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The best iPad stylus in 2022: iPad pens for drawing and note-taking

Hand using best iPad stylus to write and draw on iPad
(Image credit: Dose Media via Unsplash)

With the best iPad stylus, you can transform your tablet in all sorts of ways. You can make it into a powerful artist's canvas, the ideal tool for painting, drawing, animating, photo editing or any other creative task you can think of. Or, you can spend a lot less money, and get something simpler that makes it easy to jot down notes, organise your apps, and keeps those greasy fingers off your iPad screen. There are styluses for all types of user. 

As iPads get better and better (take a look at the latest iPad Air 5 if you don't believe us on that), they're being taken more seriously as tools for creative professionals, which is why Apple has made styluses to match. The original Apple Pencil and the Apple Pencil 2 are the best pens you can get for an iPad, providing the most advanced drawing experience and all the best features like pressure sensitivity.

Of course, just like iPads, they come at a cost, and if you don't need the best of the best when it comes to styluses, there are plenty of third-party alternatives that you can pick up for much less of an outlay. Therefore, in this guide we've included both the official stuff and some third-party options – that way, there's something for all budgets.

For more alternatives to Apple's own stylus, our guide to the best Apple Pencil alternatives is also worth looking. We also have a handy guide to the best drawing tablets if you're not quite sold on an iPad yet, and given that digital drawing can be quite power-intensive, it might be a good idea to pick up one of the best power banks

For now, though, read on to find the best iPad stylus you can buy right now.

The best iPad stylus available now

Drawing with the Apple Pencil 2 on an iPad

(Image credit: Future)
The iPad stylus overall (if your iPad is compatible)

Specifications

Pressure levels: Not specified (around 4096)
Weight: 20.7g
Length: 166mm
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

The Apple Pencil 2 is the best stylus you can buy – if you have an iPad that supports it. It's only compatible with recent, higher-end iPads, so if you're using an older or cheaper model, you might well find that you need to use the original Apple Pencil. Scroll to the bottom of this guide for more on Pencil compatibility if you're unsure. 

We were hugely impressed with the Apple Pencil 2 in our review. It doesn't change much from the original, but adds a few clever touches and upgrades. It's now got a flat edge rather than being completely rounded, which you may think sounds like a small thing, but anyone who has spent any time with the original Pencil has probably noticed how easily it can roll off a desk. Furthermore, the flat edge of the Pencil 2 also offers on-stylus tactile control; you can double-tap it to toggle between settings.

Our reviewer also appreciated the magnetic grip of the Pencil 2 – now, when you're not using it, you can simply clip it to the long edge of your iPad, which will simultaneously charge it. This is such a big quality-of-life improvement, and is just a lovely bit of product design.

In terms of drawing, the Pencil 2 offers just as excellent an experience as the original Pencil did. While Apple doesn't specify the pressure sensitivity levels, there are evidently more than an enough, and this combines well with tilt sensitivity to make for a versatile tool for all kinds of digital art.

It's expensive, obviously, and if you've bought one of the iPads it's compatible with, you may well be of the opinion that you've given Apple enough money lately. Still, if you want the best stylus for iPads, here it is. 

Find out more in our full Apple Pencil 2 review.

Apple Pencil in use drawing on iPadCB endorsed

(Image credit: Future)
The original Apple Pencil works with older and cheaper iPads

Specifications

Pressure levels: Not specified (around 4096)
Weight: 20.7g
Length: 175.7 mm
Connectivity: Bluetooth/Lightning
Battery life: 12 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Broad iPad compatibility
+
Smooth in operation

Reasons to avoid

-
No magnetic storage…
-
... or simultaneous charging

The original Apple Pencil has not been rendered obsolete by the Apple Pencil 2; iPads are only compatible with one stylus or the other, not both. Also, new models are still coming out that are compatible with the original Pencil, like the 10.2-inch (9th gen) iPad so don't count on this stylus being retired just yet.

In our review, we were impressed by the drawing experience offered by the Apple Pencil 2. Its pressure sensitivity is great – more than enough for artists – and having tilt sensitivity is handy as well. The battery life is also very good, though you don't get that sleek magnetic charging boasted by the newer Pencil. You have to charge it via the Lightning Connector concealed beneath the cap – so at least it juices up quickly.

