Ink & Slide - by Joe Shepter

Ink & Slide

By Joe Shepter

Have you tried to draw with your finger on an iPad? It‘s like using a crayon instead of a fine-tipped pen, and even delicate digits can obscure the line as you draw. While there are loads of styluses for drawing in iPad apps, most can’t come close to the accuracy or expressiveness of pen on paper.  

Ink, a new product from Adobe, not only has that fine tip, but it also comes with pressure sensitivity, an intelligence that recognizes you and your files, and a companion piece of hardware called Slide.


A digital pen and ruler

Think of Ink and Slide as digital versions of a pen and a ruler. Ink lets you draw or write on the surface of an iPad, while Slide makes it easy to draw straight lines, among other things.

But even if the basic functionality of Ink resembles that of a pen, the comparison falls short. Ink and Slide come together in a single package, and several other things set them apart:





They’re beautiful 

According to Geoff Dowd, a principal designer at Adobe, they were “designed for designers.” Ink has a three-sided, hydroformed, anodized aluminum casing — in plain English, it’s a sleek, twisted triangle. Slide is a short, anodized aluminum strip with a single button and two short legs that sit on the surface of the iPad.





No more crayons 

Drawing with Ink feels natural because of its fine tip, its multiple levels of pressure sensitivity, and Bluetooth technology that tells the pen exactly where it is on the iPad surface. 



Slide is totally new 

There are other styluses, but there’s only one digital ruler. Set it on the surface of the iPad, and you can draw perfectly straight lines along its orientation. Press the button and you can also draw perfect arcs, French curves, and shapes like circles and squares. 

“Slide is really simple but very powerful,” says Matt Richmond of the interactive studio The Chopping Block. “It projects a line or shape and then becomes a guide that helps you draw it.”



They’re smart 

Ink and Slide know who you are or, rather, how to find your Adobe Creative Cloud account, with its associated drawing files, photos, brushes, Adobe Kuler themes, and so on. Because it‘s the pen, not the iPad, that communicates securely with your Creative Cloud account, you can access favorites even when you‘re on a different tablet. 

They have software to match

A new app called Adobe Line takes full advantage of the hardware tools. Line has all the zooms, pans, brushes, and quick undos you’d expect from a tablet app. It also links to Creative Cloud, giving you fast access to Kuler, shape libraries, and previous artwork you’ve created. Dowd, for example, keeps his signature as a file and quickly drops it in when he’s finished with a drawing.

Line also knows everything about Slide. That allows you to do some interesting things, like create vanishing points for perspective drawing. You can also bring in and scale complex drawings and models.

The new Adobe Sketch, a drawing app that emphasizes concept sketching and collaboration, works well with Ink. It too is connected to your Creative Cloud account. Additional Ink and Slide savvy apps will follow from Adobe and other vendors. Yes, other vendors — Adobe is sharing the code behind the hardware with companies that want to take advantage of it.


Test drive without the car

Although there’s nothing like having Ink and Slide in your hands, you can download Line and Sketch now as free apps. Once you download Line, you can play with it using a feature called Touch Slide. If you tap the screen with two fingers, it mimics the action of Slide. That way you can draw straight lines and shapes with your fingers and get a feel for how the tools work. You won’t have the precision of Ink, but you’ll be able to take a test-drive.

If you love pen and paper, Adobe would never fault you for that. But you might find that the new technology brings your iPad much closer to a natural drawing experience than you’d expect.

Where to go from here

Interested in learning more? These tutorial videos cover the hardware and software basics:

1. Get Started with Ink & Slide

2. How to do a perspective drawing in Adobe Line

3. How to quickly draw and share concepts in Sketch

If you’re ready to buy the devices (US$199 for the pair), head to the product page.

June 18, 2014

Video: Dan Cowles

360 animation: Robert Blatherwick