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The best iPad stylus in 2021: top iPad pens for drawing and note-taking

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Best iPad stylus
(Image credit: cottonbro via Pexels)

The best iPad stylus can transform an iPad in all sorts of ways. From turning it into a potent artistic tool to just making Apple's tablet a little easier and more pleasant to navigate, a good iPad stylus can be one of the best purchases you can make, after the iPad itself.

Whether you want to draw professionally on an iPad, or just tick off tasks, make a few notes to yourself and play some games without getting fingerprints all over it, the styluses we've included in this guide are an ideal way to go about it. Determining which is best depends on your needs and your budget.

With that said, if you're talking about the simple empirical best stylus, there is one obvious choice. Apple's own Apple Pencil is the best stylus for an iPad you can get right now; we're not spoiling anything by saying that. It's lag-free, it offers pixel-sharp line creation, and is generally just the smoothest experience you can get. If you've already spent cash on one of the most recent top-of-the-line iPads, like the iPad Pro 12.9-inch (M1, 2021) and the iPad Pro 11-inch (M1, 2021), then it definitely makes sense to get the Apple Pencil for the best experience possible.

But there are other options, with other features, and generally they're available at more affordable prices. If you're coming at this new and aren't sure where to start, click to jump our primer on what makes a good stylus the end, where we run through technical features like palm rejection and tilt sensitivity.

If you want to look beyond just iPads, you can check out our guide to the best tablets with a stylus. Also, if you're dead set against using Apple's own-brand Pencil, look at our guide to the best Apple Pencil alternatives. For now, read on to find out exactly what stylus for your iPad you should buy – and where to buy it for the best price. 

The best iPad stylus on sale right now

Best iPad styluses

(Image credit: Apple)

The best pen for iPad overall (if your iPad is compatible with it)

Specifications
Pressure levels: 4096
Weight: 20.7g
Length: 175.7mm
Connectivity: Bluetooth
Battery life: 12 hours
Reasons to buy
+Really natural to use+Good with all apps+Great for writing and drawing
Reasons to avoid
-Selective compatibility

There's no question: the Apple Pencil 2 is the best stylus for iPad available right now. It provides the smoothest, most seamless drawing experience, with pressure sensitivity, palm rejection and lag-free operation. Drawing with the latest Apple Pencil on the latest iPad is a genuinely game-changing experience, and goes some way to explaining why so many drawing tablet manufacturers are getting a bit nervous about iPads.

You do need to make sure you get the right Pencil for your iPad, which is a matter less simple than Apple users may be accustomed to; we've put together a guide below as to which versions of the Pencil are compatible with which iPads. The only other drawback with the Apple Pencil is – and you knew we were going to say this – the cost. When iPads are already expensive, adding another three-figure price tag on top of one is quite a lot to ask. If this is a problem for you, we'd encourage browsing the excellent third-party styluses on our list, many of which are available for a lower cost.

Compatibility

The Apple Pencil 2 (2018) works with the fourth generation iPad Air, the iPad Pro 12.9-inch (third generation) and later, and the iPad Pro 11-inch (first generation) and later. The original Apple Pencil works with iPad Pro 12.9-inch (first and second generation), iPad Pro 10.5-inch, iPad Pro 9.7-inch, iPad (sixth generation and seventh generation) and iPad mini fifth and eighth generation. To compare the two directly, check out our guide to Apple Pencil vs Apple Pencil 2 where we run through the key features of both styluses.

Best iPad styluses: Zagg Pro Styluscb badge

(Image credit: Zagg)

02. Zagg Pro Stylus

An impressively affordable third-party stylus for iPad

Specifications
Pressure levels: None
Weight: 15g
Length: 153mm
Connectivity: None
Battery life: No batteries
Reasons to buy
+Useful palm rejection+Tilt sensitivity
Reasons to avoid
-No pressure sensitivity-No wireless charging

The world of third-party styluses can be difficult to navigate, with great products sitting alongside poor-quality ones. We're really happy to recommend the Zagg Pro Stylus as a compelling, well-made Apple Pencil alternative. It's got palm rejection and tilt sensitivity, making for a premium-feeling drawing experience, and it'll work seamlessly across whichever iPad apps you care to use (as long as you're using a relatively recent iPad, at least). 

The Zagg Pro Stylus charges via its hidden USB-C port, and is comfortable to use for even long periods. With embedded magnets, it can attach to the side of your iPad for easy transportation. It doesn't connect via Bluetooth, but creates an electric field that allows it to interact with the iPad (hence the need for charging). 

