Covers

Huion GT-191: Final review

So if you’ve been reading this blog then you know I’ve had some good and some bad experiences with Huion and the GT-191. I have one sitting on my desk right now so I’ve decided to go with Huion, and I figured I should write a final review about all the pros and cons and why I ultimately decided to go with the GT-191 despite some problems.

Huion GT-191

So here’s the thing. Huion is giving you bang for your buck. They’re not giving you perfection. If you’re an amateur artist or someone who only uses Photoshop from time to time then it’s going to be a great tablet for you. If you’re the kind of person whose professional livelihood depends on color accuracy and things like that then it might or might not be the tablet for you, but it’s definitely a contender for the price.

The good:

Price:

The price on Huion products can’t be beat. I got mine through a sale they were running on eBay that gave me a brand new device, straight from Huion, at a substantial discount. I think they were trying to get rid of older versions of their Kamvas line now that they’re releasing newer versions with pens that don’t require charging. Either way, a 19″ pen monitor at Huion prices is a great deal. Especially compared to Wacom and their exorbitant and prohibitive pricing.

Setup:

Setup was quick and easy. Everything on the Huion is using old technology that’s well tested. It uses an old fashioned USB 3.0 connection and an HDMI cable to provide signal from the computer to the monitor. If you’re running a fancy new MacBook Pro with its USB-C connections that might be an issue, but there are a lot of people out there running on hardware that isn’t at the bleeding edge and these older connections are appreciated.

Actually setting up the monitor only took maybe fifteen minutes. That includes attaching the stand, connecting the wires, and downloading the Huion software.

The user experience:

This is what really matters. The experience of putting a pen to the screen is about the same as using a Cintiq 22HD. There’s a little bit of parallax that really becomes obvious when you’re moving the pen around, but you also got that on older Wacoms. It doesn’t hold a candle to the new Cintiq Pro line and the complete lack of parallax, but it’s pretty easy to train yourself to look at where the cursor is on the screen and adjust your stroke accordingly. This is especially easy if you’re upgrading from a tablet where you’re used to the disconnect between pen and cursor.

I’m not saying the parallax is a deal breaker, just that it’s there and is about the same as what you’d expect from a last gen Wacom monitor. You’re not getting the complete lack of parallax of the new Cintiq Pro line, but you’re also not paying the equivalent of a down payment on a cheap car on this monitor either.

Other than that the experience is natural and easy. Drawing on the screen or on the provided screen protector is a pleasant experience. With the protector on it feels like drawing on paper. The screen protector does blur everything just a bit, but you’re going to get that from any screen protector that has a paper consistency. Again I’d compare the screen resolution to the Cintiq 22HD in terms of quality and graininess.

The stand:

This is wonderful. Seriously. I wish Wacom would figure out how to make stands like this. All it takes is a little pull on a lever and the stand moves forward and back providing whatever angle you want. The real beauty is the stand has a tiny footprint that makes it easy to fit the GT-191 on a desk.

Compare that to the 22HD and larger in the last gen of Cintiqs. That stand was a beast and it ate up desk real estate. One of the reasons I ended up getting rid of my 22HD was the thing was just so damn big that it was unwieldy and unpleasant to use. Or compare that to the Cintiq Pro line that doesn’t come with a stand at all.

The Huion doesn’t have this problem. The stand is compact and gets the job done, and it just works. Wacom could take a page from Huion on stand design.

The extras:

The tablet comes with an extra pen and drawing glove as “gifts.” This smacks of marketing speak to make me feel warm and fuzzy about something they would’ve included anyway, but whatever. Having a second pen is a must with a pen tablet that relies on battery driven pens. You can always have one charged and ready to go.

The bad:

Color accuracy:

This is the big one that was such an annoyance with the first one I tried out. No matter how many times I tried to calibrate the screen there was a blue tint to everything that drove me nuts. Trying to return the GT-191 to Huion and not get charged a restocking fee also took some back and forth that was annoying.

Still, I couldn’t beat the sale price they were offering and I figured for that price I could put up with a little color inaccuracy. I’m pleased to say that the screen I have now doesn’t have that tinting issue, but it’s still washed out and not all that vibrant for an IPS panel. It’s really obvious looking at my calibrated Asus PB-278Q which sits just above the Huion tablet.

Another consideration is that the Cintiqs also appear “washed out” compared to monitors designed to pump out more saturation, and this is deliberate. Huion is doing the same, but the colors on the Huion are definitely a little more washed out than what you’ll get on a Cintiq.

It’s not a huge issue for me though. Like I said before, this is a bang for the buck unit. If you’re doing digital art or photo manipulation seriously then you have a second monitor you can mirror your current Photoshop window to anyway so you can periodically check on what you’re working on, but it’s definitely a concern if pinpoint color accuracy is something you absolutely have to have.

