Many of us have been waiting anxiously for the Lenovo Active Pen 2 with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity to hit the shelves. Shown first at CES along with the Miix 720, the pen was scheduled for Feb. 2017. To this day it remains unseen on U.S. shores. But is it hiding in plain sight?
Lenovo Active Pen “new release”
At a brick and mortar store, I asked about the Active Pen 2, and their system only had the Active Pen, the old one (version 1), same part number.
Lenovo Active Pen “new release”
(photo coming, WordPress uploading not working at the moment!)
But it was marked “new release,” in the store’s online catalogue. This store, which I trust, says that means the item has come out within the past month. Lenovo’s online info about THIS pen now states that it will get 4096 levels on some systems. I purchased the pen with the intention of using it on the Miix 720, but I doubt I will be able to discern the difference between 2048 and 4096 levels.
It’s a Wacom Active ES pen that takes AAAA batteries. It’s for the Miix 510, 520, 700, 720,, and Yoga 900s, but many report it works on the 2nd-gen Lenovo Yoga ThinkPad 14.
(I will have to try it on other AES systems too. They’re not always cross-compatible, even if they seem like they should be. Lenovo is only mentioning the Miixes and 900s as working with this pen, not their myriad other AES tablet PCs.)
The Lenovo Active Pen 2 is mentioned on non-US sites as shipping with the Miix 720, but the Active Pen 2 is not currently mentioned at all on the US site, which says Active Pen 1 on the Miix 720 page.
When I asked Lenovo reps, I was told that they have no idea about any of this, and they’ll get back to me. (It’s not their fault at all–Lenovo is rarely forthcoming with such info).
They did assure me that the Active Pen 2 would not have the same part number as the Active Pen 1, but they did not assure me that the entity known as Lenovo Active Pen 2 would ever be available in the US at all. They also expressed surprise at the “new release” info and asked me what store this was at (it was B&H Photo).
There are some internal Wacom photos of the Active Pen 2 here. It looks pretty much the same as the 1, though the clip may be slightly different, but that doesn’t mean much. The barrel may be a little shorter too (hard to say) but this could be a prototype.
I don’t see definite differences in the photos on the non-US Web sites, as the pen pics are not that close up.
Perhaps there will be two pens in the US, but they will look different but do the same thing, getting the full 4096 levels. Or perhaps those other countries are getting something different-looking or different in some other way, but the one in the US will be like this new release one and do what the 2 does. That would be fine. As with people, its what’s inside that counts.
What’s annoying is the announcement about a Pen 2, then not having any info about it.
Another possibility is that there is wrong info on the Lenovo site or that the “new release” info on the B&H site is wrong and this pen does not really get 4096. It is very difficult to confirm just by testing, as added levels, especially just one jump, are somewhat of a placebo effect.
If the new release Active Pen 1 gets the 4,096 levels on the tablets capable of doing that, it would indicate the pen has had an update. The box says 2048 levels, so it’s backward-compatible that way. Either way, either pen will work on the Miix series and the Yoga 900s.
It certainly is a mystery, but one likely to be resolved in coming weeks. Watch this space.
iLapis creator Giulio de Vita on the vision behind this game-changing device
Giulio De Vita, comics artist and creator of iLapis
The iLapis is a sleeve that you put on a regular graphite pencil to turn it into a capacitive stylus. It has attracted attention from sites from Tom’s Hardware to ProCreate to LaStampa TV. Amazingly, it’s only going to cost a couple of bucks!
Not only that, but lets you use the side to shade and it gets pressure sensitivity via apps sensing its speed. It can be used on any tablet or smartphone screen. I spoke with the creator, well-known Italian comics artist Giulio De Vita, over email, about his vision for this unique and game-changing dream art tool.
Tell me a little about yourself. Who are you, where do you live? Are you an artist? I’m a comic book artist. I’m quite well known in Europe. I worked for mayor publishers since I was 16 years old. But I love to go further comics, I use to work in advertising, cinema, animation, videoclips, theatre.
A real artist never says that it is an artist 😀
Do you usually use a tablet to draw and paint? I’m a curious guy, and I love to search, try, experiment tools, techniques, artistic languages, media to express my ideas. When digital devices came out, like all creatives, I have been fascinated by these new supports… At the moment I think that they are still too limited to replace traditional artistic tools for fine art, but I’m sure they are a very good tool for standard level. I do not use a tablet for a final art, but I use it for fun, or to make sketches or studies. Paper is still present in my life and I use digital device and paper at the same time.
