at this point, anything that goes from a “real” hand into a computer seems good to me.

  • Mat H

    You need to look at the technology at its core level to really anticipate its future implications. There are a lot of possibilities!

  • Pretty amazing for roughing out your key poses by using the layers button.

    Plus, I get the natural feel of pen and paper while working outdoors.

    Anything that frees me from the cubicle and let’s me work outdoors is a big plus.

  • It’s a great idea, but personally, I can’t stand sketching with a ballpoint pen. That and I wholeheartedly agree with the workflow part. I’m sure it will be a perfect (and affordable) fit for the right kind of artist, but to me it just seems like an extra or unnecessary step. Not to mention limiting. For all the adjustments made in Photoshop or Illustrator after scanning something in anyway, I don’t see much of a time saver here. I’ll stick with the freedom of pencils and sketchbooks, and the Cintiq for the digital steps.

  • Carlos

    As much as I love wacom for its regular intuos tablet for painting…

    -drawing with a ball point pen sucks
    -no undoing or erasing
    -limited work area
    -Can you really do vector work, be it graphic design or flash animation, with a ball point on a little pad?

    I like the scanner. It takes your nice pencil, charcoal or ink…and puts it in the computing machine!!

    It’s good that they research new technologies, though…

  • Not impressed. It seems cumbersome and unnecessary.
    My Wacom Bamboo cost $80.
    My Epson scanner – a tiny thing which delivers better results than I could possibly expect – cost $50.
    Those let me do everything I need to do as far as getting illustrations into the PC.

    • A.C.

      Is your EPSON a bulk scanner? If it is where’d you find it for $50?

      • Ah – no way it’s a bulk scanner. Those are costly and cantankerous. When I do the rare “conventional” 2D job, I draw directly on the PC with the Wacom. But when I need to scan in hand-drawn stuff on physical media, I get great results with the Epson Perfection V30 scanner, which I bought because it was the cheapest one available, via a Newegg “Crazy-Ass Blastoff Sale” or whatever they call it – with free shipping! It scans much faster than the hulking, cabinet-sized SCSI scanner I used for fourteen years, and it’s one-eight the size, with better image quality.

    • Again, this is a convenience thing – if you’re nowhere near a scanner, which, for me, would be beneficial because I’m usually not always at home to scan.

  • Does it have a Milt Kahl plug in?

    • DNAndy

      Oh, you.

      Eh, I’m not really sure about me personally using this. I just got used to the tablet I’m currently using. But it’s a pretty cool idea.

  • The Gee

    I feel weird admitting this but while I want to be excited by this, I’m not.

    The gizmo could be wonderful for a lot of artists, I’m just not sure if it would be useful for me.

    I can see plusses and minuses. The minuses being mostly stuff not mentioned on the product site.

    When I draw on paper, if the drawing is going to be worthwhile, I’d likely be using a pencil. So a pen might not cut it. And, if I try to make finished art, the chances are good it will be pencil, archival ink and various nib sizes, etc.. So, I can only see this product for sketches and roughs. Maybe that is the intended purpose but even then some of the other negatives others have mentioned are ones I see, too.

    Maybe it’ll provide more options with a software upgrade. Maybe you can eventually buy different pens or Digital Pencils! (wowzers! We are in the Future!) But, it just doesn’t seem to fit any of my workflows. Heck, even my sketches aren’t so tidy that there’s one per page. Right now, I have no problem using a tablet to do sketches digitally…..
    Not that I wouldn’t like to try it out though. If I got one, I’d go whole hog on effort justification. That much, I know.

  • it’s like putting legs on a snake.

    • I bow to your Zen wisdom.

  • Geeezz, pen on paper? How awkward!

    • Chris Sobieniak

      There’s a lot of talented people who do their best work with a ball point pen!

  • YEAH BOYYYEEEEEEEE!! Exactly what the doctor ordered!!

  • Jabberwocky

    I feel like this is probably the equivalent of Microsoft’s Kinect– not actually all that interesting in it’s usual form for the XBox, but it’s being hacked by all sorts of people into more interesting applications, especially in robotics.

    Basically, I think this is an infant form of the technology that will probably end up being used in something else in a more effective way.

    All that said, even if it isn’t terribly useful, it is a really cool little gadget. It says something about the level of technology today that this kind of magic– recording drawings on paper and immediately digitizing them– is not even all that impressive.

  • Bob Harper

    This will be a huge time saver for me in the cleanup department, since lines can be vector, not more sketching, scanning and then cleanup. I can cleanup straight on paper and have it ready for color.

  • Steven Newell

    I feel that I am the artist that this would be perfect for.
    Ball point pen is my favorite drawing tool and I am constantly on the go.
    I even bring my Cintiq 12WX around with me (sucks with all the wires).
    Im not a fan of the pen tool and inexperianced with vector work so i end up doing a lot of my digital drawing in photoshop with brush tool, which isn’t great because vectors have their pros.

    I see this not being the BEST tool for animation (cintiq is), but it does have a lot of animation potential. With the layers you could draw a figure and draw the same figure again in a slightly different pose on top but on a different layer. So the inked sketch in the book would look messy and cluttered but the files would be like keyframes.
    Im a big fan of pushing the limits of technology and using it in non conventional ways.
    For only 200$ this tool is a steal for anyone who loves to sketch in pen on the go.

    btw erasing is for people who cannot draw.

  • “btw erasing is for people who cannot draw. ”

    Steven, do you also have the Undo key command disabled on your computer ?

  • I flat-out MUST HAVE ONE! To bad I have to wait ’till mid-Sept. to get one.

    I actually worked a near-identical concept with an engineer at Belkin in 2003, but they never did anything with it. Unfortunately, as an employee then, they “owned” the idea once we submitted it to product development.

  • Blake

    So wait I’m confused , you can just stretch your sketch? Can you color it etc via their program?

  • MissConception

    Give me a fully functional pencil that does the same thing and then I might make a purchase. :P