As a parent, I constantly seek ways to improve my kids’ lives. I’m always very aware of the things they master, but am also keenly aware of the things they struggle with. One challenge my son has is handwriting and fine motor control. Once upon a time, his handwriting was beautiful, but then he learned cursive, and we were back to square one. We later learned that he is neuro-atypical (Asperger’s), and that this challenge is common for kids like him. Last school year, however, I noticed an uptick in his fine motor skills after he began drawing Pokemon for art lessons. At first, this was on paper, but then he began drawing with a mouse on his PC. To capitalize on this trend, I introduced him to Wacom’s Intuos Draw tablet to reduce the parts of drawing that are problematic for him.
The first benefits were quickly identified. The stylus is larger than a standard pencil, and smooth all the way around. This makes it more comfortable to grip and hold for long periods of time. The smooth nib is also rounded, removing the unpleasant scraping feel that accompanies pencils.
The second benefit is that the tablet itself has a few useful macro keys. Each of the four keys can be programmed to perform different functions. I helped him set it up so that they are undo, redo, copy, and paste. This helps him use common shortcuts without switching to his keyboard. It’s less overwhelming to keep track of what you need when you don’t have to switch interfaces constantly.
The third and pivotal benefit is that the tablet has a (nearly) 1:1 ratio for his widescreen monitor. In this way, he is able to move from one end of the screen to the other with a small gesture, rather than moving his mouse, picking it up and re-positioning it, then moving it some more to get where he’s going. This reduces the amount of physical work it takes to create an image, allowing him to channel his creativity without the speed-bump of limitations found with mousing around.
Let’s have a look at how the same picture (a Pokemon called Arbok) looks drawn at various levels.
The first Arbok was drawn with Microsoft Paint, using a mouse. I could tell it was an Arbok, but only because I knew it was meant to be a Pokemon. Pretty decent try, considering this was the first he did like this. As you can see, it can be very difficult for kids to color inside the lines when they switch to digital illustration.
The second Arbok was also done in Microsoft Paint, but using the Intuos Draw. Notice, he has a much easier time with shape, overall design, and coloring. He’s still really new to digital media, so I’m not surprised to see the mistakes he has made. Only at the end did he discover the fill/bucket feature.
I did the third Arbok in ArtRage, part of the software bundle that came with our Draw. Thanks to the various tools, drawing Arbok was much easier to draw in ArtRage than Paint. Not only does it look better, it was easier to do, thanks to a small amount of experimenting and patience.
I look forward to my son creating more works in the days to come, especially when school starts again. Of course, his handwriting will still need work, but a side benefit of the Intuos Draw is that he practices fine motor skills with the stylus, which will help his overall digital dexterity. His digital citizenship is also maturing with him, so having another tool is always a winning bonus.
Disclaimer: Wacom was kind enough to provide a unit for review purposes.