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Creative Gear

Creativity is elusive and hard to quantify, but something many want to encourage, stimulate, and foster in themselves. Sketching is one way to get those creative juices flowing. The tools needed are simple: some paper, and a pencil. Add some colors, a brush or two, and suddenly you find yourself kitted out for an afternoon of painting along the river bank. Toward that end, we have assembled a collection of tools we think will of interest to the artist with a digital bent (or the digerati with an artistic bent).

The tools listed below were chosen based on one overriding criteria: mobility. A lot of digital work is done in studios on large monitors, with big graphics tablets, and powerful computers. The laptop freed the artist from the studio, but were not conducive to spur-of-the-moment inspirations and impromptu sketching. Tablets changed all that. Today’s digital artist is finally unchained and can work productively away from the desk. To further that end, we suggest the following:

Pen-shaped styli such as the Bamboo Pocket and Duo will make drawing on digital tablets less like finger-painting and more like actual painting. To produce the feel of painting with a paintbrush, nothing beats the Sensu brush. The Sensu interacts with any touch sensitive surface EXACTLY like a finger or a stylus, but because it has actual bristles, it mimics the feel of brushing paint on a canvas. The only aspect of a real brush which the Sensu cannot simulate is the effects that come from varying the pressure of the brush on the canvas.

For people looking for that pressure-sensitive input, Wacom products are the go-to choice. Wacom’s flagship drawing surface Cintiq coupled with one of their pressure/tilt sensitive pens cannot be beat. But for actual portability and and better affordability, an iPad and Wacom’s Intuos Creative Stylus combo is a more reasonable choice. For sketchers and drawers who requires pressure-sensitive control, the Intuos Creative Stylus is state of the art. The current version has a pencil eraser-size nib, but Wacom has a newer version which is considerably pointy-er. We will have more to say about it once we have the newer one in house. What we would love to see, though, is for Sensu and Wacom to get together and offer a real brush tip for a pressure-sensitive stylus. That is not asking for much, right?


In the early 1800s, William Wollaston patented a device called the camera lucida(Latin for “light chamber”). A camera lucida is an optical drawing aid that allows you to trace what you see. Last year, through KickstarterPablo Garcia and Golan Levinresurrected this long forgotten drawing tool for what they thought would be a small group of sketchers and drawers. Their NeoLucida project got more than 11,000 backers and exceeded its $15K funding goal by $400K. We were interested in seeing how the NeoLucida would pair with the iPad, but all of the units sold out by the time we got wind of the project.

Last May, we heard that Garcia and Levin were planning a second run of the NeoLucida and were taking pre-orders for a September 2014 delivery. These new units will have some changes based on the lessons learned in manufacturing the first version. We didn’t hesitate and ordered one sight unseen. Then we completely forgot about it and went about our business until a note on September 9th informed us that our NeoLucida unitwas ready and would be shipped directly from the factory in China. Neo-wha??? Oh, that thing we order back in May!

The unit we received had a silvered prism housed in an anodized aluminum mount. The prism is supported by an adjustable gooseneck arm and a sturdy metal clamp. What an incredible value at $40! The NeoLucida folks even managed to add a little surprise to the device. The instructions noted that there is a 1/4”-20 threaded connection between the gooseneck arm and the prism holder. By removing the prism, the NeoLucida arm can double as a standard camera mount/clamp. How awesome is that???


Having the Boogie Board Sync 9.7 eWriter in your bag is like carrying around a pad of paper that never runs out. Of course, the limitation of eWriters are that they are black and white only. Still, they are great for line drawings and outlines. Unlike paper, with the SYNC 9.7 eWriter, we can save our sketches and wirelessly transfers to them to the smartphone, tablet or computer via Bluetooth. Can’t do that with a piece of paper!

In our next post, we’ll show some of the watercolors we “painted” while learning how to use the Sensu brush. We will also try using the NeoLucida with the iPad mini and the Boogie Brush Sync 9.7 to see if this old-school gadget meshes with the high tech gear.

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