The Artist22E Pro is XP-PEN’s flagship graphics tablet display. For what the Artist22EPro delivers at £500 or $500, it’s everything you’d expect from a Cintiq competitor. For a tablet of roughly the same size, but half the price of Wacom’s Cintiq22HD, there’s bound to be a number of hiccups, but we shall pick those out as we go. The tablet measures at 22-and-a-half by 13 inches, and weighs just under 10 pounds. So there’s no concern relating to knocking the display about. The menu buttons are firm, click nicely, and don’t wobble about. The cast metal stand is sturdy, with rubber ends that grip to the desk well and truly. So much so, you may want to lift the tablet slightly when shifting it. All in all, a solid bit of well engineered kit. Here’s what the 22E Pro comes with. The driver must be downloaded off their website, no CD included. Upon first installation, the Artist16’s drivers remanents were disagreeing with the new 22E Pro’s. Upon reinstalling, the 22E’s installer eventually asked to clean up the mess, and worked fine afterwards. The driver is tough in that you can unplug and replug the 22E Pro entirely and it will still work, without restarting the computer. The input selection is handled like a telly does and the DVI and HDMI looks swell. You can have both a DVI and HDMI plugged in simultaneously and switch between them. The Artist22E Pro is an updated version of the Artist22E. The 22E comes with 16 express keys, but the 8 on the left work the same as the 8 buttons on the right, whereas all 16 express keys can have different functions on the 22E Pro. The 22E Pro’s P02S pens have 4 times the pressure levels of the 22E’s P02 pens. The 22E Pro’s driver has some more features too. The Artist22HD lacks express keys altogether, so to those who aren’t bothered by that, this can save you some horizontal space. With a 21-and-a-half inch display at 1080 by 1920 resolution, the induvidual pixels can be seen up close with the naked eye. Smaller interfaces’ icons are easy to select, since a lot of GUI’s seem tiny at 1080p. So this screen has a size deserving of its resolution. I find drawing with a large display increases confidence with swooping brush strokes, as well as drawing with your elbow rather than with your wrist. It’s definitely hard to go back to regular, screenless tablets. Making the transition, I am both liberated artistically, but less adaptable to simpler technologies as a result, bar the pencil and paper. Working with a larger tablet display increases productivity for me by a noticeable margin. For every undo or mistake made inking with the 22E Pro, I would have done the same 5 times more often on a smaller tablet. The power light is recessed, so from certain angles there’s no telling what power mode it’s in, but it turns on pretty quickly. At default 50% brightness, the display runs at a comfy temperature, with the bottom being relatively cool. Leaving the screen at 100% brightness for a bit, the top-back of the tablet becomes a bit warmer, and the whole screen is about as warm as the top of the screen was at 50% brightness. The bottom-back of the tablet never heats up. The tablet’s in an environment where it has plenty of space to breathe. It’s not pressed up against a wall or anything daft like that. The power supply box runs comfortably cool too. I am happy to say “brightness” really means the actual brightness of the display, increasing the backlight’s intensity. It’s not just clipping the whites in order to boost the shadows linearly, like consumer-grade monitors do. Speaking of temperature, there’s a number of colour temperature settings. For working in black-and-white, or roughing animation sketches for hours, I’ve got a very soft orange “User” setting. For most of the time though, you’ll want to set the colour temperature to sRGB for professional working with colour, as it’s the most accurate. The website advertises a 77-82% Adobe Colour Gamut coverage. I’m not going pretend I know everything about colour gamut, but at a percentage like that it should be able to portray sRGB or Rec. 709 with accuracy. Simply put, whites look white, greys look grey, and blacks look black, so I have no qualms about trusting the 22E Pro’s colour reproduction. The viewing angle is broad, as the image never disappears like a laptop display would. Yet the colour does shift a tincy weeny bit, so it’s a good idea to face the screen dead on when working with colours. This doesn’t happen with the Artist16. The colours are the same no matter where you look at it from. A couple other menu options include “DCR” which crushes the shadows. “Gamma” is similar, but affects the highlights too. A smooth gradient from black to white demonstrates the effects. If you’re after accurate colour reproduction, it’s best to leave these settings off. Two rechargable pens come with the Artist22E Pro. I’ve covered the nature, pros and cons of XP-PEN’s rechargable pens and lack of eraser tip in my Artist16 review, if you would like to know about that. In short, the rechargable aspect is not a problem at all. The pen has a good ergonomic feel. Most of the weight is rightfully at the tip, and it has a soft rubbery material around where your hand would be. Soft yet firm, delightful. These “P02S” stylus pens boasts 8192 pressure levels, enabling incredibly delicate brush width work. This makes the pressure flow practically continuous, with no discernable steps in the transition from thin to thick. I’m desirous for the rich weight-variable inking style so I’m well