So let’s say you’ve decided to become an artist, or you came up old school and have yet to traverse across the digital bridge to the 21st Century. Of course there are devices that work well such as the Wacom Cintiq, The Surface Pro, The Wacom Companion and the Lenovo Helix, but all of these are expensive as hell, and you might wonder what you can do to keep the hard earned cash in your pocket. Fear not animators and artists, Animation Insider’s got your back for cheap alternatives! One look at the items necessary to be a professional digital artist these days can make you think twice about continuing in your endeavor. In order to buy all the essentials like a Wacom Cintiq, Storyboard Pro, Adobe Suite, Autodesk Maya you’d almost have to sell a kidney to have the cash to shell out for these fine items.
Or do you?
For digital drawing hardware there are many cheaper alternatives out there to the industry standard; the Wacom Cintiq and while honestly none of them are as high quality as a Cintiq, if you’ve never used one to begin with you’re unlikely to notice a difference.
The Yiyinova MVP22U is a capable Cintiq replacement and about half the price but for now that’s the only alternative to a desktop Cintiq alternative I can recommend and even that has the caveat of shipping from China. To be fair though if a Cintiq breaks you’ll have to ship it to Germany so it’s a fair enough tradeoff.
Luckily there are other smaller devices you can buy as well that work decently enough.
The Asus EP121 tablet PC is a decent tablet that even has a touchscreen. No it’s NOT an iPad but honestly I’ve found those to be crappy at best while trying to produce professional art, and they won’t run professional programs like Storyboard Pro, or the Adobe Suite. Besides I find it hard to support a company that will not listen to the artists out there by purposely excluding a stylus option for the iPad despite a clear market for it.
For the record a much better alternative for artists is the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2, which while it will not run the above mentioned applications either it DOES come with a stylus and that alone makes me think it’s worth it. We reviewed it last year if you want to take a look.
The Asus EP 121 will run all the standard applications artists use today in a professional environment and do it well. Flash, Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, and Premiere all run handily on the Ep121. It will even handle Maya, 3D Studio Max, Mudbox and Motion Builder and sometimes you can even find it for less than $300 bucks. Right now the cheapest I’ve found the 64 gb configuration for is $550 (which you’ll need to install all that software) but still with a Cintiq costing $2000 you’re getting a good deal. It will even support an external monitor too boot. It comes with a wireless bluetooth keyboard as well.
I happen to be selling one of these right now if you’re in the market so give me a shout if you’re interested.
The old standby though has to be the Motion Computing’s Motion series, in the form of the LE1600 and the LE1700 both of which run Sketchbook Pro like champ and if the studio is asking you to use Photoshop, it natively handles .psd files perfectly. The LE1600 is the cheaper of the two and for that you’ll sacrifice a bit of computing power but it still will run decently for the price. You can get a Motion Computing LE1600 at Gainsaver for $107 bucks! Not bad huh? It will even do light Maya chores, which for $100 is pretty damn spiffy in my book!
The more powerful device is the LE1700 though and for the extra price you can get a much more powerful processor. Granted it will NOT run Storyboard Pro, but it WILL run Flash, Photoshop and Sketchbook Pro. You can get a LE1700 cheaply at Gainsaver for about $125 bucks but if you do, I would suggest you change the processor configuration to the Intel 1.5 ghz Core 2 Duo and have them install Windows 7 on there for you. I would also bump up the hard drive to 80gb. This will only set you back $374 bucks but you can ‘probably’ get away with the default configuration if you just use Sketchbook Pro. Also this handy lil’ device WILL run Maya which is pretty cool but you won’t be able to have dozens of characters and huge backgrounds in one scene. It’s great for modeling. animating and rigging though. It’s not going to run any serious games or anything processor heavy but you can easily draw and animate with it.
Also, with Sketchbook Pro’s latest addition of the Flipbook 2d animation timeline, you can now animate in 2D for a VERY low startup price using both of these devices.
For software, of course you can always buy used software on eBay as well, but quite often that’s just pirated software packaged to look legit and when you get your disks delivered sometime programs won’t register so I’d stay away from that.
There are alternatives as well and so you don’t really have to go to your friendly neighborhood software pirate to get decent software. Most don’t know this, but there are many academic sites that offer the ability to buy cheaper software legally. All you need is a scan of a student’s report card (and if you’re taking classes ANYwhere you qualify) which you’ll upload and they’ll create an account for you which will allow you buy all SORTS of discounted software.
The best I’ve found is called http://www.journeyed.com/ but there are others and they all offer around the same discounts.
Watch for our Artist’s Guide to Tablets 2014 to get advice on everything you could want for an artist coming next month.
As a poor animation student, I thank you from the bottom of my heart!