Ye olde debate: Cintiq vs. Intuos

posted in: Uncategorized | 24

About two months ago, I purchased the latest, greatest Wacom monitor: the Cintiq 24HD.  I was drooling all over my computer monitor whenever I’d pull up a youtube video of someone testing it out.  When I finally pulled the trigger to buy it, I was only a little reluctant despite it costing equal to a small country since I’ve used its smaller cousin, the little 13″ guy, for about three years and know that it can boost productivity.  So after I drove it from Toronto to Ottawa, put it on a plane up here to Iqaluit and got it into my small shop, I noticed something.  This thing is big.  Not just a little big, but ridiculous MassivE.  It’s sitting right now on the corner of my desk, actually unused, because for me to use it I need so much space that there’s hardly any room left for me to fart.

But it’s pretty, and it does its job of being the next best thing for sketching besides paper in unrivaled fashion.  And yet, there it sits, right beside my large Intuos- the one I use every day.  There’s something so elegantly simple about the Intuos, it’s hard to describe until you get into the groove.  For me, the keyboard is indispensable while drawing or doing any After Effects work, and the Intuos and keyboard go together like coffee and breaktime.  Whenever I use the Cintiq, I find myself muttering when I have to move my hand four miles away from the monitor to do a keyboard shortcut, and don’t even get me started every time I need to change monitors to my primary screen on the iMac.  I know, I know, all you guys and gals out there- but you can programme the buttons on the Cintiq to any shortcut you want!  I’ve done it, and honestly, I hate them.  I’m so used to the keyboard shortcuts after having used photoshop for almost 10 years, that for me you can’t beat the keyboard interface.  I don’t even use the buttons on the Intuos either, for the same reason.  No matter how used to the buttons you get on either the Intuos or Cintiq, you will always need the keyboard, and the Cintiq attempts to do away with it completely.  For me, that’s a huge mistake.  Also, it is absolutely true that having your hand in the way as you paint  really slows things down, and whenever you need to make a path or do anything in PS that isn’t drawing, you can’t even see half of what you’re doing.  The screen too on the Cintiq is crap.  I believed everyone who wrote saying that IPS panel of the Cintiq 24HD is wonderful, but after my first two drawings that I had to touch up on using the iMac screen since I couldn’t even see some of the colour I thought I’d erased, I stopped believing in how nice the screen is.

If you don’t believe me, I’d love for anyone to point out which drawings/paintings were done with the Cintiq or Intuos.  If you want further proof of how symbiotic the keyboard/Intuos relationship is, look up the digital magician Feng Zhu of FZD Studios.  He uses the Intuos for all his work, even though like me he owns the behemoth Cintiq 24HD.   I guess I’m writing all this to say that if you’re on the fence about buying a Cintiq, think very hard if you want an elephant in the room that doesn’t do all the tricks of the lowly Intuos Mouse (which I guess it sort of is, no? Hehe.  Mr. Pun A Lot).  Will I sell my Cintiq?  Hell no, since whenever I need to do an intricate sketch or do repetitive drawing, as in frame by frame animation, it can’t be beat.

Oh, and here’s a picture I did inspired by the genius minds of the Old Trout Puppet Workshop, a super talented group out of Alberta.  If there’s anything better than good animation, it’s good puppetry. Definitely check out their stuff at

