Yes, you really can make your own stylus for an iPad or other digital tablet. It's quick and easy to do, and you don't need any very specialist equipment either. So no, it won't offer anything like the experience provided by an Apple Pencil or the like (forget about multiple levels of pressure sensitivity and programmable functions), but it will do the job in a pinch.
A DIY stylus is a budget-friendly alternative that can help beginners get started with digital art or it could just save your day if you misplace your regular stylus. And part of the fun is in building the DIY stylus. 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. And that's it.
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 should work 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.
Make your own stylus using a cotton bud or Q-tip
01. Prepare your materials to make your DIY stylus
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
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
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.
Make your own stylus using cotton wool
01. Dismantle your pen and cover the casing in foil
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
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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