What inspired you to create the iLapis? As I use paper and digital device at the same time, I need a unique took to work on both support without changing continuously… As a drawer I tried to sketch on tablet using traditional styluses: they were not precise at all, so I spent lots of money for active capacitive styluses (Adonit, Bamboo, and later Apple Pencil). They were too heavy, fragile, and most of all expensive…
I thought about Steve Jobs when he said that touchscreen are born for the use in mobility that’s why he never wanted to produce a stylus for these device: you can loose it, break it etc…
An expensive stylus is too dangerous to be used in a train, on a beach or at school or in a construction site… For these use you need something resistant, light, that you don’t need to recharge, that is inexpensive, and that if you loose, forgot at home, someone stole it, you can buy another anywhere: in any stationery shop or at a supermarket… even in a lost island in Greece or in small village in Iceland. Like a pencil, but a real pencil.So I started studying if there was a way to let a normal pencil work on digital devices, and, EUREKA! I found it!
iLapis in action
What do you hope to bring to the world with the iLapis? First, it’s a romantic value, quite philosophic: the idea that an object that most people consider passed, like a pencil, can still say a lot. This can teach us that we shouldn’t give all for granted, because in the specific of iLapis a simple, inexpensive pencil is more innovative and performative than a hyper technologic and hyper expensive stylus.
Second is very important I think not only for artists, but most of all for children, who are more and more focused on digital devices. They can use to keep the confidence of manual use, of the correct way to do traditional handwriting. Think about how important can be this product for playful teaching of writing.
Third thing, is for the pocket of the millions of people using smartphones and tablets in the world. iLapis is not only an excellent writing and drawing tool, but also a very good way to tap and swipe for people who have problems with their fingers (trembling or size, or simply the need to use gloves that make the finger touch impossible) or view.
What kind of challenges did you face in creating it? The jungle of the patents’ bureaucratic procedures.
Is it difficult to get an item like this onto the market? I think it’s difficult, because it’s new in some way, because it changes the perception of the capacitive stylus not more like a digital tool, but like a simple stationery tool. People thinks it’s a chinoiserie or a trick for its simplicity and low cost.
Is the iLapis your first product creation? Yes, I used to customize artistic tools for my needs, but of course they were too specific to justify a production. I remember that some years ago I had fun to make a publishing project about impossible funny inventions (like the pillow that combs you while you sleep :-D) where maybe the idea of becoming an inventor has grown in my mind.
How does it work? It’s really simple: it’s a transparent conductive film that you apply, through a grip, on the tip of the pencil to enlarge the surface of contact of the pencil to the touchscreen. The device detects this contact, like it was a finger, as the graphite of the pencil is a very good conductor like the human body.
You said you can use it with Apple Pencil. What happens? That’s what I discovered recently: Apple Pencil works exclusively on iPad Pro, But if you apply iLapis on it you transform it in a universal capacitive stylus, so you can use it on any brand of touchscreen, size and model.
Does the iLapis work differently on iPad and iPad Pro? Does it get pressure sensitivity on iPad Pro? iLapis has no battery, has no electronics parts, has no wifi or bluetooth connection: that’s what makes it different! (it’s nice to think that I “thought different” from Apple :-)) iLapis is the most precise capacitive passive stylus and the finest tip between all capacitive styluses (even actives), the one working at higher inclinations, the only one working on paper and touchscreen with the same tip
iLapis works the same way on any brand and model or touchscreen. It has no pressure-sensitive system, but drawing apps detect the speed of the gesture and interpret it as pressure with excellent result: I think that’s enough for a 5€ product instead of 100€ 😉
Tell me about your partnership with Perpetua. Perpetua is the only pencil 100% made Italy (it’s incredible for the country of Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Caravaggio and Giotto) with recycled graphite, ecological because made without wood, that draws underwater, that does not break when it falls, and that has been chosen for its values by G7 presidency as official gift for international delegations for the 2017 G7 summit that will be placed in Italy in May.
When I started the Kickstarter campaign I was contacted by Susanna Martucci, the brilliant inventor and entrepreneur of Perpetua, who saw many things in common of our stories and our products, and told me that we have to be partner. I’m very pleased of that, and I think we’ll make a long way together.
Does the iLapis work only with a pencil, not other drawing tools? It works on any tool made in a material that is conductive.
Can you put it on a finger and use it? How about a stick? Yes but I can’t see the utility of this, as iLapis is designed to use a fine tip on a touchscreen, and not a large finger 😀
Is it something like Lenovo AnyPen that works with a banana but not with things made fully of plastic? I think that Lenovo AnyPen has an hardware and operative system that let the touchscreen to detect smaller contact surface than other touchscreen. It gives a different solution to the same need of iLapis: to use any pencil on a touchscreen. iLapis is the solution for any other touchscreen.
Does the line get the texture of a pencil? It depends on the app you use: you use a pencil, but the device read it as a normal stylus: through the app you can obviously chose any tool (pencil, pen, brush, eraser …) and colors (white, green, red, blue etc…) sharpness , opacity, dimension…
If you use a colored pencil, would you get a black line or a color line? A colored pencil doesn’t work on iLapis, because inside the colored pencil there is no graphite but pigments that are not conductive.