Illustrator Jonathan Wright


24 Responses

  1. Priscilla Barton

    Haha. Love this article. This and many other searches helped me to buy a small Intuos Pro pen and touch. Wacom had a Black Friday deal that was amazing for the Cintiq companion hybrid and I almost pushed buy but the cost with tax even with their discount was so steep.. You can buy a whole laptop for that amount. I had a Cintiq 12wx and I like you found it tedious to use. I forced myself to use it but the cables, the matte and small screen, the fact that if I mirrored it with my laptop my laptop screen would look terrible…it could not be moved around like my old intuos could . So I decided to try the cintiq companion or hybrid but you are right: I’m a keystroke junkie, I assign express keys I can’t remember, I need the keyboard. What was the kicker was that companion hybrid is not wireless when using it as a screen for your computer. I don’t want to work with cables attached to my laptop if I’m not at my desk. It had to be wireless. I use the wacom mostly for illustrator so the need to see what I’m drawing I don’t find to be THAT important. I think I value portability more than writing directly on screen. Actually after my first intuos 2 I got a bamboo and loved it because it was so portable. I was using it up until about a year ago when I just couldn’t do the USB cable thing one more day. Always throwing it behind the screen and it’s on the left side (so inconvenient as I’m right handed…) so I bought a wireless bamboo and although it is pretty it is severely defeated compared to the old bamboos. I liked the pen that stowed in it because now with kids my stylus always disappears but it was not very precise and would lose signal a lot. I saw a YouTube video of a guy using his cintiq 13hd and he was drawing and still using his space bar to move around his canvas and he was wired into his desktop. So I just realized after your article that I was dreaming about this perfect work flow that actually is as simple as an intuos. And now they’re wireless and have touch! Perfect combination! If they could figure out how to have the cintiq companion hybrid work as a screen mirror via Bluetooth vs plugging in and if it was at least half the cost of a laptop I would consider that as a product. Basically a tablet that mirrors your screen and runs with a stylus. Oh yeah… And the stands for the cintiq companions seemed odd.

  2. jonwright

    Priscilla, I’m glad I helped lure you back to the dark, simple side! Like you, I can’t stand a cluttered workspace, and I’m so used to keyboard shortcuts that my hand was always looking for the space bar, or option, or really any other key that is nowhere to be found on a cintiq. And reprogramming my brain to use the expresskeys turned out to be something my primitive brain can’t handle…so the Intuos is perfect for me. Glad to see you’re kicking it old school like me.
    About what you said near the end of your comment, have you tried using an ipad as a second display? It’s OK using an app called Airdisplay, which essentially turns your ipad into an external display, and anything that’s on-screen can now be manipulated by touch. It’s not a perfect solution, but for Adobe Illustrator, it might be just the ticket. Lemme know!

  3. Salem

    hey there,

    doing some research on the cintiq and companion for the nth time, wanting to want it, and really glad to have found your article as it echoes my thoughts exactly.
    i dont mind shelling out for the cintiq but just found it unpractical. i have the first generation 13hd and used it twice.

    i use kbd heavily and lean back into my chair while working with the intuos large. this setup is just perfect, especially for long hours.

    cintiq was so cumbersome to use, obstructing the menus with the hand, jittery lines, bad colour reproduction, heating/sweating issue etc.

    its a cool piece of gear and i want something nice to gift myself but it would again collect dust same as 13hd, as the intos large is just perfect. lately i have been using the 3d connexion pilot and i can map a whole lot of shortcuts while also navigating in 3d space.
    cant recommend enough that combo. sadly zbrush still does not support it but cant have everything i guess.

    anyway, glad i am not alone in enjoying the intuos far more that the cintiqs.
    i´d recommend anyone getting the intuos and the imac for a bit more and have a really nice setup.

  4. jonwright


    I do have to admit, that like you, any time wacom comes out with a new piece of kit, I drool over it. Have you heard that there’s a 27″ cintiq brewing? Man, that looks sexy! But my back (like yours), and my workflow would suffer if I started drawing on the screen again. One thing that really, really sucks while using the Cintiq is trying to do any sort of transform tool or paths tool in PS. My hand ends up covering up half of what I need to see. When you embrace the fact that the PS and the computer are an evolutionary tool to artwork, then you sort of get used to not seeing your hand in the way.

    Enjoy the Intuos! Do you use the touch with it by the way? I disabled mine.

    I’ve got to research that whole 3d connexion pilot thingy you mentioned, sounds very cool.

  5. Waqar Rasool

    Your article reflects perfectly my story. A cintiq 24 HD left aside on the corner of my desk while i work all the time with my intuos, left hand on keyboard and right on intuos. Can’t work on photoshop, illustrator or after effects without keyboard.
    I will be actually amused to see someone who does not use a keyboard and works completely using cintiq.

