Review: Adobe Ink and Slide

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2015
A few months ago, digital media monolith Adobe introduced its first foray into hardware with Ink and Slide, a stylish stylus and ruler combo with forward-thinking features and a sleek design. AppleInsider was able to take both for a test drive.




Adobe products have for many years been artists' go-to choice in drawing, image editing, movie making and more. In 2013, the firm announced plans to dabble in hardware with Project Mighty and Napoleon, a cloud-connected tablet stylus and unique digital drafting ruler designed for iPad, a project ultimately culminated in Ink and Slide.

Design

The Ink and Slide set was created in partnership with Ammunition, an industrial design firm founded by former Apple Director of Industrial Design Robert Brunner. Targeted at iPad users, Adobe's take on the modern stylus unsurprisingly involves a lot of brushed aluminum, soft curves and a minimalist user interface limiting buttons to one per accessory.




For Ink, Adobe hydro-formed an elongated triangular prism with a gradual counterclockwise twist running down its length from tip to end. Users who apply a "standard" grip should find the design ergonomic, allowing for extended drawing sessions without the fatigue associated with thinner, round styli.

Unlike other art-minded digital pens, like FiftyThree's Pencil, Ink's fine tip is made of smooth plastic, offering little resistance against an iPad's glossy screen. The stylus makes up for a distinct lack of tactile feedback by offering multiple levels of pressure-sensitive control using Adonit Pixelpoint technology, another partner in Adobe's venture.

A single multifunction button on the tip end operates on/off controls, syncing, brings up a radial menu in Adobe's drawing apps and can be used to invoke cloud-connected functions like capturing and sending a sketch to Creative Cloud. On the opposite end is an LED indicator bordered by silver electrical contacts that magnetically connect to Ink's USB charger case.




Slide, the other half of Adobe's accessory duo, is a small rectangular "digital ruler" crafted from plastic and topped with the same aluminum material as Ink. Taking on the shape of an elongated arch, Slide cleverly hides three magnets in its two feet -- two in front, one in back -- to create a multitouch input that activates a special ruler user interface in each of Adobe's three drawing apps.




Unlike Ink, Slide is completely battery-free. Adobe's apps recognize Slide's capacitive points, one on each foot, while a single button on top closes an internal circuit, activating a third point of contact that pulls up ruler-specific app commands.

While constructed out of fairly sturdy materials, Ink and Slide's plastic bits are prone to surface scratches. Ink can be carried safely in its charging case, but unless users tote around a separate bag, Slide's facade will quickly accumulate a battle-worn patina.

Setup and use

Getting started with Ink and Slide is a process similar to FiftyThree's Pencil. Pairing the Bluetooth-enabled Ink is accomplished completely in-app through a "tap-and-hold" gesture. From there, users can personalize their stylus by selecting grip style and drawing position for palm rejection settings. Adobe also lets users choose Ink's LED display color, a nice feature for workplaces using more than one stylus.

Ink

Being a cloud-connected device, Ink needs to be associated with an Adobe account to reach its full advertised potential. Syncing with a free account, Ink can pull in content from Adobe's cloud clipboard, color palettes from Adobe Color CC (n?e Kuler) and transfer personal settings to other iPads.




With a fine-tip nib, Ink performs much the same as other styli in its class, smoothly gliding over iPad's glass. In our experience, however, other stylus/app combos achieve greater precision. For example, we were able to wiggle Ink's tip back and forth across a span of nearly half an inch before Adobe's apps registered the lateral movement.

Lag was also a problem, often hindering fine line work or detailed inking. Applying slower motions helped things considerably, but we were disappointed that we had to adapt our drawing style to let Adobe's hardware keep up.


A push of Ink's button reveals a pop-up radial menu.


Pressure-sensitive strokes work as advertised, but distinct levels are vague, making it difficult to gauge anything besides hard and soft strokes. Compared to professional kit like Wacom's Intuos or Cintiq systems, Adobe's Ink is left wanting.

