A Student's Digital Art Set Up

June 17, 2022

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I finally got my new digital art powerhouse: the 2022 Mac Studio, equipped with the M1 Ultra. With its arrival, I decided to rearrange my setup, not only to give it a general makeover, but also because the size and the ports of the Mac were incompatible with my previous setup.

Up to this point my setup consisted of a 2013 Mac Pro (also known as the "Trashcan"), my beloved 30" Cinema Display, a Wacom Cintiq 13HD and the original Tourbox Neo. When I got the Mac Studio I decided to also upgrade to a new drawing tablet and the new Tourbox Elite, one of the main reasons being their Bluetooth connectivity, saving me from the partly disruptive cable salad.

A black and white photograph of a desk with an Apple 30-inch Cinema Display, a 2022 Apple Mac Studio, a Magic Keyboard and Mouse and a Microphone.

Mac Studio 

The Mac Studio is by far one of the most powerful computers I have ever had the pleasure to work with. Especially as a Mac user, doing 3D artwork had its unpleasant disadvantages due to either the lack of support, optimisation or simply the hardware being not powerful enough with most Macs I had - especially when rendering. But for me at least, the M1 Ultra truly gets rid of all limits I previously had, embracing my creative freedom and allowing me to do things I simply was not able to do before. It is pretty much on par with the workstation I use at work, equipped with a RTX 3090

And with it never going above 50°C (122°F), I never have to worry about temperatures and loud fan noises again. 

A black and white photograph of the 2022 Apple Mac Studio equipped with the M1 Ultra chip.

Cinema Display

Since I am still a great fan of the over 20 year old 30-inch Cinema Display, which may seem like an odd choice to a brand new computer, I decided to keep it in use, since its build and image quality is still absolutely amazing, especially considering its age. But this decision also led to some issues regarding connectivity, since it uses an obsolete DVI-D output, and the previous adapter I used (DVI-D to Mini Display Port for the Mac Pro) is not compatible anymore. After browsing through the internet I found a video of Luke Miani talking about this exact display and showing an DVI-D to USB-C adapter working with the newest 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pros. I decided to give it a try and it luckily worked right away.

Due to the distance between its bottom frame and my desk, and thus me not being able to put the Mac Studio directly under the display, I crafted a little custom wooden platform, that has exactly the shape of its stand, creating enough space for the Mac to rest below it. 

A black and white photograph of a 30-inch Apple Cinema Display from the top.

A black and white photograph of a wooden stand for a 30-inch Appe Cinema display which stands on top..

Wacom Intous

As a replacement for the Cintiq 13HD, I chose the Wacom Intous Pro M, due to me actually preferring not to work directly on a screen, and the mentioned Bluetooth connectivity. I absolutely love the tablet and even though some would think that the large version would be a better fit for my quite big monitor, I am very happy with the form factor. Also, the touch function, which allows you to use it as a giant trackpad, is also quite lovely, even though I barely use it.

A black and white photograph of a desk showing a 2022 Apple Mac Studio, a Wacom Intuos Pro M pen tablet, a Tourbox Elite creative controller and an Apple Magic Keyboard and Mouse.

Tourbox Elite

The Tourbox Elite is my newest addition, and one I very much adore. To me its the perfect tool for digital art, and it really boosted my workflow. For those who may not know about it, Tourbox is a creative controller, equipped with different buttons and (scroll) wheels, that can be assigned with custom shortcuts, allowing you to forgo a keyboard. The button's layout is designed to ergonomically match your hand, making each button easily reachable. Through an app you can add a profile for each software you use and assign shortcuts, making the Tourbox to automatically switch its button's layout whenever you change the software. It is a super handy tool and makes you really work faster. I mainly use it for sculpting in ZBrush and Blender, but it can also be used for applications like Photoshop or even Adobe Premiere.

Its newest version comes with a gorgeous translucent design, haptic feedback, and of course Bluetooth connectivity, powered by two replaceable AAA batteries. 

A black and white photograph of a desk showing a Tourbox Elite creative controller, with a black slightly translucent plastic material.

Webcam & Microphone 

Due to online classes during covid, I decided to get a microphone, that I now also use for video calls. Back then I bought the cheapest one I could find with the best reviews. It is absolutely sufficient for what I need and fulfils its purpose. 

In case I need a camera (the Cinema Display does not have one integrated), I use my Sony Alpha 6000 together with a tripod and camlink. 

A black and white photograph of a desk with an Apple 30-inch Cinema Display, a 2022 Apple Mac Studio, a Magic Keyboard and Mouse and a Microphone.

And that is about it. These are the tools I use pretty much daily for being productive and creative, allowing me to do what I love doing.

I do not believe in it changing much in the future, since up until now I used mostly old and used equipment for my artwork, deciding only recently to make the switch to newer gear. I am extremely happy with my setup and can’t wait to create new artwork using it.