When the iPad was first announced, the digital art community rejoiced. Here was an affordable touchscreen tablet at last! Alas, it didn’t quite live up to such hype. Of course, Apple’s device is slim and powerful, and it has that remarkable display. But the screen has never been quite as accurately matched to the touch surface as it is on professional graphics tablets. But a significant upgrade has just arrived. Astropad allows you to use your iPad as a precisely mapped tablet for any app on your Mac — and it actually works.
This isn’t your average, run-of-the-mill display mirroring app, either — including the $50 price tag. After connecting Astropad’s iOS and Mac halves wirelessly, the app can render changes at twice the speed of AirPlay. The detail is comparable to that of a JPEG saved on the “Highest” quality setting, and drawing suffers no discernable lag.
The iPad app offers two modes: one for drawing, and one for panning around and zooming. The former is remarkably smooth, whether you choose to make your mark with a finger or a stylus. Three pressure-sensitive styli are compatible with the app from the outset — the Adonit Jot Touch, Jaja Hex3, and Wacom Creative Stylus. The FiftyThree Pencil will soon join this group. Furthermore, the app helpfully provides generic controls, as found in most drawing apps, in a sidebar.
Moving about and zooming is the usual pinching and swiping affair, although it is slightly more touchy than with many apps, due to the precise nature of the task it was designed for.
Early impressions suggest that Astropad is an app which is oh-so-close to replacing a graphics tablet, but still constrained by the hardware it operates on. That said, for any hobbyist digital painter on a budget, or for any professional wanting a take-anywhere system, it seems a highly competent tool.
You can check out Astropad in the App Store here.