By Betsy Finn
The Wacom Inkling is a real pen that captures your pen strokes on any paper. When you’re done drawing or writing, just plug the receiver into your computer, access the image, and edit as desired in Photoshop or other image-editing application.
The Wacom Inkling pen and receiver (clipped onto paper).
While it may have more appeal for graphic and illustration artists, I immediately thought of ways the Inkling could be used practically in a photographer's business, too. I could use it to take notes during client consultations, marking areas of a proof the client wants fixed or sketching notes for a wall collage, all of which could be stored digitally with the client's other information and image files. On the client side, I thought the Inkling would be a great tool for personalizing portraits. For instance, I could have my clients sign their name for their wallet-size portraits, or write a note to put into their wedding album. It all sounds good in theory. My next step was to put it into practice and see how well the Inkling would work for my ideas.
To begin, clip the receiver to your paper, and push the power button. Every time you clip/unclip the receiver, it starts a new drawing. There’s also a button on the receiver you can push to start a new layer while you are drawing. These layers are saved into the image and can be exported to Photoshop as layers. When you first turn on the receiver, it displays a red light that switches to green once the pen is active.
Once the receiver is on, turn on the pen by pushing the button on its end. As with the receiver, a green light indicates that the device is all set.
Below you’ll see a sample framing sketch that I did with the Inkling. This is very similar to something I would create while working with a client. Note that everything looks great except I’m missing the first letter of Jane Doe’s name (more on that issue later). I do use a small-town framer, so I typically send sketches like this to them to process client frames. Rather than having to scan in the order or remake it in Photoshop, I could simply input the client info onto a new layer, and send the plain layout sketch via e-mail. I love it when technology makes my life simpler.
I also made up an example to show you how you could use the Inkling to personalize client portraits. Take one standard client signature created with the Inkling, superimpose it over the image, add a few effects and voilà: an extremely personalized senior portrait with a flourish that was so much easier than trying to find a font that would be just right. And again, I lost no time in scanning and optimizing a signature.
The data recorded by the Inkster is captured as a .wpi image file, and you’ll have to install the Inkling Sketch Manager to view these images. Fortunately, the interface includes a convenient Open in Photoshop button for Photoshop users, and you can export to any other image format. You can also edit, optimize and scrub images individually before sending them to another application. I didn’t have much use for that feature though.
There are a few drawbacks. I wish the receiver clip could fit on more than a few sheets of paper – it would be nice to attach this to the top of a clipboard. Additionally, the pen takes a few seconds for its signal to start recording. I found that my first letter was frequently missing from the digital version. I worked around that by scribbling a little in a corner prior to creating the actual drawing. And finally, it would be nice if the drawings were rendered as .png files or something other than .wpi files. The sketch management software is handy, and I appreciate that it will export the files to Photoshop, but it would be nice just to drag and drop rather than having to open two programs.
Overall, the Inkling performed beautifully. I enjoyed using it, and it was immensely more convenient than drawing on paper and scanning into the computer. This tool has potential to be a huge timesaver.
The Inkling comes in a snazzy carrying case, which holds the pen, receiver, spare ink cartridges and USB cable; it also doubles as a charging case (the mini USB port on the outside allows you to charge the devices inside). It is compatible with both Windows (7, Vista, XP) and Mac (10.4.0+). Currently available from Amazon.com, the Inkling retails for $199.