There is one strike against the Zagg Pro Stylus though, and it's a considerable one: there's no pressure sensitivity. For some artists, this will simply be a deal-breaker; if that's not the case for you, then this is a fantastic choice of iPad stylus, available at a price that undercuts the Apple Pencil in all its forms. 

Best iPad stylusescb badge

(Image credit: Meko)

03. Meko Universal Stylus

The best cheap iPad stylus for budget users

Specifications
Pressure levels: n/a
Weight: 20g
Length: 230.8mm
Connectivity: Wireless
Battery life: Eight hours
Reasons to buy
+Hugely affordable+Strong aluminium build
Reasons to avoid
-No pressure sensitivity-Extremely basic

If you don't need anything fancy, if fundamentally you just want a basic stylus that works, the Meko Universal Stylus should be your point of call. With its single-digit price tag, it's much, much more affordable than a high-end stylus. While it doesn't have sophisticated artistry features like pressure-sensitivity, it does have a pleasingly precise nib. The handy clear disc that lets you see precisely where you're drawing is a welcome touch.

For writing, note-taking and basic sketching, this will do the job. The aluminium build of the Meko Universal Stylus is pleasingly solid, and the fact that it's compatible with pretty much any touchscreen going means it's an especially good choice if your household has multiple tablets of different makes and models. 

Best iPad stylus: Wacom Bamboo

(Image credit: Wacom )

04. Wacom Bamboo Fineline 3

The best stylus for sketching

Specifications
Pressure levels: 2048
Weight: 18g
Length: 14.73mm
Connectivity: Bluetooth
Battery life: 18 hours
Reasons to buy
+Ideal for sketching and note-taking+Svelte dimensions
Reasons to avoid
-Specialised nib for sketching-Not available in the US

Wacom boasts an industry-leading reputation thanks to its fabulous range of dedicated drawing tablets. So it's only natural that the company produces an attractive line of styluses as well. As well as being our favourite iPad stylus for sketching, the Wacom Bamboo Fineline 3 also takes the plaudits for general use on the iPad Air and iPad Mini series thanks to its compatibility with iOS devices. it only misses out on our top three because it's not currently available in the US.

Instead of trying to mimic a traditional rounded pen, the Bamboo Fineline 3 has an ergonomic triangular design for better grip. It also has a comfortable palm rejection function, which makes it super-authentic. It's an excellent all-rounder, but its fine tip and pressure-sensitive nibs make it just about as close an experience to sketching on paper as you can get. With a brilliant battery life (recharged via USB) it uses Bluetooth to connect to your iPad, which brings the integrated shortcut buttons into play, too, enabling you to set up handy shortcuts within your chosen iOS apps.

The best iPad stylus: Adonit Pixel

05. Adonit Pixel

A top-quality third-party stylus for drawing and note-taking

Specifications
Pressure levels: 2048
Weight: 20g
Length: 150mm
Connectivity: Bluetooth
Battery life: 15 hours
Reasons to buy
+Pressure sensitivity+Compatible with lots of apps
Reasons to avoid
-Buttons can be over-sensitive-Palm rejection is spotty

Adonit has been refining its styluses for more than eight years now, and the Adonit Pixel is still one of its best for drawing on iPad. Bluetooth enabled and compatible with many of the sorts of apps creatives will likely be using on their tablets, the Pixel boasts 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity and a range of function buttons on its body that can be assigned to the user's preferred tools (though be warned these can be easy to knock accidentally if you're not paying attention). The battery should last for about 15 hours of use, allowing you to get really stuck into your projects, and the sleek design makes the Pixel stylus genuinely enjoyable to use.

The best iPad stylus in 2020: Adonit Dash 3

(Image credit: Adonit)

06. Adonit Dash 3

The best affordable pen with a long-lasting battery

Specifications
Pressure levels: n/a
Weight: 12g
Length: 141mm
Connectivity: Wireless
Battery life: 14 hours
Reasons to buy
+Stylish look and finish+Long battery life
Reasons to avoid
-No pressure sensitivity-No Bluetooth

An affordable and simple choice of stylus, the broadly compatible Adonit Dash 3 works well on most iPads and provides a straightforward, stylish drawing experience. The different choices of finish are a nice touch (we like the bronze colouring in particular, though they all look good), and the long-lasting battery combines with fast charging times to ensure that you'll be able to keep on drawing for longer. The lack of Bluetooth connectivity means a lack of features like palm rejection, which is a shame, but for an affordable and reliable basic stylus, the Dash 3 ticks all the boxes and more.

