illustrator , concept-artist

Gamepad hack for more button on Cintiq21UX

Published the 14 july 2011 in Hardware and Software with tags : Wacom, hardware, cc-by

artwork by David Revoy

Today I spent a part of time hacking a gamepad to have it on my new Cintiq21UX. I guess one of your first question would certainly be 'Why' ? In fact, I did it for this many reasons :
- Lack of button on the Cintiq, and many 2D linux app are Keyboard centric. The Cintiq have a very bad ergonomy for keyboard usage...
- Bad quality of Wacom button , loud and hard click, bad plastic, noisy and not soft sensor
- LinuxWacom driver 'xsetwacom' always fail to attribute to the button special key like 'middle mouse click' or 'space'

The artist Animtim I met at Amsterdam KritaSprint 2011 use a Joypad+tablet to work. He gaves me precious infos about how simple it was to attribute keyboard shortcut using the FLOSS Qjoypad. This ideas mixed in my mind and made me want to stick a flat gamepad on the Cintiq to replace default button. That why I decided to 'flatten' an old Logitech Precision Gamepad I had to try it. But, if you are not tempted by DIY stuff, a lot of mini gamepad flat exist on the market for very cheap ( exemple , Dicota mini gamepad ) , and if you want to try , you will surely prefer to purchase one and stick it on your tablet with adhesive removable gum.

I ordered one today for less than 3Euro, I will try it and adopt it if it's better than my frankenstein flat gamepad creation. Also , on the same theme I read yesterday this great review and this other one from the anime artist Saejin.

Here a video to showcase the first function I did for Mypaint with my flat gamepad 'creation'

( sorry for the video quality, this was shoot with a cheap photo camera with a 640x480 video function , not a real movie camera )
The result work well and do the job. Not 100% ideal because of the design ( hard plastic would be better ) and for the size a bit too big to my taste ( still not flat enough ). For sure this not correct the ergonomical problem of the Cintiq , but bring a bit more confort to work with , especially during the long hours of painting when keeping focused is important.

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thursday 14 july 2011, 02:15

Woah. A Cintiq. I've tried one once and I felt in love... Hope to get one someday !

Anyway, this trick is interesting!
It's also possible on a Mac with an XBOX 360 controller pad (or any other one, I guess, but I've only tried with this one) and "ControllerMate" (unfortunately not free), you can re-asign the buttons using nodal connections, really usefull :) (tested and approved)

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2. MartinC

thursday 14 july 2011, 04:00

Nice setup, did you tryout easystroke.

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thursday 14 july 2011, 12:46

Yo !

Et bin dis donc... tu es passé du côté obscur ? une Cintiq :)

Joli gadget en tout cas ! Tu dois passé un temps fou sur la confection de ces bidules.

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thursday 14 july 2011, 15:28

Yeah! Vive les manettes ;)

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5. Anonymous

thursday 14 july 2011, 16:36

It almost goes against the logic that such high end professional products like Cintiq have such basic usability issues like terrible ergonomics, doesn't it?

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thursday 14 july 2011, 21:41

I've actually just bought a Razer Nostromo ( the successor to the highly recommended nostromo speedpad n52. It is recommended by tons of Comic and concept artists. I've found it has slightly too few buttons for blender, but seems nice for 2d apps. (I've not given up on using with Blender yet, it just needs more tweaking) I've also not been able to find current linux drivers for it and have been trying to get it to work with the n52 drivers( Is very ergonomic though and works well in Windows at any rate.

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thursday 14 july 2011, 23:39

A $2000 tablet and a $4 key pad really shouldn't be necessary, but as long as it works. I still use a Wacom tablet with a small keyboard that I left hand shortcuts with.

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8. Jeremy

friday 15 july 2011, 18:53

It's engenuity like this that makes manufacturers improve their products. Nice work!

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9. kot-barbos

sunday 17 july 2011, 07:34

Nice upgrade. Now you can play games with Cintiq :)

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tuesday 26 july 2011, 17:24

Nice tutorial!

I love Wacom Cintiq. But I haven't money to buy... I using only my Bamboo Wacom just to play with MyPaint.

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11. AbeOwitz

monday 24 october 2011, 23:23

Thanks to this idea, I came up with an alternative :)

Applicable to any USB keypad, BTW.
tuesday 25 october 2011, 09:09

@AbeOwitz : Hey , good if you get inspired by this. The device you found is cute, and thanks a lot for the edev config. It makes me want to buy one, print on it a chroma wheel on a thin sticky paper, and build a 'touch' sensitive color changer for Mypaint ( in Mypaint, we can control Hue/Sat/Lum with keystrokes now, and a user reported me he already can choose an exact color only keyboard based, a good geek painting skill :) ). For your problem about binding keystrokes as Ctrl+S ( multiple key ) just change the shortcut in Mypaint ( mouse over the item in the menu + press on the fly the key ) , you can surely assign 'S' to it. For sure it not fix the compatibility with other softwares , but it can help.

