Ink and Slide: Adobe’s Stylus Revolution

| In-Depth Review

Ink's Little Friends: Line & Sketch

Adobe Line (free) is more of a precision drawing app for the iPad that's also great for drafting work. It includes a small handful of brushes: two pencils, two ink pens, two markers, and an eraser. All are customizable, so they offer more versatility than appears at first, but are limited compared to many other drawing apps.

Line supports importing images from your iPad's built-in camera or from your saved photos, which is handy if you want to trace, and can make for cool effects if you want to include a pic in your drawing. Imported images can be placed on a background layer so they remain untouched, and you can change the layer's opacity to make photos disappear so all you see is your drawing. Placed images can be resized and rotated, too.

Adobe Line, where I kept drawing cartoonsAdobe Line, where I kept drawing cartoons

Both Line and Sketch really show off Ink and Slide's power because you can use the two devices together, and you can take advantage of Ink's ability to copy content and place it in a different drawing, or even jump to a different iPad and place the content there. You can also tag items you've drawn as favorites so they're always loaded in your Ink and ready to use.

I found Ink's copy and paste function to be great when I was working with multiple documents in a single app, or when jumping between apps on the same iPad. When I copied on my iPad Air and pasted on my first generation non-Retina iPad mini, however, the copy failed.

That fail wasn't just an "Oh, that didn't work" moment. The process seemed to work at first, but Line would stall with a "Pasting" dialog on screen and eventually I'd have to jump out of the app, swipe it out of the active apps list, and then relaunch. On relaunch, whatever I pasted would appear momentarily, then vanish never to be seen again.

I also noticed in-app copying grabbed from the top layer only and didn't include the background. That's not an issue and actually is exactly how I expected the feature to work. If you aren't familiar with layer-based copying from apps like Photoshop, however, that could come as a surprise.

Despite the frustration I experienced with cross-device copy and paste, Lines turned out to be a versatile app. Working with the perspective grid, especially with Slide, was easy and I was able to draw buildings that didn't look like cartoons.

In the hands of someone that's more skilled in drafting, this can be a killer app. Imagine being able to draw professional looking building ideas for clients and coworkers in a coffee shop or meeting room with nothing more than an iPad, Ink, and Slide. Once done, you can send the drawings to your camera roll, email them off, send them to your Creative Cloud account, or share them on Behance.

Line's simplicity is one of its greatest assets. It has enough tools to get the job done, but isn't so overloaded that it becomes intimidating to learn and use.

Where Adobe Line is more of a detail-oriented drawing app, Adobe Sketch (free) focuses on a more free form style. Like Line, Sketch includes a limited tool set: a graphite pencil, a pen, two markers, and an eraser. You can adjust each tool's size, opacity and color, so they do offer some versatility. Add in Ink's pressure sensitive control and there's a lot you can do with each.

Sketch supports Slide, so you can create straight lines, curves and geometric shapes, and apply stamps just as you do in Line. While I'm more of a free form drawing kind of guy I found myself going back to Lines more often simply because I felt I had more control over the drawing tools. That's purely subjective, so be sure to give both a fair shake.

Adobe Sketch, where I kept drawing geometric shapesAdobe Sketch, where I kept drawing geometric shapes

My first impression with Sketch was, "Hey, this is a lot like Paper by FiftyThree." It really does have a Paper feel, although not so much that I'm ready to give it up.

Exporting your artwork from Line and Sketch is fairly simple: just tap the export button and choose how you want to share your file. The "Get Feedback" option sends your art to Behance where you can solicit comments, "Copy Image to Creative Cloud" sends your file to your Creative Cloud account, and "Share" brings up iOS 7's built-in options such as AirDrop, text message, Mail and print.

Exporting is a critical feature in any art-related app, so I'm glad to see Adobe embracing so many options. Unfortunately, I found a couple big issues: First, exported images have an off white mottled background, so selecting and deleting is a little more involved than a quick click with Photoshop's magic wand tool. Second, Lines doesn't export to vector formats. That's a big omission considering the app is all about lines, and I'm betting plenty of Ink and Slide users want to move their art from the iPad into Illustrator.

On one hand, I was surprised Adobe didn't offer support for saving images to other online services such as Dropbox or Google Drive. On the other hand, this is all about Adobe's ecosystem, so that means any online service you want is fine as long as it's Creative Cloud.

Both Line and Sketch periodically ask me to re-login to my Creative Cloud account on launch. The apps remembered my user name and password, so reconnecting to my CC account took just a single tap, but it is another minor annoyance... except for when it's a big annoyance. Every so often I'd see a dialog telling me my Creative Cloud session expired and I'd have to reenter my user name and password.

Requiring an Adobe login makes sense because Ink and its companion apps use Creative Cloud as a conduit to keep your files up to date across all your devices. The constant requirement to re-login, however, doesn't make for a user friendly experience.

Get used to this screen: You'll see it a lot in Line and SketchGet used to this screen: You'll see it a lot in Line and Sketch

The forced login also comes with an inexcusable fail for Adobe: Without an Internet connection you can't sign in, which means you can't use the apps -- something I found that out when I tried to use Sketch in the mountains without Internet access. There isn't any reason why these apps should require Internet just to draw; this is why apps save files locally and sync when they can. If I were rating these apps independently of Ink and Slide they'd earn only a two-power-button score based on that alone.

I was also disappointed with the palm rejection feature in both apps. When it was on, I had trouble getting editing gestures for undo and zoom to work reliably, and I routinely found myself tossed out to the app switcher view. I ended up turning off palm rejection and pulled out my trusty home made iPad palm rest. Adobe can win back my trust in the feature with a future update.

Adobe Line and Adobe Sketch work without Ink and Slide, too, although they're more useful with the stylus and ruler combo. The apps include a software version of Slide which makes it easy to try out its features without investing in the hardware. The software-based Slide is also handy if you leave the real one behind when you're away from your desk.

I have plenty of complaints about Line and Sketch, but overall I'm pleased with both apps -- especially considering they're version 1 releases. I expect both will improve over time and will turn into go-to apps for plenty of artists and designers.

Next Up: Is Adobe Ink and Slide worth the price?

Product: Adobe Ink and Slide

Company: Adobe

List Price: $199

Pros:

Great design, comfortable, durable, includes stylus carrying case. Customizable stylus light color is a nice touch. Creative Cloud makes moving drawings between devices easy.

Cons:

Limited support outside Adobe Line and Sketch, poor app performance on original iPad mini. Stylus tip feels like plastic on glass. Routine re-logins for Creative Cloud are a big annoyance.

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Comments

super stars

I have ordered Adobe Ink and were waiting for shipment. I am eager to have the new fantasic stylus to have a trial with MyBrushes App on iPad. http://mybrushes-app.com/MyBrushes-Pro.html

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