Category Archives: Apps

astropadstudio

Astropad Studio review: iPad Pro meets Mac

Astropad Studio: iPad Pro inches toward Cintiqdom

astropad studio review

Astropad Studio for iPad Pro and Mac. Photo by Astropad

 

 

 

 

Update, July 2017: Astropad Standard and Studio both work with the new 10.5″ iPad.

Astropad has just released a new product specifically for use with the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. It’s subscription-based, unlike Astropad Standard, which is still available. Astropad Studio is only for iPad Pro with Apple Pencil, whereas Standard is for iPad2 and up. Whereas Standard is a onetime purchase, Studio is a yearly or monthly fee, and has monthly updates.

Astropad Studio vs. Astropad Standard

Studio has “Liquid Extreme,” which offers a much faster bitrate of 60 frames per second, so less lag. It bas better image quality. Together with GPU acceleration and velocity control, there’s excellent image quality and responsiveness. You can customize program shortcuts in the supported programs, as well as customizing Magic Gestures, which are Pencil/finger combos. If you don’t want to customize, you can use the built-in ones, such as calling up the eraser tool with your finger and the control ring.

Installing both applications is simple, as is the setup. All you have to do get both the Mac and iPad Pro app–the Mac app from the Astropad site, and the iPad Pro app from the App Store.

One nice thing is that you can use the iPad Pro’s USB to connect it to the Mac, instead of Wi-fi, if you’re having Wi-fi issues like I have been lately and can’t get them on the same network.

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Magic Gesture. Photo by Astropad

Once that’s done, you’ll see the controls have three program names–Photoshop, Illustrator, and Clip Studio Paint. These are all popular desktop programs and have a somewhat complex workflow. You can still use Procreate, Sketchbook and any apps or desktop programs you want.

astropad interface

Astropad Interface

The app allows you to customize shortcuts in these programs, which can save a lot of time.

The new improved Liquid Engine is far faster than the old one and I experienced no lag. Lag was an issue for some with Astropad Standard (which is still around).

Astropad Studio is also made to work with any keyboard, so you can use keyboard shortcuts, with one hand on the keyboard and other other on your Pencil.

Magic Gestures are fully customizable and involve that ring, your finger, and the Apple Pencil. Here I’m conjuring the Eraser Tool.

astropad gesture

Using a Magic Gesture while taking a photo of using it (awkward!)

You can move the ring around, press on or hold. Pressing and holding it only brought up the choice of full screen or 100%. But there are ways of setting the amount of screen to use. You can also move and zoom.

You might zoom in on the iPad Pro to work, then zoom out to see the result. I’m not crazy about two screens, and frankly I prefer to just draw on one. But when doing art with a lot of detail, it really helps to see it on a big screen. Seeing art on a big screen not only lets you see any errors you might have made when drawing, and focus on parts individually.

What kind of monthly updates can we expect? According to Astropad, in the works are functions such as a personalized pressure curve. Not sure we can expect such dramatic moves every month, but that’s OK. In a way I like to know what to expect from an app–but this is ready to deliver a lot even if we don’t know exactly what’s in store. (Let’s just hope they don’t keep redoing parts of the UI, a habit that gets to me with Adobe stuff.)

If you’d rather just draw on the iPad Pro alone, Astropad isn’t necessary. But if you want to see your work on a bigger screen, it does get closer to a Cintiq or other graphics tablet. Some might find it doesn’t completely replace a Cintiq, because a Cintiq has that toothy texture, and lets you customize more programs. But the release of Astropad Studio certainly brings a high level of professionalism to the Astropad workflow.

For Windows users, there’s still Duet Display.

Is it worth the extra cost to invest in Astropad Studio over Astropad Standard? The yearly fee right now is about $65, or you can pay monthly and pay a bit more. You get a monthly update with the subscription. I dislike the idea of subscription-based software, but it’s the world we live in. The monthly update assures you’ll be getting the latest features as soon as they come out.

Is Astropad Studio worth the upgrade?

