Drawing and Gaming on the Go: Tools of the Trade

I have been a freelance illustrator for nearly six years. I’m going to keep this short and sweet since I’m not a fan of rambling on about unrelated things. SEO be damned. I am very much on a tight budget, and trying to compromise between quality and price. So it takes me anywhere between 3 to 9 weeks before deciding on what I absolutely need and what I absolutely do not, in terms of upgrading my equipment.
Disclaimer: some of the accessories are affiliate links, i.e. if you decide to make a purchase I’ll get a small percentage. Some link to reviews and forums for more information. There are cheaper alternatives to some of the laptops here, as I’m a believer in open-box and refurbished discounts.

Here are my different work setups through the years (2013 to 2020):

2013 to 2016 Acer Aspire 5750 G 15” Gaming + Wacom Intuos Pro S

This was my most reliable set-up. It saw me through traveling cities, beaches, and getting jostled around. This was my first Wacom product, whereas I was using a $20 non-pressure sensitive tablet before. It opened up a world of possibility for me, and I could game!… on low to medium graphic settings. It was enough for PS and AI, but it did chug a bit.

I’ve spilled beer on this Acer and literally left it in a bag of rice, and it was fine. I sold the laptop to fund my next set up.

2016 to 2017 Surface Pro 2 (refurbished – and still running today!) + Wacom Intuos Pro S

This was my introduction to hybrid computers. I’m not a fan of Mac, so this was perfect. I could still game, and this was performing better. Since I needed something portable and powerful enough, the SP2 was fine alone, but if I was sitting at my desk I could just plug in my Wacom when the screen got too hot to draw on. There were some problems with battery expansion, later but it still works today, as my backup/emergency/household invasion bait* equipment.

2017 to 2019 Acer Aspire E15 (Nvidia GeForce ??) + SP2 + Wacom Intuos Pro S

The SP2 started sputtering and I just wanted an excuse to upgrade to a laptop that could: play Assassin’s Creed on medium, handle my new found love of vectors, and support my renewed love for realism in digital painting. It traveled well, but was way too heavy for how often I had to use it out of my own home office. I used the SP2 as a display for reference images or just as a second monitor for color correction (together with my phone). The wacom was still performing relatively okay, but at this point had scratches everywhere, the pen’s casing came loose from my constant clumsiness.

2019 to Present! Surface Book 2 with i7, Nvidia GeForce 1050, 13.5

+ PadPucks + Surface Pen + UAG + Silicone Keyboard Cover + External Keyboard

This was paid for by hard work, new commissions, and a loan for part of it. I’m currently really happy with this, and wondering why I didn’t do this sooner (answer: i was broke). I use it as a laptop but also in clipboard mode, and I’ve found that having the portability of the SP2 from before, but being more powerful, gave me a renewed vigor to draw everywhere.  I’d be lying if I said gaming on it wasn’t 50% of that decision either.

The pad pucks help incline the tablet, and the UAG and keyboard cover protect it from me (no more beverage spilling and dropping laptops on the floor for me!) I mostly turn the clip board around and keep it attached to the base for drawing and painting, but when it’s labor intensive, I sometimes still attach my Wacom. I have an external half keyboard when I want to keep the screen away from my constantly craning neck, and an ergonomic mouse.

The SP2 still lives as a reference display, sometimes I play Stardew Valley or Hearthstone on it. If I’m traveling to somewhere sketchy (pun not intended for once) I bring the SP2 and a Bamboo feel pen.

2020 Corona Quarantine Artist update: the SB2 was purchased in April 2019, more than a year later it’s still performing like new, minus some slight overheating issues on the High Performance setting and plugged in. Some issues that arose:

  • There is some slight yellowing on the areas of the screen near the keyboard connectors.
  • There’s random jitter sometimes

Honestly I still love it. I also still end up using the Wacom (yes from 6 years ago!!) from time to time for that extra precision.

My favorite backpacks for another day. This might actually take longer because I have a very mild obsession with backpacks.

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