Joel Dare
Sketching

Boogie Board LCD eWriter

Improv Electronics sells several models of Boogie Board digital writing devices. The basic models can be had for about the same price as a high quality pen and sketch pad. The higher end models support saving to internal memory and bluetooth connectivity and are pretty inexpensive.

Boogie Board Original 10.5

The Experience

These devices try to mimic pen and paper. The original models are a bit like electronic marker boards. Like working in pen or marker, there is no eraser. The erase option on the device clears the entire surface. This can be a good thing. It forces you to commit to your drawing.

The device is also similar to a scratch board. You draw in a light color on a black background. If you can switch your brain to drawing the light in the image, you can use this to create pretty amazing lighting effects.

The less expensive models have no “save” feature. You’ll have to snap a picture of the LCD if you want to preserve it. The more expensive models have internal memory and a save feature.

Under Drawing

Some models have the ability to save your drawing. These models have a “feature” where touching the surface draws but the drawing is not saved until you turn the unit on. This can be used to your advantage to pre draw parts of the image. For example, you could draw a grid on the device, then turn it on to record the actual drawing. The file that is saved, then, does not include the grid.

You can also use something other than the included stylus to exclude strokes from the final image. For example, lines drawn with your fingernail will not be recorded on the saved image.

Photographing the Surface

You can take a picture of the surface of the device with any camera. The surface is reflective, so you need to hold it in a direction that does not create a reflection. I’ve taken pictures of it in a lot of different room lighting situations and tilting it slightly down toward the ground usually works fine.

Foot Original Photo

Converting the Image

You could use the photo as is but I like to use The Gimp, a free and open source program, to manipulate the photos to black and white.

Foot Transitions

Here are the steps I take to manipulate the image.

  1. Convert the image to grayscale.
  2. Convert the image to indexed 2 color.
  3. Change the colors in the color map to solid black and solid white.
  4. Convert the image back to RGB.
  5. Invert the colors.

Optionally, apply a slight blur. Optionally, resample to 50% size.

Here’s what the finished image looks like in black on white.

Foot Black on White

Problems

Most of the reviews on the Boogie Board models are positive, but there are some complaints. There are some bugs in the software, particularly in older versions. You can minimize this by using the current version and they seem to release updates pretty frequently.

A few people complained about missing strokes in the more expensive models. I had the opposite problem, the system recorded my strokes when I had the pen just above the surface. I was frustrated by this at first, but I really loved some of the finished drawings with these random strokes on the page. Writing text was problematic though. I contacted tech support and they sent me a new stylus, which fixed the problem.

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