Krita 3.3.1

The free Krita 3.3.1 digital inking/painting suite is out now. Not that I want to dissuade people from Sketchbook Pro, but not everyone in the world can afford a Sketchbook subscription + Photoshop and Krita does have some fascinating capabilities not (yet) found in other software. It’s wholly and genuinely free, being ‘open source’ like Blender.

I had very briefly tried Krita a while back, but it was quickly uninstalled after it repeatedly crashed when the window was passed over to my new Ugee tablet monitor. Today I decided to test it again, on hearing of Krita’s 3.3.1 release. I installed the new version via the 64-bit dedicated Windows installer (not the portable verion), and it now works fine on my Ugee. Krita has a nice old school Photoshop-y feel to it, everything seems logically placed, and I think I’ll try it out more when I get the time.

I see that Krita now ships with the more-stable-than-before G’MIC plugin as standard (access it via: Top menu bar | “Filter” | “Start G’MIC” | then press “update” to get the latest G’MIC). This appears to offer a huge amount of tweakable image processing abilities. However, the first time I ran G’MIC on simple line art, Krita crashed — which wasn’t encouraging. But G’MIC does enable some interesting-looking auto-colouring functions on line-art, so I’ll be trying again.

The blog of David Revoy is obviously a good one to follow for Krita tips and mini-tutorials. There’s also a handy Krita comic-book page frame-maker though you may fare better on Windows with Comic Life 3.


How to make a simple pen leash for the Ugee P50S tablet pen

How to make a ‘pen leash’ for the Ugee P50S tablet pen:

After my recent problems with damaged pens for the Ugee 1910b tablet monitor, I purchased a new pen. It solved all the problems I’d had with the old pens, and so I wanted to ensure the new pen could not fall on the floor and be damaged. To do this I made a simple but effective “pen leash” or “pen necklace”. Here’s how to do the same.

1. Take the long cap from the top of the popular Crayola Mini-Marker. These are widely and very cheaply available for kids in budget stationary shops and large supermarkets, and you can probably also get them via eBay. Its cap has a perfect snug grip on the top of a Ugee P50S. Snug and firm, but easy to remove.

2. No need to drill holes in the cap for a chain. Find an old long bootlace, of the Doctor Martens or hiking boot type, with the usual crimped tubular plastic-covered lace-ends. These small lace-ends can be jammed very snugly and firmly into the ventilation slots in the top of the Crayola pen cap.

3. The cap fits and grips firmly onto the end of the Ugee P50S. But not so firmly you’ll never get it off again to charge the pen (the USB cable’s charging hole connector is at the top of the pen).

IMPORTANT: To detach the cap once it’s on firmly, hold the top bit of the pen marked “Ugee”, then gently pull the cap off. Do not hold the main pen body while doing this, because the detachable top part of the pen can itself be pulled off in this way.

4. You now have a simple ‘pen leash’ which you can hang around your neck, and which will prevent your pen from being dropped. Dropped either through fumbling, or being put down and then rolling or being brushed off the desk.

The balance of the pen in the hand is only minimally affected, due to the lightness of the cap and lace. The softness of the lace means that it won’t cause wear-damage on your tablet or cause an annoying rattling noise like a metal chain would. If, after a while, the lace becomes grubby then it can be easily replaced.

Since the pens come in a pack of multiple colours, as do boot laces, you can have various colour combinations to suit your taste.

Problem and solution: the Ugee pen can no longer ‘double tap’, behaves strangely

Problem: The Ugee pen can no longer ‘double tap’, behaves strangely.

Possible solution: The pen’s battery is very weak, but still functioning. Charge the pen’s battery, or switch to the supplied second pen (if it has a charged-up battery). Update: see the foot of this blog post for more suggestions, one of which partly worked.

I went to my Ugee pen monitor today and found that the pen was behaving unusually. It had worked fine for six months or so.

