How to find the Best Stylus for Drawing

Contents

Most of our reviews target graphics and drawing tablets, which mostly come with their own styluses as part of the deal. These styluses are purpose built to help you meet your needs as a digital artist.

But sometimes you have a tablet, but no stylus, and you might wonder which stylus is best for drawing. That’s what this article is about. We take a look at the most popular styluses on the market, helping you pick the right one for you.

So in order to help make this search a little easier and to provide a selection of unbiased recommendations, we have sourced and reviewed what we consider to be the most suitable styluses (from several differing price points) for digital drawing.

…in a hurry? here are our top picks:

Our pick

Bamboo Ink Smart Stylus
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The Wacom Bamboo Ink is a great pen for serious artists who want pressure sensitivity for precise drawing. It also works on any devices that use the MPP and Wacom AES protocols. While it has no tilt detection, and uses AAAA batteries that you have to replace, it’s a great quality stylus that’s worth the money.

Runner-up

Adonit Note
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The Adonit Note is a great alternative to the Apple Pencil for iPads. Unfortunately, it has no pressure sensitivity, and the power button keeps getting in the way. That said, it comes at a great price and looks a lot more like a regular pen than the long and sleek Apple Pencil.

Runner-up

Apple Pencil
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This is the 2nd generation Apple Pencil. Its long, smooth and round design is a hit or miss, depending on your preferences. The cap on top also gets easily lost for most people, revealing the male lightning charging port on top. That said, if you’re a die-hard Apple fan, this is the ultimate status symbol among styluses!

Who is this page for?

If you have a tablet but need a stylus to go with it so you can explore your drawing interest, then you’ve come to the right place. We cover 8 products, exploring what we like and don’t like about them.

The first 3 are our favorites, and are in-depth as a consequence. The other 5 are shorter, but we still go into some depth about their strengths and weaknesses. By the end, you should have a much better idea which stylus is right for you.

How do I choose a stylus?

There is a lot to consider when picking the right stylus, so much, in fact, that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Below are some of the things you should look out for when picking a stylus.

Design – The design is important for both aesthetic and functional purposes. For example, is the nib retractable, or at least protected? Does the pen come with a case or some kind of magnetic feature that allows you to attach it to your tablet to avoid losing it?

The pen should also look good, with a slick design that nonetheless provides great grip.

Friction – Actually using the stylus on your phone or tablet shouldn’t be hard work. It should draw lines easily without lag or leaving unsightly marks on your screen. It also shouldn’t be so smooth that writing is slippery.

In other words, the stylus should have just the right amount of friction. Not so little that it keeps slipping or you have to press super hard, and not so much that it scratches your screen.

Feel – The stylus should feel good in the hand, with an ergonomic design that makes it possible to work with it for extended periods. If the stylus is badly designed, your fingers will feel crampy after using it for only a short while. You should have an idea of the ergonomics by reading our review of each stylus.

Balance/weight – A stylus needs to be in the sweet spot for weight and height for it to be well-balanced. That means not too long or short and also not too heavy. The weight should also be evenly distributed throughout the stylus.

Precision – Whether you’re writing or drawing, you want a stylus that draws well-defined and precise lines. That means that it doesn’t have lag or makes poorly-defined lines, as writing with it will be more work than it’s worth!

Our 8 best drawing tablets for Photoshop are…

Wacom Bamboo Ink (overall winner)

Bamboo Ink Smart Stylus
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Dimensions: 5.7 in x 0.4 in | Item Weight: 0.7 oz | Charge Required: No | Charge Time: N/A | Continuous Use: N/A | Battery Power: Yes | Express Keys: Yes | Customizable Express Keys: No | Compatibility: Windows

Who is this for? 

This is a great pen for those who have bought drawing tablets or 2-in-1 computers like the Microsoft Surface Pro that don’t come with a stylus. It works with all Windows devices, and supports both MPP (Microsoft) and AES (Wacom) protocols.

Otherwise it’s useless on an iPad or any other device that doesn’t use either of the protocols above, so take note of that.

Why we like it

There’s a lot to like for sure.

