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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wacom Inkling Review, Problems and Solutions

Disclaimer: I'm a Wacom fanboy. I'm an also a SketchBook Pro fanatic. Neither one asked me to do this review.... no matter how many times I've begged. So now that's out of the way, let's get to this Inkling business.

Wacom Inkling took the digital art world by storm when it was announced in August. I pre ordered it as soon as I saw it.. After months of delays, I finally got my hands on one. Here is my video review:

I preordered the Inkling as soon as I saw it. If it was another hardware company, I don't think I would have pull the trigger so eagerly. Wacom understand artists, and the inkling's hardware is what I had expected, but the software is a real poop on a stick.  Most of my complaints about the Inkling is in the software, so hopefully Wacom will address these buggy issues soon with updates.

Hardware Pros:
-Great design package.
-Can use standard pen refills
-Pen is very good, I've never used this type of ballpoint pen to sketch, I love it!
-Can be used as an input device for your computer

Hardware Cons:
-The pen took forever to charge, and after a few uses, it seems to be staying in the red longer and longer.
-It's not completely accurate, hope that this can be improved in the future.
-Inkling clip is very small. When touching the new layer button, it can shift the device a bit, and offset the layer. Even just drawing in the sketchbook, your pen seems to bounce the device around a bit.

Sketch Manager problems:
-Missing SketchBook Pro icon, when SketchBook Pro is purchased through the Mac app store.
-When exporting to SketchBook Pro, the lines are completely jittery.
-Within Sketch Manager, the lines have verying width based on pressure, but no opacity levels.
-Can not render a Speed Drawing video.
-UI is not very intuitive, just feel buggy overall.

SketchBook Pro bonuses:
-Can open WPI files directly!!!Thanks Chris Cheung at Autodesk for telling me about this!
-Uses default canvas size, so can generate a huge images from inkling data.
-Uses last used brush and color, can generate your drawing with SketchBook's beautiful lines, and reproduce something very similar to the original pen sketch on paper.

Here are some examples:

Problem: export from Wacom Sketch Manager,
super wiggly lines
Solution: Open the same WPI file from
 SketchBook Pro shows much better results
Digital files examples:
Sketch of Arbo from Skylanders
Test Sketch generated by Inkling
Sketch from above, colored in SketchBook Pro
Photos for comparison:

Bottom line, Wacom Inkling + Autodesk Sketchbook Pro = killer combination. It allows pure digital artists like myself to fall in love with real pen and paper again. I love having a piece of paper that I call an "original", yet flexible enough for me to work digitally. Inkling by itself with the current Sketch Manager software, is a fun little toy. At $200 a pop for the Inkling, you really want much more than a gimmicky toy....  But InklingBook Pro is a real artist tool, I'm looking forward to using more of it.


  1. Thank you so much for posting about Sketchbook Pro. I am kind of shocked by how terrible the Sketch Manager software is (I had to mess with my computer's system preferences just to get it to start), and I fully agree that they should have taken a few more months to polish it up. I'm also kind of aggravated that you have to go through the Sketch Manager software in order to even work with your imported files. At least it looks like the Sketchbook Pro software might actually allow the Inkling to function as advertised.

  2. Great review! Thank you, I've been avoiding tablets for years and really wanted a sort of paper alternative. I think I'm sold into getting back into illustration once again.

  3. You have just saved me from my buyers remorse. I was so worried about the wiggly lines i felt i had been ripped off.

    1. Looks to me like the wiggly lines are cause by the data being delivered at 16 bit then drawn at 32 bit. Or something like that. You know what I mean.

  4. Thanks for your info on Autodesk SketchBook Pro.
    It is indeed a killer combo. Our sketches so far

  5. I want to ask you about the pen refills. You say it is possible to put standard pen refills, but not everyone have the same size and shape. Can you say wich one fit on inkling?
    Thanks for the review!!

  6. @julio see the next inkling post about refills. I've found two brands that work :)

  7. This was very informative, thank you :)

  8. Great Review! Ordering mine soon in the UK.

  9. Can you pls tell us how off is it with A3 format? thx

  10. Hello,

    Could you please contact me, I'm trying to reverse the wpi format to make a viewer for android.

    Anybody with an android phone/tablet supporting OTG would be able to connect to an inkling and view their sketches on the go. (my tablet detects a storage device and mounts it, I haven't looked too deep into the other device it detects, it's probably the "mouse" part, it just doesn't react to it as it would with any mouse/drawing tablet).

