Astropad is a pretty promising program, however it does have a ways to go before it becomes fully reliable, in my opinion.
So I was extremely excited when I finally got a Macbook last week; especially because I could try out Astro Pad(chill, chill, don’t cringe, I didn’t get it just for Astropad. I have a long shopping list of work related tasks that I needed it for). For those of you who don’t know, Astropad is a relatively new app that allows you to turn your iPad into a drawing tablet for your Mac. It costs $29.99 on the North American App store, so I ponied up the dough and revved up the download.
Now, I did read quite a few reviews of the product and the reviews seemed rather good as a whole. I needed something that could fit what I really needed out of a drawing tablet; lots of space, and accuracy. What more could you want? My first ever tablet was the Wacom Bamboo. Ahh, what a beauty.. But I lost her in a house fire.
So I moved onto the Wacom Intuos Tablet (small version). That was great too, but it was small. Shame on me for choosing small. I quickly started to feel like I needed more space to work comfortably. The bigger Wacom tablets with more functionality were just not within my budget at the time, so I settled for a Huion tablet.
It was … ok. Don’t get me wrong, It wasn’t terrible, but I had a lot of issues with the drivers, and it would seriously hinder my work flow. Sometimes it wouldn’t work again unless I restarted the computer (I was using Windows at the time), and if I was lucky, it would work for a reasonable enough amount of time for me to get something done. I received an iPad from a friend over the summer and I started using procreate, since the program I usually use (Clip Studio Paint) doesn’t have an iPad port. Procreate, mind you is a great piece of software that I will review at a later date, but again, it wasn’t Clip Studio Paint; the program I was most adept and comfortable with. So finally, after a lot of blood sweat and frustration, I obtained a Mac, and I was ready to put this app to the test. Could it fulfill my drawing tablet fantasies..??
Well, the answer to that is: yes. At least, it’s getting there. Astropad is a respectable app indeed. You can connect your iPad via wire or wireless (wireless requires them to be connected to the same local network). I’ve only used it wirelessly and honestly, it’s completely on point. I haven’t had any issues with lagging, or delays of any sort. Bare in mind; it’s an app optimized for artists. It is a sort of secondary display, but videos are choppy. If you’re looking for a good dual display app, Duet would probably be the better road to go. I played with the app for quite a while with Clip Studio Paint, and I had no problems as far as basic functionality goes.
AstroPad comes with a circular button when it’s active on the iPad, allowing you to open up a menu that offers a few other features for more flexibility, such as zoom in/out, brush settings, on screen buttons, and more. I personally haven’t found myself using any of the things from the list except the Advanced Settings. This allows you to toggle brightness and sensitivity among other things. Most of the other options on the menu can be done directly by you with whatever program you’re using for your work.
It’s good. It’s really good. The development team is still actively working on bettering it. They actually just released an update that reduces it’s battery usage by 50%, reduced CPU usage, increased it’s speed, and improved color accuracy. So it’s an app to keep your eyes. on. Very good, however not perfect. Don’t lose complete faith in your Wacoms or whatever drawing tablet you’ve been using just yet…
One issue I did have is the lack of a ‘hover’ feature. I never really realized how much I needed this until it was gone. A lot of demonstration videos featuring Astropad show people using the program, but watching their iPad instead of the larger Mac display. I personally prefer to look at the larger display while drawing on a tablet, but what made that so possible was the hover; the ability to see the cursor move across the screen as you move your hand. This annoys me a bit because I want to look at the larger display to see details in depth… that was one of the key reasons I was so excited about this setup.
Another setback is the zoom feature. Luckily , you can easily pinch the iPad screen to zoom, like you would with anything else on an iPad. However it seems that sometimes AstroPad doesn’t pick up on that (or maybe the zoom touch parameters are different for AstroPad I don’t know..) and I end up making stray marks, or accidentally initiating a different command in the program I’m using. Very frustrating.
AstroPad is far from unusable. I used it to draw the current welcome drawing on the blog when I first tried it, so It’s certainly tolerable. Certainly pleasurable to use, too. For painting it’s great. For simple line art it’s great too. I personally will be using it for those 2 things alone for now. Without hover, any complicated line work will be unnecessarily tedious for me, but I’m sure that’s not a deal breaker for some people. Definitely give AstroPad a go.
P.S.: I’ve only had AstroPad for 4 days, but I didn’t want to review it the first night, incase some features were still unknown to me/I was using it incorrectly, but it’s still possible that I didn’t get to everything. If I’ve missed anything, or you have ways around the problems I’ve spoken about in this post, please feel free to drop a comments. 😉