Digital Epigraphy (Second Edition)

Chapter 4 - Digital Fieldwork

Chapter 4, Section 5 - Accessories for Working in the Field


Chapter 4, Section 5 - Accessories for Working in the Field

Publications September 01. 2018

Using Smudgeguard drawing gloves and iSkelter Canvas Creator to provide the necessary grip for the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil while working at Luxor Temple  

Naturally, when these expensive drawing tools are taken to the field, the artist must be sure to have the best possible dust, heat and drop protection available. In this section, we will present a collection of some of the more relevant accessories to be considered for documentation in the field. One must consider that these accessories relate only to the machines currently on the market, and availability and prices may be the subject of change, while links may not be working after a certain period. Nevertheless, these main categories including drawing environment, protection, and charging solutions will remain relevant and give the artist a general idea of future purchases to be considered.

Wacom Companion

Between the Wacom Companion and the iPad Pro, the former is the less well represented when it comes to accessories. The reason is simple: it is a niche product, and not many companies can afford producing accessories for a device that may be on the market for a short period of time and change its form every other year. There are, however, a few essential items to consider.

Drawing environment

First, the artist needs a good drawing board to the Companion that provides extra grip and arm support in most situations. Unfortunately, there are no such products available at the moment, but creating a custom drawing board requires only a little effort from the artist. A practical solution that became the standard Wacom drawing board for the Survey’s fieldwork was provided at the beginning of this Chapter. The other essential accessory for working on any touch screen would be a pair of drawing gloves. The Smudgeguard gloves that were introduced in the previous Chapter are certainly suitable for fieldwork as well.

Protection

There are minimal choices available in terms of a suitable carrying case for the Companion, so most artists would be perfectly fine taking their tablet to the field using the case that is included in the box. This excellent soft case can be purchased separately through Wacom’s store or Amazon. 

Wacom Cintiq Soft Case

If, however, one needs a little extra protection and is looking for an actual case with handles, there are some available options to choose from, with the best quality provided by a company called Burnoaa. They even include a separate bag for the Companion’s cables and power adapter. 

Burnoaa Sleeve Bag with extra foam protection

Another case option to consider, which even has a built-in stand for the Companion, is made by Dodocase and comes in various colors, but is only suitable for the Companion 2. When considering protection for the Companion’s screen, the natural next step in fieldwork protection, we should keep in mind that any additional layer between screen and pen might have an effect on responsiveness. Nevertheless it is important to explore the available options, although only one representative product is mentioned here, produced by a company called Posrus.

Leather Portable Carry Protect Cover Case

Charging solutions

As always, it is recommended to have an extra charger and additional charging cables in the field, along with a couple of extra pens, assuming the artist’s budget allows. Extra chargers and Wacom pens can be purchased directly through Wacom’s web store, but one has to be careful and pick the appropriate power source for the specific tablet model.

Cintiq Companion 1 (left) and 2 (right) power adapters

Finally, one more accessory should be considered for anybody using Wacom’s solutions, whether in the field or in the studio: Wacom’s ExpressKey Remote. This little wireless device provides a set of 17 customizable buttons and a touch ring to allow the artist to have instant one-touch access to timesaving shortcuts. The ExpressKey can be placed anywhere while drawing, either on screen or in one’s hand, wherever is most convenient.

Wacom Express Key Remote

iPad Pro (12.9 Inch version)

After more than a year on the market, the iPad Pro has a lot more accessories than the Wacom Companion, thanks to the general popularity of Apple's devices with accessory makers. One can easily get lost in the wide selection of protective cases, external keyboards, etc., but there are a few truly useful additions when working with the Pro in the field.

Drawing environment

The iPad, just like the Wacom Companion, consists mostly of screen surface, with almost no bezel to get a grip on. For this reason, the obvious first step in customizing the hardware is, again, getting a larger drawing board into which the device can be inserted, and which also serves as a protective case while creating a larger surface for the artist's hands. While such a board had to be custom made for the less mainstream Companion, there are a few choices to purchase for the iPad Pro. Two products are recommended to the reader, the Canvas Creator from iSkelter and the Araree iPad Pro Drawing Desk. Both are quality wooden boards, but there are some differences in their intended use.

Canvas Creator for iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

While the Canvas Creator by iSkelter has the better finish of the two, with a padded background and a precisely cut slot for the pencil, it is rather heavy, and thus mostly intended for use on one's lap. More importantly, it lacks a solution for charging the iPad Pro while in the board. The Smart Board by Araree is lighter and feels a bit more fragile than the Canvas Creator. It also has a place to put the Pencil, but it's more of an indentation than a slot and doesn't provide any protection. Its surface, however, is much larger, giving a lot more elbow room for the artist. Moreover, the newer model has a tunnel for the lightning cable, so the iPad can stay connected to a power source while inserted into the board. Although both drawing desks add a lot to the field drawing experience, the lighter and larger Smart Board is recommended over iSkelter’s solution when it comes to day to day use in the field. The board that's used by the Survey has been customized with a handle and rotating knobs to keep the iPad from falling out at certain angles.

