My long affair with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro… and why it may be over.

For what seems like forever, I have been a strong advocate for Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, first using it when it was Alias Sketchbook Pro 1.x. In my case I think I picked it up at 1.4 and fell in love with it immediately. It then had, and still has the smoothest rendering engine I’ve ever come across in a drawing/painting app. With an intuitive, seamless marking menu UI similar to that found in Maya (a 3D program I used as a games artist), easy customisable brushes and a rotating canvas long before Photoshop included it. Sketchbook Pro has been my go-to application for well over a decade and I was really pleased when Autodesk started breathing life back into it with update after update, it just got better and better.

Until the latest update.

Since update 7.2.1 I’ve found the app completely unusable. Whenever I try to use a marking menu, which is the standard way of selecting tools and brushes, I get a graphical glitch which puts a background behind the marking menu which seems to be sampling the screen. If the marking menu is near the edges the background is black, as there is nothing to see. If I move it to the centre it shows parts of the UI. It is 100% repeatable and completely predictable as to what offset part of the screen will be replicated under the menu.

I posted about this on the Sketchbook Pro Facebook group and was advised to raise a support ticket about it, which I duly did. In fairness, the Facebook admin was very helpful and I did have a sneaky suspicion that I would be told it was because I’m using the Cintiq as a secondary screen. After all, why would anyone want to use a graphics tablet as their main screen? I never have; but I have come across the Autodesk ethos before – their apps are designed to be used on the primary screen.  However, as the app didn’t do this before the update there’s no logical reason that I can think of as to why it would do it after.  What follows is the exchange I had over email with Autodesk Support:

Subject: Graphical glitches when using marking menu, right clicking on layer palette, using lagoon marking menus.

When I open any menu with right click on my cintiq pen I get a displaced background block instead of there being an alpha channel behind the menu. I can actually predict what’s going to appear as it’s the same offset every single time (see the first two images). If it’s close to the edge it’s just black as that’s offscreen. If it’s in the middle I can make the UI appear by using the marking menu at the same offset.

Tablet hardware: Wacom Cintiq 24HD, being used as secondary display. Please note this issue goes away if I change the cintiq to be the main display, but this isn’t a fix I like to use as I use my larger, higher res screen for all my main applications and work.

Steps to fix: Have run all Windows updates, Wacom driver updated. Video card up to date and not failing. Have not re-installed previous version of Sketchbook Pro as I don’t want to lose all my settings and custom brushes.

Operating system Windows 8.1
Video card: Nvidia GForce GTX 560 Ti (on Cintiq)
Nvidia Geforce GTX 750 Ti (Main display)

I have attached screenshots of the issue.

Many thanks,
Sarah


SketchBook Support (Autodesk SketchBook )

Jul 24, 11:51

Hi Sarah,

Thanks for bringing this to our attention,

As you pointed out, when you use the Cintiq and the main monitor, the problem goes away. This is the suggested setup which we -Autodesk- have always used(suggested to us by Wacom). We know of the issue’s when not running the Cintiq as the main monitor/monitor 1. Erratic stylus tracking, graphic issue’s. loss of pressure… list goes on.

I can ask Development but to be honest, I’m not sure if there is a fix for this issue.

Let me know how you would like to proceed.

XXXX [name removed]


Hi XXXX,

That’s a bit disappointing. I know that has alway’s been Autodesk’s position on the Cintiq, but this issue wasn’t there in the 7.1 release, and I’ve always used it as a secondary screen. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to use a tablet as a main monitor. Apparently it doesn’t happen on the 27QHD Cintiq (as Renee the admin on the Sketchbook Pro Facebook group stated), so I was hoping there would be some fix or tweak that could be done… as I’ve subscribed I’m hoping to be able to continue updating but if I’m limited to the 7.1 release there doesn’t seem to be much point in subscribing, as I already have a perpetual license for SBP 7 from being a beta tester.

Thank you for replying so promptly. I’ll continue to see if I can tweak it back into working properly.

Sarah


….and that was it. I didn’t hear any more after that. I have tried tweaking all manner of things, but nothing has made any difference. At this point I want to say I have no issues with the support or the reply I received. I’m not bitching for the sake of it. Hopefully I’m not bitching at all, that’s not my intent. I am disappointed that Autodesk are sticking to the party line about having to use the tablet as a main display. Sure, I can swap; but I’d rather not.

