Hi Guys and Gals, hope you are good, hope you are all enjoying creating digital art and getting your inspiration flowing. Welcome to this review of the ISKN Slate 2 which is a digitizing art product which we here at SmartArt think is fab and a real must for artists looking to bridge the gap between traditional drawing and digital art.
Here at SmartArt we have taken a good look at this product and given it to a few of our artists to have a play and see what they think – we have thus produced this review detailing what the best things are about this revolutionary product and what we like most about it to the few limitations we found with it as well. Read on and see why the ISKN slate is a great product to have for any digital artist that still loves paper :)
As you probably know already, the ISKN slate 2 is a digitizing product, brought in market by a French start up company. It works like a graphics tablet but lets you draw on real paper. It heightens the speed of converting your hand draw drawn illustrations to digital copies – and it is a lot of fun!
The device uses magnetic rings fitted onto a pen or pencil. The slate tracks the ring’s movements with sensors to create a live, digital version of your drawing onto its own native app, Imagink and it works for iPads, PCs and Macs with Android mobile support coming soon. When you buy the product, the magnetic rings, clips, pen and tip are all packaged nicely into a sturdy box and the packaging is artistic and ergonomic for the type of art product its cases.
Here at SmartArt there were many things we liked about the Slate and its drawing ability as our artists tested it - here is our top 7:
This may seem obvious but it’s the whole point of the slate and hence its main USP. There are many benefits of drawing directly through a digital medium but drawing on your own sketchbook where you can not only see your drawing but also physically touch it – this charm is hard to match and is what many artists fall in love with! The big advantage here is that with the ISKN you get just this, you don’t have to stare at a screen while drawing and by the end of your drawing you get yourself a digital copy of your creation too – priceless J
Be able to physically draw your creation and then see it come alive digitally is what really makes this technology wonderful and why many artists are falling in love with it. The Slate it self comes with 8 hours of battery life and 8 GB of internal memory so you really don’t have to stare at a screen with this memo0072y you can have 800000 drawing pages! You can even draw with out being connected to any device and transfer your drawings later when you wish!
This effectively means you can carry the slate with you anytime on your travels and start drawing instantly when inspiration strikes! And then get your digital copy too! J Which you can then edit, upload, share and touch up in any other digital software package you wish! Fantastic!
Finally, in regards to carrying ISKN sell a sleeve for the Slate and sketchbook and for carrying your pens and pencils as well as the magnetic rings which is very cool and practical retailing at approx. £24 in the UK as an additional cost from their site.
When you create a lot of digital art, illustrations, vectors graphics etc. our artists said it is a great relief to eliminate these many stages of the workflow. The beauty is that ISKN allows you to save your sketch not only as JPEG, PNG, Bitmap or a PhotoShop document (PSD) but it also allows you to save the drawing as an SVG.
Our artists say that often a simple sketch of just a few lines is often the basis of a more detailed vector illustration. And so, when you sketch on the ISKN slate no more tracing work is needed on for example InkScape or Illustrator or any other software you may be using. Just upload your drawing from the slate as an SVG and take your artwork even further in any direction you wish!
An added benefit of using this digitising tool compared to the many others out there is that you can use your own favourite pens and pencils. You are not restricted to a particular drawing tool which we found as great! You can practically use any pencil, pen etc in particular your favourite pen and then simply insert the Magnetic rings provided and get drawing and digitising straight away! Happy days :)
This is one thing here at SmartArt we fell in love with, with the slate. Normally you can never really watch yourself draw i.e. appear over your own shoulder and watch the magic unfold. But the Slate allows you to do just this – as ISKN lets you export your sketching process as a video in either MP4/AVI formats. Great for when you want to inspire your fans and seeing your own inspiration flow as well as storytelling. And for sharing your knowledge and talent with other people online :)
One of the limitations we found is that even though you would not use the slate to draw elaborate drawings it was certainly great for creating small, organic shapes (or motifs) which can then be used as part of a larger digital illustration. And the added benefit is that you then get a purely hand-drawn feel to those shapes as against to typical clean-cut looking ones created by digital vector software. This may then give you final drawing a real edge to ones that are simply done purely digitally.
Furthermore, we found the slate great for brainstorming and jotting down ideas, doodling and note taking. You can now brainstorm on paper and have these thought processes instantly digitised ready for you to share with the world! And on top of this you can even keep digital copies of all you hand written material whether it was just a random idea that you may eventually grow to a big piece of artwork! All in all, making us feel the slate is a very valuable companion to any artist.
Compared to top digital drawing software some of these rendering features on the Imagink App may be considered as basic but we actually really liked them they were both actually fun and useful and the ease of having different rendering on the screen simply by picking another colour or tip we found was a nice added feature.
For example, the Airbrush on the App is just like a real airbrush with off course not actually touching the surface. With the slate you hold your pen away from the paper and you can see your airbrushing action happening live on screen and that too exactly in accordance to the distance between your stylus or pen/pencil and the paper! Great Stuff! :)
Our final pro is really a quencher here at SmartArt we think that the ISKN slate is actually good value for money in particular compared to other digitising products out there. From a range of pros leading from the tool’s versatility (i.e. what drawing tools and paper you can use) to the large enough internal storage memory to the formats you can digitise makes the ISKN slate a great value digitising artist tool. Its price UK £169 (as live per their current site - https://www.iskn.co/uk/ ) is actually pretty good for what you are getting.
There were however some things we found that were not so good with the Slate – not many but things certainly to watch out for when considering buying one for yourself:
Our artists created many sketches using the slate and, in the process, we can safely say that the sketches on paper and the digital reproduction don’t’ match 100%. Its very close and certainly a great recreation but not perfect. We noticed on some sketches where the shading is more and in shapes and drawings where the lines actually define the image there were inaccuracies which were noticeable to the human eye. This is probably due to the fact that the Slate relies on magnets – and this can be a problem when your near other magnetic devices. For instance, you can get unwanted stray marks recorded all over the image if the pencil or pen is too close to the paper as well. Additionally, you can get magnetic disturbance from these other devices that will then affect the final performance of the drawing and recreation. ISKN does warn you to keep magnetic devices away from the Slate both while starting up and in use – thus let’s hope you don’t have a magnetic desk!
Overall thus you cannot expect something you have drawn using the Slate to have the flawless curves and lines you get when you purely digitally draw and thus some amount of tweaking or adjustments in nodes will always be required for you drawing to look completely neat. If this is the look you are going for – otherwise you may be happy with a rugged natural sketch if this is what you are actually going for! J
Added to this magnetic problem ISKN does admit to this and says magnetic items can disturb the accuracy and functioning of the slate this even could be you iPad or PC for what you have connected the slate too! This is why ISKN recommends that whilst drawing these devices should be at least 20cms to 8 inches away to ensure accurate drawings. Just another thing to take note off – pardon the pun. But as the product develops more features will be included and the company has said that they will be adding a Magnetic indicator as a work around for this disturbance problem which help indicate when the Slate is getting interference :)
One fundamental issue with the slate and the digital drawings it produces is that the Slate cannot detect pressure in your stroke that you apply with you pen or paper. For some artists this is a big no no as for them this it the most important feature for an intuitive drawing process. This can’t be helped at the moment but the company says they are working on this feature an may have a solution soon and currently you can just make use of the speed sensitivity the Slate offers. A tip our artists found is that your strokes are thinner on the screen when you draw faster on the sheet of paper.
Our final niggle that our artists found is that currently the slate comes in just one size with the drawing surface for an A5 format paper. This is perfect for on the go sketching but is certainly not good for drawing bigger more elaborate illustrations or for a drawing that requires a bigger drawing surface such as a cityscape.
The company is growing too and a lot of the past bugs in the product such as latency issues have been ironed out. This product is going to grow and keep shining here at SmartArt we liked it and artists can get a real sense of pleasure when using the slate. It’s an odd sensation a really cool feeling but our artists claimed it was highly addictive :)
All in all, we give the ISKN Slate 4 STARs its going to grow into a beautiful product and it has a real niche for digital artists who still want the paper touch. The added benefits reviewed in this review far outweigh the negative points made and we feel this product is a great piece of art tech – what do you think?
Do you have one? Here at SmartArt we are interested in any of you, who have one of these neat art techs – please feel free to comment your thoughts especially if you have used one? Below or on our facbook page. Do you enjoy using it? We will be very happy to hear from you! :)
In the meantime, folks happy drawing!! :)
Sajan and The SmartArt Team :)