* When the pen tip hovers over a tab, it will instantly “magnetise it”, automatically pick it up and rip it out of the UI as you move the nib. It does the same for Windows Taskbar icons, Photoshop Tool presets and similar.

* “Double-tap to open” no longer works at all. Tapping ‘X’ or ‘_’ to close or minimize a Window no longer works.

* A ‘bottom-click’ press with the pen button is needed in order to select, which was not needed before. It makes no difference if you select ‘None’ in the Driver settings for this button, it still acts as an activating click.

* Typing on the On-screen Keyboard and Notepad is near-impossible, because the Window focus is not synced and a single pen-button key-press causes multiple repeating letters to appear in Notepad.

None of these things had happened before, and I had made no changes. I assumed the problem was due to a Microsoft update, which had messed up the pen tablet settings in Windows. But nothing in the Control Panel’s ‘Ease of Access’ center could help, and nor could ‘Pen and Touch’ or ‘Mouse’ or the Monitor drivers or settings or similar. There was no Windows Tablet service running that would conflict with my Pen driver. Cables were all seated well, and a switch of the USB cable socket had no effect. Screen calibration was fine, and the pen drew well in its Driver’s small test window. Nothing on the Pen’s own driver settings window helped return the pen to the proper normal double-tap behaviour.

I tried changing the pen nib, with no result. I rebooted the PC, again with no result. I hard-booted everything, again with no result.

Then I dug out the second pen that comes with the Ugee, and suddenly everything was working as normal. The problem seems to have been that the battery charge had finally run out on the first pen. Which shows how long a charge lasts — about six months, it seems.

Update: this was only a temporary fix, regrettably. It worked but the same problems have returned, with both pens and even when they are well-charged.

Update: Breakthrough No. 1 — I found that the old double-tap functions are still there, just positioned somewhat above the screen rather than at the screen surface! If I behave with my pen as if the screen is ‘up in the air’, about half an inch or more above where it actually is, then I get a great deal of the old functionality back again. A hardware Factory Reset of the Ugee Pen Tablet monitor does not fix this proximity problem. Menus and Windows can at least be used by hovering and gesturing with the pen, with care, but the use of brushes and pens is problematic unless one can paint onto the surface of a screen.

Update: Breakthrough No. 2 — The best suggestion found so far is from the Ugee Help FAQ:

* The pen draws even while hovering.

It could be the nib in the pen is stuck in depressed (clicked) mode. The nibs are replaceable. Pull it out with a pair of tweezers or needle nose pliers (gently so you can re-use the nib) and let the pen sit on its side for a few hours, e.g. overnight, and see if it the pressure sensor will reset itself.

It seems strange that this should be the case with both pens, but that does seem to be the most logical explanation (all other possibilities having seemingly been tried) and would also neatly explain why the double-tap is not working when other functions are. I also read that the pens should not be stored horizontally, and my second pen was stored that way for six months — that may perhaps explain why the ‘second pen trick’ (see above) was only a temporary fix?

If the “remove nib / lie pen on its side” suggestion doesn’t cure the problem with either pen, the next step seems to try for a replacement pen (the P50S) — which in the UK ships for about £15-£20.

Update: Breakthrough No. 3 — Ugee’s suggestion partly worked. After leaving both pens nib-less and on their sides for 18 hours or so, the older and more-used pen is much improved. Not enough to give me back my lovely double-tap, but enough to ink and paint perfectly. It’s now in its vertical pen-holder and it’ll be interesting to see how it is after a night like that. Further improved, hopefully.

The newer less-used pen is the same as before. But at least the clear difference between the behaviour of the two pens shows that the problem is in the pens rather than the software or the monitor. I can live with awkward menu-opening for a while, via the pen buttons, so long as I can draw a clean pressure-sensitive line — but it now looks like I’ll be getting two new P50S pens when I can next afford it.

