Tag Archives: adobe illustrator

Learning to Infographic and Adobe Illustrator on Surface Pro 3

Here I’ll share my first experiences with learning to use the touchscreen interface of the Surface Pro 3, Adobe Illustrator, and a digital pen all for the first time — all at the same time.  Going full tilt with learning them simultaneously was probably my first mistake.  Don’t worry, there are more mistakes to learn from below!

After the sweat-filled, harrowing experience of putting down all that money for the SP3 at the Microsoft store, I took her home, and gently tore her apart.  I let shitloads of updates run and even updated the N-trig Wintab driver for good measure.

That was Mistake #2.

DO NOT UPDATE THE N-trig Wintab Driver.  DO NOT!

At least not for as long as this guy:


says:  “Illustrator 18.0.0 x64 (CC 2014) – runs (intermittent pen with N-Trig Wintab R16, R17)”

I found out that “intermittent pen” is code for “totally fucks up everything” — at least in conjunction with Adobe Illustrator.  I even went to the Microsoft store to find out why my pen would complete a stroke with the paint tool and then not for the next 7 attempts, and then draw a line and then give up again.  After giving trouble shooting an exceptionally thorough go, the Microsoft pro offered, “Erin, do you like wine?”

Me: “well, yes, yes I do.  Why?”

MSDude: “Does your Surface Pro 3 like wine?”

Me: “…uhhh…”

MSDude:    ” … I think it’s drunk.”

Thank God Rick Rodriguez, the author at surfaceproartist.com was able to explain that it was the N-trig Wintab driver and how to fix it!  (BTW, if you find the info on Rick’s site valuable, be sure to show him with a lil donation.)

My first objective was to learn Adobe Illustrator and the art of creating Infographics — at the same time, as I stated earlier.  This was also before I had figured out my driver issue, so there was that extra frustration to contend with.  I was about to pick up 1 more clusterfuck to complete the trifecta…

I went over to Lynda.com and jumped into the Creating Infographics with Illustrator course by Mordy Golding.

Mordy Golding's Lynda.com Infographics Course
Mordy Golding’s Lynda.com Infographics Course

Now, before I go on — this course is great.  Mordy Golding?  Also great!  What wasn’t great was trying to deal with all the other things I was learning + driver problems when drill Sergeant Golding was shouting out Mac commands on the regular.  That extra brain-processing half-second step of converting Mac to Windows speak on the occasions when the Mordster didn’t call out both would frequently squeeze out my last drop of patience.

In the end, I learned a lot from Mordy about Infographics and Illustrator and I’m glad I took it.  I just wish I’d taken this other course first — a real, live, in-person “Beginning Illustrator” course at Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago with Cameron Keleher.  The easy-going, “no worries” Aussie gave us plenty of playing around time and was happy to answer any question that popped up.  And a bonus — the center had Macs for everyone so we were all speaking the same language.  After a lot of practice during those 12 uninterrupted  hours of Illustratorness, I feel tons more comfortable with the drawing capabilities in Illustrator.  I mean, just look at this amazing artwork I shat out during part of the last class:

Warholesque Thug Spock
Warholesque Thug Spock

Don’t be jealous.  Just go visit Cameron’s class at Lillstreet!

I’m definitely glad I took both courses, though, because they made it seem like I learned 2 completely different programs.  The capabilities and applications of Illustrator are that broad!

Some other quirks I’ve noticed:

1. Even without the Wintab N-trig driver update installed, the pen is glitchy with Adobe Illustrator.  It still works intermittently, but not to the point I’m happy for the insurance that protects me whether or not I throw it through a window.  It’s workable.  Just know it may not be you.  This is especially true with the brand new Touch Workspace in CC which I imagine is still having the kinks worked out of it.

2.  The pen is also glitchy with Chrome.  The scroll feature usually doesn’t work and sometimes drop-down menus can only be used with the trackpad.  Zooming and panning in Google Maps can get beyond weird, too.

3. While Microsoft programs like Live Paint seem to do a pretty good job of not picking up paw prints if you rest the side of your hand on the screen while drawing with the pen, Adobe Illustrator is pretty shit at it.  Looks like a half-mitten like people use with a Cintiq to keep the screen from getting goobery — like this Kickstarter glove:

— is advisable for now.  I hope this is something getting looked at by Adobe/Microsoft.

Good luck and if you have your own advice/experiences, please share!

Surface Pro 3, Digital Art and Conquering the Universe

Ok, so maybe this is really just about the first 2 things…

I’ve noticed there’s been a lot of search traffic lately to my site for Surface Pro 3 + Digital Art + insert synonyms.  Maybe people are researching last-minute Christmas gifts, or writing some last-minute Christmas lists, or something else for whatever other holiday around now where people get cool stuff.  Whatever the case, it seems now is a good time to give a review after I’ve played with my Surface Pro 3 for a few months.

To give an idea of where I started — I’d never created any digital media before.  Not really.  …at least not to the scale of the real paint paintings I’ve spent months or years on.  I’m an accomplished artist, but going digital was a scary and completely alien universe.  So, of course, I was set on conquering it.  Like a boss.

Boss, Mouse, Whatever

I finally decided on the Surface Pro 3 as my gateway drug for a few key reasons:

  1. Despite the reportedly unparalleled performance, the Wacom Cintiq Companion is comparatively clunky and not built for several hours of public transportation every day, plus it’s even more expensive.  Later in my research, I learned that users found the Cintiq’s screen would get hazy from scratches after a while of use, but SP3 has Gorilla Glass.  Not Gorilla Glass 1, not Gorilla Glass 2 like on my Galaxy phone, but instead, No Screwing Around Gorilla Glass 3.
  2. Apple doesn’t make any product like this yet, so no contenders there.
  3. Every other product, despite advantages did not compare to performance overall.

The only real sticking point left was the flimsy keyboard cover on the SP3.  I was afraid that when the bus or train I was on rolled over a body, the machine might detach itself from the keyboard on my lap and go flying.  Now that I own it and have used it a while, I know this is a real concern (more for the computer than the bodies, but only slightly).  After spending hours researching covers and trying to visualize the bus thump-thumping over a carcass with the SP3 on my lap, I decided on this – the ESR Intelligent Series Case:


I theorized that as long as I kept the keyboard firmly against the case when open, nothing should go flying*.  The clips around the screen are surprisingly snug and don’t get in the way of buttons, ports or swiping motions around the perimeter like a lot of the other cases did.  Another bonus: the pen is also a lot less vulnerable tucked away inside the case when placed on top of the screen instead in the hanging-offy-in-the-wind tab Microsoft gives you.  The only noteworthy drawback is you can’t access the micro SD slot on the back of the machine, but it was a small price to pay.

*Use this shit at your own risk.

Here is an exceptionally clear photo of the case and SP3 in action:

Photography Skillz Set to IHaveAFluThisIsGoodEnough Mode
Photography Skillz Set to IHaveAFluThisIsGoodEnough Mode

I ended up choosing the Core i5 with 8 GB RAM.  The 4 GB would have probably been just fine for learning to digital art and word processing/browsing type stuff, but I wanted this thing to last a while.  I also wanted the option of being able to run optical simulation software at some point, and for that 4 GB would be a sad, paltry excuse for adequate processing power.  I’m an experienced pc murderer, so I know, having driven more than one machine into the ground with optical software.

Next post will be on my adventures with actually trying to use the thing with Adobe Illustrator and such.  Spoiler Alert: It’s proven to be a great little wonder-machine but I definitely have some tips I’ve learned the hard way to help you avoid headaches and fury.