Can you draw on a screen?
-Review of the Yiynova MSP19U, the affordable alternative to Wacom Cintiq.
As far back as I can remember, I have drawn. My oldest drawing memory is from when I was a little kid, five or six years of age, sitting at the dining table and draw Uncle Scrooge from a Donald Duck magazine, under expert supervision from my drawing happy father.[spacer size=”20″]
Now it’s some 30+ years and thousands of drawings and many comic pages later. Common to them all is that they always start in exactly the same way: with a large white piece of paper. It has always been this way, and it always will … or will it?
The digital age
When we suddenly entered into the digital age, it was a necessity for illustrators and other good people of the drawing kind to convert their analog drawings into digital files. Here we have made use of scanners that photograph drawings in minute detail, and given us the lovely easy-editable digital files.
The next step from here was the drawing tablet – or digitizers.. Now we could sit with the tablet on the table or your lap, and draw free-hand, all while the line magically appeared on the screen. It was great to try, and in the past I have owned 3-4 different drawing tablets from various producers.
Buh, I say to you, Mr. Drawing Tablet!
[pullquote align=”right”]For me, they never managed to become much more than a novel piece of toy[/pullquote]Unfortunately I never got to have a natural relationship with drawing on a tablet. For me, they never managed to become much more than a novel piece of toy that just had its eligibility for fast and imprecise sketches. It was simply impossible for me to control that when I drew a horizontal line on the tablet, that the line on the screen would also become horizontal.
Quite simple, it has something to do with the fact that I move around in my chair when I draw. And if I move in relation to the position of the tablet, the line get’s equally skewed.
Drawing monitor – and the price of a small jet fighter?
Some years ago I had a revelation. I worked for a short time at a communications agency, where they had a Wacom Cintiq in a corner. Wacom is a Japanese company that, among other things, produce drawing tablets and … drawing monitors! The Cintiq is such a drawing monitor, and the great thing with it, was that you simply bypassed all the time consuming parts, and draw directly on the screen – in the software we know the best, like Photoshop.
[pullquote align=”left”]This was a revolution, and I were both blown away and in love with it immediately.[/pullquote]This was a revolution, and I were both blown away and in love with it immediately.
But the big reason that I never got myself such a drawing monitor: it cost an arm and a leg. Today a Cintiq in a professional and functional size will typically cost you around 2000 $. So it’s been with hungry eyes, that I have been sighing for it – from a good long distance.
In the last days before the New Year 2012/2013, I came across a link on Facebook from the Danish cartoonist and animator Kim Hagen. He had found something very, very interesting: an affordable alternative to the expensive Wacom screen: a Yiynova MSP19U.
Yiynova – the cheap alternative to Wacom
Without much ado and media attention the Taiwanese company Yiynova has managed to produce a drawing monitor that can measure up to the big competition from Wacom – and best of all: it only costs 599 dollars.
[pullquote align=”right”]and best of all: it only costs 599 dollars[/pullquote]But one thing is price, another is functionality. Thanks to Google, I quickly found user reviews of the drawing monitor, and they were in most cases very, very positive.So I took the plunge. It had to be now!
I found that the Yiynova MSP19U is for sale in most of the world through Amazon.
First and second generation
MSP19U is a 19 inch drawing monitor in the format of 16:10. The resolution is 1440 × 900 pixels, and stylus pen has a pressure sensitivity of 2048 points. On the back of the screen there is an adjustable stand that allows you to put it down almost level to your table, or cause it to stand at an angle of 45 degrees – and slightly more.
Yiynova has released TWO drawing monitor, one called MSP19 and the other is called MSP19 U. MSP19 is the first generation, and I have it from reliable sources that it is NOT worth spending money on. MSP19 uses an unstable technology to communicate between screen and stylus pen, but that has been rectified with the sequel, the MSP19U. So remember: go for the one with the U! Even if the first generation is slightly cheaper.
The box that the drawing monitor arrives in is just as gray and unsexy as product name (“MSP19U” – what the heck is MSP, and why couldn’t they have come up with a little more idiomatic and nicer name?). But the package does contain exactly what you need. The monitor is floating securely between two foam blocks, and includes the cables you need, a pen and a CD with drivers.
The pen however worries me slightly. It seems fragile in its plastic form, and I am truly afraid it will roll out over the edge of the table and onto the floor – I’m sure that will break it. Fortunately, you can buy the stylus separately online at Amazon – if an accident should occur. Yiynova says they are working on a new more robust model.
There is one overshadowing thing to keep in mind before you connect the monitor: if you have any sort of hardware from Wacom installed on your computer, it must be 100% uninstalled. If you do not do this, it will cause a conflicts with the monitor, and it will not function correctly. I had done my homework on this, and my computer was wiped of anything that had something to do with Wacom.
There are two cables connected to the monitor. One goes to the computer’s VGA slot, and is what makes it possible to see anything on the screen. This cable also has a USB connector, which is what makes the pen work. This cable can not be removed from the screen, as opposed to the other, which is the power cable.
[pullquote align=”right”]It does not take much more than a few minutes to breathe life into the monitor, so that it is 100% usable.[/pullquote]It does not take much more than a few minutes to breathe life into the monitor, so that it is 100% usable. If you have previously connected an external monitor to your setup, then you are already familiar with the procedure. Just when you turn it on, the screen is black. I’m on a Windows 8 64-bit laptop, and here you go just to ‘screen resolution’ from the desktop, and asks Windows to register new screens, then Windows takes care of the rest. To make a connection between screen and stylus pen, you open the driver software and ask it to usethe second screen (the Yiynova), and click ‘apply’. Now it’s alive, and you can get started.