There's not really any point pitting the original Pencil against the Pencil 2, as they aren't compatible with the same iPads. In its own right, the Apple Pencil is a fantastic stylus, and if it's the stylus that's compatible with your tablet, it's the best one you can buy. Once again, it's not cheap, but the fact that it's a few years old does help ease the pain a little. 

Our original Apple Pencil review goes into detail on this excellent stylus. 

Adonit Dash 4 stylus with iPad on desk

(Image credit: Ben Brady)
The best affordable pen for the iPad with a long-lasting battery

Specifications

Pressure levels: n/a
Weight: 15g
Length: 192mm
Connectivity: Wireless
Battery life: 15 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Stylish look and finish
+
Long battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
No pressure sensitivity
-
No Bluetooth

If you don't want to pay Apple Pencil prices, there are a host of third-party styluses out there to tempt you. The Adonit Dash 4 is a great one – compatible with the majority of iPads, it's a versatile stylus that's excellent for more casual users. It's a passive stylus, meaning no Bluetooth connectivity, and has a useful dual-mode toggle that lets you switch between general-purpose use and palm rejection for drawing (provided your iPad is compatible, of course).

There's no pressure sensitivity, so for serious artistic aspirations this may not be the best choice (and you'll find this to be a frequent refrain as we explore third-party styluses). However, in our review, we liked a lot of things about the Adonit Dash 4, especially its sleek aluminium design, and the fact that its battery can last up to 15 hours before needing a charge. 

It's a pretty basic stylus – but if that's all you need, then the Adonit Dash 4 will fit the bill exceptionally well. 

To find out more, check out our Adonit Dash 4 review.

Zagg Pro Stylus product shot on white background

(Image credit: Zagg)

03. Zagg Pro Stylus

The best affordable third-party iPad stylus

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

When you look for third-party iPad styluses, you have to accept some compromises, so let's get this out of the way: the Zagg Pro Stylus does not offer pressure sensitivity. None at all. This is going to be a deal-breaker for some users, which is fair enough – pressure sensitivity is something that serious artists simply need, after all.

Otherwise, however, this stylus has a lot going for it, not least that it is significantly cheaper than either Apple Pencil. Plus, it does offer palm rejection and tilt sensitivity, making it comfortable and easy to sketch on the iPad. It interfaces seamlessly across most iPad apps, and charges via a hidden USB port. It's also not a Bluetooth stylus – it connects by creating an electric field with the touchscreen – meaning there isn't all the annoying pairing and unpairing. 

Battery life is generally pretty good, and the overall design of the Zagg Pro Stylus means you'll be comfortable using it for long periods of time. Also, it has embedded magnets, so you can attach it to the side of compatible iPads to keep hold of it (no magnetic charging, sadly). 

Cost-effective and well designed, the Zagg Pro Stylus is one of the stronger Apple Pencil alternatives we've seen. 

Meko Universal Stylus two variations in white and blackcb badge

(Image credit: Meko)

04. Meko Universal Stylus

The best cheap iPad stylus for those on a budget

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 and 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. 

Wacom Bamboo stylus horizontal view, in black on white background

(Image credit: Wacom )

05. 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.

Lifestyle shot of Adonit Pixel, hand using stylus to draw on iPad

06. 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 close to a decade now, and the Adonit Pixel is still one of its best for drawing on an 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.

Logitech Crayon product shot on white background

(Image credit: Logitech)

08. Logitech Crayon

A an 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
+
Useful palm rejection

Reasons to avoid

-
No pressure sensitivity

While Apple originally announced the Logitech Crayon would only be available for schools and educators, it later changed its tune and made this great Apple Pencil alternative available to everyone (albeit at a slightly higher price). Again, the lack of pressure sensitivity is a point against it, but it packs in some 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 not a groundbreaking pen for the iPad and can't compete with the Apple Pencil, but it's affordable and reliable, with a reasonable battery life of seven hours.

Adonit Mark close-up view of nib on wooden desk

09. 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 only plan to use an iPad stylus for navigating and aren't convinced about the need to spend more than $20/£20 on something you'll only use as a pointing device, then Adonit's most budget option, the Adonit Mark, could be the option you're looking for. Despite the very cheap price, this stylus has been designed to feel comfortable in your hand, with a triangular anti-roll design. It retains the precision you'd expect from a manufacturer that only makes styluses, largely thanks to its smudge-free mesh tip. The Adonit Mark won't win any innovation awards, but if you just want a simple stylus to make it easier to navigate on your iPad, you won't find a better budget iPad stylus than this.

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 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. 

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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.