Saturday, September 01, 2007

Input devices useful for creating manga

Now that I've gone completely digital, my main manga tools are Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. I use two displays: a Wacom Cintiq 21UX (mentioned in a previous post) that allows me to draw directly on the screen, and a 30" Apple cinema display that is great for doing layout work.

This setup has been wonderful, but manga work on the computer can be tedious at times, and you really have to be careful about avoiding repetitive stress injuries. For that, the creative use of input devices is essential.

When you're sitting in front of a tablet monitor like the Cintiq, it's a bit harder to use your keyboard. Part of it is because the hand that's not holding the pen might be grabbing the monitor, so that if you want to type, you tend to have to look down to relocate the keys.

Now anyone who likes to work efficiently in Photoshop uses shortcut keys, if not programmed macros to simplify tedious tasks. But when you can't access the keyboard easily, all this doesn't work very well. Fortunately, the Cintiq 21UX has programmable buttons on the side so that you can access your most used commands with your free hand. But Photoshop is complicated enough that a few buttons just doesn't cut it.

Enter the NuLOOQ input device from Logitech. It's a small device that has buttons, directional and twisting controls, along with a touchpad interface (similar to the one on the iPod). But, unlike the Contour ShuttlePRO, which has many buttons that I find confusing to use for my purposes, this is simple and compact enough so that you never have to look down to figure out which button to press. I programmed this device with controls such as zooming in and out, changing brush sizes, undo and redo, scrolling in all directions, and useful modifier keys such as command, shift-command, etc.).

This device also comes with the NuLOOQ navigator software, which is a programmable popup tool. I've programmed the button on my Cintiq pen, so that when I press it, the NuLOOQ navigator pops up. I've programmed the NuLOOQ navigator so that I can access the remaining functions that I frequently use in Photoshop.

So with this programmable navigator tool accessible from my pen in my right hand, the programmable NuLOOQ input device that I use with my left hand, and the programmable buttons on the Cintiq, I can often go for long periods working on my manga without having to access the keyboard.