Parallax:

I talked about this up above, but wanted to include it in the cons down here. Parallax is there, but it’s about on par with what you can expect from a Cintiq 22HD or a 13HD. It’s especially obvious if you twist the pen around as the tip will quickly become disconnected from the cursor on the screen. This wasn’t much of an issue for me. I’ve worked with tablets long enough that I can deal with the disconnect between what my pen is doing and what the cursor is doing, but it might be an annoyance for some. Watching where the cursor is versus where the pen is can be helpful, though, and the disconnect is way less with the Huion than it would be with a traditional non-screen tablet.

Does it compare to the lack of parallax on the new Cintiq Pro line? Not at all. Parallax is nonexistent on those bad boys. Is it a small enough annoyance that the price difference more than makes up for it if you’re starting out with digital art or on a budget? Most definitely in my opinion.

“Only” High Def:

This is really a matter of opinion. The last gen Cintiq displays were all good old 1920×1080. The picture looked decently crisp on the 13HD and a little grainy on the 22HD.

With the GT-191 you’re also getting “only” 1920×1080 resolution. The display looks a little grainy, especially with the protective screen over it, but it’s not a huge deal. It’s definitely not as crisp as a display on a Cintiq Pro 16 or running AstroPad Pro and an iPad Pro, but again it gets the job done. I’ll also note that the Cintiq Pro running at 2K also looks a little grainy and pixelated, and running at 4K on a 15″ monitor made everything so small as to be uncomfortable.

The GT-191 really is a nice compromise between screen size and resolution. 1080P works for a monitor that size. Would 4K be nice? Yeah, but that would up the price and we wouldn’t be having this conversation about a value pen screen.

No tilt:

The GT-191 doesn’t have tilt functionality in its pen. I don’t use tilt so it’s not a big deal for me. If this is a big deal for you then you’ve been warned.

Cable placement:

Cable placement is a little awkward on the back of the device. The ports are on the bottom of the screen, and that means if you’re sliding your monitor forward and back on the aforementioned stand a lot then you’re going to spend some time pushing the cables out of the way. This also doesn’t seem like a great arrangement in terms of cable strain over the long term, but I also haven’t seen any complaints about this so who knows if it’s really a potential gripe.

Just be warned that the cable situation in the back isn’t ideal, and you will spend some of your time moving cables out of the way if you move the stand up and down a lot.

The verdict: bang for your buck

Bang for the buck. That’s what it all comes down to. A last gen Cintiq 22HD will still run you $1700. A last gen Cintiq 13HD will run you $800. To get into the new Cintiq Pro 13 you’re looking at $1000. For the Cintiq Pro 16 it’s $1500. When you go higher than that for the Cintiq Pro 24 and 32 you’re looking at behemoths that swallow your entire desk and cost the price of a cheap used car with some mileage on it or a good down payment on a new economy car.

Does Huion still have some issues with their tablets? Yes, but in my experience they’re all issues that existed on the last generation of Wacom Cintiq tablet screens, and they were all things people learned to live with. That’s something else to consider. Every generation of Wacoms has had their issues, and people pay a premium to deal with those issues.

Weigh all of that against the price, because damn. That price is amazing. If you’re on a budget, dipping a toe into digital art, or only need to use a screen tablet occasionally for work like I do then that price can’t be beat. Wacoms are expensive. Like “I do art for a living and can justify this expense” or “corporate bought all of these with a line item in the budget that was going away if we didn’t spend it by the end of the year” expensive. That’s a lot of money to spend, and I think for the money the Huion is a great, if slightly flawed, alternative whose price more than makes up for those quibbles.

Bang for your buck. That’s what Huion delivers. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you’re willing to shell out an extra thousand bucks to get something slightly better in quality and way smaller in terms of screen size to have Wacom on the branding.

Finding a cover artist and covering your butt

Today I’m going to cover something that’s been on my mind because of a situation I’m dealing with: finding a cover artist.

There are a lot of resources out there for finding cover artists. A lot of author databases that you can go through and hope to find someone who’s good. I don’t bother with any of that stuff though. Not when I know of a great artist community that has a job board specifically designed for people seeking commissioned art.

That site? The Deviant Art jobs forum!

Finding an artist

This is the easy part. Create your own account on DeviantArt and post on the forum letting people know what you’re looking for. You’ll quickly be inundated with artists who are looking for work, and they’ll continue to stream in for a couple of days as people check the forum.

From there it’s a matter of sifting through the various offers you get. I maintain a note that I’m constantly updating when I find an author who looks promising. In that note I include the artist’s name, a link to their profile, and information about what they charge if they make that available.

You’re going to get some people who clearly aren’t up to the standard of what you need for your cover. You’re going to get people who are amazing and clearly out of your budget.

Here are a few things I look for when settling on an artist:

  1. What kind of styles do they work in? Is it cartoony? Full realistic renders? Realistic but with some exaggerations? Does their style fit what you’re looking for?
  2. Does the art flow? Are they able to do multiple poses and different scenarios? Is it stiff at all? Are they able to do men and women or is it clear that they’ve been drawing sexy ladies or sexy men since middle school and never bothered to learn how to draw anything else?
  3. Do they have a lot of work on display? I’m wary of artists who have newer profiles or don’t post all that much on their DA profile. Not all of them are scammers, but it is suspect.
  4. Do they have comments on their profile from people who’ve worked with them? Are those comments positive or are their complaints that they’re scammers?

