Cintiq, Tablet, Paper and Radioactive Hand

The scene I’m currently working on is by far the most difficult I have faced since starting the project: it is completely animated traditionally, features subtle acting, and is 460 frames in length. That’s a lot of drawings, when you consider two characters, with tone layers and effects animation.

By Friday (Feb 22), I’d managed to rough out the entire scene so everything was peachy. Then, I cleaned up the key drawings and added a lot of subtle acting at that point. That mission was completed by Monday night (Feb 25). The next day, I started doing the inbetweens. There’s a LOT of them.

On Tuesday (Feb 26), after nearly 12 hours straight, with my hand rubbing against the screen of the Cintiq, I started feeling some massive tingling. I’ve had a Cintiq for years and always enjoyed working with it, but I never spent as much time as I am now, with my hand set against the screen. On Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, whenever I did traditional animation, I did it on paper and scanned it. On other projects, I used tools that necessitated only partial time with my hand on the screen. With traditional animation using a Cintiq, it’s a different ballgame. You’re basically drawing non-stop on that screen, something I’ve been avoiding as much as possible by exploring techniques such as the “Puppet Tool” in After Effects, to create some of the animation. But in cases where I want the acting to shine through, and the character to have a soul, there’s just no substitute for the good ol’ hand drawn stuff.

When I looked at how many more drawings were left to do, I quickly realized that I’d most likely be inbetweening this scene for the next two weeks and I remembered why my assistants at the movie studios were so precious. On Tuesday night, the tingling in my hand was so bad that I was started to think that I’d probably microwaved it. My goal with Rex is to be 100% digital―I was starting to question whether or not that was a good idea.

On Wednesday (Feb 27) morning, after drinking my healthy juice (Ginger, Carrots, Spinach, Celery and Apple), I went to my workstation and started the tedious inbetweening process again. After about an hour, the tingling in my hand was back with a vengence. So bad, in fact that I had to stop working. I sat down and started thinking about changing my process. Perhaps the Cintiq was not the way to go? I started considering going back to paper animation. Maybe I could figure out how to print out the drawings I’d already done in Toon Boom, and finish the inbetweening stage on paper? But then, I remember the scanning… the extra steps… There’s also something to be said about working directly in the digital environment. Being able to see the scene progressing and making adjustment as you go. No, I wanted to stay digital.

INTUOS%205%20TOUCH%20PROFESSIONAL%20PEN%20TABLET_Big_intuos5-digitizer-medium-2902[1]Perhaps a Wacom Tablet would be a better way? I no longer have one (gave my old one away about a year ago), but fortunaly, even in a small town like Bellingham, there’s a Best Buy that carries them. I drove there and after choosing the Bamboo Create model and returning it two hours later, I settled on the Intuos5 touch Medium. My problems weren’t over yet, though. After installing the tablet, I quickly realized that I couldn’t get any pressure sensitivity from the stylus. When using the same stylus on the Cintiq, I could get some nice thick and thin lines, and a fabulous sensitivity response, but not using the tablet. I tried everything, rebooting the computer, uninstalling and reinstalling the driver and trying to figure out the problem using Toon Boom documentation, but no luck. Then, I fell upon this thread in the Toon Boon forum. Here’s the part that helped me solve my problem:

“2 days of trying things and thinking about this! I realized the only thing both machines have in common (besides same OS and similar apps) are multiple tablet drivers! The laptop has had a number of various tablets connected to it over the years and the desktop had an Intuos 3 and now the Cintiq – so i deleted all instances of the other tablets – reinstalled Animate and rebooted. Pressure sensitivity is now working!”

In my case, the conflict between the Cintiq and the Tablet was the problem.

So, here we are. My Cintiq is now just a big screen with no funtionality and I have to get proficient at using the tablet for my animation. I did my first inbetween this morning using the tablet, and it was rather awkward. I’m hoping that with practice, I will get good and fast at it. I’m documenting every phase of the scene in progress so that I can share that process when it is done in about 3 weeks time. I’ll post a progress report next week. In the meantime, here are the panels from the graphic novel that comprise the scene.



10 thoughts on “Cintiq, Tablet, Paper and Radioactive Hand

  1. I have been using a Cintiq for about two years now and I’ve used it at lengths of about 8hrs without any issues, although, I’d have to say that I was probably drawing at a pace that was more leisurely then what you’re doing. I haven’t noticed any tingling sensations but I have developed cramps from pushing my hand to hard against the warm screen/plastic surface.

    I’m sure staying purely digital will shine through and show your dedication and love for this project; keep at it! 🙂

  2. Hey Michel, At Disney we were using the Cintiq as well, no tingling either. Thinking it may be lack of support for your arm and since the screen is in an upright position than your hand is not getting the blood, sort of like your hand falling asleep. I do remember though the heat that came off of the screen and sometimes it got a bit too warm. Maybe if you drew on the Cintiq with it lying flat that would help.

  3. I’ve been working on a Cintiq for almost 10 years now. At times, I get lots of cramps and tingling from work. However, I would say that none of these pains are due to the Cintiq itself (though it does get hot at times) and has more to do with my working habits. Poor posture, slouching in my chair, gripping too tightly, etc. I think once you get more accustomed to the Cintiq, it will become invaluable to you. Lately I’m dealing with eye strain from working extra freelance, and that is absoltuely from staring at a monitor for long periods of time.