  6. jonwright


    I have no idea how I’d work without the keyboard as well in PS or AFX. Really nice work on your website by the way!
    I picked up an ipad since I felt I was missing out on all the cool drawing apps coming out, such as Procreate, but after a day or two, I put it down and smiled when I went back to work on my Intuos and PS. Felt like coming home. Once again, I’m gonna sell the iPad just like I did the Cintiq 24HD. Someday I’ll learn that I’ve got the best setup for digital painting. Someday.

  7. dee

    Why let a medium become a crutch? Get to the grind and experiment with keyboard placement for your Cintiq, or forced practice on the side buttons if you suck at using them. There are tons of artists who successfully use the Cintiq only, and even more who use keyboard along with it, take a look at youtube.

  8. jonwright

    I think you’re not getting the point- I’m deliberately limiting myself with the Intuos. And if you don’t think using the Cintiq for over a year straight, 9-5, 5 days a week isn’t “forced practice”, I’m not sure what qualifies as such. I’m a professional illustrator working 40 hours a week, and have found the rhythm that works best for me. Most of the reviews on youtube are done by amateurs who’ve fiddled only for a handful of hours, while I speak from experience garnered over the years. Again, if you don’t value my opinion or my work, head over to FZD’s website- he’ll show you that what matters isn’t the tool used to make art, it’s whether or not you can draw and paint. I’d love to see your work, by the way.

  9. Seth Parr

    I know I’m a year to two years behind on replying but here goes. I can’t comment on the Cintiq as I’ve never used one but I have owned various Intuos3, Intuos Pro’s (size medium to large) and an older smaller Bamboo that I used when traveling years ago.

    I was glad to come across your post today as I was strongly considering making the jump to either a 13.3″ or a 22” Cintiq after years of using the other models. I was leaning more to the smaller size of the Cintiq 13.3” for portability but you’re post helped me to remember my tablet history.

    Long story short out of all of my tablets my absolute favorite was the older smaller Bamboo for it’s foot print size and lack of bells and whistles. I love to get out of the office and work and the bamboo was excellent for that. Not to mention there was something special about a tablet being just a tablet.

    I have the biggest Intuos Pro now and it’s great as a tablet with a stylus but everything else is a pain to me. The touch feature is counter productive in my work flow as my palm makes contact with the tablet which triggers the touch feature. I’m constantly hitting the left buttons on the left with my arm and I’m a button guy as I have much more control with keyboard shortcuts. I’m also not crazy about the increased thickness / height due to the added features and it’s uncomfortable for me to work on as opposed to the older Intuos3 which were thinner and tapered off better towards the elbows if you rest your arms on the tablet like I do when working.

    Thanks for your post. I’m going to hold off on the Cintiq and I’ll keep my Intuos Pro for the longer strokes with less zooming but I think I’ll pick up the current day bamboo and I’ll be covered for my out of office and in office days.

  10. jonwright


    Glad to hear I saved you blowing a bit of cash. Now before you decide to get that bamboo, I thought I should mention that I think the new iPad Pro in combination with the app Procreate is a real game-changer. Even for me. I haven’t yet been able to try it out with the new Apple pencil, but all the reviews on youtube look really, really promising. I think wacom Cintiqs will be a dying breed if they don’t follow Apple’s lead.
    The iPad Pro and Pencil might be just the portable solution you’re looking for. It will never (strong word!) replace the Intuos in my overall workflow, but I think it might really speed up the sketching stages. There’s just nothing faster that I can think of doing any AFX or 3D work than using the Intuos. It’s sort of comical watching anyone do that kind of work on a Cintiq- slow and cumbersome.

    Take care.

  11. Loris

    So I have artistic skill, and my medium has always been paper. I am interested in creating animations (I comprehend it is a difficult task, but that aside). I am looking for an efficient workflow setup. Software aside (lets pretend Im using the pricey TVpaint), is it efficient to use the Intuos? The biggest selling points for me would be sensitivity and size of drawing surface. In other words, I want to be able to make soft lines and smooth strokes and have them translate into the software efficiently like they would on paper. Is the new apple software a better medium from your experience or research?

