XP-PEN Deco 01 v2 Test and review

July 7th, 2021 / Graphic on a budget, Graphics Basics, Illustrations Basics, Uncategorized

In this blog post, we take a look at another cheap and good graphics tablet that you can use to start your adventure with computer graphics and digital painting. We will review the XP-PEN Deco 01 v2.

TECHNICALITIES

This equipment is very universal, we can connect it to a computer, ordinary tablet, cell phone. It is compatible with Windows / macOS / Linux / Chrome / Android, as well as with many programs, such as many graphics programs, but also programs from the Microsoft Office suite such as Word, PowerPoint and OneNote.

It will work not only for graphic designers, but also for employees working remotely, as well as for pupils and students. It is suitable for both right and left handed people.

This tablet does not have a screen itself. So to use it, we need to develop some eye-hand coordination. Which with a little practice is not that difficult.

The working area is 254 x 159 mm. Slightly less than an A4 sheet. This is one of the better dimensions of tablets in my opinion. The tablet has 8192 pressure levels and detects pen tilt. It also has 8 programmable buttons, Resolution 5080 [lpi] and a battery-free and wireless pen.

PACKAGING AND EQUIPMENT

The tablet arrived was very well protected. Another pleasant surprise was the attached protective coating, suitable for the protection of the tablet surface during use. There was also added a pouch with useful stuff. And here I was very impressed because in addition to the warranty card, instructions, 8 spare styluses, cable and adapters, there was a glove for graphics tablets in it. Usually we have to buy it separately. Another piece of equipment was a pen stand, it also helps replacing worn out styluses of the pen. I didn’t test this feature. After a few days of using the tablet I didn’t have to change the stylus.

In the package of course we also have a tablet pen and it is quite a typical wireless pen. It has two programmable buttons and as I mentioned the tablet detects its inclination and the pressure level we use. For working with pressure levels, you also need a bit of practice. 

The whole set was accompanied by a letter for customers with some kind words and smiley face from the XP-PEN team. In my opinion, this is a very nice gesture.

With the content of this whole set, in my opinion, the Company sets new, better standards on the market.

PREPARATION OF THE WORK AREA

Before starting the tests, of course, I prepered my working surface and I glued the attached proper protective coating that prevents damage. The protective foil has a delicate texture, the surface is a bit more like a textured sheet of paper, thanks to which the device is more pleasant to use. The coating only has an adhesive strip at the top, so its possible removal should not cause as much trouble as if it were glued over the entire surface.

CONNECTING THE TABLET TO MOBILE DEVICES

After the initial preparation of the work area, I decided to check the compatibility of the device with an ordinary tablet.. We connect it with a cable and attached USB – Micro USB or USB-A to USB-C adapters. I wanted to check if the tablet connects at all with this type of mobile screen, as it is promised by the manufacturer. And I actually was able write something and draw with the stylus. In fact, the application picked up the pressure difference.

DRIVER DOWNLOAD

After the tests on a mobile device, I started what I personally care about the most, i.e. computer work tests. And while no configuration is needed to connect to a cell phone or a regular tablet, we have to install drivers on the pc. With the driver the graphic tablet can work as intended.

To download the driver we connect to the Internet, connect the working area to the computer with the attached cable, and then we check if everything works. At this point, I had to restart my computer twice because the cursor did not open any programs. However, after installing the drivers, I had no problems with the tablet at all. Everything worked correctly.

To download the driver, we have to enter the address www.xp-pen.com/download in the browser. After entering the website, we choose our model, operating system and the latest drivers. After downloading the .zip file, unpack it and install the driver. Then you can run tablet control panel (on my computer it automatically started in Polish, which is my native language, so that’s a pro). In the panel you can set individual options for all 10 keys and other tablet settings.

THE KEYS

The keys on the device are not pre-labeled. Which may be an advantage on the one hand, and a downside on the other. On one side, we can make them ourselves completely freely assignable to different functions. On the other hand, it will probably take a while to remember what we have programmed under what key. The keys are arranged in four and on some we have delicate insertions that help to better orientate. And probably thanks to this, they are easier to remember when used frequently.

