The iPad Pro is a clutch drawing tool for when you’re on the go, but it’s missing a lot of the pro software that working artists require to get their job done. Astropad, a company that has focused on making second-screen software for iPad to use with a connected Mac, is debuting Astropad Studio today, a new version of its software that adds a lot of customizable options to Astropad’s basic screen mirroring features to make it a much more powerful replacement for expensive graphics hardware like Wacom’s Cintiq tablets.
Astropad’s newest software offers full pressure sensitivity support for Apple Pencil, very low latency (there’s some, very slight lag you’ll notice when sketching quickly) and great visual fidelity. It works either over Wifi or connected via USB cable, though you’ll probably want to stick with the later if you’re actually hoping to use this for pro purposes.
Other apps offer similar features – the closest competitor for Astropad Studio is Duet Display, but while that app does support Apple Pencil and pressure sensitive input, it’s designed more as another display to extend your desktop than Studio, which is pretty definitively focused on offering graphics pros tools designed to fit their specific needs.
These include not only Pencil support and performance, but also customizable quick actions and shortcuts, enabled via touch input, and combining touch input with Pencil. You can quickly undo or erase, for instance, just by adding taps to your workflow, and you can tweak these specific shortcuts to whatever you want.
Astropad Studio connects to a client on your Mac (which you download separately) and lets you select a portion of your existing display or displays to define as the interaction surface for use on your iPad Pro. A small disc icon on the iPad screen allows you to tweak the shortcut settings and check for additional commands. The commands available are terrific, like universal undo and redo combos, and an easy way to erase by simply leaving one finger on the screen and using the Pencil as you normally would.
In practice, Astropad Studio is a very capable alternative to a dedicated graphics tablet. I used it right next to a Wacom Cintiq 13HD, and though the Wacom does feel a bit more instantly responsive, for a lot of users, the practical difference between the two wouldn’t justify the cost difference. Astropad Studio requires a $7.99 monthly or $64.99 yearly subscription, but with math you get settings sync, additional support and a promise from Astropad that it’ll be updated monthly with new features and improvements.
If you’re an iPad Pro user you’re probably keen to make the most of your Pencil options, and Astropad Studio definitely accomplishes that, plus there’s a 7-day free trial so you can make sure it suits your needs.