Despite a few shortcomings, we were impressed with Ink's cloud connectivity, especially saving projects to clipboard. Pressing Ink's button brings up a contextual radial menu for picking brushes and specialized app tools, sharing options, color palettes and accessing Adobe cloud assets. Press and hold the button, then long tap on the iPad's screen to automatically send whatever is on the canvas to Creative Cloud's clipboard.


Ink's save to clipboard function works with Creative Cloud.


Slide

Slide is a unique tool for interacting with Adobe's apps; a secondary accessory largely foreign to digital artists. With Slide, users can easily trace straight lines, scalable shapes and more with unparalleled accuracy.




As Slide makes contact with an iPad's screen, traceable guide lines present themselves to either side of the ruler. Depending on app settings, Slide's GUI lines can snap to other objects or points in a drawing, a feature particularly useful when laying down geometric shapes.

Clicking Slide's button cycles through preselected shape packages like french curves, iconographic line drawings and other simple but useful forms. French curves are particularly well suited to creating detailed line work.




Apps

For now, Ink and Slide owners are limited to three apps: Line for creating rich line drawings, Sketch for putting down quick sketches and paintings and Draw for inking and fine detail work. Each app boasts a unique assortment of tools, for example Line includes drafting assets and automatic adjustable grids, but all three feel too stripped down for professional work.




Each app supports sharing features tied to Adobe's Creative Cloud platform, which actually comes in handy when switching between iPad and a proper computer. Sending out drafts for revision and editing in Illustrator as vector paths or inclusion in Photoshop projects is seamless, but of course a subscription to Adobe's app suite is required to fully tap into Ink and Slide's potential.

Conclusion

Ink and Slide represent an interesting step forward in accessory design. Ink's cloud-connected capabilities have the potential to bring immense flexibility to a piece of hardware often seen as a "dumb" or dispensable tool, but as it stands, Adobe's restrictive ecosystem is more of a handicap than a feature. Once Adobe gets its mobile software suite going, we can see Ink and Slide playing a more substantial role, just not at this time.

Slide is a novel idea, however, and we enjoyed being able to draw straight lines and, more importantly, accurate curves with ease. Its physical form factor makes for a more natural drawing experience when compared to software driven line tracing solutions. Adobe needs to focus on how Ink and Slide interact on-screen, however, as it is at times difficult to determine where a line will start and stop without a cursor or other visual indicator.




For $175, Ink and Slide is not a cheap investment by any means and the package looks less attractive when stacked against competing styli from Wacom or even Adobe's partner Adonit. Adobe's accessories are perhaps best suited for casual artists, as the system is likely not accurate or intuitive enough for pro users. At least not with the current set of available apps.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

image

Pros:
  • Well designed with premium materials
  • Slide digital ruler is an intriguing concept
  • Cloud connectivity enables multi-platform use
Cons:
  • Limited app selection
  • Lack of precision, noticeable lag for Ink
  • Expensive

Where to buy

Ink and Slide is available for $174.99 from Adobe's website, with orders processed and fulfilled by Adonit.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 20
    thepixeldocthepixeldoc Posts: 2,257member
    [QUOTE][B][COLOR=blue]For $175,[/COLOR][/B] Ink and Slide is not a cheap investment by any means and the package looks less attractive when stacked against competing styli from Wacom or even Adobe's partner Adonit. [B][COLOR=blue]Adobe's accessories are perhaps [S]best[/S] NOT suited for casual artists,[/COLOR][/B] as the system is likely not accurate or intuitive enough for pro users. At least not with the current set of available apps.[/QUOTE]

    Fixed it for ya... certainly at that price or usability!

    A waste of time and resources that Adobe has, but doesn't utilize to do something truly rewarding and useful for the majority of it's users i.e. subscribers to it's suite.
  • Reply 2 of 20
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,613member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    Earlier this year

    Really?

  • Reply 3 of 20
    zabazaba Posts: 226member
    Useless cack a fine accompaniment to its premium bloatware.
  • Reply 4 of 20
    analogjackanalogjack Posts: 1,060member
    Compared to using a Wacom tablet and pen with proper pressure sensitivity and no lag, this would be like flossing your teeth wearing ski gloves.
  • Reply 5 of 20
    inklinginkling Posts: 731member
    In my work%u2014writing, editing and laying out books with InDesign%u2014I don't need these tools, but I am impressed that price is reasonable. When I first heard about them, I thought $200 would be a good price. They're selling for $175. In a world where Apple charges almost $70 for their not very useful Magic Mouse, that's a good price.

