Time for a new set of experiments. Sketching is a great outlet, not only is it a nice way to explore visual ideas, but it an elegant way to keep the creative juices flowing without gearing up with a full computer setup. I have generally used an A5 sketchbook and still like pencil even though pen can be fun sometimes. I occasionally scan the sketches in to do colouring etc on the computer and also use the same pages to take design notes or document thinking.
So the idea is to try out a few digital alternatives to the sketchpad – what options are there and how do they compare. First up, I do have a basic WACOM tablet at home that I use with Photoshop (and Mudbox) and compared to a finger on an iPad or a mouse the pen stylus is almost a prerequisite for any viable replacement for the sketchpad.

Pressure-sensitive pens for normal tablets.
This is perhaps the best place to start – though it isnt where I did. There are some basic and more extravagant pen-based options for non WACOM devices that will be part of this test down the track. Some of the options in this space include these iPad pens:
JOT Touch 4
POGO Connect
HEX3 jaja
Adobe stylus and ruler

I am looking forward to trying these out, but test #1 has turned out to be a new device altogether that has replaced the sketchpad completely for the moment and quite successfully at that. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8. This small tablet is light and approachable with the Android OS serving me quite nicely in terms of the apps. It quickly got me going with a range of included software and then with Kindle, Comixology I was up and running with a portable reader. The S-Pen is tiny but working very well with the software for navigation, writing and sketching/drawing. It feels a little too much like drawing on glass perhaps, but still working like a treat. The included S Note application has been good for taking notes on the Loch Maiden game mechanics – not just words of course but diagrams, layout, arrows, trees and other graphical structures all together = Wonderful. Sketching in the app is ok, but grabbing Autodesk’s Sketchbook Pro lifts things up to another level. I still have much to learn, but even basic use of the pencil, paintbrush and layers let me create a suite of cool (and cute) monsters sitting on the couch.

Here are a few of my first sketches on the Note 8 for Loch Dreagan compiled together.

So the Galaxy Note 8 is comprising my current testing, but the next one being lined up is the Microsoft Surface Pro. I have already started to use it as my ‘mobile meeting laptop’ and having the full windows 8 experience on a tiny form-factor is very handy indeed. I have installed Photoshop and Sketchbook Express so far but havent given them a workout. This is a fascinating device that straddles a few categories, being part tablet, part laptop and with the full OS it is a full computer. If I get a chance today I will try out CryEngine on it – negotiating Win8 will be the trick rather than the hardware I think. More on this soon.

More on these tests to come for sure!