Sensu Brush iPad paintbrush review

This isn't Pete Fowler – the pic was supplied by Sensu – but we love this guy's furry cuffs, so we decided to use it anyway
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  • Price When Reviewed: $39.99 (around £24)

  • Pros: A real brush for painting to iPads and Android tablets. Good stylus too.

  • Cons: Has to be ordered from the US.

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I've been using a few apps to paint and draw with on the iPad for about a year now. I've mostly used the Brushes app, as others I've used have been a bit 'painterly' and I wanted to work in a style somewhere between painting and vector art, using flat colours.

I declined to splash out on an expensive stylus as, not only did I not know which one to go for, but I also thought it might be a bit of a fad for me. I opted for an inexpensive Griffin stylus in the end. Just as that one started to pack in after a year of use – I really got into using the iPad – I was sent a more high-end tool from Sensu to try out.

The truly different thing about the Sensu Brush is hinted at in the name. It's a paintbrush that you can use on an Apple or Android tablet – in my case an iPad 2 – as it has metallic particles embedded into its bristles to make it conductive (something taken from the Japanese cosmetic industry apparently). It also comes with a handy stylus at the other end.

Artworks created by Pete Fowler using the Sensu Brush and the Brushes app

At first I was scratching my head as to how the Sensu Brush could work with the limited amount of touch areas on the iPad. After using for about 30 minutes though, I was starting to make images in a very different way to how I'd been making them previously. I was being a lot looser and more expressive with the strokes and colours. I started to use more features within Brushes and found it a great way to experiment and look into different ways of using the iPad.

Despite being designed for the iPad, the brush works really well with real paint. It's a really soft and rather stubby haired brush that feels lovely against the iPad's screen. It also works rather well with things you have to adjust in paint apps such as size, opacity, paint load – as well as technique-mimicking features such as dry brushing and wet-on-wet painting in Inspire Pro.

The Sensu Brush's stylus at the other end from the painbrush is also really good: it's very responsive and has a nice feel and amount of drag across the screen. It feels a lot more natural that the previous stylus I was using – but then this more than four times the price of the previous one.

The Sensu Brush is available from US sties such as Thinkgeek for just over £30 with postage and £40 if you want it in a few days. Although that might seem a lot for a brush/pen, it's a high quality item – well, I haven't broken it yet. If you're creating images with an iPad already or even thinking about it I'd definitely consider getting on of these. Using the right settings and apps you can get as close as you can to really painting with this

Plus with it's silvery sheath than opens to reveal the brush, it looks really sexy. It wouldn't go amiss in a cosmetics bag and is the shiniest thing in my pencil case.

The current issue of Digital Arts includes an interview with Pete about the five things that have shaped his career. Pick up your copy here. Pete's homecoming show is currently on at the Cardiff Millennium Centre until February 24 – though it's been closed off until tomorrow due to filming of the cruelly ironically titled Britain's Got Talent until tomorrow (Jan 18).

Pete Fowler in his studio

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