Does it matter how sharp the point is? No.
Can you use it with a mechanical pencil, made of metal or plastic? Yes, you need to have enough graphite inside the mine: if the mine is too thin (0,3mm; 0,5mm; 0,7mm; 0,9mm; 1,4mm) there is not enough capacitance to be detected by the device, if you have a large mine mechanical pencil it works good.
What drawing apps do you prefer to use with it? My favorite are Procreate, Pen & Ink, Pencil, Sketches, Penultimate and Notesplus.
What tablets does it work on? Does it work on Android tablets? What about phones? Touchscreens on laptops? It works on any capacitive touch screens, of course it depends of the quality of the touchscreen and their apps. It works on trackpads too even if it make no sense to use it this way 😀
What will it cost? The final price should be between 2,5 to 5 dollars, but it depends of conditions of distributions. anyway drastically cheaper than any other stylus.
Where and when can I buy one? The Kickstarter campaign has just finished and unfortunately it has not be funded. Apparently it’s not a good sign, but I’m very happy about the result of the campaign. First of all I put a high goal of 33000€, that’s because I have to patent worldwide the idea and to set a mass production, and find a distributor.
That’s what I can’t do alone, and I need to find a partner to do that, I’ve never been intentioned to make handcrafted products. I want to do it seriously, because I believe in the product. Of course the mass of people out there doesn’t care a lot about the project, and care about the product.
The result of 7400€ is very good, and what’s more important for me is the big interest of the press about iLapis, and the enthusiasm of people talking about it on the web… thats a really important approval rating for a product.
Now my concept is real and can be developed in a product. I hope very soon, with some improvements that I had in mind since the launch of the campaign.
What are your next steps, do you have more ideas for new creations or for the iLapis? Next steps are to design a product that can be produced compatibly with Perpetua’s values (recycled material and 100% made in Italy) and then find a good distributor. Thanks very much and congratulations on the iLapis! Thank you for your interest.
7 top free online image editors and collage makers
Browsers can handle much more heavy-duty image editing than before. If you’re looking for a photo editor online that’s like Photoshop, you won’t find something quite as powerful. But you’ll be able to get many of the same photo effects online that Photoshop offers.
These Web-based programs can be invaluable tools to quickly create graphics for social media or even for print. You can make a photo collage totally online, either one in neat boundaries or loose ones where you can arrange collage-style images however you wish.
One of the most basic functions is as an online image resizer. Online photo editors let you resize images to any dimensions, and low, medium, or high resolution. Some offer extra high retina resolution.
Another is an online collage maker. You can arrange images in cells, with borders automatically resizing.
Web-based image/photo editors let you upload your own image or choose from included libraries of royalty-free images. Often, you can share directly to social media accounts.
Most online image editors operate on the Freemium model. So while a lot of it is free, if you want more features, there’s a monthly or annual charge. Some offer a free trial.
Most have filters, text and image overlays, icons, templates, backgrounds, and even layer support. They provide a library of fonts as well as giving the option of letting you use ones installed on your own computer. They allow text enhancements such as outlines, and the addition of vector shapes you can use in designing. You can make cool double-exposure photos, blur backgrounds, and even apply “makeup.”
A popular free image editor, PicMonkey is highly versatile, with plenty of free options. PicMonkey lets you edit, upload, design, and collage. It also lets you draw freehand.
PicMonkey has a healthy selection of fonts you can use to overlay or caption your images. Its touch-up tools to make faces look better. (Many of these touch-up tools are in the paid version).
It offers well-designed templates for when you don’t want to start from scratch. It’s very simple to use for basic stuff, but also has more advanced things you can do with brushes and filters. For those, it’s best to watch the video tutorials. You can choose high, low, or medium-resolution files to save.
You do not have to log in to use PicMonkey.
You can share directly to social media, such as to your Pinterest boards. PicMonkey does not resize images automatically, and it doesn’t have many premade social media image sizes.
To upload your own image and resize it, choose Overlay.
PicMonkey occasionally runs slowly or glitches for me, and there are a few common tools I wish were free. But I use it a lot—it’s quick, easy, and convenient. It has a “fun” feeling, with humorous messages and a monkey mascot.
Canva is also very well-known. It has thousands of premade templates, many already made to standard social media sizes, such as Pinterest. It has thousands of templates to choose from, from simple to complex, or you can start with a blank one.
Canva is robust, and can be used for professional graphic design. It has an accompanying iPad app. It includes photo effects such as stickers, blurs, badges, charts, presentations, infographics, and book covers. It pretty much has everything.
Canva can indeed be a powerful tool. One problem I have problems with it running so slowly in my browser (I usually use Chrome) that I could not use it, but when it works it works well. Canva is a serious business tool.
Fotojet is a hidden gem. You don’t hear about it that much, but it’s quite powerful, and similar to PicMonkey. The paid version is lower cost than others (at the moment).