  12. jonwright

    The efficiency of the Intuos is hard to beat to be frank. (Never understood why some guy named Frank has become the poster boy for Honesty!) It works with every piece of software, and once you get used to it, is really, really close to the feel of drawing on paper. Once you get over the learning curve, you can make wonderfully sinewy lines, and gorgeous painterly strokes. But, and this is big butt, it’s not great for animation. If you’re thinking of tracing your lines like you do with onion-skinning in traditional animation, the Intuos falls short. The accuracy isn’t just there, or rather I should say that it takes too long to do a good job tracing your lines.

    A Cintiq is probably your best bet, since you can use sexy software like TVPaint, and trace accurately to your heart’s content. Now once Apple opens up the iPad Pro to work with other software, like Adobe and TVPaint, then I would say that Wacom’s days are over. Period. But until that day, the iPad Pro will solely be for asset creation and have to be animated using other software…and that means other hardware, like an Intuos or Cintiq.

    But I’m curious: what new Apple software are you talking about?

  13. Mike Ferrin

    Totally, emphatically disagree with the general consensus on this page. What planet are you guys from? I absolutely love my Cintiq and would never go back. There’s a very distinct disconnect going on with the intuos. That disconnect goes away with the Cintiq. Used Cintiqs (21UX) can be had on Ebay for less than $500

  14. jonwright


    I think a lot of the Intuos lovers are people who don’t just use their machines for drawing and painting. After Effects blows on the Cintiq, as does Harmony in my perspective. Any time my hand ends up obscuring keyframes, or drop down menus, I start yelling at the Cintiq. But the more I think about it, I think that’s more a software issue in the end. The Cintiq is a nice tool, but the software hasn’t kept pace.

    The iPad Pro is a whole other beast in my view, and that’s why I’ve hung up my Intuos for now, and I’m fully embracing that 13 inches of awesomeness. It blows away everything Wacom has to offer at the moment. Have you tried it yet, cause it’s awesome. Did I say that already? Once more animation apps are created for it, man o man, that’s gonna be a great day.

  15. Backache

    Great article

    You know this is the one thing i wanted to know about the cintiq: does the quality of the screen match that of nowadays monitors? I’ve recently purchased a cintiq alternative, an xp pen artist 22 inches (so-called)”hd”. It’s quality is supposedly almost on par with the wacom cintiq. Yet, upon testing that graphic tablet, i realised how inferior the quality of the screen was compared to my main monitor (a 24″ Iiyama prolite). Maybe my expectations were too high, i don’t know, but it was such a let-down that i decided to send it back. Before purchasing it, i had seen a lot of praising from many people regarding this cintiq alternative, even from people who actually owned a 22hd or 24hd cintiq, espacially concerning the quality of the image. But ever since i experienced it myself, i’ve been wondering: Why do people praise it so much? How can they be satisfied with such a low quality? And most of all, if the cintiq is more or less identical, is it really worth it? How can they recommend it? Another thing that i really don’t like is the tracking of the cursor. As i’m someone who draws very fast, my hand often ended up being almost half a second faster that the actual cursor. So, long story short, i was disgusted and decided to go back to my intuos pro for the time being. Yet i still have some doubts. People seem so desperate to own a cintiq… Could you please tell us more about the screen quality?

    Again great article, and forgive me for my english, i’m french.


  16. jonwright


    First, I like your tagline Backache, it completely spells out the main reason I originally switched to the Intuos instead of the Cintiq!

    Anyway, to answer your question, I really can’t comment on other Cintiq-like drawing monitors, because I haven’t used any. A colleague has one, but I never paid close attention to it to be honest. But if it says anything about the monitor’s quality, he stopped using it after a while…I guess that says everything about the monitor in the end. I did a mini, itty-bitty review in this article of the Cintiq 27″- check it out: Intuos vs Cintiq vs iPad Air 2.

    Like I say in the post above, even the best Cintiq monitor doesn’t come close to the screen quality of an iMac. So I’m guessing that means it doesn’t come close to the monitor you mentioned either. One big thing about the 22HD and 24HD is that their screen resolution is just that- HD, which is only 1920 x 1080 pixels. That’s okay if you’re looking at a TV a few feet away, but when you’re hunched over the screen as you draw on it, then that sucks. Those pixels become HUGE when your eyeballs are only a foot or less away. The 27″ Cintiq has a higher pixel count, so it’s much better in that respect, but the colours still aren’t as nice as they should be for that price. (And those things cost a an elephant arm and a leg.). Like you I sell the tools that don’t meet my expectations fully. I’d rather recoup some of the cost than get nothing for it as it collects dust in the corner.

