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