Hardware review: Wacom Inkling
No other product does what the Wacom Inkling can do – turn paper sketches into vector illustrations – so is this the missing link for getting drawings onto your computer?
£149 / $199 / €170
Windows / Mac
- Vector sketching hardware
- Portable drawing tool
- Ability to catalogue sketches
Wacom has launched a new product, the Inkling, which brings sketching on paper into the digital age. With the Inkling, you can sketch on paper wherever your are and transfer your sketches to your computer when it suits you as vector artwork, which can then be edited in a variety of creative applications.
The Inkling hardware consists of a pen and a small receiver box, about the height, length and half the width of a box of matches. The receiver has a clip that lets you attach it to a sketchpad or other paper-based media.
Both these items are stored in a sturdy plastic folio, which also contains a micro USB cable and ink refills for the pen. The receiver has a USB port to allow connection to a computer. A lot of thought has gone into the folio design, which is a small and portable package. The pen and receiver both slot into their respective ports with a reassuring click, and are easy to remove when needed. The only slight concern is the securing clip for the receiver, which wasn’t grippy enough, and it didn’t offer enough clearance to be used on thick cardboard.
The Inkling was tested on a couple of notebooks: the best results were attained on an A5 140gsm spiral-bound sketchpad. The manual says that the smallest sketchbook you can use with the Inkling is A6, and for best results it’s advised not to go any larger than A4.
When sketching, finding a pen you’re comfortable with is almost as important as the ideas you’re trying to create – once you start work, the pen should disappear from your consciousness. The Inkling pen is slightly thicker than most drawing pens, and is slightly top-heavy due to the battery. The body of the pen feels the same as an Intuos pen, with the same comfortable rubberised coating. However, the tip is made of hard, grooved plastic, which extends approximately 2cm from the pen body. If, like me, you prefer to grip a pen quite close to the nib, this makes the pen feel uncomfortable.
TO THE POINT
Another drawback is that the Inkling is a ballpoint pen. This makes sketching with the Inkling feel transient, because without the control of a proper drawing ink pen, or even a pencil, the finesse of sketching is lost. This adds to the cheap feeling of the drawing experience. The Inkling comes bundled with ballpoint refills, but it would be more beneficial to have different types of pen nibs – suck as ink, pencil, and so on.
However, the key feature of the Inkling isn’t its ability on paper. The reason you would buy one of these is to get your sketches on your computer in an editable format. When connected (I tested it on a Mac running Mac OS Lion) the Inkling mounts as an external volume, containing a folder of your sketches plus the installers for the Sketch Manager software. With the long battery life, I was still using it three weeks later on one charge. This really is a device that you can just drop in your bag and take anywhere.
The software enables you to calibrate your Inkling, review your sketches, and export to – in my case – Illustrator, Photoshop and SketchBook Designer. The Sketch Manager software offers a facility to scrub through the drawing of your sketch on a timeline. This would be a great feature if you could watch an animation of the drawing of your sketches, but unfortunately you can’t!
When I did export my files, SketchBook Designer was the most successful program in terms of line fidelity, and allowed me to clean up the mistakes that the Inkling software had created.
Unfortunately that is where the Inkling let me down – the finished sketch didn’t always match what I had drawn. Most of the time it did a good job of capturing the majority of the drawing. However, there were always lines missing, or lines that were slightly off in placement or direction, that would need some cleaning up.
For £150, I really was expecting a miracle: I had hoped that the Inkling would allow me to integrate proper paper sketching into my workflow. The concept is brilliant, as is the design, and it does something that no other product does – turn paper sketches into vector illustrations. However, you would get results just as good using a decent pen and sketchbook, and tracing your sketches with a Wacom tablet. With a cheap-feeling ballpoint pen and inconsistent capture of your drawing input, the Inkling is a heartbreaking disappointment.
- Excellent design
- Unique workflow
- Very long battery life
- Pen feels cheap
- Doesn’t capture drawing exactly
The Inkling is a great idea, but it’s spoilt by a poor pen and a workflow no faster than existing pen and paper sketching methods
on Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 at 11:49 am under Hardware, Reviews.
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