It was being shipped from France!
And that little fact only was enough to get me excited about the ISKN Slate 2!
Well, I have lived 5 precious days of my life in that gorgeous country, in Paris particularly, and ever since, the place has secured a soft spot in my heart, for like, Forever!
My personal nostalgia aside, let’s talk about the ISKN Slate 2 now! :)
As you probably know already, ISKN Slate 2, is a digitizing product, brought in the market by a French start-up company, it works like a graphics tablet but lets you draw on a real paper. And that is precisely why I decided to buy it – to ease & speed up the process of converting my illustrations to digital.
This device uses magnetic rings fitted onto a pen or pencil. The Slate tracks the ring’s movements with sensors to create a live, digital version of your drawing onto its native app, Imagink. This slate works for iPads, PCs, and Macs.
The ISKN Slate 2, The Magnetic Rings, The Clips, The Pen, & The Tip! All these things came packaged in nice & sturdy cardboard boxes. The packaging part, I quite liked it…it’s simple & chic!
Now, here is my list of what is there to like and to dislike, about this interesting art tech:
Things to Like:
You can create, or learn to create art in the old-school (and perhaps more correct) way!
This one may seem obvious but it is the very basis of this product, the very USP, and so for this bullet point, I have taken the liberty to explain my point of view at somewhat length.
Drawing directly through a digital medium might have its own practical advantages but drawing on your own sketchbook where you can not only see your drawing but also touch it, the charm of that process is unmatched. And perhaps will always be.
And with ISKN Slate, you get that. You don’t need to stare at any screen while you are drawing, and still, of course, you get a digital copy of your creation.
And when I say that you don’t have to stare at any screen, I quite literally mean it too. Because with 8 hours of battery life and 8 GB internal memory (around 800000 drawings pages), the ISKN Slate 2 provides you option to draw without connecting it to any device and transfer your drawings at your convenience.
Which essentially means, you can carry just the slate anywhere you go (no need to take iPad along with it) and whenever an inspiration strikes, you can quickly draw it on a paper (attached to the slate) just like you would do with your sketchbook, only this time, you have got a digital copy too! Sweet.
Some months ago, I had read an architect’s interview in a magazine.
He said that one of the most important things he had learned in the drawing classes was – to practice to draw without using eraser, the students were even made to use only pen to draw, and not a pencil, he said.
The purpose behind this was to 1) Get more control over your lines, & 2) To let your whole imagination come out on paper without modifying it in between every now & then with extensive use of eraser.
Now, in my opinion, a tool like ISKN Slate 2 would be slightly more unforgiving to the artist in you, than, let’s say a Graphic tablet where you draw purely digitally, and have the liberty to CTRL+Z until you get your lines right. Because you see, even though the ISKN software has got a nice eraser to modify your lines in the digital version, with the paper version of your sketch, you have no choice but to either redraw it, or erase it with traditional eraser, or the best outcome of all, learn to get your right lines the very first time!
It’s very much similar to why some hard core photographers think that you should use film camera first to learn or hone your craft of photography before switching to digital cameras.
In this photo, you can also see the sleeve -for storing and carrying around the Slate (not included in the main order, paid additional $29.90), also from ISKN. The sleeve is nice & functional.
Save Your Time – No Scanning or photographing & tracing your sketches!
When you create a lot of digital art – illustrations, vectors, graphics, etc, it’s such a relief to eliminate these many stages of your work!
ISKN Slate 2 lets you save your sketch not only as JPEG, PNG, Bitmap, or a PSD (Photoshop document), but also an SVG!
Yes, you heard it right, SVG! And if you are in the business of creating vectors, you know what I mean.
More often than not, a sketch made with simple lines forms the basis of a detailed vector illustration. And so, when you sketch on the ISKN Slate, no more tracing work is needed on Inkscape, Illustrator, (Or any other software you might be using). Just grab your sketch as an SVG file and take your art further right from there! Handy, very handy.
You can use your own favorite tools
Unlike other similar products in the market, like say a Wacom Bamboo Slate, you are not restricted to use any particular drawing tool. You can use practically any pencil, pen, etc of your choice and onto which you can insert the Magnetic rings provided by ISKN.
The magnetic ring allows you to use any pen, felt tip or pencil you want. All you need to do is slide the ring on the tool for it to detect its position and tilt.
Replay your drawing process, watch, enjoy & share!
Now, you can’t “watch” yourself drawing something, particularly “over the shoulder”, can you?
ISKN lets you export your sketching process as a video file (MPEG/AVI).
I simply loved this feature, the ISKN software records your on-screen drawing activity and lets you save it as a time-lapse video at a desired length of time (and thus control how fast or slow it will play)
This feature is particularly useful in today’s scenario when it’s all about sharing your work or knowledge with other people online.
Below is the video of my Turtle Sketch!
Great for doodling, note-taking, digitizing handwriting, drawing small motifs & organic shapes!