I found Astropad Studio works as advertised. If you’re a frequent use of Astropad with Photoshop, Illustrator, or Clip Studio Paint, I think Studio is worth the extra investment. If you’re using other programs, you might be okay with Standard, which also allows you to use the iPad Pro. I suggest you download the free trial of Studio, or both, and decide.

end of Astropad Studio review

tablet pro app review

Conquer your workflow with Tablet Pro Windows app

tablet pro app review

Tablet Pro app lets you ditch the keyboard and mouse

Tablet Pro, an app accessible from the Windows Store, offers on-screen touch controls that can make you work more efficiently, potentially trimming hours from your workflow. We don’t hear a whole lot about Windows apps, and some tablet PC users may have never even visited the Windows Store. But now there’s a good reason to.

The app allows you to ditch your mouse and keyboard and work on the couch or anyplace, because all the controls are moved to the screen. You can program dozens of keyboard shortcuts, use gestures and a digital trackpad, zoom way into any part of the desktop, and use pen and touch simultaneously. More info and videos can be found on the company’s Web site.

Developed by Takashi Yamamoto and Justice Frangipane, the app was once called Tablet PC Mouse.  Its features have expanded to make it a must-use for serious digital artists who want to get control over the Windows touchscreen.

Installing Tablet Pro from the Windows Store

The app works on any device running Windows 10 or 8.1 with multitouch–it will work on pen-only touchscreen computers, but you won’t be able to use gestures.

There are two stages to installation–first the app, then the desktop program. Both are free and provide the touchscreen trackpad with basic gestures. There are also several optional paid features. You get an automatic 14-day free trial of the whole package upon downloading the desktop program. If you continue, you can purchase the package or buy them a la carte.

The Artist Pad is the feature that would be of most interest for readers. Here’ s a quick look.

Artist Pad on-screen menu

I highly recommend that you sign up for the free “14-day challenge” email series where Justice walks you through each step via video.

Tablet PC headaches solved

If you use a tablet PC, you’ve probably experienced the conundrum–a tablet ought to offer mobility, but you end up having to use a keyboard to access shortcuts, as well as a mouse and trackpad to move the cursor.

With a convertible tablet PC, you may end up using an extra keyboard because your computer’s keyboard becomes inaccessible in tablet mode, or, you may be using a clamshell laptop and leaning over the keyboard in order to reach the screen–you may even be working “upside-down” to avoid reaching your arm over the keyboard to access the screen. Or you may use a detached tablet on the couch or on a plane, with the keyboard awkwardly next to you on your lap. No more acrobatics are needed–Tablet Pro solves these headaches.

There is precedent for improving productivity via on-screen controls– the Vaio  Z Canvas has a shortcut menu, and there’s Radial Menu, which expands on Wacom’s radial menu. (See all these methods in this post about best tablet computer hacks), but Tablet Pro goes much farther, giving you dozens of shortcuts and layout options.

The main timesaver is reducing the amount your hand has to travel to access tools. All those little seconds add up.

Krita demo using the app

Seeing is speeding

One common annoyance is that Adobe icons scale to such a small size. You will be be able to see them larger when using the app. And because you can increase the size of buttons, “fat finger syndrome” is abolished.

You can also use touch to adjust volume and brightness, and swipe between desktop and your projects, and swipe through slideshows. I especially like the ability to zoom in not just in art programs, but to anything. It’s like having a skin over Windows 10 that makes it do just what you want.

With a Cintiq, the hotkeys, buttons in the tablet body that let you program keyboard shortcuts, rank highly for the way they increase productivity. Now you can have shortcuts on any tablet PC using any digitizer, such as the Surface Pro, which uses N-trig.

The Four Parts of Tablet Pro

The four paid desktop features are Artist pad, Zoom Desktop, Virtual Mouse and Gesture, and Game Pad. I would suggest Artist Pad as a minimum, but I also really like Virtual Mouse and Gesture and Zoom Desktop. It’s helpful to be able to zoom in on anything on your desktop. It’s cheaper to install the whole shebang than just do three features without Game Pad. (And you could use Game Pad to program shortcuts as well.)

