At first I wasn’t completely sure how long it would take me to transition to fully digital illustrations, but after a week of using my Wacom Cintiq, I’m now pretty addicted to it.

Paint Tools SAI has really been, I think, the main reason I’ve been able to jump into this with little trouble and enjoy it as I go. SAI might not have all the bells and whistles of PhotoShop, which I’ve been using for the better part of 15 years, but what it does do, it does well, which is draw.

The interface of SAI is nice and simple and it has some unique features for drawing. I was able to assign one of the Wacom’s side touch-strips to rotate the canvas. This way can use my right thumb (I’m left-handed when I draw – right-handed with the mouse.) to quickly slide up and down the touch-strip when I need to rotate. I also assigned buttons to reset the rotation, zoom in/out, and on the pen undo and move the canvas. It’s a really simple setup, but it works well for me.

Another great thing about SAI is the stabilization setting. With this, it slows and smooths your pen motions—making it easier to make smooth lines. For sketching I turn stabilization off, but for inking it’s a great asset, especially for long curved lines.

Once I got everything set, and after a little playing around, I started to try and draw some real images. I learn better by doing, so doodles weren’t going to cut it. When sketching, I quickly realized how nice it is to be able to select something and move or resize it. If the head is too big I can just select it and scale it up some. This is a whole new sense of freedom I didn’t have with pencil and paper!

Inking is pretty easy with the stabilization. With my traditional inking pens I was always a little limited by how thin the pens could get. Thick and thin was never really as easy to control as I would have liked. With the Wacom I can manage to get some nice, thin, smooth lines, though it will take some time to get used to it. Unlike paper and pens, you don’t have any real friction on a Wacom’s smooth surface.

The sky is the limit for coloring digitally. After watching the great SAI videos on YouTube by really talented artists I realized there are so many different ways I can color now with the Wacom. Before I would just use the selection tool in Photoshop. The mouse is way too imprecise to color with. Now I can color using the same motions I use to draw. Almost like coloring an image in a coloring book!

The possibilities seem endless and I’m excited to see how it improves my illustrations.