Best Pen Pad For Photoshop – If you’re looking to speed up your editing process, there are several pieces of hardware that can make complex masking, brushing, and cloning tasks easier and more intuitive than a digital pen. I first picked up an Active Stylus pen a few years ago as an optional extra for my new laptop, and even though I’m not a designer, I quickly realized that it’s better than a mouse or touchpad for such complex tasks as complex design. masks or cloning of dust from product photos.
But active pens are only an option for laptops, tablets, or devices with expensive stand-alone pen-capable displays like Wacom’s Cintiq series. That’s where individual pen tablets come in, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of a digital pen at a lower cost and without having to replace your current hardware if it lacks built-in support.
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When you think of pen tablets, you probably think of Wacom, as the company has long been the most recognized brand in its field. But these days it has several competitors that deserve more attention, and in early 2021 it got another one by arriving at the site of Xencelabs (rhymes with “senselabs” if you’re wondering).
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In this review, we will look at Xencelabs’ latest offering, the Pen Tablet Mini, which is, as its name suggests, a smaller and more affordable version of the product it launched last year.
Tablet Overview| How does it compare | Pens | Software | Battery | Coexistence | Odds and Ends | Conclusion
When I first picked up a functional pen a few years ago, I went out of my way to get one that would allow me to draw directly on my computer display. I thought I would find it easier than looking at the same area and painting somewhere completely different.
And for the first few hours I spent with the Xencelabs device, it was my first extended experience with a pen tablet, which was a real plus. At first I found it more difficult to use than my functional pen and I struggled to draw as accurately as I did when I saw my subject under the pen.
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But I was surprised how quickly I got used to a standalone pen tablet, and after using one, I also realized that they have their advantages over drawing directly on your screen. For example, it is much easier to see what you are doing when your own hand is not hiding what you are working on. It also saves you from turning your screen into a smudge fest and I now prefer it to draw directly on my screen.
Xencelabs Pen Tablet Small and included pen/writer case shown next to my Dell XPS 15 9570 15-inch laptop for size comparison. The Xencelabs installation application appears on the screen.
Since the pens draw power from the electric field created by the tablet itself, there is no need for batteries in each pen. This saves you from having to replace them regularly and makes the pens easier and less tiring to use. However, it took me a while to break the habit of leaving the pen on the tablet when I’m done with it. This affects the mouse pointer if you are going to use a touchpad or mouse.
The biggest annoyance I found—which is a real draw compared to the Wacom Intuos Pro S—is that Xencelabs’ pen tablet can’t fold up like a touchpad. In contrast, the Wacom is not only touch-sensitive, but also multi-touch capable. Touchpad support solves the problem of placing the mouse if you are using one next to the tablet, since if you are not a difference, you will need both on the same side of the corner or the keyboard.
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It’s a shame that Xencelabs’ pen tablet doesn’t use Bluetooth or double as a touchpad like its competitor, the Wacom Intuos Pro S.
It is also a shame that while it uses the same radio frequency range as standard Bluetooth devices, the underlying protocol is not actually Bluetooth, unlike Wacom tablets. Therefore, there is no way to connect the device without using one of the USB ports on your computer, whether using a USB cable or a dongle. It’s a shame that Xencelabs’ pen tablet doesn’t use Bluetooth or double as a touchpad like its competitor, the Wacom Intuos Pro S.
While we’re on the subject of the Intuos Pro S, let’s take a look at how the Xencelabs Pen Tablet Small compares to Wacom’s closest competitors.
Padded Travel Case with Felt Lining, Pen/Writer Case, Medium Drawing Glove, Stylus Remover, USB Dongle, USB-C to USB-A Adapter, USB-A to USB-C Cable
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Pen stand with built-in nib remover, four color rings to distinguish multiple pens, sample text sheet, USB-A to USB-C cable.
Another area where Xencelabs rises above Wacom is their choice to include both tablet-compatible pens in the basic package. There is a thin pen with two buttons on the side of the body, as well as a thicker pen that adds a third side button. The two store in a nice (or rather small) carrying case along with the rest of their tips, a tip removal tool, a USB dongle for the receiver, and a USB-C adapter.
Each pen is recognized and its position is displayed on the screen when you move it approximately 12-14 mm (0.5 inches) or less from the tablet surface, allowing you to precisely adjust your position before you start drawing.
Since the area can be pointed at a distance, you can also use the pen as an airbrush if you adjust one of its buttons in the right way.
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With the right air conditioner, you can often control the flow rate on the fly and adjust the coverage area by controlling the distance between the nozzle and the paper. However, you cannot control the flow rate with the buttons on Xencelabs pens, and the distance between the pen and the tablet is not visible and calculated.
Xencelabs pens come with a choice of two different pen sizes and two types of replaceable nibs in a convenient carrying case. In addition to the difference in size, the larger pen adds an extra button.
Tilt sensitivity works to some extent without the pen touching the tablet, but its accuracy quickly drops as the distance between the pen and the tablet increases, again resulting in less airbrush effect. When the top of the pen touches the tablet, its resolution, stress sensitivity and tilt sensitivity are excellent.
All pens have a drawing pen at one end and an eraser at the other. The stylus and eraser are equally sensitive to pressure, but only the stylus combines this with tilt sensitivity.
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The nibs on all included pens will wear over time, and the amount of wear will vary depending on the type of pen and how much pressure you use. Felt nibs provide a similar feel to writing with a pencil, while regular nibs are closer to a smooth ballpoint pen.
I chose to use a felt tip in a thin, more pencil-like pen and left the normal tip in a thick pen. I find that I use the smaller of the two pens most of the time and only switch to the thicker pen when I’m using it as a pseudo-airbrush or need to feel the tip of the pen.
The slides can be pulled with the tool provided and replaced when worn if you want a different feel when painting. Here we can see the closure of one of the pencil-like felt tips.
During my testing, I spent many hours using all types of squeegees and did not notice any significant wear on it. The included tips, of which you get eight regular and four sensitive, should be enough to last you for quite some time.
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Replacement tips can be purchased in packs of 10 or 20. Depending on the type and quantity purchased, they cost only $0.55 to $1.30 each. (By comparison, Wacom pens cost $1 each, regardless of order type or quantity.)
The removal file is not strong and the metal used is not flexible enough, so I accidentally broke it out of shape after a few uses. However, it is easy to bend back, or you can pull the tips with tweezers instead.
You can change the design of the built-in buttons in both the tablet and the pens individually, changing their functions in all or for each application. You can also adjust the sensitivity curves for each pen and eraser type.
You can change any of the pen’s buttons to perform different functions altogether or for each application, and change the mapping of the pen’s pressure level to that in your applications.
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If you want more control, you can also directly adjust the pressure curve map of the nib and eraser of each pen.
Each of the tablet or pen buttons can be programmed to send a mouse click, keyboard click, modifier (shift, alt, control, space, or mouse button/wheel), or open an application.
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