For starters, the pen itself has a great build. It’s just 5.75 inches long and only 0.4 inches at its widest. It’s not round, like many styluses. Instead it’s more triangular, though the corners are rounded.

That does wonders for the ergonomics, as this pen is a joy to hold, and with the soft texture, it feels pleasant to the touch, unlike slick styluses.

At the end is a metal clip, which you can use to attach the pen to your shirt pocket, a gear bag, or a case. You cannot magnetically attach it to a tablet or computer, but we don’t really miss that feature, since when it’s present in other pens it doesn’t work well anyway.

There are two shortcut buttons: one on the top and one on the side. By default, the top one is an app launcher, so you can click on it any number of times to open any number of apps, such as Sketchpad, Screen Sketch, and so on.

The side button doesn’t protrude very much, which means it won’t get in the way while you’re holding the pen. It works by default as a right mouse button, though you can configure it to do pretty much anything you want.

The pen comes with 3 nibs in a small case: one soft, one medium, and one hard. The nib that comes on the pen is medium in hardness. You can also use the case to remove the nib from the pen, as using your finger may damage the  nib or stylus.

The soft nib feels more like writing or sketching on paper, though it wears out faster. The hard nib is more durable, but feels like working on a hard surface. The medium nib is a good middle ground.

In terms of performance, it’s a great pen, so long as you use with an MPP or AES-enabled device. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with any other protocols, including the old EMR standard from Wacom, so first and second generation Surface Pros do not support it. Also, you will need to pair it with a computer via Bluetooth, so you need a Bluetooth-enabled computer.

Flaws, but not dealbreakers

Perhaps the easiest to point out is that the pen is not battery-free. Instead it uses an AAAA battery. On the one hand, we’ve grown to prefer batter-free pens. On the other hand, every other pen competing with the Bamboo Ink uses batteries, so it seems to be par for the course in this category.

We’re also ambivalent about the pressure levels. Wacom doesn’t disclose the pressure levels, so we suspect it’s 1024 levels, because if it was a lot they’d probably brag about it. Also, the pen does not have tilt detection, which is not good news for fine artists.

Pros

  • Very comfortable
  • Works well with Windows product that support MPP and AES protocols
  • Has a nice design

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Likely only 1024 pressure levels
  • No tilt detection

Adonit Note (Runner-up)

Adonit Note
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Dimensions: 6 in x 0.36 in | Item Weight: 12.2 g | Charge Required: Yes | Charge Time: 45 min | Continuous Use: N/A | Battery Power: Yes | Express Keys: No | Customizable Express Keys: No | Compatibility: iPad



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Who is this for?

This pen is an excellent Apple Pencil alternative. If you work a lot on an iPad, and find the cost of the latest Apple Pencil forbidding (quite frankly, even the previous generation Apple Pencil has a forbidding price), or the fact that it looks too long and its cap can easily be lost, revealing an unsightly lightning port, then this is the right pen for you.

Note, however, that this pen is more suited for people who like to work on documents a lot, not artists, as it is severely lacking in artist-friendly features, which we will touch on below.

Why we like it

For starters, it has a pretty nice design. There are 3 competing main brands in this category: the Apple Pencil, the Logitech Crayon, and the Adonit Note. Everyone can tell when you’re carrying an Apple Pencil. Ditto for the Logitech Crayon.

In fact, where the Apple Pencil is long and narrow, the Logitech Crayon  has anti-roll design that fulfills its functionality but causes the pen to look large and clunky, like something a carpenter might use, rather than an artist.

The Adonit Note is a sort of sweet spot in the middle. It looks like a regular pen – say something you might steal from a fancy hotel. You can walk around with it in the office without looking like a total nerd. It also has a great design.

There are two versions: black and gold, and both have copper accents for the clip and the power button, making them look very executive.

There’s also a nice LED light on the side of the pen that glows blue when the pen is on and red when the battery is low. Speaking of the battery, you can expect it to last up to 4 days on normal use, which is pretty good.

But we think this is expected, given this isn’t an artist’s pen but more of something you take notes with.

Pairing is also a breeze. You only need to tap it to the screen of a compatible iPad and the pen works instantly. It also comes with palm rejection.