At this point I’m considering uninstalling and rolling back to 7.1 and not updating for the time being. I have tried to use Manga Studio 5 as a replacement, and it is a more than capable application. In fact I would go as far as saying that the sketching pencils are probably better than SBP. However, the sheer volume of UI options is more than I want to deal with when I’m just sketching, and the intuitiveness of SBP is second to none when it comes to rapid concept development.

I’m pretty stumped right now. I feel bereft without Sketchbook Pro after all these years, and that glitch is a real showstopper.

Epilogue

I’ve come back to this post as I have very happy news. After some excellent support from David Lau at Autodesk, and feeding back on the beta forums for the next release of Sketchbook Pro…. all my issues have been fixed in Beta 2. I’m very excited for this release. I won’t be telling you what’s coming up but I can tell you that the issues I was having with Sketchbook Pro running on a Cintiq as the secondary screen are resolved. No more glitches in the marking menus or lagoon and the colour picker now picks up the correct colour instead of the background. I’ll also add that I do feel overall performance seems significantly increased. Brushes are buttery smooth!

So thank you to the Autodesk devs, to David and to the beta forum guys. You have all renewed my faith in SBP and I can’t wait for the next release to go live.

It. Looks. Awesome!

6 thoughts on “My long affair with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro… and why it may be over.”

  1. Hey Sarah I just found your posting. Just within the last 2 days, SBP 7.2.1 has also started to do all sorts of whacky stuff and yeah, it is super frustrating and disappointing. In my case after one stroke, I lose all pressure sensitivity on my 21″ Cintiq and my pen eraser defaults back to a solid stroke even though in my Wacom settings everything is set how it should be for SBP. Like you, I uninstalled both the Wacom driver and SBP 7.2.1. I even rolled back to 7.1 and it is still whacked. I am also suspicious that a Windows 7 update whacked something too, as this just started happening in the last 2 days and prior to that 7.2.1 and my Cintiq were working fine (I use my cintiq as a second monitor too).

    Reply
    • Hi Chris,
      I rolled back to 7.1 in the end and am not updating for the forseeable future. I also found that trying to use the colour picker either through the UI or using alt resulted in it picking up the background colour (usually white). I’ve since upgraded to Windows 10 and I can’t remember if I tried to reinstall SBP. Using the Cintiq as a primary screen makes no sense as I have it switched off when I’m not painting, and I often have Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign open at the same time… … it’s rather disappointing. 🙁

      Reply
  2. I’m starting to think conspiracy… I’ve used the SBP app on my note 10.1 2014 extensively. But, when the file size get heavy, a weird glitch happens; A grey outline develops around objects on one of the layers. I wrote up a ticket and spoke w/ an autodesk rep, but he acts like there’ll be no fix ( he said the problem was/has occurred on v.7, too. He then launched into a sales pitch for the annual subscription! Are these corruptions allowed (or intended) to force people into the new subscription plan?

    Reply
    • Hi Kevyn,
      I haven’t had that problem on my Note 10.1 (2012) but I rarely have more than two layers as I don’t use it so much for heavy workload. I do hammer it quite badly on the desktop but I haven’t had the problem you describe.
      I’d be very surprised if corruption was the issue, after all the subscription cost is tiny in comparison to most applications. Also I doubt that upgrading to a sub would help, as if there’s a bug in the free version it would be there in the paid version.. the rendering engine and underlying code doesn’t change as far as I’m aware, it just opens up more options for you to use.
      Try submitting another support ticket, perhaps? I was having horrible problems with the desktop version but support were incredibly helpful and the result has been very satisfactory. The update they did fixed my issues completely but I’ll have to wait for the next release before I move back to using the current version. I’m pretty lucky in that I’m in the beta programme so I can use that version for now.

      Reply
    • Hi there
      Is that the dropper tool or the color puck? If it’s the puck you should be able to drag it with your pen or mouse. If not, try going into Preferences>Brush and changing the settings for the color puck, clicking OK and then try again. If that doesn’t work I’m not sure what to suggest.
      Resetting to Factory Defaults might help, but make sure you back up your preferences beforehand. In Windows they are in C:\Users\YOURNAME\AppData\Roaming\Autodesk\SketchBook\8.0\Pro

      Reply

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