chuffed with this feature. The pressure works so well, one hardly has to change the brush size when doing the details and larger forms! There’s no tilt sensitivity. One of the two pens is contained in this interesting tube. The lid’s secondary function is a pen holder with a grippy material at the bottom. Knocking the top of the pen is enough to tip it over, but generally is sturdy enough. The bottom of the tube can be unscrewed to reveal 8 replacement pen nibs for when the nib used inevitably loses its edge over the many years of intense scribbling. This centre hole is for pulling the inside nib out. It’s all rather dainty, but I’ve had trouble pulling the replacement nibs out as they’re quite close to the circumference. The tube can be used to protect a pen if you’re going somewhere with it, although the second pen receives no such luxury. Calibration is most satisfactory, with only a slight misalignment towards the very edges of the monitor. Done properly, you don’t need to worry about where the computer thinks your pen is, and can just get to drawing. Rarely now do I have to magnify the canvas excessively to deal with the small details. The click sensitivity refers to the curve of pressure, either having more change of brush size towards one end or the other. Every button can have a different function attached to it, be it a key combination, opening a program or settings, Fine Detail Mode, or switching monitors. The big surprise was that every program can have a different set of express key commands set to them. The driver will automatically set the express keys’ hotkeys to what program you’re currently working in. To make a habit of using the express keys, I put labels on them. Otherwise I’d forget what I set them to do. Messy, but productivity is my priority. I recommend that you put the tools used while drawing on the left hand side, and less used shortcuts on the right hand side. Destructive shortcuts such as “delete” and “undo” are best put on the bottom left. This is to avoid accidentally pressing them with your drawing hand. Here’s a few examples of the Artist22E Pro in professional action. The animation that has put this tablet to the test was a freelance project for Pencilmation. With an emphasis on economy and speed, I was able to work faster on the 22E Pro’s larger screen. Once or twice I’ve had a slight glitch where the pressure’s interpreted as max, but it’s so rare and of such little consequence, there’s little to complain about. I put the drawing flipping buttons on the top left of the express keys, so I can quickly flip through the animation, doing inbetweens, then colouring them in. Storyboards and animatics can be thrashed out and later come back to for more detailing once the general story structure’s been planned out. It’s especially important for animators to be able to work with big gesture lines, later clean-up with careful line tracings, and the Artist22E’s large display and accurate stylus calibration compliments this incredibly well. The open-source Krita program, on the rise to fame with its new animation features, pairs nicely with the Artist22E Pro. And with Krita’s odd eraser toggle ignoring Pen and Eraser Mode, you can set the button on the P02S stylus to be “E”, that being Krita’s default eraser toggle key. Let’s also hope the folks at Krita improve responsiveness to express keys which occasionally get stuck. When it works it’s lovely and my preferred way of working, until it gets stroppy. This doesn’t happen with any other program, so this is Krita’s compatibility issue, not the tablet’s. Other than those two gripes, I can see myself really getting into Krita, using it for colouring and inbetweening scanned animation drawings. What the P02S stylus has most influenced for me is a watercoloury blotchy way of blocking in shades and colours. I normally do this when planning colours for either a painting or a certain “look” for an animation’s scene. Starting with major areas of colour, I work my way down in scale until I’m down to the eyelashes. The high-resolution pressure curve means I can shade subtley without having to spend precious seconds tweaking the brush opacity settings. This enables me to get a rough idea of the “big picture”, compositionally and chromatically. Any construction or sketching can either be done on another layer, or the same layer before being reobscured. Obviously not the most technical way to do an illustration, but having the accurate bright monitor of the Artist22HD to work with, I can see future animation projects having a much nicer colour palette. The XP-PEN Artist 22E Pro won’t break the bank quite like a Cintiq would for professionals starting out and it’ll earn its keep quite soon. Once I delved into the express keys and the versatile driver, they turned out to be a surprisingly handy bonus. There’s many repetitive keystrokes in animation, dotted around the keyboard, and putting them all on one side made for less digit gymnastics. I reckon the improvement of my more painterly work after receiving the Artist22E Pro was no coincidence. XP-PEN’s product line is one of the most affordable in the competitive field, and is engineered incredibly well. The 22E Pro lends a major advantage to one with a large desk, otherwise you may want one of the smaller tablets, ’cause a 22 inch tablet takes space. To students, folks on the move, and those with limited room, it’s worth having a look at my Artist16 review. However, fo my workspace and my work, the Artist22E Pro does a wonderful job!