Wacom Cintiq 21UX graphics tablet

Forget about the iPad: the Wacom Cintiq 21UX is the digital sketchpad most artists will want.

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Wacom Cintiq 21UX

Pros

  • Hands-down the best way to draw and paint digital artworks

Cons

  • Screen glare issues, large and heavy if used on your lap, pricey

Bottom Line

Every artist, designer, animator and compositor will want a Wacom Cintiq 21UX. It makes drawing, painting, designing and rotoscoping like being a kid with crayons again – it's just so much fun to use. Its price will put many off, but if you can afford it you’ll quickly learn to love it.

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Despite costing more than many workstations and being about as portable, the Wacom Cintiq 21UX is so much more than a sketchpad. It’s an easel and a full set of Grumbacher paints and brushes to the iPad’s 2B and a Moleskine sketchbook – it enables you to create final artworks, not just roughs.

The Cintiq 21UX puts an iPad/iPhone-style bezel around a 21-inch screen that’s also touch-sensitive. Like the iPad, it has a 4:3 screen that feels odd if you’re used to widescreen displays – but its 1,600 x 1,200 resolution is enough to prevent tools from Photoshop and Painter to After Effects and Nuke from feeling cramped.

The design doesn’t come from Apple though – it’s from Wacom’s Intuos4 line of tablets, and is more appealing than the muted greys of the 21UX’s predecessor, which confusingly had the same name.

It’s not just the design that Wacom has overhauled: the new 21UX works better too. The level of sensitivity has been doubled to 2,048 – so you’ll really be able to fine-tune effects in tools such as the new wet paint system in Photoshop (or the long-standing one in Painter).

Possibly more importantly, the older model’s parallax effect – where the point where your pen appears to touch the screen seems to float over what you see in Photoshop – has been reduced dramatically, giving a more natural, tactile experience.

Despite having a good colour depth, the screen of the 21UX screen has one major flaw – it’s a heavy gloss that shows considerable glare under bright sunlight or studio lights.

Another issue is the Cintiq’s thickness and weight. Even without the base, the main unit weighs more than a 17-inch laptop – and it’s as thick as your arm. This makes it more than a little unwieldy to use on your lap. Thankfully though, on a desk it’s a lot easier.

The well-designed based has two paddles like a steering wheel that allow you to quickly tilt the 21UX to vertical, and you can quickly rotate it to avoid having to draw strokes at odd angles. If you’re looking for something more portable, check out the 12-inch Cintiq 12WX.

Along both side of the bezel are the ExpressKeys and Touch Toggle, with Control Strips behind.

As a leftie, I’m glad Wacom has put ExpressKeys, Display Toggles and Control Strips along both sides of the Cintiq. While many left-handed creatives have learned to use right-handed mice, for drawing the use of your natural hand is a must.

Every artist, designer, animator and compositor will want a Cintiq 21UX. It makes drawing, painting, designing and rotoscoping like being a kid with crayons again – it’s just so much fun to use. Its price will put many off, but if you can afford it you’ll quickly learn to love it.

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