Artist Pad preset panel with Photoshop

This screenshot shows you one of the presets for the Artist Pad. You can see that the pad can be transparent , and you can also bring up on-screen keypad and make that transparent.

tabletproreview

Because the app does so much, there is some complexity in setting it up, especially the more advanced features. The primary users of those will be animators and artists with a complex workflow. Following the 14-day challenge will increase your understanding of its many features, and if you’re a quick study, there’s an option to go through the videos faster than the 14 days.

Not all artists need keyboard shortcuts; even if they’re not for you, the app is useful for different work styles and even for non-art use. A lot of businesses work on tablets now, and Tablet Pro is currently being used by thousands in hospitals, casinos, by U.S. government land/property assessors, special-effects studios, professional artists and designers, and more. With 2-in-1s becoming the norm among the public, it makes sense to have on-screen controls that go beyond just the built-in on-screen keyboard.

Tablet Pro lets you customize the Windows interface, lose the mouse and keyboard, and enjoy Cintiq-like hotkey functions. It may be just what you’ve been waiting for.

Here it is in the Windows Store.

Astropad 2.0 faster now: use iPad Pro as Cintiq

For those anxiously awaiting, today’s the day the new Astropad 2.0 is being released. Some improvements:

The Liquid engine, developed by Astropad, is now 3x faster and the company has managed to lower the pixelation by a while lot. The polling rate is much faster to correct issues with latency and improve images. It’s also now using way less memory so you can work longer and not run down your power so quickly. The pressure curve has been improved. Gestures are now available on more programs., including ArtRage, Clip Studio Paint, Mischief, Affinity Designer and Photo, Lightroom, and Sketcbook. You can now auto-hide the cursor. And, the UI has been given an overhaul.

Astropad turns your iPad or iPad Pro into a Cintiq-like input device and allows you to use any programs that are on your Mac. It’s available at the iTunes store. For OSX only.

 

Duet Display app turns iPad into “Cintiq” for Mac or Windows

Duet Display turns iPad into a “Cintiq” for Mac or Windows

Like the Astropad app, Duet Display is an app, created by former Apple engineers, that turns your iPad or iPhone into an input device or second monitor, and it’s now made for both Mac and PC. It works without lag because uses a USB connection rather than Wi-fi. (you can use your Lightning Connector to USB).

First, you download it to your Mac or Windows PC from the Duet Display site, then go to the iTunes store to download the app for iPad. It works with all iPads running iOS7 and up, and all Mac and Windows computers (laptops and desktops) running OS X 10.9 or Windows 7 and later (though I have written them to get clarification on whether it’s OK for Windows 10 as their site says 8.1, so I will update this post after I hear back). Apparently, using a Retina MacBook with it can spike CPU usage.

You can still use graphics tablets and Cintiqs attached to the computer at the same time.

With the Duet, the iPad still won’t give you pressure sensitivity or palm rejection unless you use certain drawing styluses and apps; these use Bluetooth.

More info at duetdisplay.com.

Astropad: Turn your iPad into a Cintiq?

Astropad app gives your iPad Cintiq-like powers

This week saw the Astropad app launch. Its pitch is that it can “turn your iPad into a professional graphics tablet.” Now your iPad becomes an input device.
It works over wifi or a USB. It can handle up to 60 frames per second, fast enough for animation and video (though not for sophisticated gaming, but you wouldn’t create or play those on the iPad).
ipadcintiq

To use Astropad, you need a Mac that runs 10.9 (Mavericks) or later and any iPad running iOS 8. Watch a video here.

It’s using your iPad as a graphics tablet/input device–so what’s on your Mac will be mirrored on your iPad.

Pressure sensitivity is dependent on your having the iPad styluses that are best for art, as well as the apps that give you the sensitivity.

Besides regular iPads, it works with the iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil.

If you use an iPad Pro, you’re getting a lot of the functionality of a Cintiq, though it doesn’t do all the same things.

It would be nice if Apple itself made more iPad and Mac compatibility, but it took the Astropad developers, who run an independent studio, to do it. Perhaps next comes a way of hooking up Android tablets.

You can download a 7-day trial from the Apple store.

Duet Display is an iPad app that’s similar but works with both Windows and Mac.