If you have ever used a stylus with your apple device, you probably know what a wide vista of creativity options it opens up for you. This is especially true if you have an iPad. You are suddenly able to draw whatever you want, wherever you are, and write down your ideas as inspiration strikes.
It is also open knowledge that the best stylus for the Apple iPad, or any other Apple device for that matter, is the Apple Pencil. It is built to the same exacting standards we have come to expect of them. Besides, being of the same mother company, they are fully compatible.
Comparable to the Apple Pen
Still, not everybody can afford their legendary prices (the Pencil 2 is available for just under $100). This is why competitors have scrambled to make some good alternatives. For the users on a budget, you can choose from a wide of stylus options that will work seamlessly with your iPhone or iPad.
The thing is, so many of these are available that it is hard to identify the really good ones. There are cheap knockoffs and outstanding models that even threaten to Outclass the Pencil. This is why we went out to find the three best alternatives to the Apple Pencil.
Are Similar Products Good Enough?
In order to tell how good they are, you need to understand how the Apple Pencil works. You can then compare its functionality side by side with the alternatives.
What Apple did was built better technology into the iPad Pro first released in 2017. The screen is able to interact intuitively with the pen by sensing three factors: Its position, angle and pressure. The two communicate via Bluetooth technology.
Having said that, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. That is why we tested out tens of these alternatives to prove which ones are the best. Here, we bring you the top 3 winners.
1. The Adonit Pixel
Firstly, Adonit is very proud of the Pixel’s 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity. This simply means that the pen will respond more intuitively to the force applied to it. In painting, for example, it can mean thicker lines. This is almost the same as the Pencil.
Second, the Adonit Pixel comes with two programmable buttons. They can be used for anything, from do/redo functions, color change, erase and many more.
The Pixel also comes with a robust palm rejection feature. This allows you to rest your hand on the screen as you work and makes for a more natural position. The tip of the Pixel is made of fiber for a more natural flow, while is body is made of aluminium for balance and durability.
The Adonit Pixel connects with your iPad or iPhone via Bluetooth. However, it's only pitfall is that a few of the premium features like pressure sensitivity and palm rejection are only available with apps that support Adonit’s SDK (Software Development Kit.) Luckily, this includes popular ones like GoodNotes and Procreate.
2. Wacom Bamboo Fineline 3
The first thing you notice is the odd triangular shape. It is very comfortable in the hand and makes for a firm grip, as well as keep the pen in place while on a flat surface. It features a fine tip made of fiber that retracts into the casing. Twisting the cap brings it out and powers the pen at the same time.
As for functionality, you will also get some superb pressure sensitivity when using Bamboo Paper, their notepad tool. You can shade lightly or heavily just like you would using a real pencil.
You also get a single programmable button recessed slightly into the barrel that is quite handy for shortcuts.
Despite all these however, the Bamboo disappoints in that it seems to have trouble drawing diagonal lines unless you use a virtual straightedge. In addition, it is yet to have its premium features available on most popular apps like Sketch and Zen Brush, but Wacom says that they are working on it. We’ll see about that.
3. Logitech Crayon
Compared to the others, it has one seemingly major flaw. This is because it lacks pressure sensitivity. In lieu of this, it sports a very responsive tilt feature that changes the thickness of your lines by the angle you hold it at. Just like you would with a soft pencil.
Originally, it was intended for use with the 6th generation iPads only, but you can now use it on any iPhone or iPad you wish. It is also compatible with a wide range of popular apps like Evernote, so this is also another big plus.
Using the Crayon feels very natural. It is designed to be big and durable for use with kids, and you can also use more than one Crayon on a single device for collaborative work. Finally, you get about 7 hours of battery life with it, which is a bit lower than the others that can keep going for 12 hours or more.
Further Stylus Information
To my mind if you want to draw on an iPad you need to get yourself a stylus. While not impossible to create art with just your finger but it will be a whole lot easier on your coordination and accuracy.
Size: Some styluses are tiny and ȧ t in your pocket while others are shaped like thick magic markers. Choose a size that suits your style of drawing and is comfortable to use. Some artists prefer the ultra-portability of the small styluses while others love the large styluses easier to handle.
Weight: A lot of styluses are made of plastic and aluminum which makes them very light. I prefer a stylus that has a little bit of weight; it makes them feel more like an actual pen and gives them ergonomic balance.
