Drawing Robin with a Wacom Intuos Tablet

Wacom sketch of Robin (Damian Wayne)
Wacom sketch of Robin (Damian Wayne) -Click to view larger

This is a Wacom tablet sketch I did of the DC Comics character ‘Robin’ of Batman & Robin fame.

This iteration of the character isn’t the original (Dick Grayson), but he’s actually the fourth Robin –Damian Wayne, Bruce Wayne’s actual biological son with Talia, the daughter of Ra’s al Gul (one of Batman’s greatest enemies).

Anyway, I’ve been playing around with sketching directly into Photoshop using my Wacom Intuos 3 Tablet, and I’ve never been truly satisfied with the results. It just doesn’t *feel* right trying to draw on the tablet (the plastic on plastic slides too much and doesn’t provide enough resistance), and my work suffers for it.

I’ve tried placing a sheet of paper or vellum over the top of the tablet, but again the feel just isn’t right. I even tried ordering some felt tip pen nibs in the hopes that this would make it more like regular drawing. It was a little better but still not good enough.

Finally, I decided to just put a regular old pencil lead right in the pen and draw with that.

To that end, I used a Prismacolor Turquoise 6H Leads. I went with a hard strength like 6H because I didn’t want a soft 2B or similar flaking off and gumming up the whole thing.

I used a small pair of pliers to remove the felt nib I had in there, then snapped off a piece of the pencil lead equivalent in size to the nib I pulled out. I shoved the pencil lead in there just as I would a new nib.

**Note: Be very careful here. I didn’t have any problems, but if that pencil lead would have snapped off, it might have become difficult to get the rest of it out of the pen tip.

So once I had that in there, I placed a sheet of regular letter size copy paper over the top of the Wacom tablet. Of course you can use whatever type of paper gives you the best results instead.

The I started drawing away, but this brings me to the next problem I have with drawing on the Wacom – the size of the live area and the monitor to tablet eye-tracking problem.

What I mean by this is that I have one of the smallest tablets, my live area is only 5.5 x 4.5 inches, and that space relates to the size and space of your monitor.

So I had a pretty small space to draw in, and sometimes I can’t decide where to look. Should I be looking at my drawing? Or should I keep my eyes on the monitor and forget about the physical drawing. As of now, I kept looking back and forth and the drawing suffered somewhat because of that.

Here’s something that’s fun, though: If you don’t look at the tablet at all, just keep your eyes on the monitor and draw whatever you’re drawing so it looks normal on the screen, then check out the actual pencil drawing you make on the paper. In my case it was extremely distorted, as in really squished.

If you check out my actual pencils below, you’ll see how tiny the drawing is compared to what shows up on the screen. There’s two parts to the figure because I moved the paper once when I had to do something else on my computer. I recommend taping the paper down so you can just flip the paper up if you need to go back to regular working, then flip it back down when you’re ready to draw again.

robin pencils
The physical pencil art that created this digital drawing of Robin

Depending on the size of your tablet, though, you may end up with a more accurate representation on your paper. My monitor and tablet were way out of whack proportionally so that’s no doubt what caused it.

Another thing I noticed while drawing into Photoshop. Even though you can flip over your Wacom pen just like a real pencil and start erasing (when you do this, Photoshop automatically switches to the eraser tool), it was actually quicker for me to just press the ‘E’ key to switch to the eraser and not turn the pen over.

I also made sure to leave the eraser set on “Brush”, using a soft-edged brush with the opacity taken down to about 75% to simulate real erasing. You don’t want a smooth, sharp white eraser line going through the drawing.

So to wrap up, I think there’s some promise here, but it will take some practice to get to the same level of quality I can produce just plain drawing on paper.

If creating art this way has eluded you so far as it has for me you should give this a try, then let me know how it goes.

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