I’ll also now be giving the newer pen another 18 hours of nib-less lay-down, in the slim hope that it’ll reset somewhat. If it doesn’t improve I might disassemble it, as it’ll be useless otherwise. Perhaps my leaving it horizontal in storage for six months didn’t help matters, and contributed to it working perfectly for 30 minutes and then abruptly ceasing to work properly.

Update: Breakthrough No. 4

I ordered a new pen, a branded Ugee P50S, and it arrived new and boxed today. On charging and testing it worked fine. Problems all solved, albeit at the cost of taking a £15 chunk out of my PayPal. Once I have the funds I’ll be ordering another two of the pens as backups.

I’m not sure what to do with the two older pens. One is obviously kaput, and the other is meh. I might try disassembling the kaput one, as a trial run on trying to repair the meh one.

Installing the Ugee 1910b – a 10-step quickstart guide

The excellent Ugee 1910b pen tablet monitor arrived at the weekend, with nice quick shipping from Amazon UK and an even nicer £50 discount. Installed on Windows 8.1, which offers excellent support for a dual monitor setup.

Here’s my “quickstart” advice, learned from experience:

1) uninstall all previous tablet drivers, after which a Windows Explorer search for anything with the word ‘wacom’ in may throw up some left-overs;

2) use something like the free IconRestorer to save (and later restore) your desktop layout;

3) follow the Ugee manual‘s cable plug-in order and setup instructions exactly;

4) in Windows Control Panel, go: Display | Adjust Resolution. Switch the main desktop back to its normal resolution. Choose “Extend these displays” | OK;

5) launch the Ugee driver settings from its new taskbar icon. “Monitor mapping” tells the system which monitor you want the pen to work with, so set that to “Monitor 2”;

6) pick the graphics software you want to use on the Ugee (SketchUp Pro 8 is perfect), and drop a shortcut to it onto the Windows taskbar, and do the same for the Windows On-Screen Keyboard;

7) install the free Dual Monitor Tools and use it to prevent your mouse cursor slipping off the right-hand edge and onto the Ugee screen (Cursor | General | Default | Cursor Movement Between Screens Is Sticky);

8) the $7 shareware JoytoKey can turn an old videogame controller, such as a wired USB XBox controller, into a configurable mini-keyboard with keyboard shortcuts mapped to it. Also look at the free standalone RadialMenu.

9) you probably won’t need to mess with the pen tracking and colour settings setup in the hardware, they’re pretty much optimised “out of the box”.

10) you may need to ‘pass’ (slide) your target software window over to the Ugee screen, but it seems this only needs to be done once. (Though Photoshop CC and later all have a persistent un-fixed bug where Photoshop ‘forgets’ which monitor it is supposed to launch on. This can be cured with a work-around — by not having a full-screen window for Photoshop on your pen monitor, but rather a ‘very nearly’ full-screen window that is still free-floating).

It takes a while to set up correctly, but the Ugee 1910d is fine and works as stated if it is set up correctly. A very nice piece of kit, considering it was only £300.


A note on the pens: it’s important set up the pen-pressure in your software so that you don’t need to press on too hard with the pens. The pens are precision instruments, not pile-drivers. After a while too much very firm pressure or jabbing may cause the tiny magnetic-ceramic bead that the nib tip moves up and down (inside a magnetic coil, up inside the pen) to get stuck up in ‘clicked’ mode. [Symptoms and partial solution here]. The same problem may arise after dropping them, especially if they go tip-downward onto a hard floor. If they’re likely to be dropped or knocked out of their holder, try to keep the pen holder behind the monitor. Personally, I made a simple pen leash for mine.



The $7 shareware JoytoKey enables Windows PC users to configure an old game controller to work like a little keyboard. It does this by binding keystrokes to the buttons and tiny joysticks. An artist with a button-less pen tablet, such as a Ugee, can thus effectively get the nice buttons on the side of an expensive $3,000 Cintiq, but in a quite literally ‘more handy’ form — actually in your hand as a cute ergonomic controller.