However, it is worth spending a minute to calibrate the monitor, which is still something you do in the driver software. Depending on how much accuracy is desired, it can be done through 4, 9 or 25 points of calibration – I’ve always used the nine points. Then the pen will draw exactly where you want it to … almost.
Distance from glass to screen
[pullquote align=”left”]Unlike my problems with learning how to draw on a graphics tablet, it became second nature to draw on the Yiynova MAP19U in less than five minutes. Seriously![/pullquote]Unlike the Wacom, there is a relatively large distance between the point where you put the stylus on the glass, and where the line on the LCD screen is recorded. I guess there are about 7-8 mm between the glass and screen, which I believe is about double that of the Cintiq. Depending on your viewing angle this may or may not be something you even notice, but to the best of my knowledge it is not something that bother me – or even something I notice.
Unlike my problems with learning how to draw on a graphics tablet, it became second nature to draw on the Yiynova MAP19U in less than five minutes. Seriously!
If you have tried to draw on a Cintiq, or one of the smaller Wacom graphics tablets, then you have probably made use of the buttons on the side of the screen – the hotkeys. The shortcut buttons for commonly used functions, such as undo, zoom, etc..
You do not have these buttons on the MSP19U. It is not something I really miss while drawing, as I have my laptop right next to the screen, and it seems only natural to draw with your right hand, and have left hand resting on the keyboard (like the fingers on Ctrl + z). But sure, the hotkeys would have been nice – but that’s a luxury problem.
Photoshop and Manga Studio
I have tested the MSP19U with Photoshop CS6 and Manga Studio 4 and 5. And if I have to be completely straight-to-the-point and a little boring, all I can say is that I have not encountered any major problems at all. Everything has actually run like clockwork.
Photoshop has, however, a tendency to make your drawn lines a little jagged if you are working on a very large canvas and simultaneously are zoomed far out. In my tests Photoshop works best if you do not get any farther out than max 50% zoom. This is not a problem in Manga Studio, as it uses some vector calculations of the lines to automatically “smoothed them out”.
[pullquote align=”right”]I simply feel more inclined to draw now, than I did before. Yay![/pullquote]I have used the drawing monitor to draw black and white linework, I have made some colorization and photo editing etc., and it has mainly all worked out without any problems – also it’s been a surprisingly intuitive way to work. Not to mention that my creative productivity has risen a few degrees. I simply feel more inclined to draw now, than I did before. Yay!
Oops, it broke!
After having used my MSP19U for less than two weeks, the single ONE thing that was not suppose to happen, happened. It broke! While I was working on it the bottom left corner began flashing, and it turned out a diode in the screen broke. I was somewhere between rage and in tears when I contacted Yiynova, and they told me that that sometimes happens (1 in 100), especially if the monitor had had a bumpy transportation (I’m looking at you, package delivery man).
I returned it to Yiynova on a Wednesday morning, and exactly ONE week later I had received a brand new monitor! That seems like a pretty fast response time, I would say. Of course it is annoying that your new toy breaks down, but I think it is reassuring that the Yiynova support team is ready on the sidelines with quick help if an accident should occurs.
Yiynova vs. Wacom
It’s been a few years since I’ve last used a Cintiq, but I do not remember any noteworthy things about it that should be emphasized at the expense of Yiynova’en. The new Cintiqs has a higher resolution than the Yiynova, sure, and you can get them up to 24 inches and in HD, BUT the cost is also in the proximity of that damned jet fighter.
[pullquote align=”left”]You can, of course, not compare the Wacom and the Yiynova 100% on specification – here the Wacom simply has better specs, but for value-for-money, the Yiynova is a clear winner.[/pullquote]At a cost that can be as little as 1/4 of a Cintiq, you get a professional tool that does exactly what it needs to. Easy connection, strong screen and fine intuitive sense of drawing with the pen.
If you’re like me, you can never justify to yourself spending up to 2000 dollars on a drawing monitor. Then the monitor from Yiynova is a very attractive alternative, with its affordable price of just about 599$. You can, of course, not compare the Wacom and the Yiynova 100% on specification – here the Wacom simply has better specs, but for value-for-money, the Yiynova is a clear winner.
That large white piece of paper
As I said at the beginning of this review, for my part, a drawing has always started with a large white piece of paper. After using the Yiynova MSP19U for almost two months, I can with a relatively high certainty say that, in the future, my drawings and comic pages will always start on a large piece of white digital canvas in either Photoshop or Manga Studio.
I am hooked on drawing directly on the monitor, and I can not imagine a serious reason to go back to paper and pencil. It took me no more than five minutes to get that feeling of second nature, when drawing on the MSP19U – and drawing digitally from the start, gives you so many creative and time-saving benefits which I think you’ll first discover when you are sitting in front of a drawing monitor yourself.
The drawing monitor from taiwanese Yiynova with the unsexy name MSP19U gets my warmest recommendation – and a full set of stars on parade. If we say the scale is from one to ten, then it gets a full ten … maybe eleven.
[box title=”The author” color=”#3fd5d5″]This review is written by Kim Lyng Larsen, a danish graphic designer and comic book artist.[/box]
[box title=”PRO-TIP” color=”#3c6619″]
I strongly recommend you getting a “draw-glove” for when you work on the drawing monitor. I use a really nice glove that Yiynova have developed, the ARTIST GLOVE . The glove has only one finger, the little finger, and the rest are free, which gives you great mobility and sensitivity to your fingers, except where the hand is resting on the screen.
If you don’t use a glove your hand will ” stick” to the glass and it will bounce on it, instead of the neat frictionless movement you can achieve with a glove. The gloves from Yiynova are sent as pairs, one for right-handed and one for left-handed, and they are one-size-fits-all.[/box]