Did you read our recent review of the Huion Note? If you’re inspired to use it for your own drawing projects, we intend to give away our review model to a creative individual. How to win? Simple; just send us an email explaining why you’d like to own the Note and for what particular project (in the realm of political cartoons and/or comics journalism) you intend to use it for.
We’ll send the Note to who we think has the most compelling, creative, worthwhile project.
It's been a while since our latest newsletter (because of our summer break), but here is our latest dispatch from the world of political cartooning. If you'd like to receive our monthly newsletter, you can subscribe here. And for a daily cartoons, subscribe to this newsletter.
We are happy to welcome Robbie Meriales, a cartoonist from the Philippines. An orthopedic surgeon by profession, he has been making editorial cartoons since 2016 and works closely with the Pitik Bulag group of editorial cartoonists, including work with the #FactsFirstPH campaign of the Rappler online news group.
I have to admit I might not be the most suitable person to review the Huion Note. I have been working digitally since purchasing my first Wacom Cintiq in 2014 and I have never looked back since. The Huion Note, instead, is a notebook that allows you to write or draw on paper while what you do is digitally recorded with an app on your phone. My forays into drawing on paper have been mostly limited to drawing with my kids. So please consider the sketches I did as examples of what the Note can do, nothing more.
That said, I was excited when Huion contacted us after the review of the Kamvas 13 to ask if we were interested in testing another one of their products, especially one that felt novel and seemed to have potential for paper-loving artists. For the sake of full transparency: Huion sent us the Note at no charge, but we are not influenced in any way as to our review of the product.
While the Note is also designed for taking notes, I was more interested in how it would work for drawing and sketching out ideas. Many artists claim they miss the feel of paper when they switch to digital drawing, so the Note might be suitable for them, offering the benefits of drawing on paper with none of the hassle of having to scan and enhance the image to get a suitable digital version. As the notebook is modestly sized, the focus of my review is not so much see how the Note would work for making fully finished cartoons (depending on your style, that would be problematic, as we’ll see later on), but how and if it would work for sketching on the go, and for live drawing outside or at events.
Let’s start with the upsides. First of all, it’s a sophisticated looking notebook with a nice look and feel. The pen also looks and feels solid. After installation and connecting the notebook to your phone book things are pretty easy. If you open notebook and the app on your phone they will link automatically.
I was impressed with the sensitivity of the notebook. Although not perfect, even slight pressures do get picked up and translated to the digital version, allowing for fine cross-hatching and subtle lines. The app on your phone allows for some rudimentary clean-up, and you can easily export the file as a JPG or PDF. The paper in the Note is replaceable by any standard notebook; so once you run out, you're not forced to buy new paper from Huion. Instead, you can buy a notebook from your local store and it will fit. New nibs will have to be ordered in the Huion shop. I am not sure how long the ink nibs last, buying new ones will cost you 17 euros for five new nibs.
A nice feature is the ability to work in different colors. While the five supplied nibs come only in black (+ 2 without ink, that you can use to draw digital only), you can draw in different colors on the digital version. Also quite useful when doing graphic reporting, the app allows you to integrate photos into the digital version.
The battery life is another plus; Huion claims is has 18 hours of battery time and although I didn't fully test this, the battery does seem to last a long time.
Moving on to some downsides. Setting things up could be easier (at least, for an almost boomer like me). The process is simple: just download the app on your smartphone, make a Bluetooth connection to the Note and you're all set. That said, it would be nice to have a big connect button in the app, as it took me a while (and a YouTube tutorial) to get the connection to work. Also, it wasn't immediately clear to me that while the Note can be connected to your computer, it will only work as a simple pen tablet in that case. Most his could be solved by making the Quick Start Guide just a bit more comprehensive.
Exporting the files as a JPG they come out rather small. Output size is 1080 X 1432 pixels at 72 dpi. Suitable for online use, but not for printing. This can be circumvented by exporting as a PDF, but to be really useful as a drawing tool, it would be nice to get a broader range of output sizes in JPG and other formats. Even better would be the option of exporting it is a .PNG or .PSD with a transparent background.
Here the limitations of the Note do show. While it's a wonderful invention for loose sketching, it's not really designed to take these sketches any further. It would be great if you could directly link up the note to other graphic software like Photoshop or Procreate, allowing you to start on paper and move on seamlessly to the digital version. I think the technology will progress to make this possible in the future; Huion or another manufacturer might even come up with a true sketchbook version (A4 or similar sized, landscape oriented). Another drawback is that the available brushes are quite limited in the app. I would be great to get a pencil brush.
For now, I can totally imagine this is great for artists with an affinity for paper that like to make sketches when traveling and/or do live drawing events if they want to post these works online quickly and easily. I can also imagine the use for comics journalism, taking the Note to locations (e.g. a refugee camp or protest) to record the scene or to use while interviewing people to simultaneously take down quotes and faces. The Note might even be a bit more sturdy in dusty and wet environment than, say, an iPad Pro. It's definitely cheaper.
The Huion Note is available for €95 (on sale until September 15, normal price €125)
Twice in the last three weeks Meta has decided to take down cartoons; first a cartoon by Vasco Gargalo from the Cartoon Movement Facebook page and Instagram and this week a cartoon by me from my personal Facebook profile. Both cartoons dealt with the oppression of women by the Taliban. It seems drawing a person with a beard and a headscarf is now enough to sympathize with terrorism, at least according to Facebook.
Cartoon by Vasco Gargalo about the Taliban, taken down by Meta from the Cartoon Movement's Facebook and Instagram.
This is not a new problem. Cartoonists see their work taken down frequently by Meta due to a perceived infringement of its policies. It's difficult to predict when cartoons are picked up by the algorithm. In other instances, users that don't agree with the point of view of a certain cartoon can report it and have it taken down.
We cartoonists have a love-hate relationship with social media; I hate giving my work away for free to a platform that makes money off of it by surrounding it with ads, but in all honesty my career would not be where it is today if I hadn't used social media to get some exposure for my work.
My own Taliban cartoon, removed from my Facebook profile, but at the time of writing still up on my Instagram.
Protesting Meta's decision to remove content is not oftem successful. However, since a couple of years Meta has established an independent Oversight Board where you can send an official appeal. Although the position of social media is changing (and the influence of Facebook definitely isn't what it used to be), they still play an important role in the public debate. I believe cartoons also have an important role in the public debate, and cartoonists should be able to produce political satire without fear of having it taken down randomly. One solution could be to have a special verification for professional cartoonists; once verified, you could be sure to get a human to review your work if it is reported by the algorithm or a disgruntled user.
To this effect, I've submitted an appeal to the oversight board. I'm not expecting much, as they only select very few cases to make an official ruling, but if the pick this one it might contribute to a better position for cartoonists on Meta.