Make your own stylus with just 4 household items (honestly)

make your own stylus
(Image credit: Olly Curtis)

Making your own stylus for an iPad or other digital tablet is quick and easy to do, and you don't need any specialist equipment. Of course, your creation won't offer anything like the experience provided by an Apple Pencil or the like, but it will do the job.

A DIY stylus is a budget-friendly alternative that can help beginners get started or it could just save your day if you misplace your regular stylus. And part of the fun is in building it. All you need is a few household items that you might already have, or should at least be able to find at a shop nearby: a pen (a ballpoint or biro pen will do fine, it just needs to have a removable ink cartridge), a cotton bud, Q-tip or cotton wool, tin or aluminium foil and some tape. You'll also need some scissors or a craft knife. And that's it.

Make your own stylus

You can make your own stylus using just these items (Image credit: Olly Curtis)

Below are two options for how to make your own stylus. One uses a cotton bud/Q-tip while the other uses cotton wool. The first DIY stylus (with the bud/Q-tip) is easier to make, but the second option with a metal-cased/tipped pen works better.

Please note that we are not responsible for any damage that might occur should you choose to try this out, be it to your pen, cotton wool, tablet or yourself. Watch your fingers and your tablet carefully while doing this DIY experiment, and keep the homemade stylus well away from any ports on your tablet. 

If it all seems like too much fuss and you'd prefer to just get an actual stylus, see our picks for the best iPad stylus and best Android stylus. We also have a guide to the best Apple Pencil alternatives.

Use a cotton bud/Q-tip

01. Prepare your materials

(Image: © Olly Curtis)

Remove the ink cartridge from your pen, leaving a hole where the pen nib would be. Take your cotton bud and cut diagonally about 100mm from the end of one of the buds with a pair of scissors or a craft knife (carefully!). 

02. Insert the cotton bud tip into pen

(Image: © Olly Curtis)

With the ink cartridge now removed from the pen, push the cotton bud into the tip where the nib normally sits. This can be tricky, so you may need to play around with the size of the remaining stem of the bud. 

03. Reassemble the pen and wrap in foil

(Image: © Olly Curtis)

Once secure, screw the pen back together. Wrap the tin or aluminium foil around the pen making sure the foil is making contact with the cotton bud tip. Use some tape to secure the foil.

04. Dampen the tip of your DIY stylus

Now you need to dampen the tip a little to make the pen conductive. Dip the tip in water and squeeze off the excess, you only need the tip to be damp, not soggy, and you don't want to get water on your tablet. That's all there is to it. You now have your very own homemade stylus! If it stops working and is dry to the touch, you can try dampening it again.

Use cotton wool

01. Dismantle your pen and cover the casing in foil

(Image: © Olly Curtis)

Start by dismantling your pen. If the case of your pen isn’t made from metal, cover the casing in tin foil and secure this with tape.

Tear off a small piece of cotton wool and feed it through the pen nib hole. With the cotton wool poking through the hole, push the ink cartridge back into the tip of the pen – this will help to secure the cotton wool. 

You may need to experiment with the amount of cotton wool you’re using – too much and you won’t be able to push the nib back in, too little and the pen nib won’t be covered and will break through the cotton wool.

02. Reassemble the pen

(Image: © Olly Curtis)

Reassemble the pen, screwing the top back on and then the bottom. It’s better to have the tip of the pen fully secure and leave a gap at the bottom, otherwise the cotton wool will cause a bit of an obstruction. You can always trim the cartridge if it's poking out of the bottom and the pen won't screw back together. 

Shape the cotton wool nib with scissors, dampen the tip with a small amount of water (not too much), and start using your very own stylus. If it stops working at any point and the tip is dry, you can dampen it again to revive it. 

Did this technique work for you? Share your homemade stylus creations with us via Twitter or Facebook. Or if you'd rather leave stylus making to the experts, see today's best deals below.

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Jo is group art director on the events team at Future and has worked on a number of magazines and brands, including Computer Arts, What Hi-Fi? and T3. She recently led the redesign of Creative Bloq's sister site, TechRadar.

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