My thoughts on the Wacom Cintiq 21UX pen display

I was lucky enough this past week to be able to try out a Wacom Cintiq 21UX pen display at work. A coworker of mine has one, and he was generous enough to let me borrow it for a few days while he was out on vacation. Score!
My personal Wacom drawing tablet is an old Graphire 4 from 2005 (or 2006 – I can’t remember). It literally took me years to get used to drawing on that thing, because the drawing surface and display are separated – it’s really tough to draw on one object, and have the results display on your computer monitor! The mental disconnect is huge, and I struggled with that quite a bit in the beginning.

But this is where the Cintiq shines. You can draw directly on the display, so it’s a more natural experience. WYSWIG (what you see is what you get) at it’s finest! Within minutes of drawing on the 21UX, I was already starting to loathe my beat-up ‘ol Graphire. The Cintiq is light years beyond any other drawing tablet out there, and the “I gotta have it” factor” is huge. Here are some more specific pros and cons that I have thought of after a few days of using it:


  • The Cintiq offers the most natural digital drawing experience compared to any other pen tablet on the market. Drawing directly on the screen is very (very very) nice.
  • There are a plethora of user-customizable action buttons on each side of the drawing surface. You can set these up with your favorite short-keys for any software package. An added bonus is that these short-key setups can be specific for each program. For example, if I’m using Sketchbook Pro, the buttons are specific to that program. If I switch over to Photoshop, the buttons are smart enough to switch to my preset Photoshop short keys. Very convenient.
  • Pen pressure levels are really good – much better than my old Graphire. I’m a line-quality snob, so this is very important. Beautiful thick and thin strokes are easily doable on the Cintiq.
  • Did I mention how cool it is to draw directly on the screen??


  • The Cintiq 21UX is HEAVY. Portability is not really an option with this thing.
  • Strong cord-management skills will be required to organize the cables and cords running out of it.
  • I ran into an issue where my Graphire 4 tablet driver conflicted with the Cintiq driver – so I wasn’t able to get the pressure sensitivity working on the Cintiq without a lot of troubleshooting. So the best bet is to remove all your Wacom tablet drivers from your system before you install the Cintiq.
  • Cost: $2000. Really? My only hope is that technology will just keep getting better, which will drive down the prices of these things. The Cintiq line is so nice – but it’s hard to justify the cost if you aren’t a very serious artist or designer.

Conclusion: I want one. Bad.

By the way – that half-complete car rendering you see on the screen is a preview of my latest piece. I just finished it last night, and I’m very happy with the way it turned out. I’ll post up a full size version of it tomorrow.

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