Fotojet has premade image sizes if you like creating the image from scratch instead of using a template. Templates can have a lot of fussy little pieces you need to delete, and you spend more time altering a template than you would designing your own piece. But depending on what you want to do, templates can be a valuable tool.
The templates are well-designed and on the traditional side. The creative collage options are cool, with fun effects such as 3D. There are also templates for photo cards and other occasions. There’s a lot to play around with. Fotojet lets you share images directly to social media; remember to put your own link in.
The program is snappy; I’ve never had it run slowly. Like Canva and PicMonkey, it supplies editing effects, fonts, embellishments, templates, and file-saving options. It has quite a few text effects. It’s powerful in image editing, offering advanced filters such as Color Splash and Radial and Tilt Shift for sophisticated photo effects. While it’s not enormous like Canva, there’s a lot it can do.
Stencil stands out for a few reasons. In addition to the desktop app, it offers a Chrome browser extension that lets you choose an image directly from the browser, open it, and then add text and other embellishments. (You don’t have much control over the size, but they’re supposed to be redoing this feature soon). Or, you can upload an image as an icon (overlay) and control the size. You can then add text to it.
Stencil’s big draw is that you can automatically resize images to fit various social media demands at the click of a button. Then you can share them directly to your accounts. So it’s a huge timesaver if you do a lot of sharing.
You get 10 free images per month.
Stencil is a business social tool.If you’re serious about making beautiful images across channels quickly, it may be worth it to invest in Stencil. There are two paid levels; it can get kind of pricey.
Snappa has a ton of premade social media sizes from the obvious to the unexpected, including YouTube Channel Art, Email Header, Twitter Card, and LinkedIn, as well as “eBook Cover” and “Infographic.”
Snappa can automatically resize graphics you’ve made to fit various social media demands.(I do like to make pins, but not to have to keep typing in the numbers 735 x 1102). It lets you upload and save images for later use even in the free version. You have to log in to use Snappa. You can schedule your creations on Buffer directly from it. https://snappa.com?afmc=9s
Like Stencil, Snappa is not that cheap, but can save you a ton of social-media time.
is a photo editor, collage maker, and design tool. It has lots of facial touch-up tools in the free version (unlike PicMonkey). So if you want to retroactively do a makeover, this is the image editor to use. It’s also got templates.
BeFunky partners with Pixabay, a free stock-image site. Its graphic design tools target cards, invitations, even menus. It has lots of social media headers and when signed in, you can save directly to social media. You don’t have to be signed in just to use it. It has a variety of blog headers and graphics sizes.
BeFunky has an arty feel and fun designs and image effects. It’s great for bloggers and designers. Like Fotojet, the monthly fee is low and gets rid of ads.
For bloggers who want to jazz up their sites, BeFunky may be the best one out there. Its paid features filters like “cartoonization” and “graphic novel.” You won’t get bored using BeFunky.
Fotor collage maker is one of the free photo editors online.
Fotor collage maker
It lets you make collages on a grid with your choice or how many cells, borders, and stickers. It lets you choose funky borders for the collages, such as heart-shaped cells with which you can create photo mosaics.
Styles are plentiful: Artistic Collage, Classic Collage, Funky Collage, and Photo Stitching. Fotor has advanced features and photo effects similar to Photoshop, such as Curves to adjust lights to darks, and tilt-shift to blur backgrounds.
Its special features are HDR, which lets you combine three photos of different exposures into one optimal one, as well as some really cool art filters that let you get funky effects. It also has digital enhancement effects such as “weight loss” and “makeup” in the free version. Fotor is a powerful online collage, design, and editing tool.
It also has some free clip art and presized social media images. Fotor has a free and paid version. The paid is a lot cheaper if you get it for a year.
Online photo effects vs. Photoshop
Some of the editors lack useful features like the eyedropper tool, and you can’t open PSD files; I am not sure what the limitations on layers are–but they do provide quite a few features of Photoshop. I like that you can draw freehand in PicMonkey–that isn’t a feature in all of them. They have the “enhancement” parts of Photoshop but not the extensive text tools, brush sets, ability to work with Smart Objects, different file options, and such.
These editors are great for online uses such as memes and social media. But since they allow for high-resolution files, you can also use them to spruce up your photos and artwork for print. They certainly can’t come anywhere near the feature set of Photoshop or InDesign.
Web-based photo editors: in sum
Each image editor has its own focus, so to speak, with PicMonkey more for social media with an emphasis on fun and upbeat (the monkey shows up with cute sayings). Canva is all about variety and endless customization, it has a more structured feel.
Fotojet is a bit of everything—it’s not as large as Canva, but does some things PicMonkey doesn’t. Snappa is efficient and businesslike. BeFunky is creative fun that’s more similar to PicMonkey but larger. Fotor is about creativity and spending some time making something special (or you can work quickly, too).