Construction: There are a lot of cheap styluses on the market today but in my experience it is worth investing in a nice sturdy stylus. I have bought several styluses only to have the tips wear out or clips break.
Accuracy and Responsiveness: In general the smaller the tip the more accurate it is. This is especially important on the iPad because the touch capabilities are by their nature not very accurate. *however tip size isn’t everything. You want a stylus that responds quickly when it touches your screen.
Some styluses require you to press really hard or position the tips in a certain way before the iPad registers it which can be very frustrating. Two different styluses might have tips that look exactly the same yet respond very differently. If you can try out your stylus before you purchase it.
Foam/Rubber Tip: These are probably the most common type of stylus and feature a broad tip made to imitate the size and touch of your finger. They are not pointed like a pen so it can be hard to be accurate. However the tips are usually smaller than a fingertip and it helps with the hand-eye coordination. These foam or rubber tips glide across the iPad screen well and are usually the most responsive type of stylus.
Plastic Disk Tip: These styluses use a flat circular disk instead of rubber. The clear plastic makes it easier to see where you are drawing on-screen. however some people are uncomfortable hitting their expensive iPad screens with a hard piece of plastic or metal. Also the plastic disks are generally less responsive than the rubber tips so you might have to press harder in order for it to draw correctly. They also don’t glide as steadily as other tips and tend to stick to the screen especially if you have a film screen protector over your iPad.
Brush Tip: Brush tips use conductive fibers to create a more painterly experience. They do not offer much advantage in terms of accuracy or effect; the advantage of these styluses is more in how they feel when you use them and they are very responsive. They are not great for all-purpose sketching and writing but they are fun to have around and artists who have a background in traditional painting might enjoy them.
Digital Painting Apps
Apps! The list of art apps available for the iPad seems to grow every time I visit the app Store. There are a few professional front-runners and a lot of standout smaller apps as well. It amazes me how developers are coming up with innovative ways to tackle the iPads limitations for drawing and painting.
What to Look For in an Art App
There are many reasons to pick one art app over another but for me it almost always comes down to a few things:
Tools: What types of tools does the app provide! How do they work! Some give you a few basic brushes while others have an assortment of pens pencils and textured brushes.
Interface: How easy is it to get around the app! Can you find and access tools easily! With so many apps featuring similar painting tools the interface is usually what sells me on a special app. SketchBook Pro for example is a complex app with many settings or tools but it is easy to navigate with its spectacular user interface.
Pixels or Vectors: Some apps are pixel-based meaning the image is made up of tiny dots of color. Most painting apps like ArtRage and Brushes are pixel-based. They allow for a lot of texture and nuance in the image. However because the images are limited to a certain number of pixel-based images cannot be enlarged without becoming blurry. This is a handicap for the iPad in particular because a lot of art apps only support low-resolution (usually 1024 Z 768 pixels) images so they cannot be used for most pro work.
Vector-based apps on the other hand create images via mathematical calculations and coordinates. The app records the relative size and dimensions of each stroke and shape. Vector images are usually limited to basic shapes and lines and don’t allow for a lot of texture but the images can be enlarged to any size without any blurriness or pixelation. These kinds of apps are great for line art and icons. Examples of vector-based apps include Adobe Ideas, IDraw and Inkpad.
Universal Apps: Do you own an iPhone or iPod Touch in addition to your iPad? Most art apps above come across require that you buy a different version of the app for each device (for example I can use SketchBook Pro on my iPad but I had to buy SketchBook Mobile separately for my iPhone). However there are a few universal apps that support both within one app such as Adobe Ideas.
Video: A few apps record your painting process as you go. This allows you to playback the painting. you may even be able to export the video and save it to your computer or share on the web. Brushes ArtRage and Layers all support video playback.
Best photo editing apps for iPad
When all is said and done, no third party stylus can beat the Apple Pencil. It is built to higher standards and is more compatible with present and future IOS devices. Still, there are some really good alternatives that you can purchase for a fraction of the cost that can serve your needs admirably.
It appears that most alternatives excel in one area or another. Some are great at drawing, others will give you an unbelievable battery life among others.
The best Apple Pencil alternatives given here will most likely be more than enough for your purposes. Get any of them from Amazon and see how well they work.