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13. Marco

tuesday 25 october 2011, 16:09

I see you have 3 pens. Can you tell us how do you use them? They have different nibs? Different grip? Or you assign a different color to each one?
tuesday 25 october 2011, 18:43

@Marco : Hey , well spotted the 3 pen on the photos :) To answer you about them , I don't use many different pen while working. Only 1 , after the 3 different on my desk are :
- 1 for the Cintiq ( intuos 3 standard )
- 1 for my Intuos 4 medium ( classic grip )
and a second one I bought for Intuos 4 medium ; a thin one. Because the classic one delivered with the tablet was too big in my hand, and I wanted something more sized like a pencil. :-)

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15. Marco

tuesday 25 october 2011, 19:02

thanks for the answer.

I have an intuos4 but it was delireved with 2 changeable grips. One very thick and the other thin. I don't remember which one was on the by default because I tried to use both of them with the fear of break something, because you need to push very hard.

Tonight I will try to install Linux Mint with your tutorial. Yesterday I bought the joypad.

The only different things I have to set are that I'm left handed and that I've a dual screen with pivot and to set up a few things on compiz.

So what I need to do is to rotate the desktop with a key and at the same time to rotate the tablet, because I can't use the tablet in horizontal and the monitor in portrait mode.

What I use to solve this is to set a command in compiz. With Compiz Config Settings Manager there is an icon called Commands.

I assign 2 key bindings. For the first one:
xrandr --orientation left & xsetwacom set "Wacom Intuos4 6x9 cursor" Rotate cw

and the second one:
xrandr --orientation normal & xsetwacom set "Wacom Intuos4 6x9 cursor" Rotate 3

btw I do this on a old ubuntu karmic, I know the command in Lucid is different but I'm not on the Lucid's computer now.

Then still in compiz I go in Window Rules and I use these settings for Gimp:
(maybe the first option is not necessary with recent Gimp versions, it is taken by the one I've on Karmic).
They let me have a thin toolbar without the close and window resize buttons. And also the toolbar can't be resized, that prevents to resize the toolbar when you grab it and move it.
I also use the screenshot compiz plugin so I can just press a key+right mouse button select an area and automatically I've a screenshot on the Desktop.

Also in Gnome I go in System ->Prefernces-> Windows and I set Select Windows when the mouse moves over them.
It makes my life easier so I don't have to check if the window have focus or not. But when I don't draw I set it off because it can be confusing.
tuesday 25 october 2011, 19:55

@Marco : Thanks for sharing your usage settings. Hope you will find similar feature with Linux Mint 11 ( I almost sure nothing changed too much , in the linuxwacom wiki there is on the xsetwacom page a table with old terms and new corresponding key words, so this should works. ) . Feel free to repost this when proofed for Linux Mint on the Linux Mint blog post. I'm sure it can help poeple, and with this info , I'll can also update my page. Good luck for your system updating.

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17. Marco

sunday 30 october 2011, 19:30


Please, is it possible to have a map of the keys you use on the joypad with gimp and mypaint? I'm really curious.
At the moment I use the up and down for getting the color darker and lighter
and left and right for opaque and transparent.

is there a way to bind two keys (like shift+s) with qjoypad?
sunday 30 october 2011, 19:59

@Marco :
This is the map I have ; and I don't switch of various map for softwares ; I better try to adapt the softwares ( Gimp / Krita ) shortcut to fit this : :

Btw, I can't map shortcut key combinaison as Shift+S in Qjoypad. single Key only...
Hope it can help.

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tuesday 05 june 2012, 20:22

I got one of those for the same reason. I've never looked back since.
The drivers are windows only so to do the original setup you either have to do it via 'wine' or on a windows laptop. But you only need to do that once, the setup gets uploaded on the controller and your settings stay with you wherever you take it.
Very cool device for painting and 3D.
friday 08 june 2012, 09:47

@Simon Legrand : Hi Simon, thks for the feedback on my blog ( and for your involvement on the KImageshop mailing list , I love to read the progress on that ). This device ( your link )looks really cool , I already read another artist I follow who use a similar device and did a blog post about : ; I will look at those device soon, maybe a particular brand don't need a so specific driver and can use standards. I hope :)

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21. Ramoons

saturday 22 june 2013, 01:33

Whaaaou ça c'est de la bidouille !
saturday 22 june 2013, 03:54

@Ramoons : :D

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