    Keep in mind that these are 1.0 products, while Wacom has been creating these tools since the early 1980s. Adobe does believe in constant improvement. Like InDesign, they'll get better. Sometimes its good to join at wave at its beginning. I know I wished I'd began my publishing with early versions of InDesign rather than taking a detour through Word and Framemaker.

    And both the Adobe and Wacom products should get a boost sometime this year when Apple (hopefully) releases an iPad Pro, with a much larger screen. Graphics designers need more display space than even the largest tablets provide now.
  • Reply 6 of 20
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,835member
    inkling wrote: »
    In my work%u2014writing, editing and laying out books with InDesign%u2014I don't need these tools, but I am impressed that price is reasonable. When I first heard about them, I thought $200 would be a good price. They're selling for $175. In a world where Apple charges almost $70 for their not very useful Magic Mouse, that's a good price.

    Keep in mind that these are 1.0 products, while Wacom has been creating these tools since the early 1980s. Adobe does believe in constant improvement. Like InDesign, they'll get better. Sometimes its good to join at wave at its beginning. I know I wished I'd began my publishing with early versions of InDesign rather than taking a detour through Word and Framemaker.

    And both the Adobe and Wacom products should get a boost sometime this year when Apple (hopefully) releases an iPad Pro, with a much larger screen. Graphics designers need more display space than even the largest tablets provide now.

    "In my work%u2014writing" ... Just curious, being a professional writer I am sure you can explain, were you trying to print unsigned decimal type there or is it some secret message? ;)

    I bet musicians are drooling over a larger iPad too.
  • Reply 7 of 20
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,415member
    More interesting is the fact that Adobe is now making hardware. The product itself doesn't particularly interest me.
  • Reply 8 of 20
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Inkling View Post

     Adobe does believe in constant improvement.

     

    Not from what I've heard and experienced.

  • Reply 9 of 20
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,589member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Inkling View Post



    In my work%u2014writing, editing and laying out books with InDesign%u2014I don't need these tools, but I am impressed that price is reasonable. When I first heard about them, I thought $200 would be a good price. They're selling for $175. In a world where Apple charges almost $70 for their not very useful Magic Mouse, that's a good price.



    Keep in mind that these are 1.0 products, while Wacom has been creating these tools since the early 1980s. Adobe does believe in constant improvement. Like InDesign, they'll get better. Sometimes its good to join at wave at its beginning. I know I wished I'd began my publishing with early versions of InDesign rather than taking a detour through Word and Framemaker.



    And both the Adobe and Wacom products should get a boost sometime this year when Apple (hopefully) releases an iPad Pro, with a much larger screen. Graphics designers need more display space than even the largest tablets provide now.

    At the moment there are no really good styles solutions for the iPad. There are many styli out there but none that work satisfactorily on current iPads. Check out the Procreate boards and see the sorry state of affairs. Many artists can still create amazing works by using work arounds (turning off pressure sensitivity, is one), or by using more basic styli. Using fat soft rubber tipped, or disk based pens just doesn't cut it in my book. Lag and off-set and wobbly diagonal lines are also deal killers. My hope is that a future iPad Pro will allow artists and designers and anyone else who require a precise and responsive input device can have it their way.

  • Reply 10 of 20
    inkling wrote: »
     Adobe does believe in constant improvement.

    Not from what I've heard and experienced.

    Couldn't agree more. I avoid their products whenever I can.
  • Reply 11 of 20
    satchmosatchmo Posts: 2,699member
    Quote:

    Once Adobe gets its mobile software suite going, we can see Ink and Slide playing a more substantial role, just not at this time.

     
     


    At the recent Adobe Max conference, they announced Adobe Illustrator Draw for the iPad. It's not a professional application without bezier tools but rather brushes that create vectors editable only through Illustrator CC. 

