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Review: Adobe Ink and Slide: iPad Drawing Comes of Age

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When Adobe showed off its Project Mighty & Napoleon stylus and ruler concepts last year, I was excited, but not certain they’d ever become real products. I’ve been on a quest for a decent iPad stylus for years. There are many styli on the market, but I’ve still never used a good one that combined precision with pressure sensitivity. Adobe has finally solved this with the new Ink and Slide drawing tools, the first products from the company’s new Creative Hardware initiative.

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At the center of the two component package is the Ink, a beautifully manufactured digital stylus made in a twisted triangle shape from a hydroformed aluminum tube. This creates a stylus that is both substantial and lightweight, and feels great in the hand.

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Unlike most iPad styli, the Adobe Ink has a precision tip instead of one of those eraser sized ones. Proprietary tracking technology in the pen’s tip allows Adobe to detect its exact position, relaying that data to the iPad via Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy tech. This makes it compatible with the iPad 4, Air, Mini, and iPad Mini Retina. Though the CPU in the iPad 3 isn’t powerful enough to keep up. Connecting the Ink to your iPad is as simple as opening a menu in Adobe’s drawing apps, and tapping the pen on the connection button. Battery life for the Ink is quite good, providing 8 to 10 hours of use per charge. Speaking of charging, the Ink slides into a protective recharging sleeve with a MicroUSB port when not in use.

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In addition to positional data, the pen captures pressure information, which provides a tremendous amount of creative freedom, and the closest the iPad has ever come to natural drawing media. In my experience drawing and painting with the Ink, it’s about as close to a Wacom Cintiq tablet as I’ve come on a iPad.

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To complement the Ink is the Slide – a device which lets you easily draw straight lines on the screen of your tablet. Simply place the Slide on screen, and it instantly displays guidelines you can trace with the pen. When using the Slide, you also get automatic snap points on screen which makes it really easy to connect points for drawing polygons and the like.

But this is the digital world, so Slide is much more than a ruler. It can be used to place any of a myriad of shapes on screen. It offers two drawing modes: one which lets you trace the outline of the shape, or another which lets you stamp objects on screen. These tools also work with different brush types, for some really creative effects. There are a number of included tracing and stamp templates, and Adobe plans on offering more down the line. At this point, you can’t create your own reusable shape templates, but that’s something Adobe is working on as well.

The devices work in concert with two free iOS apps, Adobe Line – a full-featured drawing tool which takes advantage of all of the features of both Ink and Slide, and Adobe Sketch, which is more for casual sketching and collage work, and encourages sharing images on Adobe’s Behance art and design community. Both apps provide plentiful tools to draw just about anything you can imagine, and they’re work even if you choose not to buy the Ink and Slide – using finger touches and pinch/zoom gestures for input. In addition to Adobe’s apps, an SDK is in the works to allow other application developers to access the capabilities of the Ink and Slide.

Using Adobe’s apps requires a free Creative Cloud membership, and this allows you to automatically store and sync all of your drawings to the cloud for easy access from your desktop computer, or transport drawings to other tablets. Keep in mind that images opened in Photoshop or Illustrator are rasterized, not vector art – though this is something I hope to see down the road.

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Overall, I really am in love with Adobe Ink and Slide, and will definitely be buying one for myself. I finally have an iPad stylus that just feels natural, and as a bonus I’ve got this amazing bit of tactile tech which lets me draw shapes as if I were using a drafting table. I can’t recommend these devices highly enough to anyone who enjoys using technology to augment their creativity.

Sold as a set, the Adobe Ink and Slide are available for order starting today for $199.99(USD), exclusively from the Adobe website.







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