How to turn your iPad into a pro graphics tablet

Why buy a Cintiq? Astropad enables you to use your iPad as a graphics tablet for your Mac.

If you've always fancied getting hands-on with your design, but found that a Wacom Cintiq is just a little too far out of your price range, there's a new solution that promises to turn your iPad into a professional graphics tablet for your Mac.

Astropad, created by ex-Apple engineers Matt Ronge and Giovanni Donelli, consists of a pair of apps – one for your iPad and one for your Mac – that enables you use your iPad with a pressure-sensitive stylus (or your finger if you prefer) and draw directly onto Photoshop – or any other app you might prefer – on your Mac.

Astropad enables you to put your iPad to work as a fully-fledged graphics tablet

With Astropad you can connect your iPad to your Mac either over your wi-fi network or via USB and use it as a second, touch-sensitive display. Now, we're sure you're aware that you can do that already, either using a services such as LogMeIn or TeamViewer, and there's already an app called Air Stylus that works in a similar way to Astropad; however Astropad promises top-quality performance and stunning image quality.

It works with most Mac apps and even lets you create your own shortcuts

Using its own LIQUID technology developed by Ronge and Donelli, Astropad uses colour correction to ensure that what you see on your iPad is exactly the same as what you see on your Mac, and it aims to keep performance fluid and responsive, using GPU acceleration and special network optimisation to work at up to 60fps (twice as fast as AirPlay) without any loss of image quality, even working on your sofa over Wi-Fi. And to prevent your iPad running out of juice just as you're at the vital part of your design, Astropad's iPad app is written in ARM Assembly code to maximise battery life.

Astropad's colour matching and performance ensure that what you see on your iPad is what you get on your Mac

It's compatible with most pressure-sensitive iPad styluses; Astro HQ recommends either the Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus or the Adonit Jot Touch 4, but warns that more recent models suffer from precision issues that can result in wavy lines, especially on iPad Air 2.

At $49.99 it's not cheap, but you can download Astropad and try it out before you decide to splash the cash, and it still works out less expensive than even a Cintiq 13HD. And while the Cintiq still has the advantage of a bigger display, the much-rumoured iPad Pro is expected to launch within the next few months, with a 12 or even 13 inches of screen.

Words: Jim McCauley

Jim McCauley is a writer, editor and occasional podcaster, and is available for children's parties.

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