Astropad for 3D


This has briefly come up a few months, but just wanted to see if there had been any progress (or whether anything was planed ) with regards to shortcut keys and getting Astropad working for 3D applications.

And if anyone has any experience with using Astropad for 3d work, I’d be interested to hear how well it’s working. The impression I got was that text fields were problematic and that there’s no way of mapping modifier keys. Also how does middle mouse button work? So many questions, I hope someone can provide some answers :slight_smile: Looking to buy an iPad pro to replace my Wacom Intuos, but it’s kind of dependant on how well Astropad works…

And just for reference the apps I’m hoping to use are Nuke, Houdini, and possibly Modo or Maya, just in case anyone has given any of them a shot with Astropad…


Replying to myself :stuck_out_tongue:

Having had a look through the forums it seems that it should be reasonably possible-ish, but it’s really hard to tell how things work without buying an iPad + astropad and actually using it. So, having had a wander through the support community, have more specific questions:

  1. Is there a way of mapping the middle mouse button to something (on the sidebar)?
  2. Does Astropad support holding down modifier keys (space/mmb etc). I came across a post which suggested that mapping the keys to Astropad’s side bar worked but there was no support for holding down a key. Is this the case?

As before if would be nice to hear if anyone’s got Astropad working with Maya or other 3D App and how it faired.


Honestly, you only need Astropad for 3D apps like ZBrush, Mudbox, or Modo, which can do free-form sculpting with a pen. ZBrush is what I use.

For anything else, a mouse is much better. More precise, and easier on the hand.


I’m going to have to disagree with you a bit on that one; anything that involves painting/sculpting with pressure sensitivity is going to benefit from using Astropad (so in Houdini working with the paint/sculpt/draw tools). Plus the ability in Astropad to directly wire nodes together is really great.

I was a bit surprised you found Astropad working so well in zbrush; in Houdini and Maya the level of pixelation was quite off-putting (Maybe I just need a new Mac), to the extent that it’s not really usable (it’s hard to distinguish edges/manipulator handles as everything is so pixelated).


It depends on how large an area you’re working on. Sculpting fine detail in ZBrush? No problem. Starting a new sculpt from scratch, or anything else that makes large updates to the model/screen? Pull out the Wacom.


Hi there,

I was curious if you tried out the studio version? How does it behave in terms of pixelation with ZB? I am wondering if I should get a Mac so I can use my beloved ipadPro for ZB work on the couch.



It will work fine, great even, if you’re a student or hobbiest. Zero lag in Photoshop, and only a minor reduction in polygon rendering resolution when doing anything large in ZBrush. It’s great paired with my 2017 MBP. Good for working on the road when needed. Though if I just need to draw, I use the iPad apps for that.

But if you intend to work professionally in 3D with Photoshop, Zbrush, and/or another 3D program like Maya or 3DS Max, then you’ll need to get a decently high-spec Windows PC with dual nVidia cards, and an actual Wacom tablet attached. There just isn’t any better option right now, and Apple’s current roadmap of introducing PCIe breakout boxes still isn’t going to cut it for professional work. Both because MacOS’s OpenGL performance is a third or less for the same hardware in Windows, and because these breakout boxes (and the OS) will only support a single full-size 3D card when they’re introduced fully in October. AND they will only work at anywhere near full-speed when plugged into a USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 port. Which excludes every Mac not released this year. AND so far they only work on an external monitor that you plug into the breakout box. Meaning, it’s all a glorified hack meant to get around the fact that Apple doesn’t have a proper modular desktop tower system anymore, and hasn’t paid proper attention to its 3D performance.

Pro work demands pro tools. I love my 3 Macs, but I’ve also just built a PC with dual nVidia 1080ti cards and a 27" Cintique for doing anything 3D-intensive. Besides zero realtime lag in Zbrush and 3DSMax when using large models/scenes, the nVidia cards boost my VRay rendering (a high quality 3rd party production renderer) by 30x. That means my one box can render faster than a rack of 30 PCs that only use the CPU for rendering. No Mac can touch this kind of 3D performance right now.


Thanks for getting back to me. Appreciate it! Very detailed answer.
I am working as a 3D artist but want something for 3D sketching on my couch.
The choice is basically between the macbook pro & astropad studio / ipadPro combo (either the 2015 i7 model or the 2017 one but not the top end model as it is just too crazy expensive :blush: ) or the surface pro 5. Not sure yet. I like the idea to customise the gestures a la Astropad even though tablepro for windows tablets is also a great tool to work quickly even in ZB without a keyboard. MobileStudioPro looks nice too but is too heavy for my taste as a portable device on the couch solution. When you say Astropad shows almost zero lag in ZB that sounds fantastic. I tried Duet Pro today and was shocked by how sluggish it behaved. So you are running Astropad Studio on a 2017 i7 macbook pro with an ipad Pro? Do you think you could do a 30s screencapture of how it behaves? If not I totally understand however!
I wish there was a 3D procreate. All 3D sculpting apps are pretty shoddy.

Thanks again for the info.


how is the pressure sensitivity in ZB and Photoshop? As good as in let’s say procreate with the Apple pencil?