To Cintiq or not to Cintiq?

I’m seriously considering the purchase of a Cintiq. For those who don’t know, the Cintiq is a large, sophisticated computer monitor that lets you draw directly on the screen with a special pressure-sensitive pen. For artists working in the digital age, it’s a very impressive tool. The Cintiq’s I saw on display at Comic-Con were basically covered with drool.

A Cintiq is also expensive. The latest models run about $2,500.

For the last few years I’ve been using a Wacom tablet to draw/paint on the computer. Well, mostly I still draw on paper, then I scan in the artwork and color or paint it digitally with the Wacom. The Wacom is a great tool, but it really taxes my eye-hand coordination. Instead of looking at my hand while I’m drawing, I’m looking up at the computer screen. I’ve been working this way for years but it still feels klunky and unnatural, so drawing on paper is still faster for me.

A Cintiq would be nice for several reasons. First, I could draw straight into the computer just as quickly as on paper, and the computer’s “undo” command is much quicker (and less messy) than erasing. Second, I’d no longer have to scan in my artwork and then spend time cleaning up all the dust and scratches. Third, the Cintiq has special buttons off to the side that I can program to do simple but tedious tasks (i.e. changing brush sizes) without having to use pull-down menus. Overall, a Cintiq would (theoritically) make me faster and therefore increase my profitibility on projects. According to a “payback calculator” on the Cintiq website, by my conservative guess a Cintiq would pay for itself in about 8 months.

But there are drawbacks. Some say that since the Cintiq is basically a shallow box, the way your arm rests on the edge makes it uncomfortable to draw on (although I suspect this would be more of a problem for some artists than for others)(EDIT: Now that I own a Cintiq, this problem has never been an issue for me). Some say the thick glass makes a slight “gap” between the pen tip and the line you are drawing, which is problomatic when drawing fine lines and details (others tell me the gap is not really an issue). (EDIT: This is a calibration issue. The Cintiq can be custom calibrated for each artist, so that the gap will disappear for a short, left-handed artist, for example, but will still be there if a tall, right-handed artist uses the same Cintiq).

So I’m wondering, do any of you blog readers own a Cintiq? If so, have you found that it improves your efficiency? Was it worth the steep purchase price? Or is it just a nice luxury item? Let me know what you think.

EDIT: My friend Tom Richmond (who is a brilliant caricature artist for MAD Magazine) just posted a very detailed review of the Cintiq on his blog. Check it out.