Flaws, but not dealbreakers

This isn’t really an artist’s pen. It has no pressure sensitivity or tilt support. You can’t influence the width of your lines, no matter how hard you press on the screen or tilt the pen while writing.

It’s best used for taking notes and other tasks that don’t require you to manipulate the form of the strokes made on the page.

Another con is the placement of the power button. It’s about a third of the way up the pen, which makes it easy to accidentally switch it on and off while working. Sure, it’s possible to avoid it, but that depends on how big your hands are and how you hold the pen.

Pros

  • Much more affordable than Apple Pencil at half the price
  • Supports one-tap pairing and palm rejection
  • Has a great design

Cons

  • No pressure sensitivity
  • No tilt detection
  • Power button keeps getting in the way

Apple Pencil (Runner-up)

Apple Pencil
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Dimensions: 6.92 in x 0.35 in | Item Weight: 0.73 oz | Charge Required: Yes | Charge Time: 25 min | Continuous Use: N/A | Battery Power: Yes | Express Keys: Yes | Customizable Express Keys: Yes | Compatibility: iPad

Who is this for?

The Apple Pencil is, quite simply, for iPad users. It is not compatible with Android, Windows, or pretty much any other platforms. As such, it’s more of a siloed product than any of the others on this list. If you’re a die-hard Apple fan , own an iPad, and are a professional artist or at least would like to try your hand at art, then this is the right product for you.

Why we like it

It’s hard to beat the design of the Apple Pencil. If we were to use a single word to describe it, it would be ‘subdued’, as that defines much of the style. It’s not trying too hard, and yet still manages to wow you.

It’s essentially a smooth white cylinder that weighs just 0.73 ounces while being almost 7 inches long. You might think that because it’s round it should roll off the table easily, but it doesn’t. In fact, it stays in place excellently.

It’s also effortless to pair. The pencil comes with a cap hiding its male port, which you can plug into the lightning port in your iPad to pair the two.

It works effortlessly with iWork apps and doesn’t require any extra work to configure, It just works right out of the box! It also has tilt sensitivity, in addition to pressure sensitivity, so you can work with it as you would a normal pencil

Charging is also very easy. According to Apple, 30 seconds of charging will give you up to 15 minutes of use. We found in practice that 25 minutes was enough to give it a full charge, which can last for hours.

Flaws, but not dealbreakers

For starters, there is no indication of the exact pressure sensitivity of the Apple Pencil from Apple. We have to guess it from normal use. We would say it’s probably 2048 levels, though it works pretty well. We also don’t like the fact that the stylus has no indication of battery level. You have to read that on your iPad.

It also does not come with an eraser. You can configure the tapping feature to erase, though this is less intuitive than an eraser tip. Of course, we also wish it were compatible with more devices.

Another thing we think is a minor flaw is the sheer length of the Apple Pencil. At almost 7 inches long, it can be a bit too long for people with smaller hands.

Pros

  • Very accurate
  • Pairs incredible easily
  • Durable
  • Well-designed

Cons

  • Does not come with an eraser tip
  • The back cap can easily get lost
  • Might be too long for people with smaller hands

Others worth considering…

Staedtler 180 22-1 Noris Digital

STAEDTLER 180 22
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The Staedtler Noris Digital is a collaboration between Korean phone manufacturer Samsung and German pencil maker Staedtler. We love the theme behind this stylus. It is designed to look and feel just like a traditional Staedtler HB pencil.

While many other players in the market are looking to make their styluses look as futuristic as possible, the Noris Digital takes a more retro approach. If you’ve ever used the Noris HB from Staedtler, the Noris digital will be instantly recognizable.

Apart from the technical aspects, the only other obvious difference between this stylus and the original it’s based on is that it has a black and green color scheme, while the original has a black and gold one.

In a pack, you get 5 replacement nibs. You don’t need to worry about charging the stylus as it uses EMR technology to work. It is compatible with any Wacom EMR-enabled device, including Samsung Galaxy Note and even the Wacom One.

Unfortunately, it is not compatible with any Apple products or any device that does not use EMR tech.

