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Pen issues in Toon Boom and Fixes

Pen issues have plagued Toon Boom products for a long time.  By saying “a long time,” I’m talking about more than a decade.  

However, be assured you can make Toon Boom work on a variety of Windows machines and devices.  

This includes anything from desktop workstations hooked to Wacom Cintiqs down to low powered laptops with pen enabled screens.

The pen and ink problems cover a huge range of problems.  Sometimes the pens can work outside the program, but refuse to function at all in the Toon Boom program.  When it works, the ink may flow from the wrong spot on the screen.  There may be tremendous lag in seeing a drawn line.  The pen response may be intermittent.  The lines may look bad.  It can be bad enough to make you toss your machine in the trash.

Troubleshooting these problems can also make you insane and take a long time.  You need to be methodical.  Here is what I’ve learned:

First: Do not listen to the stock advice often given:

  1. Your computer is not powerful enough.
  2. Your video card is not powerful enough.
  3. You are using a non-Wacom pen device.
  4. If you’re using a Wacom device, it must be some odd standard.  

The harsh truth: Windows Pen standards are a mess.  Every device has drivers that are a bit different.  Even Wacom devices now include a bunch of different driver needs. Finding the solution to your pen problems is really hard and time consuming. Every machine is different and Toon Boom simply does not have the manpower to test every machine.  The program is targeted to Wacom tablets (especially Cintiqs) on high powered PC’s.

Yet, never fear!

I have been able to make Toon Boom products run and run well on even the most wimpy of processors with integrated graphics, using a variety of pen input devices from Wacom, N-trig, Microsoft, and even unidentified vendors creating generic tablets.  

This negates the argument of “not powerful enough” or “non-standard pen tablets so you need to just give up!”

Here is my process for making the device work.  This is all Windows and has NOTHING to do with Apple devices.  I am also not a programmer, so be patient with me.

Background: There are two main driver types of pen and tablets: RealTimeStylus (which seems to be all Microsoft) and Wintab.  There are also two main driver vendors: Wacom and everyone else (including N-trig, which is now Microsoft).

We are about to do some stuff which might wreck your operating system and laptop software.  Before you get adventurous, check out “Windows System Restore.”  Make sure it is enabled and make a restore point RIGHT NOW!

Also, check out a disk imaging software like Acronis.  If you own a Western Digital external drive, you can use it for free.  Otherwise, it is about $50.  It is worth your time and money to get it and image your machine’s main harddrive to an external drive.  Again: RIGHT NOW!

We will start off with easy non-damaging steps:

  1. In Harmony, go to the Camera View and find the option for “Render View” and “Open GL View.”  Click to enable the “Open GL View”.  When the “Render View” is active, drawing is very slow because the camera view is constantly trying to render in the background.  This kills your processor.  So, TURN OFF “render view.”
  2. Make sure your pen works on the non-Toon Boom screen.  In other words, when you are not in Toon Boom, is the pen functional?  If not, you have some basic troubles.  This is an obvious step, but critical.  Does the pen work in other paint programs?  If not, you have a hardware problem.
  3. In Toon Boom Harmony, Look for Edit>Preferences>Advanced>Use QT Wintab Tablet Support (requires Relaunch).  
  1. This is an interesting setting and it can be found in Harmony and Storyboard (though the setting is in a bit different spot.  See your manual.)..  
  2.  If you have a traditional Wacom setup, make sure this selection is checked (which is the default).  Shut down the program and then restart it.  See how it goes.  
  3. If you are using a non-Wacom setup, uncheck it.  This includes Microsoft Surface and other pen-enabled devices.  
  4. Devices which use Wacom are Lenovo, Fujitsu and sometimes Toshiba.  Thus, the “Use QT Wintab Tablet Driver” should be checked.  
  5.  Devices which do not use Wacom are Sony, Microsoft, and Dell.  The “QT Wintab” driver should be unchecked.
  6. Remember this setting.  If you change things or drivers, retest the program with this setting checked and unchecked.  Don’t forget this.  This setting is powerful.
  7. Also, remember to shut down and restart the program every time you change this.  
  8. If you are having trouble, it is worth trying each setting for the Wintab driver, even if you are convinced you have a Wacom tablet.

 

