The Inkling is the latest new device from Wacom, the industry leader in digital pen tablets for computers. It is a device that is meant to take you from the traditional, freehand sketching and manually scanning that sketch in to a computer, to directly sketching your image to a file on a USB drive and importing that file into a computer.
The Inkling comes with the Inkling Digital Sketch Pen, receiver, charging case, USB cable, and four spare ink cartridges. It is all very compact with everything fitting into the charging case so you can easily take it with you wherever you go. Even the software is contained on the drive.
The main part of the Inkling system is the Inkling digital sketch pen and the Inkling receiver. Both contain batteries that need to be charged periodically and generally take less than three hours to fully charge. The pen uses a standard mini ballpoint ink refill with a 1mm ball size. Currently these refills can be purchased from the Autopoint catalog, but I would suspect any equivalent refill would work. The Inkling also works with any kind of paper to a maximum A4 (8.27″ x 11.69″ or 210 x 297 mm) paper size. One thing to keep in mind is that there is a limited performance zone that goes from where the receiver clips on to the paper to where the connection between the pen and receiver is considered reliable and that is a 2 cm (0.8) inch space below the receiver.
Once everything is all charged up you take your receiver and clip it to a sheet(s) of paper or clip it to the pages in a notebook or drawing pad. A new sketch file is created each time the clip is attached. The standard position for the clip is at the top of the page, but you can clip it anywhere that works for you. The orientation is based on where the clip is placed. Once you clip it you want to keep it in place until you are done as otherwise either the strokes will be misaligned or a completely new sketch file will be created.
Then it is just a matter of drawing on the paper. You have to make sure that your fingers are not on the pen tip area – where the pen angles down toward the point, otherwise you may have some problems and I have found that sometimes you have to go over a line a couple of times for it to ‘take’ correctly.
The Inkling has the ability to create layers as you draw. You do this by pressing the button on the right top portion of the receiver. This gives you the ability to draw a portion of your sketch at a time, all on different layers, and then once brought into Photoshop or Illustrator, you can manipulate it as you see fit. So I could draw say the front end of the car, the side of the car, the back of the car, the interior of the car, and then create an exploded version of the drawing. When you finish with a page, just unclip the page and add a new one and a new page will be created.
Once you are done, you put the receiver and pen into the case and plug the case into a USB port on your computer. The default file format is WPI. You open up the Inkling Sketch Manager to view your files or to convert them to work in Photoshop, Illustrator, or any other program that is capable of working with one the Inkling file formats – JPG, BMP, TIFF, PNG,SVG, and PDF.
The Inkling Sketch Manager lets you manage your files, layers, as well as convert them for use with other programs. You can also navigate to a file and directly launch into Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. It also gives you the ability to run your image as video stream where you can watch it being drawn.
Overall I found the Inkling a mixed bag. I love the design, look, and feel of the system. I especially like the way everything fits into the compact case together. I also like the fact that it just installs itself when you plug it in with no extra disks to have to mess with. One thing that I have found with working with the system is that if you install the receiver on the right or left side (depending on hand orientation) of the paper it appears to have better accuracy being overall everything is closer.
I liked the way the pen and receiver work together although it did take me a few tries to get all of the lines. While I haven’t messed with it too much, if you connect the Inkling to your computer, you can, to some degree even draw within Photoshop directly. This is because they have a click threshold feature that lets you calibrate the Inkling while it is plugged in and it then takes control of the cursor. Keep in mind this an unadvertised side effect.
While I do believe in the concept, at this point, I don’t think that the Inkling is for everyone. I don’t think it does a good enough job to be able to consistently create complex drawings directly within the product. There are too many missed strokes. Where I think it can be useful is for those who like to sketch things out by hand with the idea of developing them on the computer. Ideal uses would be for artists who want to lay down a rough sketch that they will then turn into a design or painting within a software product on the computer. Say for a matte artist who is creating a world layout for a video game or movie who will then use that as basis for a full painting from something like Adobe Photoshop or Corel Painter. For this it would be ideal.
I also think that another great use for the Inkling would be for free hand thinking. When you need time away from the computer to jot notes do rough sketches – perhaps with a client, or just to get away and free form. If you fit one of these categories, then I think that the Inkling can useful tool and well worth your time.