     

    However also announced Adobe Illustrator for the Surface 3.  Given the better active display, I'm not surprised. That said, I've read grabbing onto bezier points can be difficult on the Surface's tiny hi-res display. 

     

    If Apple wants to play in the professional space, they'll need to get a proper digitizer on that rumoured 12" iPad Pro. Then maybe we'll get real apps on iOS. Until then, use a Wacom. 

  • Reply 12 of 20
    shsfshsf Posts: 302member

    own it, the review is well put, but the cons are a bit drawn out, great piece of kit. 

     

    edit: sorry for the telegraphic style of input, damn carpal syndrome...

  • Reply 13 of 20
    Creativity at Adobe died when Warnock retired and the bean counters took over. These days their only focus is monetization, coming up with shite nobody wants (creative cloud) and forcing it down people's throat.
  • Reply 14 of 20
    ecatsecats Posts: 272member
    I use Ink Slide with Draw, Line & Sketch along with FiftyThree's Pencil with Paper. I can say with absolute conviction that using Ink Slide is slow, frustrating, laggy and self-defeating. (I'm using an iPad Air 2.)

    Firstly the palm rejection technology simply does not work in. Not even a little bit.

    Secondly the Adobe software lags noticeable which results in it ignoring quick or lighter strokes. This limits the potential of Ink's pressure sensitivity and makes it impossible to write hand notes onto sketches without losing letters/shape fidelity. Working in the Adobe apps is a painfully slow process full of unexpected tedium.

    Personally I also found the hardness of the tip frustrating, it taps against the screen and tends to slip across the glass surface of the iPad's screen instead of a smooth glide.

    While Paper from FiftyThree is not as widely featured as the adobe tools, the features it does have are generally far better implemented. (Like being able to smudge with your finger, while the Pencil will draw/paint.) Overall it's a much more refined package where I can spend a lot of time in drawer's concentration without being subjected to a technical glitch like ignored, laggy or incorrect stylus strokes. The stylus also feels better to use with the rubbery tip moving naturally across the screen and the faux eraser on the back of Pencil intelligently knowing if i'm erasing with the thin or thick side of the eraser. (Pencil has a rectangular profile similar to a carpenters pencil.)
  • Reply 15 of 20
    Question, Does apple need to change the hardware for the stylus to be more useful. Or is there more investment in the stylus products like this. What could Apple or other tablet make do the the hardware to make the experience better for the pro user?
  • Reply 16 of 20

    As we all know the iPad gets better and better with each release but they are running out of ways to take that next huge leap.  You can only get so much thinner, lighter and faster.  I think the next big leap should be development of a precision stylus that performs as well as the Microsoft surface stylus.  

     

    I had a chance to play around with a surface and stylus and I was blow away by how precise their stylus is. It's the only true competitive advantage I think the surface has over the iPad.  I don't know if this would require Apple to completely redesign the hardware in the iPad to incorporate such a stylus, but it would be a big leap forward for pro users.  Note taking via handwriting on the iPad is a tedious endeavor, I've given up on it and I've tried several 3rd party stylus solutions.  This would be a big selling point to me and if it required upgrading my iPad Air I would do it in a heartbeat.  Else I probably won't be updating my Air until it becomes too slow to run the latest apps (which I would think is going to be a few years from now).

     

    I know Apple is all about ease of use and they have shunned the stylus forever, but in order to continue to compete with the pro market that Microsoft is catering to I think this is where they need to go.

  • Reply 17 of 20
    shsfshsf Posts: 302member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by LordJohnWhorfin View Post



    Creativity at Adobe died when Warnock retired and the bean counters took over. These days their only focus is monetization, coming up with shite nobody wants (creative cloud) and forcing it down people's throat.



    I beg to differ here in opinion, I really like what they 've done with cc. 

  • Reply 18 of 20
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by McDavies View Post



    Question, Does apple need to change the hardware for the stylus to be more useful. Or is there more investment in the stylus products like this. What could Apple or other tablet make do the the hardware to make the experience better for the pro user?



    A digitizer on the screen is what is needed from a hardware perspective. You would then not have any of the lag and control issues that the current crop of stylii have.