    I also believe that documenting this format might motivate someone to create an alternative to the sketch manager.

    I don't think the files are compressed but there is weird stuff at the beginning of every files, gradients of some sort, my guess is it might be calibration data specific to each inkling, but I only have one inkling so I can't confirm.

    All I need is 2 files, a wpi sketch containing a single dot (on success, file is around 3KB or less) and another of whatever you want.

    Thanks in advance if you can find the time to get in touch.

  11. Done reversing what matters (layers, points, strokes, pressure, tilt)

    I'm still clueless about the header content though, I still believe it's device specific, maybe tank color, pressure calibration, ...

    And a lot of unknown data is mixed in the drawing data, I don't know its purpose.

    If anybody can send me some wpi files I would be grateful,
    my GTalk nick is "dev.kyis" (I'm always on somehow).

    With what I got so far I'll start coding but it can't hurt to know what all the unknown data is for, I doubt it's garbage.

    I'll try to make the app play friendly with autodesk sketchbook for android.

    1. I'm afraid that you are speaking a different language for me, I am no where near technical enough to understand any of this. Anyone else can help KYiS? sounds like a real worth while thing to tackle on... but I don't have an android device and don't understand this coding business :)

    2. Well the only thing I need would be .wpi / sketch files from inklings other than my own, for comparison purpose, so anybody would do, in fact the sketch content doesn't really matter, it can be a single line, a dot even or an actual sketch ^^.

      People can find me on GTalk "dev.kyis" anytime.
      And by mail
      (just attach some sketch(es) to a mail whenever you have a minute)

      I'll be grateful ^^

    3. I got side tracked for a while but here is what I found so far:

      I successfully made a java library based on that, and tested the drawing, it all seems valid (didn't test tilt yet but the values make sense).

      It was fun but I don't know if I have the motivation to make an app out of it, I sent my inkling back, it's a promising piece of hardware but the tech isn't ready yet, it performs too inconsistently to be of real use. And I don't really need a 180€ ball pen.

  12. hi,

    I've bought the inkling yesterday and have tested it. I agree that the lines are much better when you open it directly into sketchbook pro. The only problem I have with sketchbook (and it's a big problem)is that when you have made more layers while sketching it imports the layers in different sizes and all positioned in the center. Has anyone else had the same bug?

    1. I have noticed this on the pc, not on the mac. I think the latest SBP update for the pc fixed it.... so I suggest checking for the latest version. I had a hard time updating (pc), so ended up having to uninstall and reinstall instead of updating. Hope this fixes the problem for you.

  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  14. Thank goodness I found your blog and this post. I've been regretting buying and Inkling for months as the Sketch Manager software made it completely useless for me.

    The possibility that Sketchbook Pro might solve my woes has renewed my interest in using the thing beyond an expensive paperweight.

    1. Hi,
      I have been very disapointed with the inkling. Now I have the sketchbook pro but it doesn't allow me open the sketches from the sketch manager. I says: "This is not a valid image file, its format or its size is not supported, or you may not have read permission for it".
      Could you help me?
      Excuse my english, I'm writing from Colombia.

  15. Maybe u can try the other software, like Sketchbook Designer
    that also from Autodesk.

  16. Hello,
    The sketchbook pro doesn't let me open the wpi files!
    It says "This is not a valid image file, its format or its size is not supported, or you may not have read permission for it."

    Help me

    1. You need to use the Inkling software to export to sketchbook.

  17. Great blog post about using your Wacom Inkling. Top tip: Wacom Inkling + Autodesk Sketchbook Pro = killer combination! We will try using this software with our Inkling for these amazing results. P.S. the results are good, your work is impressive. Thanks for posting.

  18. Great review. I ordered the Inkling and Sketchbook Pro 6 after reading your review and it arrived today. After some quick experimenting tonight, I'm very pleased with the Inkling's potential.

    One question, how do you find the pen's push in / push to eject mechanism on your unit? With mine it doesn't need much encouragement to eject on its own. Just touching the pen body while opening the case and its ejected. For safekeeping, into a pencil case it goes for field trips.

  19. Thanks for the great review of the Wacom Inkling :). This thing seems to be really interesting, and I'm itching to give it a try. Working with real paper as opposed to a tablet is tempting, despite the cost. I think I'll give it a whirl, if I don't like it I can always return it ;).