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

make your own stylus
(Image credit: Olly Curtis)

It might seem unlikely, but you can make your own stylus for an iPad or other digital tablet quickly and easily with just a handful of household objects. And it won't offer all of the advanced features of a stylus like the Apple Pencil, a DIY stylus offers a budget-friendly alternative that can help beginners get started with digital art or help you out of a tough spot if you misplace your existing device. 

Part of the fun of building this DIY stylus is that you can probably find everything you need lying around your home, or at least at the nearest shop. All you need is a pen (a ballpoint or biro pen will work 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. It's really that simple.

Below we'll show you 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 a lot easier to make, but the second option with a metal-cased/tipped pen will often work better.

Please note that we are not responsible for any damage that you incur to either your pen, cotton wool, tablet or yourself. Be sure to watch your fingers and your tablet carefully while doing your DIY, and you should keep the homemade stylus well away from any ports on your tablet. If it all seems a bit too DIY and you want to treat yourself to an actual stylus, see our picks for the best iPad stylus and best Android stylus. We also have a specific roundup of the best Apple Pencil alternatives.

Make your own stylus

It's certainly cheaper than an Apple Pencil (Image credit: Olly Curtis)

Make your own stylus using a cotton bud or 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 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 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.

Make your own stylus using 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 (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab). If you'd rather leave stylus making to the experts, see today's best deals below.

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