The best iPad stylus: Logitech Crayon

(Image credit: Logitech)

07. Logitech Crayon

A great (Apple-approved) Apple Pencil alternative

Specifications
Pressure levels: n/a
Weight: 18.1g
Length: 163mm
Connectivity: Wireless
Battery life: 7 hours
Reasons to buy
+Very affordable+Instant connectivity
Reasons to avoid
-No pressure sensitivity-Useful palm rejection

While Apple originally announced the Logitech Crayon would only be available for schools and educators, it later changed its tune and made this great Pencil alternative available to everyone (albeit at a slightly inflated price point). The lack of pressure sensitivity does hurt this one a little when weighing it up against other options, however it does pack in plenty of useful features such as palm rejection, instant wireless connectivity to compatible iPads and tilt support, which lets you adjust the thickness of a line by altering the angle at which you're using the Crayon. It's nothing groundbreaking, but it's affordable and reliable, with a decent 7-hour battery life.

The best iPad stylus: Adonit Mark

08. Adonit Mark

The best cheap iPad stylus

Specifications
Pressure levels: N/A
Weight: 22g
Length: 140mm
Connectivity: None
Battery life: N/A
Reasons to buy
+The price!+Comfortable to use
Reasons to avoid
-Very basic-No actual connectivity

If you're not sold on the idea of spending upwards of $20/£20 on a simple pointing device, and don't need the specialised functioning of the iPad styluses above, then Adonit's budget option – the Adonit Mark – is worth considering. Despite its cheap price tag, this stylus has been designed to feel as comfortable as possible in your hand, with its triangular anti-roll design. It retains the precision you'd expect from the sole-purpose stylus manufacturer, largely thanks to its smudge-free mesh tip. The Adonit Mark won't win any innovation awards, but if you just want a stylus for navigating around your iPad, you won't find a better cheaper iPad stylus than this. 

What makes a good stylus?

What are we looking for in a good iPad stylus? Well, a comfortable drawing or writing experience is critical. A stylus is no good if using it is less comfortable than jabbing at the touchscreen. A good stylus should sit comfortably in the hand and be easy to use for long periods. A tip that won't scratch your screen is also a no-brainer, though this is the main reason why you should avoid super-cheap styluses from dodgy-looking websites.

Once you start moving up the price rankings, you start to find more sophisticated features that mark out the premium features from the entry level. Whether you need these or not depends on what you're planning to create with the stylus – here's a quick overview of features you're likely to see.

Pressure sensitivity: This is the big one, and the one you'll see referenced frequently throughout our guide. Cheaper styluses have only two states of operation – drawing a line, or not drawing a line. Premium styluses with pressure sensitivity can detect how hard you're pressing, and vary the thickness of the line accordingly. In digital art, this is hugely important.

Different styluses offer different levels of pressure sensitivity (as do different tablets). Having 2,048 distinct levels of pressure sensitivity is common, though some can manage as many as 8,192. Apple is famously coy about how many levels its Pencil can detect, though it's clearly quite a few. 

Palm rejection: With palm rejection, you can rest your hand comfortable on the surface of the tablet while drawing, just as you would a piece of paper. Without it, you can't, as the tablet may get confused with the multiple input signals. If you're planning to spend long sessions drawing, a stylus with palm rejection will make things much more comfortable. 

Tilt sensitivity: Just as with pressure sensitivity, tilt sensitivity adds a layer of finesse to your drawing by allowing the tablet to detect the angle at which the stylus is being placed against the screen. This again allows you to vary line shape and thickness in a very intuitive manner, just as you would with a pen or pencil. 

Wireless connectivity: Some of the above features require the stylus to be connected to your tablet, hence why it comes in handy when a stylus offers connectivity via Bluetooth or similar wireless technology. Styluses with this option also tend to be a lot more compatible with any drawing apps you may be using. 

All these features are great to have, and pretty much essential if you're planning on using your iPad stylus for digital art. But they also put the cost up, which you won't need if you only need a stylus for notes and general navigation. So it's about figuring out what you need versus what you can afford! 

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Beren Neale

Beren Neale is the deals editor at Creative Bloq. After editing several creative and design magazines - including the graphic design mag Computer Arts - he found his home on the biggest global art and design website, helping digital creatives get the best deals on the kit that they need.