Autodesk releases Alias Sketch for AutoCAD on Labs + Quick Tablet Buyers Guide

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This was talked about at the end of last year, but its gone live for customers today. Alias Sketch for AutoCAD is a plug-in for AutoCAD that allows you to do the following:

  • Draw Freehand Illustrations
  • Create Concept Variations
  • Create Compositions with 3D Models
  • Trace 3D Models
  • Create Concept Walls
  • Annotate

It’s based on the rather incredible SketchBook that Autodesk acquired with the Alias acquisition and which has seen a lot of work (the last release saw some key additions such as line and ellipse guides which alone are worth an upgrade). Essentially, this builds some of those pen-based input approaches and integrates them into AutoCAD.

As you’ll see in the video embedded it allows you to bring in models or drawings from AutoCAD and get to work on them. I suspect this is primarily aimed at the Archiectural user community out there who might not have been exposed to SketchBook previous. In the world of Product Development, SketchBook has achieved a pretty high level of traction, which is impressed when you consider the competition is the likes of Photoshop – SketchBook has always had the upper hand for the design crowd because of the focussed nature of the tool and the specialised tools it offers – and when you consider its $100 (or less, check out amazon for a decent price) and a half decent tablet is going to cost you double that.

Tablet – quick buyer’s guide

Oh – just a quick note on tablets – if you want to get the best from this or other sketching tools, then you need one. I’ve got an older Intuos3 oversized A4 that cost a couple of hundred quid a few years back. It’s bulletproof and I’d happily recommend Wacom to anyone. Wacom have traditionally been the market leader for the professional design space but recent years have seen the introduction of a fair bit of competition (here’s a quick search page on Amazon as an idea) and while the cheaper options might be tempting, there are a few things to consider, so just consider the following when you’re looking to buy one:

  • Pressure Sensitivity – if it’s not got it, skip it, leave it – don’t touch it.
  • Programmable hotkeys – preferrably application independent
  • Match your tablet size to your preferred paper size – this is something I learned the hard way. If you’re used (and trained in terms of muscle memory) to work with A3 sheets, then invest in a good size tablet – buy cheap and too small and you’ll find it difficult. I’ve tried the cheap Bamboo products and they’ll give you RSI quicker than trying to get high score on Track and Field in a Kebab shop.
  • Match the tablet to your monitor aspect ratio – Widescreen monitor? Widescreen tablet. Trust me.
  • Spares. Spares. Spares. You’ll need more nibs than you’ll realise if you really get into it. Also, you need to be able to source spare pens. Because, believe, you’ll loose it and you will cry. Like a massive baby.
  • Oh – the last thing is, if you use a multiple monitor set-up, you might need to disconnect one of them otherwise things get really sketchy – in not a good way.

There you go. Sketching. It’s fun. Get a software tool, get a tablet, have a bash – apparently, Daft Punk helps too. Crank it. Or use a pen and paper. Choice is yours.

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