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Capacitive styluses for writing, sketching and painting on the iPad

by Lisa Caplan

Styluses, those pseudo pens that allow iPad (and iPhone) users to write with a semi-realistic implement, are back in fashion. While Steve Jobs decried their use, many advanced handwriting and drawing apps have emerged, particularly for the iPad, so more manufacturers are making them than ever.

Apple patents iPen, third-party manufacturers go for Bluetooth

Apple clearly sees the trend, as the Android-running Samsung Galaxy Note – a hybrid smartphone and tablet with a proprietary stylus – has earned critical and user interest and praise. It may even have prompted their pursuit of a patent for an iPen, a stylus that would have haptic (meaning sensory tactile) feedback. The stylus, according to CNET, would give users physical feedback about pressure and angles and while hovering over links, and may even have a speaker.

Apple isn’t the only one moving new stylus technology. Both Ten One Design with their Tiger model and Adonit with the Jot Touch, have plans for Bluetooth styluses, slated for release later this year.

Standard capacitive styluses

In the meantime, though, those who like to type, write and draw with more than a finger have to choose between an endless assortment of options. For tapping, typing and navigation, any basic model like the Pogo Sketch+ or Boxwave will do. But, for optimal results with sophisticated art and writing apps, the options are fewer and pricier. We’ve rounded up the best of the current models for you here.

Alupen by Just Mobile

Boasting a thick, solid aluminum body, and a tough, but supple rubber nib, the Alupen will appeal to those accustomed to drawing with pencils or charcoal sticks. Its slightly longer-than-average length and thicker body also make it ideal for people with larger hands. The stylus is responsive to pressure and while deflation of rubber nibs plagues all styluses, Alupen’s holds up better than most. It’s available in an assortment of colors. The only drawback is that since the body is solid, once the nib goes the entire stylus must be trashed. Try simple inking with Sketchbook Ink, sketching with Colored Pencils or use it for vector drawing with InkPad.

Pogo Sketch Pro by Ten One Design

With a long, thin, tapered aluminum body, and soft fabric (rather than rubber) featuring interchangeable nibs, the Pogo Sketch Pro is a great choice for those looking for a refined-looking tool that allows for a lot of control. This stylus is one of the smoothest I’ve tried and comes with a traditional sketch nib for tapping and typing, and a porous, finer nib best suited to sketching with an app like ASKetch, and note taking with apps like Penultimate. The balance and style are wonderful. Be advised: the nibs are very sensitive and prone to shredding, so the stylus is best suited to those with a light touch. New tips can be ordered, giving the stylus extra shelf life.

Nomad Brushes by Nomad

Nomad makes both a long- and a short-bristled version of one of the most unusual but innovative designs I’ve come across. As the name suggests, what Nomad is selling are capacitive paintbrushes rather than traditional styluses. They are beautifully designed to look like authentic art tools. When a tablet is propped into an upright position, it helps simulate the feeling of painting on an easel. The Nomad brushes feels wonderful with apps like Inspire Pro and Sketchbook Pro. Just be advised that the screen reads the bristles as a single input, so splaying will have no effect. The lines will be solid, but the experience fluid.

Bamboo by Wacom

Best known for their high-end digital art input devices, Wacom’s Bamboo stylus has long been a favorite amongst digital artists using the iPad. It’s a little shorter than most of the others on this list, but it’s still longer than traditional styluses and made of durable aluminum. Its pressure-sensitive rubber nibs give incredible control when using art apps that allow for nuance, or those that also simulate pressure like Procreate and Art Rage. The nibs are a little soft for tapping and heavy-handed handwriting styles, but they are durable and replaceable.

Pengo BrushPen

My top pick – and likely the least known – merges the best features of all these other higher-end styluses into one remarkable tool. The Pengo BrushPen comes with three interchangeable and replaceable tips. There are two rubber nibs. One is a little harder and a bit bigger, making it perfect for tapping and navigation. The second is softer, smaller and more pressure-sensitive, ideal for handwriting and sketching in apps as diverse as Zen Brush, Noteshelf and Sketch Club. The other end of the stylus has a brush tip which is great for apps like Brushes and Auryn Ink. All this is packed into a solid black aluminum body and even comes with a cap to keep either the bristles or the tip safe. The body is as long as a real ballpoint, the weight makes it feel like a high-end ink pen, and the balance is perfect.

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