3 great iPad pens for designers

For a long time, the iPad was perceived purely as a device for media consumption, but it's increasingly being taken seriously as a design tool. And whether you're using Apple's tablet to use the best iPad apps for sketching, graphic design or to organise your daily workflow, you probably don't want to be relying on your fingers.

However, the iPad capacitive touchscreen was never designed to be used by anything other than fingers, and so the best iPad styluses  have had to be specially constructed, usually based around a metallic shaft and a soft, squishy tip. Many manufacturers have tried to create an intuitive, easy-to-use iPad pen, and many have failed. But here are three that are worth looking into for using with your favoured iPad drawing app...

01. Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus 2

The Intuos' flared grip makes it supremely comfortable to use

The Intuos' flared grip makes it supremely comfortable to use

It's hard to go too far wrong with a Wacom pen, and the Intuos Creative Stylus 2 lives nicely up to expectations. Compatible with everything from the iPad 3 and iPad Mini onwards, this Bluetooth pen features a thin, extra-firm tip for top-notch precision and durability, and with 2,048 pressure levels it provides you with total control over blending and shading.

Palm rejection means you can happily rest your hand on the screen while you draw without spilling virtual ink all over your work, and the Creative Stylus 2's soft-touch grip enables you to hold the pen naturally without worrying about it slipping out of your hand. And of course it's compatible with all the iPad apps you'd expect, including Procreate, ArtRage and Pixelmator.

02. Sensu Solo

iPad pens: Sensu Brush

The Sensu's bristles are made conductive using nanotechnology

Here’s further proof that not everything on Kickstarter is an overambitious, under-researched project. A few years back, a design consultancy based in Chicago asked for $7500 to fund the production of an artist’s brush that would work on the iPad. Less than six months later, the first Sensu Brush started to find its way into the hands of thousands of eager backers.

Instead of using animal hair, the Sensu bristles are synthetic and made conductive using a nanotechnology treatment first developed for the Japanese cosmetics industry. The result is a brush that looks like a million dollars and paints as smoothly with pixels as real brushes do with oils.

The latest version, the Sensu Solo, comes in a choice of five colours and features a handle made of aircraft-grade aluminium, giving it just the right amount of weight and balance, and it's $10 cheaper than the standard Sensu Brush (although without the stylus on the opposite end).

03. Pencil

Maybe not as slick as the Apple Pencil, but this one has a chunky charm

Maybe not as slick as the Apple Pencil, but this one has a chunky charm

No, not that one. The Apple Pencil for the iPad Pro is an amazing piece of kit, but FiftyThree's own Pencil is worth considering for smaller iPads, or if you can't quite stretch to an Apple Pencil for your Pro. 

It might look a little gimmicky, but beneath its chunky walnut body is plenty of great tech that lets you just get on and draw, such as surface pressure that alters line thickness depending on the angle of the tip, an eraser at its other end, fingertip blending and adaptive palm rejection. It's really lovely to hold and feels a lot harder to lose than an Apple Pencil; what's not to love?

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Jim McCauley

Jim McCauley is a writer, performer and cat-wrangler who started writing professionally way back in 1995 on PC Format magazine, and has been covering technology-related subjects ever since, whether it's hardware, software or videogames. A chance call in 2005 led to Jim taking charge of Computer Arts' website and developing an interest in the world of graphic design, and eventually led to a move over to the freshly-launched Creative Bloq in 2012. Jim now works as a freelance writer for sites including Creative Bloq, T3 and PetsRadar, specialising in design, technology, wellness and cats, while doing the occasional pantomime and street performance in Bath and designing posters for a local drama group on the side.