     

    The Samsung Galaxy Note has one but I read that it is not widely supported by all apps. As with all things Samsung, the implementation leaves a lot to be desired. If it turns up on the iPad Pro I assume Apple will do a much better job with the integration and implementation.

  • Reply 19 of 20
    blah64blah64 Posts: 887member
    Being a cloud-connected device, Ink needs to be associated with an Adobe account to reach its full advertised potential.

    I was reading along with some interest until this part. WTF?!

    Totally agree with LordJohnWhorfin's comment above:
    Creativity at Adobe died when Warnock retired and the bean counters took over. These days their only focus is monetization, coming up with shite nobody wants (creative cloud) and forcing it down people's throat.

    I used to purchase Adobe products, but haven't for years. I'll never purchase a product that won't function without tying into a corporate server (i.e. phoning home, activation, required cloud account, etc.), so this is yet another product of theirs that I won't even look at if they do improve the lag issues in the future. Sorry Adobe, you guys suck.

    SHSF: I beg to differ here in opinion, I really like what they 've done with cc.

    Fine, then I'm happy you can use it. But here's why Adobe sucks: it's not an option to take advantage of those features, it's a requirement. That's complete bullshit. I work in laboratory and other settings where computers do not and never will have internet connectivity. How's that work for the current line of Adobe products? Not very well.

    On a personal note, I'm not interested in ever storing my data on 3rd party servers. It's not public data, and it doesn't belong on public servers. How's that work for the current line of Adobe products? Not very well. I stand by my "they suck" comment, and support LordJohn's as well. It's a corporate mindset, not a technological hurdle, to make products work in ways that benefit customers, not the manufacturer.
  • Reply 20 of 20
    thepixeldocthepixeldoc Posts: 2,257member

    A digitizer on the screen is what is needed from a hardware perspective. You would then not have any of the lag and control issues that the current crop of stylii have.

    The Samsung Galaxy Note has one but I read that it is not widely supported by all apps. As with all things Samsung, the implementation leaves a lot to be desired. <span style="line-height:1.4em;">If it turns up on the iPad Pro I assume Apple will do a much better job with the integration and implementation.</span>

    rattlhed wrote: »
    As we all know the iPad gets better and better with each release but they are running out of ways to take that next huge leap.  You can only get so much thinner, lighter and faster.  I think the next big leap should be development of a precision stylus that performs as well as the Microsoft surface stylus.  

    I had a chance to play around with a surface and stylus and I was blow away by how precise their stylus is. It's the only true competitive advantage I think the surface has over the iPad.  I don't know if this would require Apple to completely redesign the hardware in the iPad to incorporate such a stylus, but it would be a big leap forward for pro users.  Note taking via handwriting on the iPad is a tedious endeavor, I've given up on it and I've tried several 3rd party stylus solutions.  This would be a big selling point to me and if it required upgrading my iPad Air I would do it in a heartbeat.  Else I probably won't be updating my Air until it becomes too slow to run the latest apps (which I would think is going to be a few years from now).

    I know Apple is all about ease of use and they have shunned the stylus forever, but in order to continue to compete with the pro market that Microsoft is catering to I think this is where they need to go.

    mcdavies wrote: »
    Question, Does apple need to change the hardware for the stylus to be more useful. Or is there more investment in the stylus products like this. What could Apple or other tablet make do the the hardware to make the experience better for the pro user?

    To all of the above OPs:

    In order for Apple to do a digitizer/stylus right, they would need to license patents from Wacom... or out right buy them.

    NOTE 1: Both Samsung and Microsoft license from Wacom.

    NOTE 2: This Adobe work-around product is just plain lame, but unfortunately the only way at the moment on Apple devices, until Apple decides to integrate complete programable multi-hand, multi-touch. A product like this begs to be activated and manipulated (rotated, scaled, etc.) with a projected representation rather than a physical product. It's my dream to see a professional solution to this some day, in the form of architectural drafting table sizes, or at least A3 size.

    From the "Daydream Believer"... I'm an old graphics "monkey"... :smokey:
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