    For a lot less money, you should seriously consier a look at the iPad Pro. Coupled with the app Procreate, it’s fantastic. It’s what I’m using at the moment, after deciding to sell my Cintiqs, and even my Large Intuos Pro. Check out the review I did here. I’d be surprised if you find there’s any lag like there is on PS using a Cintiq. I draw very quickly too, and I’ve yet to make the thing hiccup. And the screen is GORGEOUS! The pixel count is way higher than the iMac’s. It’s not as high as the 5K iMacs, but it’s pretty much 300ppi…the same dpi that magazines are printed at. You’ll be happy with it.

    Oh, and your English is fantastic, by the way. You write better than many of the students who I went to illustration school with; and it was their job to visually compliment articles by dissecting the words!

  17. Jason

    I’ve switched from iPad to Intuos Pro due to connectivity issues. The continued us interest but I’ve decided drawing on my HD tv is more appealing. I think I can make the hovering cursor a success for me. One thing that I have heard is that you can color calibrate the cintiq. Since I use a laptop/HDTV I don’t see the need for a cintiq. But they might be useful for advanced cgi/tower work: if an HDTV isn’t your thing.

  18. jonwright


    I hear you on the connectivity problems. Apple is doing its usual thing in trying to make you use only their products whenever you want to do anything, especially if you want to output from an iPhone or iPad to a TV screen. The lack of hardware and software support to other devices is one place that makes the iPad suck in the animation department right now. I still really, really, really wish that there was software that would make my iPad Pro into an Intuos. Anyone who can invent this tablet mode for the iPad Pro would be rich…you would utterly crush the Wacom market. And by tablet mode, I mean just that; the screen goes black, and all you do is control the computer screen with the iPad Pro. Then you could use AFX, editing software, anything, with the iPad Pro when you’re hooked up to a station…on top of having the sexiest digital drawing tool out there. I wish I could programme…hmmm, maybe it’s something I should look into. I’ve always wanted to be rich.

    I tried using my Intuos Pro on a couple big HDTVs, but the resolution is still just 1920×1080, so it wasn’t a good solution for me. The 4K and 5K TVs are another beast altogether- that could really be beautiful with the Intuos (or iPad Pro if someone does what I mentioned above).

    And the colours on most of the Cintiqs blow blind goats. The 27″ one is quite nice, but its blacks still aren’t anywhere as good as Apple’s displays. Side by side, there’s no comparison. And I did!

    Have fun with the Intuos. Once you get over the learning curve of not seeing your hand as you draw, you’ll love it!

    I am curious: were you using the iPad Pro?

  19. Evan Stranger

    Nice article.
    It kind of reflects my personal experience.
    Two years ago or something like that I “upgraded” from my old Intuos 3 (2?) to a shiny new cintiq 13, following the trend of onscreen drawing. Now, it seemed fine, nice even for a while and for personal stuff, and I guess it was on a hobby level. But as I slowly transferred into a semi-professional workflow and am now expanding into comics – I’m an author by trade, but a big part of my heart & interest will always be reserved for comics, graphic novels & all kinds of illustration, so expanding in that direction is kind of like a dream come true – I stumble upon the very same issues you have (though on a lower level), being kind of frustrated with what the Cintiq can do. From the cables, to the size, my hand being in the way of sight… the list goes on. Also, I’m lefthanded and the buttons are on the wrong side. And mirroring bottom up turned out to be more of a hassle than was to be expected.

    So here I am, on the brink of getting back to what you call the “dark side”.
    Funnily enough, what’s holding me back so far is… My hope that apple finally makes full use of the iPad Pro – in just about the same way you outlined above.
    Just yesterday my poor girlfriend had to beat through a monologue full of excitement on what could be, if only they got their act together.
    My body was/is ready.
    That last part she could relate to and let me carry all of the grocery.

