There are so many amazing
iPad apps for artists and iPad apps for designers, but painting, drawing or sketching in those apps just using stubby fingers can feel a little clumsy, and we've found it often shows. That's why it's helpful to have an iPad stylus for precision and accuracy to get the results you want.
There are several different types of stylus for iPad, and we show you a variety of different options here. Some connect to the iPad using Bluetooth for accurate pressure sensitivity, palm rejection and other features. Others, such as Adobe's Ink, actually connects to the cloud to work seamlessly with the company's desktop apps.
You'll also find that some styluses have different styles of tip or nib to help you achieve the results you're aiming for. Some are brush-like, while others are like pencils, pastels or pens.
For the best smart pens around (which instantly digitise what you draw on paper),
check out our best smart pens feature.
Here's a round-up of the best iPad styluses (or styli) for artists and designers we've seen.
Apple’s first digital stylus is a pricier option at £79, and totally useless with any device other than the £679+ iPad Pro. But Apple clearly had creative pros in mind with this specialised tablet and stylus combination (read
Other than its smooth, white and possibly slippery exterior, the Apple Pencil is meant to feel indistinguishable from a pencil: you can shade, adjust pressure to change line thickness, and palm rejection works seamlessly whether in Safari or Notes.
And there’s no lag. On the touch of an Apple Pencil, the iPad Pro scan rate boosts to 240 times per second – twice the speed it scans your finger – which leads to delay that Apple says is almost imperceptible, though this may vary on the app you’re using.
Unlike many of its third-party competitors, there is no need to pair the Pencil with apps. Instead just plug it into the iPad Pro’s Lightning port and then get sketching. Less popular strip backs might include the lack of LED status light, shortcut buttons or pen clip.
The Lightning port also charges the stylus, with the connector under the pencil’s cap. Apple claims 12 hours of battery life – and that charging a dead pencil for 15 seconds gives 30 minutes of use.
Buy the Apple Pencil from Apple.
Available for £60, Wacom's Intuos Creative Stylus 2 is aimed at those who don't want to shell out for one of Wacom's Cintiq Companions but has an iPad at their disposal. It gives you the tip sensitivity of a Cintiq pen – that's 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity – and the professional, lightweight feel shared by other Wacom stylus products.
Link it up to your iPad Mini, iPad or iPad Air through Bluetooth 4.0 and you've got a ready-made Cintiq, to all intents and purposes. Note that the iPad Air 2 is not fully supported, as is the case with most Bluetooth-connected styluses at present.
Carry your stylus securely in the neat included case, which contains a nib-removal tool, a replacement nib and a USB charger that connects to the micro USB port hidden at the end of the pen. Wacom claims the battery lasts up to 26 hours.
This second generation of the stylus has a much smaller and more precise tip and better palm rejection, and works with apps including several of
Adobe's apps, ArtRage, Astropad, Autodesk apps, Procreate and more (though not all fully support palm rejection).
Buy the Creative Stylus 2 from Wacom or Amazon.
Adobe has introduced its own stylus called the Ink, which comes with a companion in the form of a ruler called Slide. Ink & Slide are designed to be used with the iPad and four free creative iPad apps: Adobe Illustrator Line, Illustrator Draw, Photoshop Sketch and Brush CC.
The stylish, aluminium tools represent the first hardware devices from Adobe, created in partnership with Adonit. What's cool about Ink & Slide is their connection with Creative Cloud. Ink can be used to copy and paste images via the cloud, sending sketches to Photoshop or Illustrator on your desktop for further refinement later.
Slide can be used to draw straight lines, as you might expect, but touch-based buttons on the surface also allow you to draw precise circles, French curves and more.
As with the Wacom stylus, the Adobe Ink and Slide are not currently fully compatible with the iPad Air 2 - and it is not compatible with the iPad Pro.
Buy the Adobe Ink & Slide from Adobe or Amazon.
A less expensive option designed with painting in mind is the Sensu Artist Brush & Stylus. It's not Bluetooth connected or pressure sensitive like the Creative Stylus 2 or Adobe Ink, but it only costs around £30 and is actually really cool.
It's different from many of the other styluses we've seen because it takes the form of a paintbrush. That brush has metallic particles embedded into its bristles to make it conductive. There's also a rubber-tipped stylus at the opposite end, too.
Find out more about the Sensu Brush in our
Sensu Brush iPad paintbrush review by artist Pete Fowler.