    One of the problems associated with a Cintiq is that not only are you using your hand to draw, but you are also using it to actually use your computer. Unlike with paper, Its in constant motion. Learn how to pace yourself a bit more with it. Switch up to the mouse when you find yourself just doing some file organization or what have you.

    I believe you can have multiple drivers installed on your machine for different Wacom hardware (at least I’m sure I’ve been at studios where I see a tablet and a Cintiq installed). My advice is to not give up on your Cintiq. In the end it will save you time.

    • Hi Frank, I’ve also been working for about 10 years with Cintiq(s) so I’m quite used to them. I’m just not sure they are the right tool for what I’m doing right now. In fact, after using my new Wacon tablet for a day, I can already see that this is a much more confortable approach for me. I’m not going to stop using my Cintiq, but I’m going to expend my arsenal in order to use what I feel is the most confortable tool for the job.

      • Good deal! Whatever works for you. For myself, I can’t go back to a tablet. I can’t reconcile the disconnect between my hand and the screen. Hope your hand feels better, and keep rock’n on!

  4. A tingly hand sound like you might have put some pressure on one of the nerves in your wrist. I’ve had similar problems drawing for long periods on my tablet computer. I’d accidentally hold my wrist at strange angles for extended periods, and end up with tingling sensations in my hand. (And tendonitis, but that’s another story.)

    I’ve found wearing a tensor bandage while drawing digitally gives my wrist a little support, and I haven’t had problems since. Perhaps it might be worth a try?

    Be careful with your health, Michel. I’ve seen far too many artists get laid up for months by overdoing it.

  5. Speaking from experience, you can get that tingle and cramp drawing on paper as well, and ignoring it can lead to tendonitis and worse. There are good sites online about egonomics for computers and drawing desks. The goal is to set up your desk so you are not lifting your shoulders to work on the drawing surface and your elbows are at a right angle (or more but not less). Also, try to set it up so you don’t lean over the drawing surface but the comment above about not drawing on a vertical surface is a good one, too.

    Breaks are important and stretching exercises. Support bandages that keep you from bending your wrist at odd angles trying to get that perfect curve help short term, but hard braces actually hurt because they weaken your wrists. I learned about Kenesio tape (brand name – there are competitors) from my physical therapist and that works best for me. I tape the inside of my wrist (don’t wrap the whole wrist) and it helps with the healing. I can get back on the boards in a day or so with no meds. Here’s a link that explains it:

    And I learned this one from Sari Gennis. Add tumeric and fresh pineapple to your healthy juice to give a bigger anti-inflammatory kick. Also dried ginger has more anti-inflammatory punch than fresh.

    I started having this problem on Little Mermaid and I wish I’d handled it better then. I ended up off the boards for months but I can draw now if I pace myself. I also switched all my computer tasks that need a mouse to my left hand, which makes me put down the stylus since I can’t figure out how to use both hands at once doing different things.

    I work with my students on this as well. We’ve lost too many good clean-up artists to repetitive use injuries. Please take care of yourself.

  6. Did you ever go back to using the Cintiq ? It sounds like from what you wrote near the end that you have switched to using the Intuos 5 tablet —

    “So, here we are. My Cintiq is now just a big screen with no funtionality and I have to get proficient at using the tablet for my animation. I did my first inbetween this morning using the tablet, and it was rather awkward. I’m hoping that with practice, I will get good and fast at it. I’m documenting every phase of the scene in progress so that I can share that process when it is done in about 3 weeks time”

    Is the completed inbetweened scene shown a few posts up done with the Intuos 5 or the Cintiq ?

    I tried to learn to draw with an Intuos 3 tablet several years ago , but could never get comfortable with it, it seemed awkard to me coming from a pencil on paper workflow where I was used to looking at the same spot on the page where I was drawing , so I always assumed that the Cintiq was the best way to go (I have had a Cintiq for 6 years) but if the Intuos 5 is more sensitive/precise I might want to try the Intuos again , because I have to confess that Iconstantly live in fear of my Cintiq breaking down and the huge cost to repair or replace it. The Intuos 5 Medium or Large size tablet is not exactly inexpensive , but is still quite a bit less than the replacement cost on a Cintiq.

    Paul Fierlinger on the TVPaint forum swears by the Intuos ; he says he hates using the Cintiq in comparison (I’m a TVPaint user mostly . I have ToonBoom , but have never really enjoyed using it that much, but I need to get more familiar with it) . Paul (and several others on the TVPaint forum) say that they much prefer the feel of the Intuos 5 and they like that their hand doesn’t get in the way and that there is a direct one-to-one relation between the cursor tip and the line (without the slight bit of off-set that the Cintiq has ) . But Paul’s animation style is much looser, sketchier line work , which works fine for him , but I’ve always wondered if were possible to do really precise full “Disney-style” clean-up with the Intuos . If you are able to get the kind of precision shown in this test ( ) using the Intuos 5 then I think I need to give the Intuos another chance.

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