    Best wishes from germany

  20. jonwright

    Evan from Germany,

    Well let me tell you that my love for the iPad Pro is still going strong…I am doing some concept design work for some animations, and since I’m working full time on the house and my son keeps me busy til 8 at night, I only have an hour or so to do some drawing at night. Which I now do in bed. Cause, you know I can do that now! I feel like the iPad Pro and Procreate (with of course the Apple Pencil) still lets me do the pro work I have to do to make money, but lets me do it with so much freedom, I never want to be tethered to a desk again. And, this is a big AND, the tendinitis in my left wrist instantly comes screaming back if I use a traditional keyboard at a desktop…so for me, I can’t use a desktop anymore. That means PS and AFX are no longer a part of my life. For me, all of my work is 100% iPad Pro. (None of my clients can tell a difference, so I’d say it’s working!).

    Seriously, this tech is just beginning, and once Android and other platforms catch up to Apple, all digital artist will be using similar tablets. Just get one already! ;)

    See ya.

  21. Beto

    This is an interesting subject for me. After years of using a trusty Intuos I finally bought a Cintiq Companion some years ago (wished I could afford something larger, but customs expenses decided otherwise). Anyway, I stowed my Intuos and my 23″ monitor and began using the Cintiq heavily instead. Some weeks ago while deciding whether to finally sell the monitor or hook it up again, I decided to go back to the Intuos + monitor config for a while as the only critical thing I’m using the Cintiq these days for is digital inking. Man — I was so missing that big screen. Some precision work *is* easier on the Cintiq because it mimics the pen-on-paper behavior instead of drawing on a proxy screen, but after years of using a traditional tablet you just become used to it for everything else, no big deal. I’m actually enjoying a lot not being hunched in front of a screen for hours a day :) The future seems headed to untethered tablets for drawing work though – most are favoring the iPad Pro but I’m currently wary of investing more money into Apple’s ecosystem, seeing as they are not much interested in the pro market nowadays. Will have to keep pounding my Wacoms until they give up, or something. We’ll see.

  22. Allen Wittert

    Good discussion and helpful. I am an illustrator and have been using the Intuous for many years. Bought the Cintiq 27 touch thru Amazon, but we did not gel. Admittedly I gave up after a few days. For all the reasons stated; keyboard, moving my hand and arm too much, [ I also have a shoulder issue so I knew all that movement wouldn’t really work out. Sent it back, still using the Intuous.

    Want to add, on a different note’ for us artists, it’s important to use a pencil and paper regularly to keep that feel going. I find it really helps when it comes to painting.

  23. jonwright


    I love, love, love huge monitors. The Cintiq companion lines are way too small for anything useful. Admittedly, I felt cool as all hell when I first bought my Cintiq 13″ all those years ago, but it really wasn’t all that conducive to a good workflow.
    As for the iPad Pro, I’ve taken the leap, and love it thoroughly. Apple’s ecosytem leaves a lot to be desired, but with the new iOS update that allows file management, that could be a game changer…then I have a feeling a lot of artist will be seen carrying around. I’d also argue that it’s the software that is the only thing holding the iPad Pro from being a “pro” device for things like animation, VFX and other fields. The folks who dreamt up Procreate have made the iPP (man do I get tired of typing iPad Pro!) a truly professional drawing/painting device. That said, if there was ever a 20″ iPP- I’d get it in a heartbeat.

    I do miss my Intuos though some days…I spent many, many hours on them and made a crap tonne of art.

  24. jonwright


    All of the touch tech on Wacom products suck. Period. I turned it off within a few minutes of using it.

    I know I’ve said it before, and if you read more of my site, you’ll see that I’m a full-on iPad Pro guy now. And the funniest thing about it is that it’s pulled me back to the traditional side of art- you’re right, all artist need to keep up with pencil and paper. Do your eyes a favour and take a break from the screen and bust out the paper! I still think learning traditional methods is paramount for a good foundation, and only later should digital tools be introduced into your workflow to help speed things up.

    Thanks for leaving a comment. Adios.

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