Talk about a fast two weeks. I bought my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 two weeks ago yesterday. I figured it is time to share my thoughts on this tablet, now that I have used it to draw two comics and a full color commission (as well as typed up blog posts).

sign commission

Whoa, COLOR?!

That’s a panel from the color commission I drew last week. Dad wanted a six panel ‘how to wash your hands’ sign for his man cave bathroom. I drew it all on my Surface Pro 3 using Manga Studio 5.

What I Like About the Microsoft Surface Pro 3

  • Drawing. The Surface Pro 3 offers me a great drawing experience. Drawing right on the screen speeds up my work flow considerably. I finished a full color commission and a comic last week. Pretty remarkable, for me. Artists accustomed to other drawing tablets, especially those using Wacom technology, might have more of an adjustment period with the Surface Pro 3, however.

  • Portability. My Surface does what I want: it allows me to work on comics (or other art) anywhere. I had to take my car in for repairs on Saturday morning, so I walked to a nearby coffee shop with my Surface and worked (comfortably) for about an hour.

  • Weight. The Surface Pro 3 is very lightweight, which makes it easy to carry around—again, my goal was portability, so this is a huge win.

  • The Surface Pro 3 is a fully functioning computer, which means I can work on art or writing, or update my websites, and other Internet tasks. And, ahem, play Civilization 3.

  • The battery life is very good, especially if I have Wi-fi turned off—which I usually do while I’m drawing or writing.

  • Comfort. I can easily draw with the Surface on my lap, or legs if I am in a reclining position. No more chained to a desk or drawing table.

  • Power. My Surface is the 4 GB RAM i5 and I don’t have any problems running Manga Studio.

  • The kick stand. The built-in kickstand is great and offers plenty of angles for drawing.

What I Don’t Like About the Microsoft Surface Pro 3

  • The price of the Type Keyboard Cover. $130 is a lot for basic keyboard.

  • The touchpad on the Type Keyboard Cover. It ranges from too sensitive to not sensitive enough. It will click when I don’t want it to, or it will take several hard presses to register a click. The touchpad on my MacBook Pro is much better.

  • I’ve had a pair of weird start-up problems over the past two weeks. I was unable to start-up the Surface after carrying it, shut down, in my backpack. I had to do the two-button shutdown in both situations and the Surface started right up.

  • The stylus pen randomly ‘turns off’ at times. I don’t know what causes this to happen, but the pen will simply stop working. This seems to happen after I set the pen down for a minute (but not always, I think). I usually have to hold down the top button for a few seconds to get it going again and everything is fine–until it happens again.

  • The two buttons on the stylus pen aren’t the most comfortable, and are kind of in the way more often than not.

  • I wish the pen was thicker, or had a grip. This is a personal preference thing, as I have big hands. I working on a way to add a custom grip of some kind.

  • The Windows Button on the right hand side (when in Landscape). Easily bumped while drawing, which knocks me out of Manga Studio. I’ve learned to move my drawing more towards the center of the screen.

  • Windows 8.1. If I was more accustomed to Windows, this probably wouldn’t be such a headache. I’m getting used to Windows though, since I’m using it everyday now. Still, there are quirks that get on my nerves.

  • Using a USB mouse really drains the battery, it seems.

  • There aren’t screen brightness keys on the Type cover. There are keys to control the keyboard back light, which I never have turned on. I found the keyboard shortcut for screen brightness though: Fn + Backspace (darker) and Fn + Del (brighter).

Surface Pro 3 and Manga Studio 5 Notes

  • I had to download the digital version of Manga Studio 5, called Clip Studio Paint Pro for some reason. I’ll still refer to it as Manga Studio, however, as it is the same program. I tried to network my MacBook Pro and the Surface to avoid buying Manga Studio again, but after a couple of hours of dead ends, I gave up.

  • Note: Clip Studio Paint Pro (Manga Studio 5) is a 4 GB download, even though Amazon says it is 445 MB. This took awhile, as the Surface Pro 3 is Wi-fi only—no network cable input. About four hours on my connection.

  • Manga Studio 5 knows when you are using the stylus or your fingers. This means: drawing with my right hand and tapping buttons with my left. Very handy.

  • You can zoom in and out in Manga Studio by ‘pinching’ the screen. I love this.

  • You can also move your image around in Manga Studio with your finger. I love this even more.

  • When I first ran Manga Studio 5, I think it automatically set up the view in a tablet friendly mode (it looked differentl than on my MacBook Pro).

  • The Surface 3’s 12” screen can get easily crowded in Manga Studio 5, but it lets you easily open and close different palettes. I’ll usually keep the brush size palette open and close the layer palette.

  • I use the Frenden Manga Studio 5 brush sets, and I could not recommend them more. I use the Blue Layout pencil for sketching, which is very handy. I’m still playing around with the other brushes to find a favorite, but the winner for now is The Natural. 

Final Thoughts on the Microsoft Surface Pro 3

I love my Surface (but hate the Type Cover touchpad). Despite its quirks, all the pros keep me happy. I find drawing on my Surface less intimidating than working on paper, probably because I know a mistake won’t take me a lot of time to fix.

Using the Surface made drawing even more fun. Making comics feels less like work now, which is always a good thing.

I love working with pen and paper, but I love stress-free evenings and weekends even more.

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Daniel J. Hogan is a geeky cartoonist and writer living in Michigan. Daniel is available for freelance writing and cartooning commissions (Contact Daniel). This post contains affiliate links, unless it doesn't.

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