In writing this, I’ve realized how incredibly complex these online image editors are. I no longer automatically fire up Photoshop if I need to make a graphic. I remember some of these from when they started out, and it’s amazing how far they’ve come.
You can truly use them as free graphic design tools to make things like ebook covers and presentations that you once needed desktop software to do. That’s not to say that designers no longer need desktop software, or that the skill is no longer needed.
Just about anyone can make beautiful designs with these tools, and designers can make eye-catching, original creations—all for free, or a low monthly fee. Try them all!
Previously, we took an-depth look at the Ugee 1910B, a budget tablet monitor similar to a Cintiq. Now we’re going to examine the Ugee 2150, a 22″ version that has a higher resolution display than the 1910B. Ugee was kind enough to send me a unit to test for a few weeks for this Ugee 2150 review.
Ugee is based in Shenzhen, China. They make pen tablets such as the 1910B, 2150, and HK1560 pen-display tablets as well as graphics tablets.
Click image to check the price.
Digitizer: UC-Logic, EMR Pen: battery free, charges via USB. 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity Dimensions: in.: 20.5 x 12.5 x 1.2 | mm: 517 x 321 x 30 Display Area: mm: 18.75 x 10.5 | mm: 476.64×268.11 Display Resolution: 1920×1080 pixels Response Time: 14ms Contrast Ratio:1000:1 Brightness: 250 nits Viewing Angle: +-80 degrees Line Resolution: 5080LPI Report Rate: 220 RPS Adobe RGB: about 70%
What’s in the Box UGEE UG-2150 tablet monitor Power adapter and cord Two pens Pen charger Pen stand/holder containing 8 extra nibs and ring nib remover CD driver User manual Screen protector Squeegee card Lens cloth Cleaning brush Drawing glove
A big tablet monitor is not something you want to carry around at about 14 lbs., but since the box has a handle, you can take it places if you really want to.
It’s fine for lefties. Some controls are on the bottom right, but they aren’t ones you need to access often. Since there are no Express Keys, there’s no issue about which side they’re on.
As with the Ugee 1910B, the Ugee 2150’s box doesn’t have any printing on it, it’s plain cardboard. The packaging protects the contents well, and the inner cardboard box has a handle. The included items are individually wrapped and come in a smaller box. The pen says Ugee on it.
The Ugee 2150 drawing tablet monitor is made of sturdy black plastic with a narrow bezel. The bezel is completely flat, so you can bring your pen all the way to the edge, which is a nice touch. This way, you don’t end up with lines suddenly hitting the edge of the bezel.
There aren’t any Express Keys on the monitor, nor any on-screen ones. The pen has two programmable buttons that can be mapped to mouse keys and eraser.
The ports are in the back, under the stand. They’re reasonably easy to get to, though the stand gets in the way some. The ports have held everything well, but be careful about bumping into the monitor.
Colors are bright and clear, and matched my computer’s with a little adjustment to the brightness.
The glass is pretty smooth and a little slippery. There’s some squeaking from some pen strokes, but someone gave me a fix that worked! SQUEAKY SCREEN FIX: Rub your hands all over the screen, then wipe it off with a cleaning cloth–wipe gently, not too hard.
I put the screen protector on. I am updating this today because I realized the screen protector that I had said bubbled was not the one that came with it. The one that came with this says 3M on it. It went on very easily, did not bubble, and was a nice matte surface good for drawing.
Photo courtesy Ugee
The stand goes almost all the way down, to about 15 degrees, and almost all the way up to 90 degrees. It’s steady, and you lock and unlock it via a small lever. The Ugee is VESA-compatible if you want to use a mounting arm.
The pen doesn’t have a grip or indentation. It charges via USB and has a blue charging indicator. It weighs 17 grams, a good weight, and is comfortable to hold. It’s not too thick for my small hands. It says “Ugee” on it.
Calibration, which is 5 points with the Ugee driver, worked out of the box.
Drawing on the Ugee 2150
Here’s a pen demo I did of me sketching in Photoshop using the Ugee driver on Windows 10.
The driver is responsive and springy, going from a very thin line to a very thick one without blobbing. I ended up leaving it set to needing less pressure rather than dialing it to the right.
There’s some parallax because of the distance from the pen tip to the glass, as is often the case with drawing tablet monitors. Nothing I’m not used to.
On Mac El Capitan, I tried Photoshop CC, Illustrator, Krita, Gimp 2.8, Manga Studio/Clip Studio Paint, Rebelle, Sketchbook Pro, and Sculptris, which uses ZBrush. Pressure and everything else worked great in all of them.
As expected, Illustrator and Inkscape did not get pressure, as expected (because only Wacom’s do), but you can still use these programs. Pressure works with vector layers in Manga Studio, so vector painting is not a lost cause.