If you like the idea of the Sensu Artist Brush & Stylus but aren't bothered about the rubber tip, you can get the slightly cheaper Sensu Solo that only includes the brush end. Plus it comes in five rather nice colour options and has a handle that's shaped like a traditional paintbrush.
Buy the Sensu Artist Brush & Stylus from Amazon.
Adonit, which is the company behind some of the tech found in Adobe's Ink stylus, also offers its own range of popular and well-built styli. The Jot range includes Jot Dash, Jot Touch, Jot Script 2, Jot Pro and Jot Mini.
With a thin, 8.5mm diameter, the Jot Dash feels and acts like a standard ink pen - and has a matching (well, closer) price at around £30. Press its end to turn it on, like a retractable ballpoint, and you have a 1.9mm plastic tip to play with.
Without Bluetooth - which enables pressure sensitivity and palm rejection - the Jot Dash is also closer to a pen’s tech level than other styluses. But the lack of fiddly features means it works with any drawing or note-taking apps, as well as both iOS and Android touch screens - including, notably, the iPad Air 2.
Its aluminium barrel comes in a pretty range of charcoal, silver, gold or rose gold. Charging it is also neat: just slide a small frame, with a magnetic pen stand, into a USB port. It recharges in 45 minutes and lasts for up to 14 hours.
Buy the Adonit Jot Dash on Amazon.
The favourite from the Jot family tends to be the Adonit Jot Pro, which doesn't require a Bluetooth connection to work. It uses a transparent disk to protect your iPad from the very precise tip for ultimate accuracy.
Like the Jot Dash, it is made from lightweight aluminium, comes in range of colours – copper, black, silver, gold and rose gold – and has a handy carrying clip. At 9.5mm in diameter, it is slightly wider that the Jot Dash.
Buy the Adonit Jot Pro on Amazon here for £20.
Another Bluetooth connected stylus now, this one from Ten One Design. You should be able to pick one up for £45, so it's quite a bit cheaper than Wacom and Adobe's offerings. You might spend additional cash if you want the magnetically replaceable nibs, though.
The basic Pogo Connect comes with a standard rubber tip, but there are additional tips available including note-taking tips, precision tips, a premium brush tip, straight brush tip and angled brush tip, all of which are pressure sensitive.
Buy the Ten One Pogo Connect 2 from Amazon.
Similar to the Sensu Brush are Nomad's range of capacitive brushes for iPad. They're not the best-looking gadgets in the world, but they each have brush tips that make creating virtual paintings on an iPad feel much more like painting with real paint.
The Nomad brushes each cost around £25 (although you'll find some for as little as £10 on Amazon), and options include Nomad Compose with two types of brush tip, Nomad Flex with a more flexible brush tip and the Nomad Mini 2 with a retractable brush on one end and a rubber stylus on the other.
Buy Nomad Flex, Nomad mini 2 or Nomad Compose from Amazon.
This last one is a bit different to the others in this list, but we've found that it's actually really great for accuracy and speed. It's made by FiftyThree, the makers of the Paper app, so integrates deeply with the drawing and sketching software.
The FiftyThree Pencil stylus, which costs from £39.99, does use Bluetooth, but not for pressure sensitivity like the other Bluetooth styluses in this round-up. Instead, it's used to implement features like palm rejection, multiple tools, blend mode with your finger, erase and more.
Even though there's no built-in pressure sensitivity, the tip has been cleverly designed to allow you to create lines of all sizes by using the point of the stylus for fine details and the tip's angled edge for broad strokes. The opposite end of the stylus acts as an eraser.
These features only work with selected apps for now though, including Paper (of course), some Adobe apps, Procreate and others. You'll find the
full list here.
Buy the FiftyThree Pencil from Amazon.
This final product isn't a stylus, and in fact it isn't quite available yet, but it's so incredibly clever that we couldn't resist including it here.
The Sensel Morph is currently on Kickstarter (and smashing its goal) ahead of a projected June 2016 release. It's essentially a trackpad that you can use with your iPad or with your computer, but it's also so much more than that.
It comes with Overlays that can transform it into whatever you want it to be, such as an artist's canvas, a piano or anything else you can think of - including entirely replacing your keyboard and mouse.
You can use real tools including paintbrushes, pens and pencils with the Sensel Morph. Cool, right?
You can find out
more about the Sensel Morph here.