Adobe—makers of the ubiquitous Creative Suite software (Dreamweaver, Illustrator, Photoshop, etc.)—ventured into the hardware market this year with a digital-drawing tool set called Ink & Slide, and a select group of SVA graduate students were among the first artists to get their hands on it. All second-year MFA Illustration as Visual Essay students received the kit—which consists of a pen (Ink), ruler (Slide) and accompanying Adobe Photoshop Sketch and Illustrator Line apps—along with an iPad at the start of Matthew Richmond‘s fall 2014 Digital Book course, which is dedicated to exploring illustration in digital media. The assignment: create Ink & Slide illustrations “that shared the story of their summer break,” Richmond says.
Ink & Slide was created to serve Adobe’s new generation of mobile and tablet digital-drawing tools: Adobe Illustrator Line, Adobe Photoshop Sketch and Adobe Illustrator Draw (a revamp of the Adobe Ideas app). Among other features of these new apps, users can save their drawing preferences, create customized color palettes, swipe to “undo” their mistakes, import photographs to draw on, set up two-point-perspective templates, and work with a seemingly endless set of brushes, pens, markers and colors. The pen-shaped Ink tool offers unprecedented sensitivity and a variety of mark-making options—from paintbrush to nib marker to pencil to pen—with adjustable line widths and densities. Slide, which looks something like a straightedge with heels, provides artists of any level with the ability to quickly draw straight lines and precise shapes with complete control—a task that had long been the bane of digital-pen users. Drawings are saved to one’s Creative Cloud account, where they can be downloaded and tweaked further in Photoshop or Illustrator.
As the year goes on, the students will be encouraged to use Ink & Slide however they see fit. Only one month in, some have already incorporated it into their practice. “I think in terms of light and dark when I come up with my ideas, so normally I sketch in pencil,” says Amanda Moeckel, whose above stuffed-bunny drawing, a concept illustration for her thesis project, was done with the Ink tool in the Sketch app. “Now I can think in [terms of] light and dark and color, without a bunch of pastels or other messy media. I can pile light color on top of dark color—to get the same effect in traditional media, I’d have to have lots of tools at my disposal. But I can take the iPad and Ink pen anywhere.”
Richmond—who also runs The Chopping Block, a Brooklyn-based design studio—sees the products’ appeal extending beyond academic and professional circles and into to the general public.
“Ink & Slide and the Adobe apps turn the iPad into a pretty powerful digital sketchbook,” he says. “One stylus equals every pen type and color you could want. I like to think this will empower more and more people to draw, in the same way that we’ve seen a generation of smartphone users connect with photography.”