There is an oddly named tablet called the Boogie Board, by Improv Electronics, that’s a perfect mix of technology and fun. The surface of the tablet uses Reflex LCD technology and only needs the available room light to display your image. A small button can “electronically erase” the image up to 50,000 times before the built-in battery is depleted. The included plastic stylus can make thick or thin lines depending on your drawing pressure.
I bought the original $40 tablet which was only a write and erase product. Their new version, called the RIP (for record image, preserve), can conveniently store your images in vector form PDF and runs about $130. This addresses the original’s short comings of ‘what do I do when I draw something interesting?’ Of course you can’t go back and see what you’ve saved without a computer, but for the artist on the go, this is a nice way to avoid damaged and dirtied paper.
I really do like this product for a several reasons. The most obvious is that once you have a sketch, you don’t need to scan, import and clean up the image like you do with traditional paper and pen. Also, by creating a direct digital file that is vector-based, means you can easily import and scale to practically any size.
There are a few other products out there to capture drawings but many require a computer to display the image as you draw or need special paper and pen to store the image. The closet product I’ve found so far to the RIP is the Wacom Inkling. It is a special pen with a receiver that you clip onto your paper pad. It is $70 more than the RIP, requires you to draw in black ink, needs to be recharged and doesn’t have perfect accuracy. But you can create multi-layer images, save in multiple formats and it is the closest to pen and paper (in fact it is pen and paper) than the LCD devices.
But the best part of these new drawing technologies is that they’re novel ways to introduce drawing skills to people of all ages. And for designers and artists bridging the paper-computer gap, the tablet simplifies the process all for less than a couple hundred dollars. In this digital age where most young designers prefer to do their drawing with the computer, this computerized pen and paper equivalent can reintroduce the perhaps more creative eye-hand relationship.