Most people think the addition of a proper art department is expensive. I’m here to tell you that it absolutely is not! The Screenprint Artist Toolbox series of posts will show you how affordable it can be by highlighting some of the tools I personally use to get some great products, all at a cost you probably won’t believe.
I’m going to assume you’ve all got your computers and software in place and jump into one of my favorite tools of the trade, the Wacom tablet. It has to be my number one go-to tool when wanting to gain complete control over what I’m doing. Let me show you why.
Gaining Control with the Wacom
The Wacom tablet allows you to draw within your art program while emulating the stroke of a pen or brush. Without it, your lines are a constant width from start to finish. It’s pressure sensitive, which means that the harder you push down, the darker and thicker the line. Here’s one way I take advantage of that when creating my seps.
In creating the tiger image above, I knew I wanted to make the whiskers pop off of the tee once we went to press. The original image, however, needed to have the whiskers pumped up in order to make them completely white. In needing to do that, I knew the Wacom tablet was going to be the only way I was going to be able to accomplish this. I started by drawing over the whiskers on a new layer with a bright green color.
From this layer, I was going to be able to get the selection I need in order to make the image adjustments necessary in that area alone and nowhere else. Below is a shot of that area with the green layer turned off and the selection I was able to get from it by command clicking on the layer’s thumbnail.
From this selection, I was able to go in during the separating process and pump up the white explicitly in that area alone. Here’s is what my white channel looked like.
Having this power to be able to whittle down into a tight part of the image in order to control where you put your color down is absolutely key as a color separator and there is really no other way to do it than with a Wacom. This isn’t the only place I used the tablet on this design either. The entirety of the tiger’s head was cut out of the original image, hair by hair, using the tablet. Yes, I can be a little anal but with the tablet, that process when by rather quickly.
But, Why Wacom?
There are plenty of tablets available on the market but simply put, none of them come close to Wacom. They work right out of the box and interface seamlessly with Adobe’s products. I’ve used others and there is really no comparison. From the ease of installation of drivers to the fluid tracking of your movements and application of pressure, it is bar none.
What About Price?
This is where I get the biggest kick out of putting together art departments or when people ask me what kind of equipment I use. I’m a minimalist and absolutely hate spending money on something I don’t need. With every purchase I make, I carefully (maybe obsessively) weigh my options along with what kind of return on investment I’m going to get.
Having said that, there are two different models I would suggest to anyone. The first would be the Wacom Bamboo Splash. It’s the lowest-end model and you can get it for around $60. I suggest this because, let’s be honest, $60 is fairly affordable for something of this caliber. You’re not going to be using it all the time but when you do, you’ll be happy you got it for so little. The writing surface isn’t the largest but you don’t need huge.
The other model I’d suggest that’s a little above the Splash is the Intuos 5. It’s a step above and takes you into professional artist territory but it’s more costly, coming in at around $300 bucks for the medium size. I personally prefer this model but would be lying if I told you almost everything I’ve done on this one couldn’t be done on the Splash. The differences from one to the other is this one is a little larger as it’s the medium sized tablet and it’s more pressure sensitive. It also has the ability to sense the tilt of your pen. Aside from that, it has a few more fancy buttons but like I said, I’m a minimalist. I only want to draw with it.
Either way you choose, you can’t go wrong. If you want to be able to control those tight areas but were afraid to make the jump into a tablet, now you know. If it’s a money thing, get the Bamboo. If you want a little better feel from the pen, grab the Intuos. Both would make great additions to any artist’s toolbox.