Araree iPad Pro Smart Board

Storing the Apple Pencil

The Apple Pencil is a wonderful and capable device, but it is not without its flaws. First of all, it is perfectly rounded, with no buttons interrupting its smooth contours, which makes it pretty to look at but vulnerable to rolling off one’s desk. There are unfortunately no storage options when not in use, except for the lightning port on the iPad used for quick charge, but the Pencil sticking out of the iPad at a 90-degree angle is impractical when working in the field and requires the tablet to be removed from the drawing board. It may be that these design flaws will be corrected in future versions. For the time being, there are two simple accessories that can improve the situation for the artist: the StilGut Pencil Holder and the Moxiware Apple Pencil Magnet.

StilGut Pencil Holder and Moxiware Pencil Magnet

The first is a leather strap that makes carrying around the Pencil more comfortable, while the latter is a magnetized coating that tightly fits around the device, making it attachable to the iPad's bezel magnets when one needs to put it down for a brief period. It also provides a better grip than the Pencil's slippery glossy finish. For the artist who tends to lose small accessories, there is a cap holder attachment available as well, which even glows in the dark!

PencilCozy cap and connector holder for Apple Pencil

Protection

There are many protective cases to consider for the iPad Pro, including dust and drop proof types, but one must consider the weight and bulk that these items add to the device, not to mention the effort that it takes to remove it from the case before inserting the tablet into the Drawing Desk.

There are even heavy-duty screen protectors made of glass, such as 12.9-inch iPad Pro Screen Protector made by iCarez, that are available for the scratch conscious artist. 

iCarez iPad Pro Screen Protector

There is, however, a more practical and less bulky solution that even enhances the drawing experience: purchasing an anti-glare screen protector such as the one produced by Moshi, a well-known accessory maker for Apple devices. It is somewhat expensive, but it is easy to install, and it also provides a rough coating over the screen that makes the drawing experience very similar to working on actual paper. There is also a cheaper option for budget sensitive users made by the company Tech Armor.

UAG Feather-Light Composite Aluminium Stand

Moshi iVisor AG Premium Anti-Glare Screen Protector

Tech Armor Anti-Glare Screen Protector

Charging Solutions

Although the iPad Pro has an excellent battery life that makes it capable of running when fully charged for up to 9 hours, when it comes to drawing in the field for a full work day, the artist has to make sure to have a continuous power source if needed. Like having the Companion in the field, it is necessary to have an extra power plug, external cords, and long lighting cables at hand. It is also important to mention that there is a fairly new power adapter available in the Apple Store which dramatically reduces charging time compared to the adapter that arrives in the iPad’s box. Although it is marketed as a MacBook adapter, it works with the largest iPad Pro as well.

A good secondary charging option is a dual port charger, such as the one from Anker, equipped with an advanced charging technology called PowerIQ, which maximizes charging speed.

This charger can be very useful, especially when the artist needs to charge the iPad and the Apple Pencil simultaneously. Although the Apple Pencil comes with an adapter for charging through a regular lightning cable, it is advisable to pick up extra adapters for the field. Unfortunately, Apple doesn't sell its adapters separately, but there are numerous 3rd party options to consider.

Anker 24W Dual USB Wall Charger PowerPort 2

It's also recommended to stock up on extra lightning cables, at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) long, to provide more room for moving around along the wall scenes while the iPad is connected to its charger. There are countless options on the market, with the cheapest and most reliable options produced by Amazon. The artist must be warned, however, to buy only Apple certified accessories when shopping for cables, connectors and chargers so as to make sure not to damage the iPad or shorten its lifespan. 

TechMatte Apple Pencil Charging Cable

AmazonBasics Apple Certified Lightning to USB Cable

Finally, it is necessary to mention external batteries as well, assuming that the artist working at the monument in the field may not always have access to a power outlet and considering the frequent occurrence of power shortages in Egypt. A good, balanced solution is once again made by Anker, but there are more capacious portable chargers on the market, some of which even operate with solar panels, definitely to be considered for the artist working in Egypt.

Anker 2-Port USB Solar Charger PowerPort

Additional Reading

The most comprehensive reviews of the Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 and the iPad Pro 12.9-inch written from the digital artist’s point of view can be found at Digital Arts Online.

Numerous user manuals can be downloaded from Apple’s iBook Store to learn the iPad Pro and its latest operating system:

  • Apple’s official iPad and iOS 10 user guide
  • 3rd party user manual specific to the iPad Pro
  • The best user guide to Procreate can be found both on their creators’ web site in pdf form
  • or, more conveniently, can be downloaded for free directly on the iPad Pro from Apple’s iBook Store
  • For the artists considering backing up and syncing their data through Dropbox’s solutions, there is a short 3rd party user guide provided in pdf
  • or, for the more thorough introduction see Dropbox’s official site
  • And finally, good comparison reviews of Wacom’s just released mobile solution, MobileStudio Pro can be found at cnet
  • …and Trusted Reviews

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