Is an Apple Paintbrush on its way?

A girl using an Apple Pencil on an iPad
Image credit: Apple

Since its launch in 2015, the Apple Pencil has made a reputation for itself as the best digital drawing tool on the market. It creates fluid lines, works quickly, and has an analogue feel that's exclusive to drawing apps for iPads.

The only criticism that could be levelled at the Apple Pencil, besides the fact that it only works on iPads, is that it only has one type of tip. But if Apple follows through with a recently approved patent for a brush tip, that drawback could be set to change.

Discovered by Patently Apple last week, the new patent outlines possible features and accessories that could make the already impressive Apple Pencil even more versatile. These include an interchangeable tip that would essentially transform the Apple Pencil into a brush. Apple Paintbrush, anyone?

Patent image of an Apple Pencil with a paintbrush tip

Is this the future of the Apple Pencil?

Described as a tip with "flexible contact members" that individually interact with one another, this Apple Pencil accessory's bristles contain sensors that would be capable of creating a paintbrush-like effect.

As you'd expect from a legal document, the language of the patent isn't the easiest text to process. To quote it directly, the patent reveals that "haptic feedback can involve the transformation, displacement, oscillation, vibration or modification of a body of material (e.g., substrate)."

Or, to put it more simply, Apple wants these accessories to recreate the sensations of drawing and painting with analogue drawing tools. It's not just paintbrushes in Apple's crosshairs either, an interchangeable pencil or marker tip could just as easily take advantage of haptic feedback.

Patent diagram of an Apple paintbrush tip

Sensors in the bristles could create a true-to-life painting feel

The patent also implies that the Apple Pencil could work with the iPhone in the future. Currently the stylus only works on iPad devices, so if the drawings and diagrams are to be believed, the Apple Pencil could become a lot more mobile-friendly, and the best iPad apps could get even better.

Another notable observation from the patent is the possibility of recreating different painting techniques and styles with the brush tip. With suggested options including Vincent van Gogh, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso, the aesthetics of artistic legends could be just a couple of screen taps away.

Patent images of an iPad displaying painting style menu options

Artists could match their brushes to different creative styles

Crucially, the patent does not contain any release dates. So while this is a fascinating glimpse into what could be, don't hold your breath for an imminent release. However, the approval does pave the way for Apple to develop these ideas further should they choose to. And we think they'd be stupid not to.

Images via DesignTaxi

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Dom Carter

Dom Carter is a freelance writer who specialises in art and design. Formerly a staff writer for Creative Bloq, his work has also appeared on Creative Boom and in the pages of ImagineFX, Computer Arts, 3D World, and .net. He has been a D&AD New Blood judge, and has a particular interest in picture books.