Daily Discipline: Drawing in Inkscape and review of the Surface Pro 4

August 5, 2017

#createdonsurface #surfacepro4 #inkscape #tablet #keyboard #windows10 #stylus #NTrig #mobile #digitalart #drawing

The drawings above were all sketched in Inkscape 64bit on my Microsoft Surface Pro 4.  Today I was keeping up the daily discipline by practicing my art on my new Surface Pro 4 by Microsoft. I can't recommend it enough. I got it last Monday off Amazon. Since then I installed my ol' faithful Adobe Photoshop 6.0 and Inkscape. I grabbed the 32 bit Inkscape thinking that was the one I always used on my desktop PC. Much to my dismay the pressure sensitivity that worked great in Windows' built in art programs and even in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro which I installed as well, didn't work in Inkscape. And it didn't work in Photoshop 6.0 either.

Now I understood going in that it'd be hit or miss with Photoshop 6.0 as it was built way before tablets even existed and though I can use a Wacom tablet for drawing in it with pressure sensitivity on a desktop computer, it was not built to understand tablet programming. But I dont really use Photoshop for drawing anymore, just for coloring, effects and airbrushing. So the Surface Pro runs it fine and does great for production on all those aspects. What I didn't think would be an issue was pressure sensitivity in Inkscape. This came from my research and observation from it not recognizing the tablet and pen itself as a device. It seemed to only want you to connect a Wacom tablet externally or something along those lines. Whats the point in having a tablet if I'm going to hook up my Wacom and carry it along as well. So I took a step back after trying multiple different settings in the Input/Output and Preferences and Input Device settings in Inkscape. After browsing google and forums and even talking to Inkscape on Twitter to no avail I resigned myself to the fact that I might have to do my drawing/ inking on commissions and personal works in different software. Sketchbook Pro was my go to. It delivered immediate pressure recognition and hi resolution art and even some good inking tools. But it was ram heavy and I just wasn't happy with the rasterized results. I love the vector aspect of Inkscape not to mention the borderless canvas. Its so light weight on the hardware and versatile in scaling it just can't be beat. Thats why I use it all the time. I stepped away for a few days to check out trials of other art programs. Corel Draw came close but was so differently organized and everything was named completely different from any other art program I've used. There wasn't even a Layers palette it was just a 'Object Properties' palette. They don't even call them palettes they're called 'DOCKERS'... i just want to draw i don't need clothing! So nope. I tried a trial of Manga Studio ( aka Clip Studio Paint ) but it was pretty radically different as well. I also took the time to go to Microsoft website, and there was a list of updates it said i needed to make on the Surface Pro 4. I updated the firmware, the drivers and the WinTAB drivers. So far no luck. And I kept going in and tweaking around in Inkscape out of desperation on occasion.

I was holding myself to the rule of not getting my hopes up, giving myself two weeks to try it out see if i can find something that will fill my needs on the tablet and justify keeping it rather than returning it to Amazon. I was on the fence for a good while. I did love that it IS a full blown windows computer equivalent to my desktop. When i hook up a USB keyboard and use the stylus as a mouse it comes alive for me and i can use all my left hand shortcuts and draw with my right. Then for typing as I'm doing on it now for this post, I can move the keyboard from behind the tablet on the left to in front. This fact made the use of it come alive for me. But still, I couldn't use my go-to drawing program that I use daily on my desktop to draw commissions and requests for people live on twitch. Its my fastest and most favorite way to draw. This changed Thursday night.

Thursday night after stepping away for a good day or two I re-approached it by uninstalling Inkscape 32bit, and getting the 64 bit. This IS a 64 bit machine after all. So one last try. I installed it (mind you having already installed all the updated firmware/ drivers/ etc). And when i checked this time. What before showed basically nothing in the input devices settings, now showed 3 settings: Microsoft Device, Microsoft Puck and Microsoft Stylus. When i click Microsoft Stylus and look at the dialogue box, it said 'disabled'. None of this was there before mind you. This only showed up when i installed the Inkscape 64bit with all the updated drivers for this tablet. I clicked 'screen' instead of 'disabled' and checked 'use pressure sensitive tablet' and then clicked SAVE. I grabbed the brush tool, made sure the setting at top for 'use pressure from stylus' was checked and started drawing. Bam! I was sitting on the living room couch during this and i yelled WOO HOOO!! out of excitement. And my wife and our niece didn't know what was going on. I told them and my niece was like 'Uncle Eryck I'm trying to do my homework'. And Kristina knew what I was struggling with all week and was excited to hear i got it working. So now the tablet is everything I wanted. I can sketch/ ink/ draw in Inkscape to my hearts content and then finish up with colors and other things in my preferred Photoshop. I don't need another week I'm sold on this bad boy.

Twelve inches of drawing space, i5 processor (not necessarily the fastest available but is more than enough for me) and 4gb ram (not the most you can run this off of but again, more than enough for me) and several gigs of storage. This is a great tablet with a desktop computer experience. The keyboard is a must, and I recommend for the artist types moving your windows toolbar to the top of the screen. When the pen is within detectable range of the screen, the palm recognition is great it very rarely accidentally opens something base on my palm while im resting my hand on the screen to write and draw. For now I'm more than pleased with it and the best aspect, was I could do what I was able to do on my desktop, chained to my desk working in my studio, while sitting at the dining room table and being around my wife and niece the other morning. That was priceless.

Microsoft has put out an amazing device with a lot of potential, and the folks behind Inkscape continue to blow me away with an ever increasingly resourceful drawing and design program.

Update, Later that day... I uninstalled the trials of Clip Studio and Corel Draw and Sketchbook Pro so I could just use Inkscape/ Photoshop on the computer. When I got done uninstalling them I went to later on draw in Inkscape and the options for the stylus were gone. So after doing some critical thinking, I figure the only changing factor was the things I uninstalled. So I reinstalled CorelDrawSuite trial first to see if that changed anything. Sure enough, when I opened Inkscape it had the options for Microsoft Puck, Microsoft Stylus and Microsoft Eraser back. And I set the stylus to 'Screen' instead of  'Disabled' and went and drew with pressure sensitivity. So as far as I can tell, it had nothing to do with having the 64 bit version of Inkscape and nothing to do with any of the updates to the tablet and drivers. It just had something to do with something Corel modifies on the system ( and removes when you uninstall it ) that Inkscape was able to grab up and use. So basicly, install the CorelDraw creative suite trial on your tablet and just dont worry bout using it and enjoy pressure sensitivity in Inkscape!

I would be interested to hear thoughts/ and your own experiences getting Inkscape to work on Surface Pro 4 or anything similar. Thanks!

Update 9/2 About two weeks after the last day i'd be able to return it it started dropping wifi connections every time it updated, the pen would loose connectivity and even when it was connected it would skip when i try to do continuous lines. The screen would shake like my eyes were having a seizure randomly and uncontrollably. I really have no idea what happened i have babied it since day one waiting till i had a case and screen protector and stuff to get too brave with it. I'm very disappointed. Will be selling it on ebay or to anybody interested. My large 10 inch samsung tablet with spen is still the best and so many things on it that just work compared to the sillyness of the features on the surface pro 4. I would not recommend it. Very disappointed.


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