Using Wacom’s MobileStudio Pro with Painter for Live Digital Caricatures

For years, we have been huge fans of Wacom’s drawing tablets. Drawing Live Digital Caricatures at events around the world, one thing is at the top of the list of what is needed: reliability and functionality. We’ve tried the discount tablets and have been disappointed with reliability and durability. We have tried other tablets that lack functionality (and even keep one as a backup onsite as a backup).

But Wacom has excelled at creating a reliable, durable and functional drawing tool, with a proven history.

Ahead of the Technology Curve

Angie was had been using Wacom products for decades, including their early tablets for CAD design, pre-dating even the Intuos 1 which was introduced in the late 1990s. Since then, she has stayed at the front of the technology curve as Wacom introduced more advanced tablets, including pre-ordering the Cintiq 21UX (which she had to wait an extra half year to have delivered due to limited supply due to Wacom’s high bar of quality control).

However, using the latest tools has had its drawbacks. We were creating a new market, not just digital caricatures, but Live Digital Caricatures. Since there were only between 3-5 other artists in the world doing what we were doing, it became a game of trial and error finding the right balance of hardware, software, and setup.

Back when we used the Cintiq 21 with a Macbook, we had to figure out how to do DVI splitting to mirror the screen from the laptop to both the Cintiq and an external flat screen for clients to see. With the iPad (even drawing at an Apple store the day it first came out), learning to print over wifi was an early hurdle, in addition to stylus pens that lacked what is currently available with the iPad Pro.

With each technological jump, many things that had been obstacles became one click solutions. But also introduced some new hurdles. Which brings us to today.

Two Giants

In addition to the hardware, as a live digital caricature artist, finding the right tool for us was vital. Painter happened to be that tool. We played with Photoshop and love many of its tools, but in the end, Painter’s Scratchboard tool is second to none. Getting lines as tight and solid as Painter’s is tough. Clip Studio (formerly Manga Studio) pulls it off, too. Sadly, Photoshop struggles in this area. On the iPad, we love what is developing with Procreate. But in the end, Painter and Photoshop are the giants for a reason.

For this and several other reasons, Painter is our go to app for live digital caricature events with Wacom’s MobileStudio Pro.

Since we are drawing faces, we both draw in portrait mode and have the external monitor mirroring what we draw also setup in portrait mode. With the Cintiq Companion (the original model), this worked fine.

The Glitch

With the introduction of the MobileStudio Pro, something happened. It’s a rare glitch, but one that under our very specific setup, was pretty significant that we have experienced since it first was released:

When drawing in portrait mode with the MobileStudio Pro with an external display connected, when firing up Painter, the curser calibration gets “rotated” by 90 degrees as soon as Painter’s splash screen clicks off, like it thinks it is in landscape mode. Even forcing the rotation setting in the Windows display doesn’t help.

Deep in the bowels of all that code that is written there’s a conflict. What is amazing is the amount of dedication both Wacom and Corel have been taking in trying to track down the source of this bug.

With so many variables and so many lines of code, it would be easy for one to say it’s the other’s fault.

But both companies have been awesome about trying to fix this, with both having tickets open about the glitch and both have escalated this as to squash this bug.

I also had a wonderful time in Portland a few weeks ago talking with the Wacom team one on one for several days. They are fabulous guys and their commitment to us artists definitely shows.

Fixing the Glitch

To begin, one thing to note is that keeping drivers up to date is pretty important. For this issue, drivers should to be updated on both Wacom’s end and Painter’s end. A simple “check for updates” in both Painter and in Wacom’s control panel will do this very easily.

 

But the problem still persisted after these driver issues.

A huge hat tip to Angel Contreras, who went way outside the box and discovered the key element to resolving this issue. It took Angel to stop looking in the obvious places and, instead, start looking at the beginning of the pipeline. In this case, the graphics card itself.

Wacom’s MobileStudio Pro (at least the 16 inch model) uses an Intel chip. Angel’s clever idea? Update the Intel driver. Under the Windows Display settings is an “Advanced display settings” button. Go there and then select, “Display adapter settings” to access the Intel chip properties.

The first option under the “Adapter” tab (and to the right of the card type) will be an icon of a shield and “Properties.” Click that and you will see a “Drivers” tab. Click to that tab and go down to the “Update driver” button.

Make sure you have no external monitors attached and for safe measures, it might be best to be in landscape mode (not sure if this is important, but hey, this is the default orientation, so why not be safe?) You’ll need to restart the machine after installing it.

After doing all this there can still be a calibration issue. We have found there is one more step that brings us in the clear and should be the final step.

Go back to the main Windows Display setting. You can access this by swiping left from the right side of the screen and selecting, “Settings.”

At this point, make sure you still have no external monitor attached. Physically turn your tablet to portrait orientation. The screen will do it’s rotation “click” animation.

Next, go down to the “Orientation” setting and turn ON the “Lock rotation of this display'” to unlock the orientation options above the lock toggle. Select Portrait and hit Apply.

Now, you can attach the external monitor and the driver updates in conjunction with this portrait lock will trick the external monitor to show in portrait mode, taking up the full screen.

Once this is done, the tablet and Painter play together perfectly.

I’ve developed apps before for the iPhone and, though my apps were tiny by comparison, I can appreciate all the coding that happens and all those instructions being called under the hood to make the magic happen.

The guys at Wacom and Corel are amazing at making that invisible and making things that allow us to just do what we do, without thinking about it. Every once and awhile, some of those instructions end up bouncing into each other and, in this case, we see the result of those conflicts in the form of curser calibration issues.

Thanks to everyone at Wacom and Painter who helped (and are still helping with it), and also to Angel. He’s an outstanding live digital artist that I love being able to draw alongside.