We love the fact that this pen has 4096 pressure levels, which means you can use it for art. It doesn’t have any shortcut buttons, but the rear end can be used as a soft-tip eraser on compatible devices.

On the other hand, it has no tilt detection, which we would certainly have appreciated. The price is also affordable, considering the excellent design and useful features.

Logitech Crayon

Logitech Crayon Digital Pencil
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The Logitech Crayon is yet another stylus trying to provide an alternative to the costly Apple Pencil. It’s 6.5 inches long and is has a flat rectangular shape that reminds us of a carpenter’s pencil.

Depending on your preferences, you may or may not find that design appealing. We didn’t – we thought it was a little too clunky in appearance.

Whatever you think of the physical appearance of this pen, its performance certainly matches that of the Apple Pencil, and even surpasses it in some respects. For starters, it’s pretty light at just 0.7 ounces heavy, and the shape fits ergonomically in the hand (that’s a plus for the shape, I suppose).

It is light gray with an orange tip and cap. The cap actually hides the Lightning charging port, and doesn’t come off very easily. A lot of people complained that the Apple’s cap got lost easily, revealing the male Lightning charging port underneath.

This one not only has a cap but a female port as well, which can easily be charged by a Lightning cable.

To use the Crayon, all you need to do is press the power button. It has an LED that shines green when on and red when the battery falls below 10%. It has tilt detection, but no pressure sensitivity.

On the one hand, we miss the pressure sensitivity, but on the other we’re happy with the tilt detection, which is missing from the Adonit Note. The Crayon also works with most standard iOS apps, and can keep its charge for a sweet 7 hours. Overall, we think it’s a fantastic option, so long as you don’t mind the shape!

MEKO Universal Stylus

MEKO Universal Stylus
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The Meko universal stylus is pretty unique on our list. This is a capacitive disc-tip stylus. What that means is that it has a rubber tip surrounded by a disc at the end, rather than a normal stylus tip. The rubber tip needs to be in contact with a touchscreen so that it can be detected, just like your finger.

One of the cons of disc-tip styluses is that they have neither pressure sensitivity nor palm rejection, so you need to keep your hand away from the screen while working to avoid contact. That means that even a short period of work with such a stylus can be very tiring.

Another con is that the disc obscures the lines, so you’re not sure where the line is beneath the tip of the stylus while working. Products like the Meko and others get around this problem by having transparent discs. That way you can always see where the line is, dead in the middle under the rubber tip.

Apart from that, the stylus works very well, and doesn’t need batteries as it works just like your finger would. Also, as a universal stylus it is compatible with all devices with a touchscreen, including iOS, Android, and Windows devices.

It also comes with a mesh tip on the other end, which you can use for scrolling and tapping when you’re not doing any writing. The best part is that, as it is currently sold, you get two styluses for the price of one!

Digiroot Universal Stylus

Digiroot Universal Stylus
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The Digiroot is yet another universal stylus with a disc-tip. This one is even cheaper than the Meko, though you get just one stylus for, well, the price of one! It has a transparent disc-tip, just like the Meko, and works using the same capacitive technology.

You can use it for writing and drawing, though note that, since it has no pressure sensitivity or palm rejection. Something we like about this particular product is that it comes with 6 replacement disc-tips and 3 replacement mesh tips. That’s a great bargain, considering the price!

Adonit Mark

Adonit Mark Stylus
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Finally, we round out our reviews with yet another product from Adonit. This is yet another capacitive-type stylus. However, rather than a disc-tip, the Mark has a mesh tip.

This is similar to the mesh tips on the other pens that are used for tapping and scrolling. However, in this case, the mesh tip is actually used for writing. In classic capacitive stylus style, it has no pressure sensitivity, tilt-detection, or palm rejection.

Also, the soft and broad mesh tip can feel a bit awkward to draw or write with at first, as you might think it will make broad strokes. However, it actually writes and draws pretty well once you get used to it. The Mark comes with an anodized aluminum body and has a triangle shape that fits nicely in the hand.

Conclusion

And with that we come to the end of our article. As you can see, there are plenty of options available on the market for styluses. Hopefully you should find something you like on this list and get drawing as soon as possible. Until next time, happy drawing!

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