  1.  Use your device in landscape mode.  That means the width is longer than the height. For some reason, Portrait mode can wreck pen function on some devices.
  2. Scream at Toon Boom.  In some cases, they are in the process of testing a version which corrects the problem.  This is true for Storyboard 5.5.  If they do have a fix, they are very responsive to giving you an early download.
  3. Let’s talk again about “wintab” which is the older interface and the issue of the Wintab preference discussed above.  Wacom uses it in almost all of their drivers.  But non-Wacom devices often also provide specific wintab drivers.  Microsoft Surface Pro makes a big deal of providing this driver as an option.  
  4. My experience with non-Wacom pens: Don’t install the Wintab drivers.  If you have them installed, uninstall them.  Then de-select the Wintab driver setting in Toon Boom.   (Note!  Make sure you have a system restore before you do this!)
  5. Go to “Device Manager” in Windows.  Look in “Human Interface Devices (HID).”  You may see touch devices, pen devices, or Wacom.  If you see Wacom, you probably have a Wacom pen…. Or you installed the drivers and they are just sitting there unused.  Make a mental note of what you are seeing.
  6. Go to your tablet’s download page.  If you are using something like a Lenovo Tablet, visit the laptop download page.  Look for anything driver related that talks about pens, pointers, screen, Wacom, etc.  The various laptop vendors like Fujitsu and Lenovo do a decent job.  Avoid generic drivers at this point.
  7. Avoid scaling your resolution.  I’ve personally not had trouble with this, but others report this.
  8. When drawing, go to the Device manager>Human interface devices>HID compliant touchscreen and right click>disable.  This prevents touch messing up your art.  When done drawing, do the same and click enable.

 

Okay, time to do some serious damage.  If you’ve hit this point, nothing is working so far. 

From this point on, your machine may become unusable and you may not be able to figure out a fix.  If that happens, use “System Restore” or your Acronis backup.  This could get ugly.  You have been warned!

  1. Go to “Apps & Features” and find anything that says Wacom, pen driver or wintab.  It may have other names which imply a pen and tablet.  Uninstall them all
  2. Go to “Device Manager” in Windows.  Look in “Human Interface Devices.”  You may see touch devices, pen devices, or Wacom.  Right click and select “uninstall.”  Your pen will now be unusable.
  3. Restart the machine.
  4. Your pen may get “found” by Windows and be usable.  … or not….
  5. If your pen is working, fire up Toon Boom and test it out. See what happens.  See how the line looks.  Do you have pressure sensitivity?
  6. Go to Edit>Preferences>Advanced>Use QT Wintab Tablet Support (requires Relaunch).  Uncheck this option.  Shut down the program and then restart it.  
  7. If it is already unchecked, check it and restart the program.
  8. This may have totally fixed your pen issues… or not.
  9. . If your pen is still not working at all or is not working well, install the original device drivers you downloaded above.  
  1. Restart the machine.
  2. Your pen may get “found” by Windows and be usable.  … or not….
  3. If your pen is working, fire up Toon Boom and test it out. See what happens.  See how the line looks.  Do you have pressure sensitivity?
  4. Go to Edit>Preferences>Advanced>Use QT Wintab Tablet Support (requires Relaunch).  Uncheck this option.  Shut down the program and then restart it.  
  5. If it is already unchecked, check it and restart the program.
  6. This may have totally fixed your pen issues… or not.

 

  1. .  Look up “wintab” and your tablet or machine name on Google to see if there are separate drivers.  Sometimes, these help or other times, wintab worsens performance.  Again, on Microsoft Surface devices, I’ve found wintab actually makes things worse.  

If you find something, install it and try out the program with the Wintab preference checked.

  1. If things are still bad and you have a Wacom, download the latest drivers for Wacom from their site.  In my recent experience, however, I have found these drivers can actually be worse than the older drivers from the laptop maker (Fujitsu, Lenovo, etc. ).
  2. Intermittently restart the machine.  Windows can do a surprisingly good job of finding and installing the right drivers.  When you make a big change on your machine, do a full reboot.  When in doubt: Reboot.
  3. Some makers, like Lenovo, have a program which automatically grabs and installs drivers and firmware upgrades.  Lenovo’s is very impressive.

8..  Speaking of firmware, search and install firmware updates for your machine.  I’m surprised at how many firmware updates are pushed out by Lenovo and Microsoft.

  1. With every step, be sure to toggle and test each setting of: Edit>Preferences>Advanced>Use QT Wintab Tablet Support (requires Relaunch).  

10 Run Windows update many times.  Reboot and then run update again.

  1. Now we are getting desperate.  Uninstall Toon Boom and then install it again.
  2. Super desperate: Do a Windows refresh, but make sure you return your licenses because they will vanish.  This gives you a machine like you bought it.   Often, it is amazingly helpful, but your programs are all gone.
  3.  At this point, if your pen is not working well, consider a hardware problem.
  4.  Otherwise: You are doomed.  Time to buy a new computer.

 

Again: MANY OF THESE STEPS COULD RENDER YOUR MACHINE UNUSABLE.  MAKE SURE YOU USE “SYSTEM RESTORE” AND CREATE A RESTORE POINT PRIOR TO DOING DAMAGE.

BACK UP YOUR MACHINE TO AN EXTERNAL DRIVE TO SOMETHING LIKE ACRONIS.

MAKE NOTES OF WHAT YOU’VE DONE.

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!  THESE STEPS COULD WRECK YOUR COMPUTER.  I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE!   

THIS IS NOT SOMETHING TO DO THE NIGHT BEFORE YOU NEED YOUR COMPUTER FOR A MAJOR PROJECT!  HAVE A BACKUP PLAN!

Having said that: Toon Boom Harmony and Storyboard are my favorite programs of all time.  When they work, life is wonderful!

 

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