Adobe Ink and Slide review: Gadget Watch

Adobe, best known for its Photoshop image editing software, is about to step into the world of hardware. The new package, called Ink and Slide, costs $US200 and promises to turn a humble iPad into a professional graphics design tablet.

Of course, a software company moving into the world of hardware and accessories can be a hit-and-miss affair. Just ask anyone who’s tried using a first-generation Firefox OS smartphone from Mozilla.

So is Adobe’s effort worth writing home about? Let’s find out.

Hardware and features

As the name suggests, the package is made up of a stylus called Ink and a ruler called Slide.

Aside from these, it comes with two iPad apps. The first, named Sketch, is a freehand drawing app. The second, named Line, is a tool for drawing lines. A third app, called Photoshop Mix, is a cut-down version of Photoshop with features such as content-aware fill.

The apps can export their output either to Adobe’s Creative Cloud hosting service, or as a PNG file to Photoshop or Illustrator.

The tools and apps will only work with the Apple iPad at this stage. Meanwhile, an API will be released unleashing the power of Ink and Slide to third-party apps.

What’s the consensus?

Over at Engadget, Billy Steele says a big limitation is that – at this point – it does not automatically beam its results into the Mac desktop versions of Photoshop and Illustrator:

Adobe’s Sketch and Line make it much easier to get tablet sketches into desktop apps like Photoshop and Illustrator quickly. Once there, though, you’ll have to contend with a PNG file — at least for now. This means that you’ll still have to convert drawings vector artwork manually just like you have scanned in a sketch on paper. It’s an even bigger bummer when you get your clean lines just right in Line only to have to retrace them again to make a workable vector graphic. If my work in that app could be beamed straight to Illustrator as vector art, Ink and Slide would instantly have a place in my mobile workflow, especially for things like branding projects with loads of iterations.

I can’t justify spending the $200 on Ink and Slide until I can create and send vector graphics from my iPad for use in Illustrator on the desktop. Some creative types may get a lot of use out of the duo in their current state, but I’ll have to wait for those other apps and expanded file support to arrive.

Over at Gizmodo, Michael Hession is impressed with the feel of the devices:

As styluses go, Ink is certainly beautiful and comfortable to hold. It’s ultra-light and ultra-rigid thanks to the unique three-sided shape. Adobe partnered with Adonit to manufacture the stylus, which has a pen-like tip, not like the broad rubber cushion of most styluses… Slide, meanwhile, is a joy to use. Most drawing apps lack a really user-friendly straight line method, and Slide fills that gap perfectly. Creating lines and shapes is super intuitive and fast.

Finally, Mac Observer’s Jeff Gamet was impressed by some of the smaller details of Ink and Slide:

Ink connects to your iPad via Bluetooth 4.0 LE. Adobe says it’s compatible with the fourth generation iPad, iPad Air, iPad mini and iPad mini with Retina Display.

Our tests showed Ink held up without any problems and lasted all day long. Charging is quick enough that it’s OK to forget to plug in the Ink before going to bed and power it up the next morning without having to worry about unexpected down time.

Adobe paid attention to the little details with Ink. Along with its cool look and feel, it includes a magnetic charging base. When the stylus is charging, a ring around the base lights up red and then pulses through the colour spectrum once charging is complete.

Should I get one?

Obviously, the ability to input directly into Photoshop and Illustrator would be a great additional feature. If a stylus with this capability is a must-have, it might be worth waiting until version 2.0 – or looking at something else.

With that being said, especially if you’re a graphics designer with $US200 to spare, and don’t mind the early limitations, Ink and Slide looks like a solid first attempt at hardware from Adobe.


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