On Windows 10, I tried out Photoshop CC, Gimp, Paint Tool Sai, and Sketchbook Pro. The pressure sensitivity and overall drawing experience were great in Photoshop and Paint Tool Sai. Paint Tool Sai delivered really smooth lines.
But in Sketchbook Pro in Windows, there was some lag. I could not get Gimp 2.8 to work on Windows. As per the Ugee site, I tried Gimp 2.6 instead, and this worked perfectly.
Installing the 2150 driver was pretty easy on both Mac and Windows providing that the computer is free of old tablet drivers. Ugee has a page with troubleshooting tips. The manual is clearly written and well-printed.
The Ugee 2150 is the same tablet monitor as the XP-Pen Artist 22, both are manufactured by Ugee.
Ugee 2150 vs. Cintiq 22HD
No Ugee 2150 review can claim that the Ugee is “as good” as a Cintiq. But the Ugee 2150 is enough for artists who don’t need all the bells and whistles. It has the same levels of pressure sensitivity and display resolution, and it’s brighter (250 nits vs. the Cintiq 22HD’s 230). The screen is glossier, because it doesn’t have the coating that Wacom uses to give the surface some bite. The included screen protector from 3M works well in giving the drawing surface a little friction.
The Cintiq 22HD lets you customize express keys and the pen buttons to keyboard shortcuts. The pens also have a variety of types of nibs. Cintiqs support tilt and rotation sensitivity and their stand rotates. They offer a touch version with which you can use your hands to do gestures or draw.
Wacom Cintiqs offer more features, but you don’t really need these to draw; they are to streamline workflow. The Ugee gives you most of the features of the Cintiq. The choice depends on your own needs and preferences.
Vs. tablet PC: The drawing features of the Ugee and other Cintiq alternatives are like those on tablet PCs such as Surface Pro and Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga–there’s no tilt recognition or express keys.
For on-screen keys, on your computer, you can download the Wacom Feel driver that gives you an on-screen radial menu, or the more robust Tablet Pro app on Windows computers.
Most users like the Ugee and feel it’s a good tablet for the money. Some of those who penned an Ugee 2150 review felt it was just as good as a Cintiq.
Others had problems with the drivers or figuring out how to calibrate it to their screen resolution. These problems are fixable. For instance, if the computer screen is a lower resolution than the Ugee, you have to use Extend, or view on 2, rather than Duplicate/Mirror. Otherwise you will get an offset.
2,048 levels of pressure Pen lasts up to 120 hours on a single USB charge Flat bezel Affordability Comes with accessories Matches Cintiq in pressure levels and resolution Can be used with Mac, Windows, Linux Stand is highly adjustable VESA-compatible Good build quality
Drivers can be finicky No Express Keys (not a con if you don’t use them anyway) Just one type of nib for pen Stand does not rotate (but tablet is VESA-compatible, so you can use a mounting arm)
The Ugee 2150 is a spacious tablet monitor you use with Mac or Windows (or Linux, made by third parties). It’s well built, and colors are bright and clear. The stand doesn’t jiggle, and it’s highly adjustable. The pen gives good accuracy.
The drivers were pretty easy to install. You have to be sure to remove other tablet drivers and their remnants though. If you use Sketchbook Pro, the XP-Pen driver seemed to work better with it in Windows.
This tablet is especially good for students, beginners, artists on a budget, and those growing their art career. It’s simple, affordable, and does the job.
XP-Pen Artist 22E review: Express Keys bring it closer to a Cintiq
The XP-Pen Artist 22E is an update of the XP-Pen Artist 22, a pen tablet monitor in the family of “Wacom alternatives.” It offers many of the features of a Cintiq, without the price tag. I’ll go over the differences.
XP-Pen started out in Japan in 2005, and since then has opened offices in Taiwan; Shenzhen, China; and the U.S. They state their concern with the environment led to them to make their pens battery-free. They were kind enough to send me this tablet to review, so I have had time to test out various art programs on it.
The 22E is an update of the XP-Pen 22. The main obvious change is the addition of the Express Keys. The 22 had no Express Keys. (Those are buttons on the outside of the monitor, or sometimes on-screen keys, that can be programmed with software commands). The 22E also uses A+ LED, which has better color quality than the 22.
The 22E has two sets of keys, eight on each side, making life equally convenient for lefties, righties, and the ambidextrous. They mirror each other, so there are a total of 8 programmable keys, not 16. These are all on the outside. They are slightly raised.
The cords now get tucked vertically in the back. On the XP-Pen 22 they were in a row under the stand. They are now easier to reach. This version does not have speakers. (Installing it, though, may alter the speaker settings on your computer–it did on my Mac–so you may need to go and reset them to continue getting sound from your computer).