Those are just a few things to consider. Look for an artist who has a varied portfolio and clearly is good at what they’re doing. Compare between several artists until you find one you like, and then start negotiating the price.

Settling on a price

Give serious thought to what your budget is for this project. I wouldn’t recommend including that budget in your initial post because that’s going to encourage people to come in at whatever price you offer even if they would’ve started lower. This is a negotiation even if you are going to pay the nice artist what they are worth.

We’re looking for a sweet spot. Someone who clearly has the ability to do what you need but comes in at a price you can afford. You need to go into this with the attitude that you’re paying a business associate for a service. You want to get paid for your writing, and you should be willing to pay a reasonable sum to an artist as well.

I can’t reiterate that enough. Good artists who are responsive and deliver good work in a timely manner? They’re unicorns, and you should treat them like the precious and valuable resource they are.

If someone is amazing but they’re a little out of their price range then don’t be afraid to ask them to come down just a little. This is a business transaction, after all. The worst they can say is no.

Don’t be afraid to work with someone from halfway around the world. If you’re in the U.S. or Europe then that exchange rate is pretty favorable if you’re working with an artist in, say, Asia or another place where USD or GBP or the Euro stretches pretty far.

If someone is coming in with a quote that seems too good to be true then that’s probably because it is. I’ve been burned a couple of times by artists who had amazing work but ghosted once they got their payment. Again you’re looking for a sweet spot, and someone who comes in too low is probably trying to lure you in.

Covering your ass

There’s no way to guarantee completely that you don’t get scammed, but there are some things you can do to protect yourself while searching for an artist.

Social proof – A serious artist is going to have lots of happy comments from people who commissioned them. Look for these. Don’t be afraid to ask the artist for references. This is a business transaction, and if they aren’t willing to provide references then you should run for the hills.

Half and Half – Whenever I make a job offer I make it clear that I’m paying half up front and half upon delivery. This makes the cost of the commission hurt a little less, and it also is likely to scare off some scammers. Not all, but some.

Use protection – A lot of people will want you to pay with a PayPal money transfer. Don’t do this. There are no buyer protections built in with money transfers. What you’re going to insist on is that the artist invoices you via PayPal, and only then will you make your payment. This means you have PayPal’s buyer protection if they ghost you.

Other considerations

Contracts – You can do a contract if you want. There are indie author sites out there that offer boilerplate contracts. I tend not to mess with them. I have a paper trail of email conversations where expectations are clearly laid out and make sure the invoice include exactly what’s being bought and paid for. Including considerations like copyright transfer. If a contract makes you feel better then by all means go for it, but I’m not an IP lawyer so I’m not going to comment on them other than to say I don’t use them.

Copyright – One of the conditions of commissioning your work should be that all copyright to the work transfers to you. Full stop. I wouldn’t work with anyone who isn’t willing to do this. Some people will charge a little extra for this and some will throw it in. I’d recommend indicating you want the copyright transfer in your initial post and seeing what the artist says.

This is something that you need to have spelled out in your conversations with the artist and in the invoice so it’s clear on the off chance they try to come after you later. It’s also an area where it might be helpful to get a boilerplate contract from somewhere on the Internet, but again I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice.

Price Increases – I’ve heard a few horror stories over the years about artists who commissioned a cover, then when their book did very well the artist turned around and jacked up the price for future covers. This can lead to situations where book releases are delayed while things are renegotiated.

I’ve never had this happen to me before, but if it did then I would politely tell the artist to go and pound sand. I believe that artists deserve to be paid a fair amount for their work, but if someone raises the price by some exorbitant amount because they think an author can cover it they’re essentially trying to hold future releases hostage. That’s not someone I’d want to work with, and there are plenty of other artists out there who’d be able to do a new cover.

Having said that, there are instances of artists who raise their fee as they get more popular. That’s to be expected if they’re making a go of making a career as an artist. In that case you’ll have to decide whether or not the slowly increasing rate is worth it, but that’s a completely different scenario from someone trying to extort an author because of some success.

Lettering – Cover artists make cover art. Letterers do lettering. There are some people who have both skills, but not necessarily. Ask your cover person if they’re comfortable doing lettering, and if not then look for someone who can do this and expect to pay a little bit for it. Good typography on a cover is every bit as valuable as the art beneath it.

If the artist can do typography then be sure to get a copy of the art without all the lettering on it.

Timeliness – Figure out what your release schedule is going to look like. Then figure out whether or not your artist can keep up with that schedule. Art can take time to complete just like it takes time to write and edit a book, and if you have a release schedule that doesn’t match up with what your artist is able to do then it’s time to find someone else for your project.

Wrapping up

Finding an artist! There’s a lot of stuff to consider if you want to find someone who’s good, reasonably priced, able to complete their work in a timely manner, and isn’t out to scam you. The good news is that it’s not all that complicated so much as it’s time consuming. That’ll be time well spent when you get that perfect cover that drives the sales to you though!