Whether you’re the sort of person who doodles in class, diagrams lectures, or just jots down old-fashioned notes, you’ve probably considered buying a stylus or a tablet that’s already equipped with one. In recent years, styli have become more popular and more varied, meaning they’re not just for art majors anymore. The release of the Apple Pencil also helped push the once ill-fated peripheral back into the spotlight, helping to reinvigorate a market that is now bursting with viable options. To help you make sense of them all, we’ve put together a list of the best stylus pens for every occasion, not to mention the top tablets that come bundled with them. Read on for more details.
Are you looking for a great tablet? Check out our review of Apple’s newest iPadand our picks for the best Android tablets you can buy.
No artist is exactly the same, and depending on your medium of choice, you may want a specific kind of stylus. Some artistic styli come with interchangeable tips, so you can vary the quality of stylus input, while others are a one-size-fits-all option or specifically designed to mimic a certain medium.
The Apple Pencil may have debuted towards the end of 2015, but it has already set the standard for styli. Before jumping to specifics, note that the Pencil only works with the 9.7-inch, 10.5-inch, and 12.9-inch iPad Pro and the 6th Generation iPad. The Pencil itself is one of the fastest, and most responsive styli we have used, with essentially no latency (if there is some, we didn’t notice).
Thanks to the pressure-sensitive screen in the iPad Pro, the Pencil can produce incredibly fine lines with variations in gradient as you increase pressure. The side of the tip creates wider strokes, which is great for shading, and the tipcan also offer a fine point when you need it. It can be slippery at times, but it generally sits pretty well in the hand.
Unfortunately, the Pencil’s other end only features a charging cap that’s easy to lose, rather than an eraser.
If you’re really invested in Adobe apps and the Creative Cloud, Adobe’s Ink & Slide stylus and ruler combo may just be the perfect tools for you. The Ink & Slide connect to anyiPad 4 or later, iPad Air, or iPad Mini via Bluetooth LE. It’s also synced up with the Creative Cloud, so every drawing you make or preference you set will be stored in the cloud for you to access on your computer or other devices later. The Ink & Slide also workwith Adobe’s Illustrator Line and Photoshop Sketch apps.
The Ink stylus has a fine-tip, pressure-sensitive point and feels like a normal pen in your hand. The Ink uses Pixelpoint technology from Adonit for greater accuracy. A status LED on the stylus even shows you what color you chose, so you don’t make any mistakes. The Slide ruler can be used to make perfectly straight lines, circles, and other shapes. Even though it’s a pricier stylus, the Ink & Slide does comewith a USB charger and carrying case, and it’s the ideal stylus for serious creatives who are deeply invested in Adobe’s products already.
Pencil is one of the best all-around artistic styli when used in conjunction with the company’s app Paper. Using the preset tools available in the app available for iOS you can produce remarkable watercolor paintings, fine line drawings, pen and ink sketches, as well as dynamic comic-book like images with the marker function.
FiftyThree specifically designed Pencil to feel solid and comfortable in your hand. It’s shaped like a carpenter’s pencil and even comes in real walnut wood. Pencil even toutsa built-in eraser on the end, so you can just flip it around when you want to erase. You can also use Pencil to smudge lines and create a nice blurred effect.
Although Pencil works best with Paper, it is also fully compatible with popular drawing and painting app ProcreateandNoteshelf.It connects to your iPad via Bluetooth, and once you’ve paired it, you’ll never have to do so again. When it runs out of battery, you can just remove the tip and pop the USB into any standard USB port.
Sensu’s Artist Brush and Stylus combo offerthe best of both worlds with its real paintbrush tip and built-in stylus tip. The brush tip acts just like a real paintbrush, which makes it perfect for painting, but it certainly won’t work if you want to execute a fine line drawing. Luckily, once you switch over to the rubber stylus tip, you’ll be able to draw more precise lines. However, the Sensu isn’t pressure-sensitive and it may suffer from delayed reaction times now and then.
It comes in an aluminum finish and looks just like a normal paintbrush. The brush bristles are actually made of synthetic brush hair that was developed in Japan. The stylus tip is made of rubber. Luckily, it works on most Android, Windows, and iOS tablets, so you won’t be limited in your choice of tablet.
The Cosmonaut stylus may look huge a bulky, but it’s actually the ultimate stylus for whiteboard and marker artists. This stylus won’t give you the thinnest line you’ve ever seen, but it will give you a nice, solid line. The Cosmonaut is easy to grip and it certainly isn’t delicate, so it can take a knocking in your bag without suffering any ill effects.
It’s a short, squat, round rubber stylus with no other defining features. It really looks like a fat, black crayon. The Cosmonaut seems like the perfect stylus for those of you who like to diagram lectures and take notes in a visual style. It works with both Android, iOS, and presumably Windows tablets. The Cosmonauts’ creators say it shouldalsowork on any touchscreen.
Adonit has been offering affordable, but well-built styli for quite a whileand the Mark is no different. At $15, it lets anyone with a smartphone, tablet, or laptop have access to a solid, all-purpose stylus. The best thing about the Mark is how the stylus feels in the hand — it’s made of anodized aluminum and is smooth, but has a good grip. It’s also has a triangular shape, so it doesn’t roll, which also feels natural.