XP-Pen Artist 22E review drawing test
Type of digitizer: XP-Pen Included EMR pen with 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, charges via USB
Display: 21. 5 inch diagonal IPS?)Dimensions: 567 x 326 x 30 mm Display Area: 476.64×268.11mm 1080p resolution (HD) 178° viewing angles (wide) 4- and 9-point calibration 16 Express Keys (8 are programmable, 8 are mirrored) Pen has two programmable buttons that map to mouse functions Color gamut: 72% of Adobe RGB VESA-compatible Pen weight: 0.6 oz. (17g)
LPI (lines per inch): 5,080 Response time: 14ms Contrast Ratio: 1000:1 Brightness: 250 nits Ports: USB, DC power, VGA, DVI, HDMI Report rate: 220 rps No multitouch (cannot use your fingers to draw–only has pen input)
What’s in the Box
XP-Pen Artist 22E 21.5″ tablet monitor 2 rechargeable pens Pen power adapter Cables: VGA, USB, HDMI, HDMI to Mini Display Port adapter cable Power adapter Power cord Stylus pen stand/holder (8 replacement pen nibs and one pen nib removal ring tool inside) CD driver User manual Cleaning cloth Black drawing glove Screen protector
Back of the Artist 22E–(ignore the extra cord). The cords in the 22E are vertically next to the stand; making them easier to access; in the XP-Pen Artist 22, they were in a horizontal row beneath it.
Since XP-Pen has included an HDMI to Mini Display Port adapter, you don’t need to buy anything additional to use it with a Mac.
To install the driver, you have to uninstall all other tablet drivers I had zero problems installing the driver on my Mac. On Windows, the tablet icon that you click to open the driver settings, didn’t appear, but I opened the driver settings in the folder.
If you’ve had other tablet drivers on your computer, you’re going to have to uninstall them and all remnants of them–this can be tricky. XP-Pen has a troubleshooting page for driver issues.
The driver lets you program the Express Keys, adjust your pressure sensitivity, test it by drawing with four colors, calibrate the touch points (4 or 9 points), and rotate the image on the screen in 90-degree increments.
It came well-packaged, not fancily, but safely. The accessories are all individually wrapped and put in one box. The box has a handy handle.
At around 17 lbs. including the stand and power supply, this (or any) large tablet monitor is not very portable. The handle on the box helps. The attached stand folds up. It’s not terribly heavy to pick up, though I would not want to walk around with it for long. The power brick is not that big.
The right- and left-hand columns of Express Keys make this a great choice for lefties.
The XP-Pen’s HD screen is brighter than a Cintiq, since it doesn’t have that filmy coating Wacom uses to give the screen a paperlike bite. So the XP-Pen screen is smoother, but isn’t too slippery. It’s fun to draw on. The screen doesn’t get that dark even with brightness turned all the way down. Turning it up increases color intensity.
The screen has been measured at 250 nits brightness to the Cintiq 22’s 230 nits. The pen squeaks a little on the screen once in a while but not often, and that should go away after a while. There were no dead pixels. There was a little dust on the outside of the monitor.
The screen protector had some bubbles that were difficult to get rid of. I also just preferred the feeling of the pen on the screen, so after trying the screen protector I removed it.
The pen has a pretty fine tip.
The pen needs to be charged via USB. A full charge takes about an hour and a half, but 30 minutes is enough to work for quite a while. The company says the pen can go up to 130 hours on one full charge. It has red and blue indicator lights showing when it’s charging or low. The pen has no indentation to grip, but it’s comfortable to hold, and a good weight at 17g–a combination of light enough to not get tired, but giving some balance. The barrel has two buttons. They are easily reachable.
The default settings are right-click and erase, but you can change that in the driver settings. The pen does not have an eraser end. The buttons cannot be customized to keyboard shortcuts, but only to eraser and things your mouse does (right-click, etc.).
Mac: I tested on Mac El Capitan: Photoshop, Illustrator, Manga Studio, Sketchbook, and the free programs Gimp, Inkscape, Paint Too Sai, Sculptris, and Krita. The pressure sensitivity worked great in all of them (I am not that familiar with Sculptris, a free 3d program, so I was not sure what to expect but the pressure did make a difference).
As expected, the pressure sensitivity doesn’t work in Illustrator; so far, Wacom Cintiqs and Intuos Pros have the monopoly on that. The pressure also, as expected, doesn’t work in the Inkscape calligraphy brush, since Inkscape is similar to Illustrator. You can still use the tablet in those programs, without pressure. Pressure sensitivity worked in vector layers in Manga Studio Pro, so you can draw in vector with this.
The one little glitch I experienced in Mac was that the pen suddenly seemed to stop working, a major bummer. But then I realized it was working, but stuck on the eraser tool. Yet, I still got pen lines in the area of the driver where you can test.
Looking this up, I see it’s an issue on Wacom too, so I’m going to chalk it up to a Mac thing. Unplugging the tablet from the computer then plugging it back in fixed it.