While I don’t think I would use this slate to draw elaborate drawings, I would say that it is definitely great for creating small, organic shapes or motifs which can be parts of a larger illustration of pattern, etc. And more so, if you want a purely hand-drawn feel to those shapes (as against typical clean looking ones created as vectors)
It is great for jotting down ideas, doodling or note-taking. Imagine yourself attending some conference or seminar where Mobile devices may not be allowed. As mentioned in point no.1, it works great for those moments when ideas occur unexpectedly. The slate saves your time because you have also created a digital draft of your idea there and then only.
Handwriting! Who doesn’t love to have a digital copy of their handwritten material, particularly, signature? See a signature’s digital copy created with ISKN Slate in action here! :)
Cool rendering modes available in the software
Some might find the presence of these options on the Imagink App very basic these days, but I really like the different rendering modes available there. It’s not only fun but also very useful to be able to have a different rendering on the screen just by picking, let’s say another color or tip.
And Airbrush is one of my favorite features of the App. Just like the way we use a real airbrush without touching the surface, with ISKN Slate 2, you hold your pen away from the paper and you can see your airbrushing action happening live on the screen, and that too exactly according to the distance between your stylus (pen/pencil with magnetic ring) and the paper!
Following simple illustration of mine is for the demo of the Airbrush & Chalk modes. The yellow blooms are created with Airbrush and the green ground is made with chalk!
Value for money
Finally, I think ISKN Slate is priced reasonably.
The tool’s versatility (in terms what type of drawing tools & paper you can use), The internal storage memory, the compatibility with drawing applications, and the multiples uses, in all these terms, ISKN Slate 2 looks a great value for its price of $169, particularly when you compare all the above parameters in rival products.
Things to Dislike:
Actually, I don’t like to be too fussy and stress about limitations of any product, particularly something created with an ingenious idea like the ISKN Slate, but there are few practical things that need to be mentioned & which I am sure of being improved by ISKN in near future:
Not 100 % Accurate
Although I haven’t created more than 4-5 sketches with the slate yet, I can safely conclude nevertheless, that my sketch on the paper and the digital reproduction don’t match 100%.
Here is a closer look for the comparison:
This sketch, I have created with ISKN Pen, and with the best effort to concentrate and not to shake my hand or to let the Slate fickle. With a pencil, the inaccuracy is more.
With sketch like this, where shading is more, and the shapes within the turtle’s shell is supposed to look more or less “natural”, it might work, but in drawings where the lines actually define the shapes, these inaccuracies look obvious to the eyes.
This is probably due to the fact that the Slate relies on magnets…you even get unwanted stray marks recorded all over the image if the pencil or pen is too close to the paper.
Due to the fact that magnets drive the drawing process on this device, sometimes some unnoticed interference ends up affecting the performance. And that is why ISKN has to warn you to keep magnetic objects away from the Slate while it is starting up and also during use. All this is understandable and so, if your desk is made of metal by any chance, well, switch to wood!
So, basically, you cannot expect something you have drawn using ISKN Slate to have the flawless curves and lines you get when you draw directly on a vector program like Inkscape or Illustrator. At least some amount of tweaking or adjustments in nodes will always be required for your drawing to look neat.
According to ISKN, magnetic items around the slate can disturb the functioning of Slate’s own magnetic sensors and cause accuracy problems while drawing on your Slate. These items could be your iPad or your PC (which have to be at least 20 cm | 8 inches away when used along with the Slate), smartphones, speakers, other ISKN Rings etc.
In Feb 2017, ISKN updated the slate with an important feature as a workaround for the magnetic disturbance problem, the Magnetic Indicator. The magnetic indicator helps the user in detecting these disturbing sources.
2018 Update: ISKN has come up with a new tool called – The Performance Indicator. See how it helps:
No Pressure Sensitivity
ISKN Slate 2 cannot detect pressure in your stroke that you apply with your pen or paper. For some artists, this feature might be the most important for an intuitive drawing process.
While the French startup says they are working on this feature, probably you can make use of the speed sensitivity the Slate offers currently.
Quick Tip: Your strokes are thinner on your screen when you draw faster on your sheet of paper.
Small Drawing Surface
The ISKN Slate 2 comes in just one size, with the drawing surface for an A5 format paper. While this size makes the slate perfect for use on the go, it’s almost impossible to draw bigger, elaborate illustrations or drawings that require bigger drawing surface for let’s say perspective requirements for example.
Nevertheless, as you can see, the things to like have far outnumbered the things to dislike… :)
This little art tech is a brilliant idea without a doubt…it might not be quite there yet, but it soon should be!
What is your experience with ISKN Slate 2? I am really curious to know…Please drop your remarks in the comments section below!
My Overall Rating for ISKN Slate 2 would be 7.5/10!
Images, Art Videos & Article Copyright ©2017 Gyaneshwari Dave