It’s a decent, cheaper alternative for drawing, but we wouldn’t recommend it for note-taking as it’s not precise, being that it is tipped with a mesh. Even when drawing, don’t expect to getaccurate strokes while you’re working on the finer details.
If you’re looking for a paintbrush instead of just a stylus, then the Nomad Flex may be the tool you need for your iPad. The brush is made of aluminum and has synthetic bristles, which make it feel more akin to a real paintbrush. The Flex will work perfectly with apps such as Paper or Procreate, but in an app like Penultimate, a traditional stylus would be more appropriate. Nomad’s offering includes a plastic carrying case inside the box, too, so you can safeguard the brush from unwanted abuse.
How does it compare to the Sensu brush? Well, the bristles on the Sensu are a bit stiffer than the ones on the Flex — the bristles on the former are alsomore round. The Flex is going to feel thinner and lighter than the Sensu, and the Flex’s bristles will feel mushier by comparison. Another great thing about the Flex is that it is compatible with iPads, as well as Android tablets and Microsoft’s Surface lineup. The brush also comes in a variety of colors, including charcoal, pink, silver, blue, and red.
Best styli for notetakers
There are almost as many styli for note taking as there are for drawing. Although there are scads of fine-tipped styli for taking notes, these are four of the best we’ve found for precise writing on tablets.
While the Adonit Switch may have a low price tag, it certainly doesn’t mean it lacks in style or usefulness. That’s right, the Switch doubles as a stylus and an actual pen. Roll the striped grip-end, and you’ll find a ball-point pen sliding out. Rotate to takeoff the cap on the other side, andvoil, you have a precision stylus.
The precision stylus has a disk at the end, allowing for more precise marks on your tablet. It feels and weighs about the same as a normal pen, and can easily be mistaken for one. It can be used to draw, but you’re better off sticking with writing notes with the Adonit Switch. The ball-point pen writes fairly welland adds an immensely useful function if you happen to always carry a stylus around
Adonit probably offers the most precise and fine stylus tips of any manufacturer. Although the Jot Script is well-liked for its extra fine tip, it only works with iOS devices, which limits its reach. The benefit if the Adonit Jot Pro, is that it works on most touchscreen devices, including both iPads and Android tablets. It will probably also work on Windows tablets, too, but we haven’t tested that theory.
The Jot Pro has a very fine point, which makes it perfect for taking notes. When precision is the order of the day, it doesn’t get much better than this. The Jot Pro looks and feels like a regular ballpoint pen, with the addition of a small plastic disc on the tip to protect the screen. It even comes in several different colors, including a nice rose gold and midnight blue.
Adonit is one of the best styli manufacturers in existence, one that recentlyadded the Adonit Pixel to its already impressive lineup. The Pixel stylus is compatible with iPhone 5 and higher, third and fourth-gen iPads, all iPad Minis, the iPad Air, and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
Like Adonit’s other wears, the Pixel has a 1.9-millimeter tip instead of a disc, allowing for easy drawing and sketching. The stylus’ tip has improved drag performance as well, to make it feel like you’re writing on paper. AUSB dongle also allows you to charge the stylus via yourcomputer, while a host of programmablebuttons let you perform a variety of customized actions on the fly. If you’re looking for a blue-ribbon stylus that touts solid functionality across the board, you can’t go wrong with the Pixel.
If you’re looking for an affordablealternative to some of the premium offerings on our roundup, then look no further than the Musemee Notier V2. The stylus touts a fine disc tip, one that is both durable and replaceable. The V2 has also undergone a set of rigorous bend tests and features an ergonomic design that is flexible enough that you can hold the pen at any angle, much like you would a traditional pen. One of its best features is its compatibility, however, which allowsyou to use the stylus with a multitude of iOS and Android devices. Itworks with all touch-capacitive displays, meaning it’s compatiblewith iPads, iPhones, Samsung devices, HTC devices, Motorola devices, and a host of others.
Best tablets for styli
As laptop-tablet hybrids grow increasingly popular — just take a look at the numbers for both the iPad Pro and Microsoft’s Surface lineup — so doesthe use of styli as an accessory. Samsung’s alternative is the Galaxy Tab S3which boasts a10-inch, HDR-ready AMOLED. The device as big as the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, so the screen size makes it a great canvas to work with. Samsung also offers the S Pen as an accessory, which offers decent performance when it comes to taking notes.
However, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4also comes with a stylus, and it delivers on performance. The Surface Penis four times as pressure sensitive as the Surface Pro 3’s stylus. It also comes with an eraser, can handle fine lines easily, and boasts a variety ofspecial features. You can activate Cortana with the pen, for example, or open a note withthe press of a button. It looks and feels like a regular pen, too, and though it may not be the best for drawing, it certainly works.
Our last recommendation, the iPad Pro, needs no introduction. The tablet’s massive display is a beauty to draw on, and the Apple Pencil is the perfect accessory for it, due to its pressure-sensitive screen. The 9.7-inch Pro is just a smaller — albeit, capable — alternative for budding artists.