As an iPad-using artist or designer, you’re spoilt for choice with the various drawing and sketching apps available on hand. But to create precise, quality work, most artists agree it’s best to use a stylus, and with styli becoming even more pressure sensitive and responsive, it’s probably the closest you’ll get to traditional drawing on your iPad.
But don’t think that using an iPad limits you to an Apple Pencil. Here we mention nine other stylus options for you, ranging in price from £20 to around £80 depending on your needs. Some connect to the iPad using Bluetooth for accurate pressure sensitivity, palm rejection and other features. Others, such as Adobe's Ink, actually connect to Creative 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.
Here's a round-up of the best iPad styluses (or styli) for artists and designers we've seen.
The Apple Pencil works exclusively alongside both current iPad Pros. Although it’s definitely pricey, it’s pretty much essential for any professional artist wanting to create brilliant work from an iPad Pro. It’s meant to act exactly like a pencil - sensitive to both tilt and pressure, allowing you to create artwork with precision down to a single pixel.
The Apple Pencil was designed to expand on the versatility of Multi-Touch, giving artists freedom to sketch, paint and draft ideas on the go. It’s known for its fast response from when you begin drawing to when lines appear on the screen, using twice the data points it normally collects when you use your finger.
Much like almost any stylus you can draw lines of any weight by applying pressure, add shading by tilting your hand as you would with a conventional pencil and rest your palm on the display without fear of ruining your work.
The Apple Pencil can run for 12 hours on a full charge, or if you’ve only got a few minutes, 15 seconds of charging from your iPad Pro will give you 30 minutes of battery life.
Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus 2
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).
The Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus 2 is currently unavailable from Wacom, but you can buy from Misco for £65.
Adobe Ink & Slide
Ink and Slide is specifically designed to work with Adobe iOS apps Line, Draw or Sketch on your iPad Pro, and works best with a Creative Cloud account - of which the Ink syncs up to for a more personalised experience. Take note, any membership of Creative Cloud will work the Ink and Slide - including the free trial.
Made up of a hydro-formed, aluminium shell, the duo are original hardware devices from Adobe in partnership with Adonit.
You can access your favourite tools and brushes, colour themes, copy and paste drawings and share your work once it’s connected to your Creative Cloud account. The accompanying Slide doesn’t require any set up or power, but once you place it on your screen you can access Trace packs with a various array of shapes, and Stamp packs for more complex shapes, such as furniture.
Although using the Ink and Slide requires quite a specific setup, it will definitely save you some cash, costing just £22.99.
Sensu Artist Brush & Stylus
The Sensu Artist Brush & Stylus isn't Bluetooth connected or pressure sensitive like the Creative Stylus 2 or Adobe Ink, but it only costs a little over £40 and it's pretty awesome.
It's designed to make you feel like you’re really painting when using a digital format within your preferred iPad apps such as Procreate, ArtRage and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.
The Sense Artist Brush & Stylus uses traditional synthetic brush hair with conductive properties used in make-up brushes, but adapted in diameter and tapers specific to the Sensu.
The brush is portable, with a protective cap that becomes the handle when in use. A rubber stylus nib can be used for sketching and writing also. It appears when the brush is closed. Although having a brush stylus is pretty epic, be warned - it can be a bit fiddly to keep clean and tidy.
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.
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 range includes Pixel, Snap , Dash 3, Ink, Pro, Mini 3 and Mark.
Adonit says its Bluetooth pressure-sensitive Pixel stylus is the best and most advanced they’ve ever made, so naturally we will feature it here. But if you’re looking for something less expensive, definitely check out the Dash 3. If you want to check out which stylus is best for you, Adonit has a handy comparable table here.
The Pixel offers tip drag and pressure sensitivity for natural drawing across all latest iPad models. Its 1.9mm tip has improved response time, and it holds 2,048 levels of sensitivity for different width and weight strokes. It also uses palm rejection technology and programmed shortcut buttons such as erase, redo and scroll. It also has a nifty built in grip sense which activates Pixel as soon as you pick it up after it has first been turned on.
Pixel works on basically any iPad and as they like to point out, its cheaper than the Apple Pencil.
Another favourite from the Adonit family tends to be the Adonit 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.
It's made from lightweight aluminium, comes in range of colours – copper, black, silver, gold and rose gold – and has a handy carrying clip.
Ten One Pogo Connect 2
Ten One Design's Pogo Connect 2 is another Bluetooth stylus, but this one comes with a built-in Bluetooth beacon to help you find lost pens - and it also boasts months of battery life.
The Pogo Connect 2 comes with a standard rubber tip and sold in a pack of two. But, there are six interchangeable tips that you can buy separately, including note-taking tips, precision tips, a premium brush tip, straight brush tip, and angled brush tip, all of which are pressure-sensitive.
This stylus is compatible with iPad Air 1 & 2; iPad Mini 1, 2 & 3; and iPad 3 & 4, but not with iPad Pro or iPad mini 4.
Nomad Mini 2
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.
We've featured the Nomad Mini 2, with a retractable brush on one end and a rubber stylus on the other, but there's also the Nomad Compose with two types of brush tip, and the Nomad Flex with a more flexible brush tip.
This Bluetooth pencil works with iPad, iPad Pro and a number of iOS sketching and drawing apps - and we think it’s the most hipster of the list, and definitely the most beautiful.
Made from sustainably harvest walnut wood, gold or graphite brushed aluminium, the FiftyThree Pencil offers a uniquely bold tip, eraser, and palm rejection technology when used in conjunction with the brand’s own Paper app for iPad, but it can be used as a non-connected stylus in any other app, such as Adobe Illustrator Draw and Photoshop Sketch.
The pencil completes a full charge in 90 minutes and can last up to a month of normal use.
When we first heard of Sensel’s Morph, it was still on Kickstarter, but even then we thought it was pretty great. Now, after raising over US$442,600 in Kickstarter, the multi-touch, pressure sensitive input device is now out. Although the device can be ‘morphed’ into different forms used with different overlays - such as a devices for music, gaming or even hacking - it also works as an alternative for artists.
Basically, Sensel's Morph allows artists to not be restricted by styli. Create art using your own paintbrushes, pencil and pen over paper, or even your finger, all on a digital art tablet. And don’t worry, if you are in fact a stylus fan deep down, you can still use that.
The Art Overlay provides customisable and re-mappable buttons to improve work flow. Some buttons are preset, but you can change them to see what works best - and you can have buttons on either side, depending if you’re a lefty or righty.
You can buy the Sensel Morph with case and one overlay, say the Art Overlay, for a total of US$249.99 with a shipping fee of $20 if you’re in the UK - though it's currently fully sold out.