Windows: On Windows 10 I tested Photoshop, Gimp, and Sketchbook, and got the same results–works great.
There are basic controls on the bottom right. There are no speakers in the monitor, and when you attach it, you may have to change speaker settings to get sound in your computer as it may change the settings (this did happen and it’s on the XP-pen site). The driver settings let you test and adjust pen pressure, calibrate the screen to the pen, and set up the Express Keys.
On the bottom there are controls to adjust brightness, bring up the menu that allows some color adjustments, and the power on/off.
Out of the box, the Express Keys are on default settings that work in all programs. You can reprogram them to your favorite keyboard shortcuts using the driver settings. The pen’s two buttons are programmable as well, to mouse commands such as right and left-click, and eraser.
Drawing on the XP-Pen 22
Here’s a pen test showing pressing down harder and softer in Photoshop CC. I’m working on some more video.
Me drawing curlicues on the XP-Pen Artist 22E. You can see the pressure sensitivity at work.
Have to say I really enjoyed the XP-Pen Artist 22E for drawing. The lines are fluid, the pen sensitive. I adjusted it to a bit higher in pressure as it’s very sensitive at the lower areas. The driver, which Ugee and XP-Pen developed together, gives a springiness to drawing. XP-Pen (the company) also used to work with UC-Logic (the company), but no longer does.
Tip: On a Windows 10 computer, some programs, including Photoshop and Sketchbook, require “supports digital ink” to be ON in your PC tablet settings in order to get pressure sensitivity.
In Photoshop, remember to have Brush Shape Dynamics turned on.
It seems to take slightly more initial activation force than Wacom to make a mark, but less than N-trig pens of the Surface line. There is a little parallax because of the glass. No jitter whether drawing forward, back, or faster I didn’t experience any hover issues.
Sensitive, responsive to drawing Affordability Display Stand Extra pen, cables, adapter for Mac, glove, and screen protector all included Easy setup Ports are in good place Battery-free pen; charge lasts up to 130 hours of use
Some have issues with driver installation No multitouch (pen only–doesn’t respond to hand touch) Drivers more limited in functions than Wacom’s No tilt or rotation sensitivity No pressure sensitivity in Adobe Illustrator (only Wacom has this. But, the XP-Pen does get pressure with vector tools in Manga Studio/Clip Studio Paint) Pen button customization is limited Stand does not rotate
The stand is very sturdy and highly adjustable. Simply press a lever in back and it goes from nearly straight up to nearly all the way down, to about 15 degrees. Twenty degrees is considered the most “neutral” and offers the best ergonomics (I confirmed this with a physical therapist). It doesn’t rotate; you can instead rotate the art, turn the tablet itself, or use a mounting arm. The monitor is VESA-compatible.
XP-Pen Artist 22E vs. Cintiq 22HD: main differences
Same: display resolution, size, line resolution, pressure levels, Adobe RGB coverage. The Cintiq 22 pen still has 2,048 levels, not 8,192 like the newer MobileStudio Pro and Cintiq Pro. So pressure levels are the same as the XP-Pen.
The earlier XP-Pen had no Express Keys, and now it does, so that brings it closer to a CIntiq, though the XP-Pen has 8 programmable keys (16 keys in mirrored columns) and the Cintiq has 16 different programmable keys.
The Cintiq is a premium item made of premium materials, but the XP-Pen is solidly built. The drivers give a slightly different feel, both very responsive. Here are the major differences:
-Drivers let you customize Express Keys per-app
-Pen has eraser end
-Wacom pen is battery-free and cordless
-Cintiq 22HD Pen and Touch model has multitouch (you can use your hand for gestures such as pan, zoom, and rotate, and you can finger paint, but only the pen gets pressure sensitivity)
-Additional controls such as Rocker Ring, Touch Strip, Radial Menu
-Tilt and rotation sensitivity
-Cintiq stand rotates
-Pen buttons can be customized to keyboard shortcuts
-Wacom pen has different types of nibs
XP-Pen Artist 22:
-Brighter (250 nits to Cintiq 22’s 230)
-Screen not coated, so smoother, but not too slippery
-Pen can be mapped only to mouse buttons and eraser
-Comes with extra pen, glove, screen protector
-Pen is battery free, needs to be charged via USB
XP-Pen Artist 22E up as far as it will go, down as far as it will go, Express Keys close-up
I can’t find much to complain about. It works well and is great to draw on. This is a good professional or starter pen tablet monitor. It doesn’t have every feature of the Cintiq, so the decision should come down to how much you need those additional features. Customizable keys increase efficiency, but you can draw without using them at all if you prefer, or just use some.
This XP-Pen Artist 22E review is a thumb’s up. The color is bright and vivid, and it gets most of the Adobe RGB. This is a great tablet if you want a large, responsive drawing surface to create digital art.