PROGRAMS WITH WHICH WE CAN USE THE TABLET

Even without having more advanced programs, we are able to use a tablet even in a program as basic as Paint.

Although it does not detect pressure levels, it is still a huge plus. We are able to start working immediately with a default system program. The tablet is also compatible with Microsoft Office programs such as Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

I think it is a great perk for many people, not necessarily only for graphic designers, but also for example employees working remotely or people taking creative notes.

Another program in which I checked the use of the tablet was Inkscape of course. This software was already recommended by me repeatedly on many of our platforms. In the latest version, the program already recognizes the pressure levels and has the ability to use custom brushes and I am very much happy about it. Of course, if we want to do calligraphy using the tablet, we have to get used to it. Creating guidelines can help us in this task. Also, with the pressure levels turned off, we can create interesting graphics, and it all depends on what we are currently designing.

The final project that I wanted to implement was raster graphics. This is this kind of graphic, that is created of individual pixels. If you don’t know yet what is the difference between vector and raster graphics, please read this article in our blog.

Of course, I also used a free program called Krita to create graphics. It is highly rated by graphic designers and similar to Adobe Photoshop. Since I usually create vectors, I don’t use Krita that much. But for sure it is more suitable for creating digital illustrations than a Gimp which performs better when processing photos, in my opinion, of course. What’s interesting about Krita is that some brushes react to pressure by changing the thickness, and others by changing the saturation of the color.

Of course, you can use the tablet with most popular graphics programs. Both raster and vector. Especially if they pick up the pressure levels and the tilt of the pen.

Vector raven created with the Deco 01 v2 tablet, it could be used as a 4 color screenprinting project

USING A TABLET

I had a sketch of a raven some time ago, I did it traditionally. I used it as a base for creating graphics. At the beginning I created a uniform shape and filled it with color. This helps with coloring very much because we can lock transparent pixels on the layer (the alpha channel) and thanks to that we won’t just go beyond the lines of the shape.

I created the background flowers in the same way, also using an old sketch. Next I created a digital outline, because I really like the aesthetics of work with outlines. Although, sometimes I experiment with works without a contour, all for the sake of creativity.

The next step was to shade the entire drawing. At first, I felt a bit rusty because I haven’t had fun with digital painting for a while and mainly create every day in bezier curves. However, as the colors were applied, I started to get better and better. The glove was also a great help, thanks to which the hand gilded better over the work area. However, at some point I had to take it off due to the high ambient temperature.

Let me tell you that thanks to this review, I will pull my old tablet out of the cabinet. Usually, when we create vectors, we can successfully use an ordinary mouse, however, the difference is much more noticeable with raster graphics. Especially If we want to create outlines, then without a tablet, it is really hard. Because even coloring or shading could be done without a stylus, although of course it would be less convenient.

Some time ago I thought that I will postpone digital painting until we acquire Ipad for our studio. Thanks to this review, I found that there is no point in waiting and I will return to using a budget graphic tablet. 

I think this is a really good recommendation for the hardware if using it brings back the joy of creation!

Now the threshold to enter digital graphics is really low, free graphics programs, budget pen tablets, there is nothing else to do but grab the stylus and experiment with art.

Raster graphic created with the reviewed tablet

CONCLUSIONS

To sum up with a clear conscience, I highly recommend buying the Deco 01 v2 tablet. It will work not only for beginners and experienced graphic designers or artists, but also for students creating visual notes or employees at the home office.

You can buy the Deco 01 v2 model by clicking on the following links:

EU: https://bit.ly/3w0KTJA

US: https://bit.ly/3gWu7qP

UK: https://bit.ly/3wXLlJP

VIDEO REWIEV

If you would like to watch me using the tablet for the first time, please take a look at our YT channel, the video is with english subtitles: