February '19

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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2 0 1 9 F E B R U A R Y P R I N T W E A R 2 3 run some $1,600. Unsurprisingly, larger versions are increasingly costly. A second drawback is the reliance on shortcut keys. Until recently, even pro tablets were relegat- ed to 16 programmable physical keys. On large displays, one side's set demands digi- tizers reach across the tablet or use one's pen hand to press them. Some tablet users add programmable gaming keypads to their setup. I usually avoid reliance on specialty peripherals, and to a degree, the tablet itself. Programmable periph- erals can be convenient, but produce an idiosyncratic input style, making you less effective when forced to work without your particular toolkit. One final con comes in the differences in movement. The accuracy of the pen relies on a somewhat steady hand. Whereas a mouse can be positioned and allowed to rest for a click, the pen must be hovered in place and then tapped on the tablet to affect the same click, using an additional modifier key or a key on the pen for a right click. Some users find this click makes them wander somewhat from the intended position. THE HYBRID SETUP STATION As a current user of both pen displays and the traditional mouse and keyboard, you might assume I favor a hybrid of the two. I find art creation and initial digitiz- ing using the pen is fast and has definite benefits. I am lucky enough to have found a sturdy, posable arm to mount my pen tablet, which allows me to place a keyboard just under the tablet while I draw, as well as use traditional keyboard shortcuts with minimal strain. I maintain a large 2k moni- tor with my tablet display, often switching to monitor and mouse for my final editing pass, particularly when working on de- signs with precise geometric shapes and a preponderance of straight lines. Though I constrain angles with modifiers while using the pen, I find editing benefits from the precision and moving elements or laying out an overall design area is easier with acceleration. Though tablets can be used in mouse mode, it's the combination of the movement style and acceleration that sways me to switch over. The mouse lends itself to slow, small movements for precision and yet moves across the entirety of my large screen with little more than a quick flick of the wrist, while the pen display is made for one-to-one tracking. Though I admit to being more comfortable with the mouse, I enjoy not only the creative differences offered by the tablet, but the additional ergonomic benefit of switching between the hand positions that these two methodologies offer, thus reducing the overall strain each position puts on my wrists and fingers. If I were working on a tighter budget, I would still see the addition of a periph- eral, non-display tablet to any digitizing setup being valuable for the benefit of switching positions, even if it didn't offer additional functionality. This is what I'd recommend for digitizers who haven't yet learned a method. I struggled at first with my addition of a tablet. Had I originally drifted between entry methods more frequently, I think I'd have better wrist health and more flexibility in the way I digitize now. NEEDFUL, HELPFUL, OR HEALTHFUL Having described my setup, which is undeniably costly, I want to clarify that you can easily digitize without any spe- cialty hardware. I started on a small CRT monitor with a mechanical mouse. Evo- lutionary jumps in utility came with larger monitors and precise, optical mice. Even so, a large flat-screen with middling resolution and corded optical mouse were all I used for nearly all the noteworthy designs I've digitized. The quality of the work is not in the hardware nor necessarily in the software, but in the imagination and care of the digitizer. That said, I would claim the benefit of years of eyestrain headaches and cramped hands to say that it's worthwhile to upgrade your display as you can and experiment with different control methods. With lower-cost options entering the market from new tablet manufactur- ers, a wealth of programmable peripherals, and truly decent displays at a fraction of the prices they once garnered, it's worth considering the cost of these additional tools. Not just because they might pay you back in increased efficiency or capability, but because they might prevent damage that would take you away from digitizing before your time. PW Erich Campbell has more than 18 years experience as an award-winning digitizer, e-commerce manager, and industry educator. He empowers decorators to do their best work and achieve a greater success. A current educator and long-time columnist, Erich takes every opportunity to provide value to the industry. Some tablet display users find the built-in shortcut buttons lacking, so many turn to gaming peripherals to get pro- grammable keys to fit their spaces while still affording the speed of keyboard navigation. (Image courtesy the author)

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