bud­get break­through Dis­cover if this app can re­ally turn your iPad into a graph­ics tablet for a bar­gain price

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Dis­cover if this bar­gain-priced app can re­ally turn your iPad into a graph­ics tablet.

It’s a very worth­while and ex­cit­ing first step to­wards us­ing the iPad as a tablet – and at a great price

Dig­i­tal artists would love to work on a Wa­com Cin­tiq. But at £1,000 for the en­try-level model, that isn’t al­ways a fi­nan­cial pos­si­bil­ity. How­ever, you can now cre­ate a bud­get al­ter­na­tive us­ing the Mac and iOS app Astropad, which turns your iPad into a de facto graph­ics tablet.

Astropad works by mir­ror­ing your Mac’s screen on to your iPad, en­abling you to use na­tive Mac pro­grams such as Pho­to­shop with pres­sure-sen­si­tive sty­luses such as the Adonit Jot Touch or Wa­com Cre­ative Sty­lus 2. Th­ese sty­luses re­tain the pres­sure sen­si­tiv­ity and palm-re­jec­tion fea­tures as if used with an iPad-na­tive app, and help to repli­cate a Wa­com-like tablet ex­pe­ri­ence very closely. The de­gree of func­tion­al­ity can de­pend on which app you use, be­cause not all sup­port pres­sure sen­si­tiv­ity via Astropad.

The app con­nects via Light­ning/USB or Wi-Fi and you can choose to repli­cate the whole of your Mac’s screen or just a part of it. Thanks to its be­spoke LIQ­UID tech­nol­ogy Astropad runs at 60 frames per sec­ond, (com­pared to Airplay’s 30fps) and so the lag be­tween the two screens is con­sid­er­ably less than with other AirPlay apps. How­ever, there were still some slight de­lays in our tests with an iPad Air con­nected via Light­ning. Art­work pixel­lated on screen tem­po­rar­ily af­ter ap­ply­ing a brush stroke, while the tem­po­rary pink trail, which Astropad uses to show your brush move­ment, would of­ten end up chas­ing our pen point around, rather than be­ing where we wanted it. Oc­ca­sion­ally, it would break off and not fol­low the path.

We also had is­sues us­ing ges­tures to mag­nify or pan and zoom, with the func­tion­al­ity not work­ing in some apps and be­ing very slow in oth­ers. We are told this will be fixed in fu­ture re­leases.

When us­ing Astropad, the iPad’s screen size can also be a prob­lem. Un­like iOS paint­ing apps whose in­ter­faces are de­signed to make the most of the smaller screen, Astropad re­lies on the art pro­gram’s na­tive in­ter­faces. As such, com­plex soft­ware such as Sketch Book Pro can be very fid­dly when con­densed on a 9.7-inch screen (let alone on a Mini’s 7.9-inch screen!), and even with short­cuts and ges­tures can be quite fussy to use.

At just over £20, com­pared to the £1,000-plus Cin­tiq, Astropad is clearly not a se­ri­ous com­peti­tor for Wa­com. How­ever, it’s still a very worth­while and ex­cit­ing first step to­wards us­ing the iPad as a tablet. As the app con­tin­ues to de­velop and is up­graded for greater com­pat­i­bil­ity with var­i­ous apps, it’ll be­come a use­ful tool for dig­i­tal artists. At its bar­gain price you should at least give it a go – down­load a seven-day trial ver­sion from the Astropad site.

Bring up a heads-up dis­play with short­cuts such as Shift and Alt,

to work with­out a key­board.

There are some im­prove­ments needed, but the

art app shows great prom­ise for now.

The white cir­cle on the left brings up a menu filled with com­monly used op­tions that can be cus­tomised to your own pref­er­ences.

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