June 24, 2010

Stylus recommendations?

Why is it I can draw more accurately with our 2-year-old’s Magna Doodle than I can with an iPad? Simple: it’s the stylus.

I tried a stubby Pogo stylus a few months back and had an instant aversion to drawing with a big, flat, round disk. I see that other styluses are available, but I’ve yet to find a good set of comparisons. If you’ve successfully used a stylus to draw on an iPad, I’d like to hear your recommendations.

Incidentally, the imprecision of drawing with a finger certainly raises the value of natural media brushes (e.g. a realistic pencil simulation). Crappy input driving a high-precision line looks bad, but crappy input driving a deliberately crappy (sketchy) line looks more like “I meant to do that.”

[Update: Incidentally, just so people know, I’m not completely incompetent when it comes to drawing.]

Posted by John Nack at 10:55 AM on June 24, 2010


  • josh — 11:31 AM on June 24, 2010

    Make your own! http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2010/05/collins_lab_diy_ipad_stylus.html

  • Fuad Kamal — 11:37 AM on June 24, 2010

    Here’s a review of Dagi compared to Pogo (she says she likes Dagi a lot more). The demo is using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro for iPad.

  • Daniel Kovacs — 11:47 AM on June 24, 2010

    In order for the stylus to work it has to have a chubby end which obstructs what you draw just as much as your finger does… on the other hand you can indeed achieve quite surprising precision with finger at the cost of constant zoom in/zoom out/pan/zoom in again. That said I would be a sucker for a (truly portable) digital sketchbook with a wacom tablet.

  • Anastasiy — 12:03 PM on June 24, 2010

    I cannot imagine drawing without a stylus. I was so surprised that iPad doesn’t have some kind of an integrated tablet device with a stylus (like Wacom).

  • Navarro Parker — 12:11 PM on June 24, 2010

    Kinda like what Penny Arcade was doing SEVEN years ago? :)

  • Daniel Kovacs — 1:05 PM on June 24, 2010

    sorta-kinda, but in the size of a regular moleskin notebook, no keyboard, and battery life compareble to the ipad’s (and i could really live without a desktop OS)…

  • Chris Koerner — 2:36 PM on June 24, 2010

    I would love to see someone come out with a bluetooth pressure-sensitive pen. No need for a tablet, just use your desk, or table. It would work on the PC, Mac and even iPad apps (if supported).
    Sure it would have to use batteries or something, but would be super portable.

  • David Wilhelm — 3:39 PM on June 24, 2010

    The MagnaDoodle is an absolutely magical device !!1!

  • Allen Cobb — 5:47 PM on June 24, 2010

    It’s interesting that although Jobs disdains styli, I myself tend to disdain having to wear a glove to avoid making stray lines all over the drawing. (See vidlink from Fuad Kamal, above.) Instead of doctrinaire user interface design, let’s just match the best tools to all the different jobs. (No pun intended.)

  • Righton — 4:06 AM on June 25, 2010

    an ipad is a piece of junk. It’s got a cell phone processor in it, for crying out loud. Why do people insist on using it for graphic work???

  • Gregory Wostrel — 6:24 AM on June 25, 2010

    You know John, the lack of a stylus might not be the ONLY reason your drawings look crappy. :-)
    [I can actually draw fairly well, but not so well with a crippled input mechanism. –J.]
    After all, these people seem to have worked it out: http://www.flickr.com/groups/brushes/
    and http://jorgecolombo.com/drawings/index.htm
    [I’m sure Picasso could’ve drawn well using just a stick clenched between his teeth; doesn’t mean he should’ve been made to do so. –J.]
    @ Righton: Dude, how about you chill a little bit and enjoy life?

  • John Derry — 8:03 AM on June 25, 2010

    A piece of junk? You gotta be kidding! A device that enables portable sketching/painting/drawing with a variety of expressive marks in unlimited colors—and can be instantly displayed to a potentially world-wide audience is an artist’s dream machine. This type of capability has never been possible before.

  • Julie Meridian — 12:07 PM on June 25, 2010

    I got excited about the improvements to tablets years ago, once the price started to drop, and they got lighter, and the power became sufficient to truly sketch on them. I was disappointed (though not surprised) once it became clear that the Apple-tablet-to-be wasn’t going to include a stylus. A capacitive add-on accessory will simply never have the right feel due to friction and lack of palm/side-of-hand rejection.
    The iPad is a lovely device, and hands down is the superior for ease of use if your main goals are keeping connected and consuming content. I have pretty good outlets for both, though; what I really need is a device that helps me create.
    I would love Apple to take the same drive they have for consumers and use it to create a device made for artists, but I don’t see it coming. For now, my Dell Lat XT2 has all of the capabilities that make portable digital art possible for me, despite a few bits of industrial design & OS clunkiness. It’s less cool, perhaps, but light years more fulfilling.

  • Gregory Wostrel — 8:06 PM on June 25, 2010

    OK, John I’ll give you that one – you can draw fine and the point about Picasso is fair (and he probably did just that).

  • haleonearth — 4:39 AM on June 29, 2010

    I don’t think the Pogo ever claimed to provide a Cintiq experience (or if so then I missed it). Yes it’s a slight kludge, but for $15 it does a fine job of getting my hand out of the way so I can see a bit better. Apparently my fingers aren’t as “Elven” as those mentioned by someone above.

    I too would love to see a (QUALITY) pressure-sensitive-tipped device, for which I’d pay well to leverage.

    So while I have hope for and am confident in Apple’s ability to provide worthy iPad developments in the future, I find that the current first-gen model is a very solid 1.0 device. Rarely have I been disappointed when keeping my patience in step with Apple’s own remarkable constancy. Apple won’t often race to kowtow to the cries of blind “feature-fanatics,” which is in part responsible for such consistent, consummate experiences that tend to mature gracefully. I doubt we’ve witnessed the peak of alternative input availability and capability that was, is and ever shall be for the iPad.

  • haleonearth — 4:44 AM on June 29, 2010

    p.s. Just to clarify, I am not referring to users with hopes and requests for improved alternative inputs, etc as “feature fanatics.”

  • Jago — 4:29 PM on June 29, 2010

    I use a Pogo stylus and didn’t think it was that different in size to a normal pencil? Are other people taking about a different one?

    I’ve found the iPad fantastic as a digital sketchpad and am quite excited at the new uses I’ll find for it as new apps come out. A Bluetooth pressure sensitive pen would be awesome but probably unlikely (although not as unlikely as a portable Cintiq)

    I’ve found I use the iPad far more for spontaneous sketching than I ever have with my Cintiq.

    Looking forward to see what Adobe will develop for the iPad, I like the Ideas app but as it (bizarrely) only exports to PDF I can’t use it to post images to a blog from the iPad which means I never use it….

    A photo management app (Lightroom Lite) would be fantastic….

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