The best iPad stylus for drawing and note-taking in 2023

Three of the best styluses aimed at iPads.
(Image credit: Future)

We've put together a list of the best iPad styluses for all digital drawers and note takers. For drawing, you'll want precision, a pen-like feel, palm rejection, pressure sensitivity, and fast response time. If you only need a stylus for taking notes, a cheaper, basic option will suffice. We cover them all here. 

We've made our selection of the best iPad styluses through either getting hands-on experience with the stylus, or getting feedback from professional creatives, and a whole lot of user reviews. With all this, we've then considered each device's value, design, and device specifications. 

For more options, in particular, more affordable ones, take a look at our guide to the best Apple Pencil alternatives. If you're an artist weighing up your slate options, see our choices of the best drawing tablets (spoiler: there are a few iPads in there) and to avoid running out of power while you're drawing on-the-go, see our roundup of the best power banks. For now, though, here's our guide to choosing the best iPad stylus.

The best iPad stylus available now

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Which Apple Pencil works with my iPad?

Which versions of the iPad is the Apple Pencil 2 compatible with? You can use the newer 2018 device with the fourth-generation iPad Air (2020), the iPad Pro 12.9-inch (third generation) and later, and the iPad Pro 11-inch (first generation) and most iPads that come later, the exception being cheaper models such as the recent 10.2-inch 9th gen iPad, which only supports the original Apple Pencil. 

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 to ninth generation) and iPad mini fifth generation. It can all get a bit confusing, so to compare the two styluses, see our guide to Apple Pencil vs Apple Pencil 2 where we cover in detail the differences between the two models, as well as their various compatibilities. 

What makes a good iPad stylus?

Which is the best iPad stylus for you? That depends a lot on your needs, but for most people, a comfortable hold is critical. A stylus is no good if using it is less comfortable than simply using your finger on the touchscreen. A good stylus should sit easily in your hand and be comfortable to use for long periods. Of course, you also need a tip that won't scratch your screen, which is the reason why you should avoid super-cheap styluses from dodgy-looking websites.

If you want a stylus simply to navigate on your iPad and maybe take down notes, those two criteria may be enough. However, if you want to use your iPad stylus to sketch or illustrate, then you'll want to consider paying more for more sophisticated features. The terms below are the ones to look out for.

Pressure sensitivity: This is important for drawing and you'll see it mentioned a lot in our guide above. Cheaper styluses have only two states of operation – drawing a line, or not drawing a line. However, 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). Styluses with 2,048 distinct levels of pressure sensitivity are fairly common, but some offer as many as 8,192. Apple is notably quiet 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 comfortably on the surface of the tablet while you're drawing without it impacting on your work, just as you would a piece of paper. Without it, 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 fluid and comfortable. 

Tilt sensitivity: like with pressure sensitivity, tilt sensitivity allows you to fine-tune your drawing. It allows the tablet to detect the angle at which the stylus is being placed against the screen. This 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, so it can be a great advantage to have a stylus that offers connectivity via Bluetooth or similar wireless technology. Styluses with this option also tend to be a lot more compatible with drawing apps. 

All these features are great to have, and fairly essential if you're planning on using your iPad stylus for digital art. They do add to the cost, however, and aren't necessary if you're only going to use your iPad stylus for note-taking and general navigation.

Can a stylus damage an iPad?

A stylus designed specifically for an iPad, like the Apple Pencil or a third-party option like a Zagg Pro Stylus, will be made with a soft tip and therefore will be unlikely to run any risk of damaging an iPad. The only real danger will be if you use a stylus that isn't intended for an iPad, and hasn't been optimised specifically for an iPad screen. It may damage the iPad screen, and also probably won't work all that well. So stick with an iPad-specific stylus and you shouldn't run into any problems. 

Beren Neale
Deals Editor

Beren has worked on creative titles at Future Publishing for over 13 years. Cutting his teeth as Staff Writer on the digital art magazine ImagineFX, he moved on to edit several creative titles, and is currently the Deals Editor on the most effective creative website in the world. When he's not testing and reviewing the best ergonomic office chairs, he can be found finding and comparing the best deals on the tech that creatives value the most. 

With contributions from