back to article From doodles to designs – sketch it out with a stylish stylus

Steve Jobs famously said of tablets: ‘If you see a stylus, they blew it.’ Any digital artist handed an iPad, however, will start looking for the stylus, as will anyone who wants to scribble quick diagrams. And thus an after-market was born. Indeed, more so for iOS than Android, if the choices beyond the cheapest offerings are …

  1. Steve Knox

    Precision Stylus for Android

    I believe Samsung short-circuited this market with their Note line. If you want a high-end Android tablet, Samsung's already at or near the top of your list, so if you want a precision stylus, you get a Note.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Precision Stylus for Android

      Or a Surface Pro...

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Precision Stylus for Android

      I believe Samsung short-circuited this market with their Note line.

      Yes, to the point that Avatron support both the Note and the iPad for their "let's use a tablet as a Mac digitiser" software. It may be that Samsung has locked that market down with patents as a consequence - it wouldn't be the first time this happens in our lovely IT industry..

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Precision Stylus for Android

        Not Samsung AFAIK. Wacom possibly own a few patents and are also one of the best products. If you look at some of the drivers/apps running in the background of the note, it will say "wacom driver". So I assume Samsung paid for the Wacom royalties/use. Where as other manufacturers either don't wish to pay up, or cannot afford.

        If Samsung had the patent, we'd see more tabs/laptops with this feature than just the Note.

  2. DryBones


    Nothing for the PC? Considering the number of convertible laptops that are starting to make it into the mass market, this looks like such an easy win. Just like those for the iPad, all the stylus needs to do is report pressure over the bluetooth link and Bob's your uncle. Then for $100 or whatever, I can turn my laptop into a graphics tablet.

    Anyone want to take my money for such a thing? Anyone? Bueller?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tch.

      Wacom do a bunch that you draw on a pad beside the PC. Intuos for serious designing; Bamboo for less serious kit.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tch.

      I suspect that will be coming the moment the sale of these devices starts to taper off due to market saturation - I agree with you that the market is there.

      For Macs there is another slightly twisted option: you can install Air Display or Air Stylus from Avatron which turns the iPad into a digitiser that is recognised by OSX applications as a digital, pressure sensitive pen. I have no real hand drawing talent so I just bought this for experiments, but it turns the connected iPad into an extra screen and you just drag the graphics app there that you want to use and it then receives pen input as if it was a pen & tablet connected to the Mac. However, the better option is mirror mode - that way you can see it on your big screen (IMHO, it gets all too fiddly on the iPad). They also support the Galaxy Note as a tablet.

      However, I hope that at some point there will be a simple, central iOS API for this, it is disappointing that every manufacturer has to write its own driver..

  3. Sgt_Oddball

    Because no self respecting...

    Designer (and I use the term loosely) would be caught thinking any more differently than an apple (of any kind).

    1. Undergrid

      Re: Because no self respecting...

      Somewhat ironic considering you'd expect a designer to be able to think outside the box...

      1. Sgt_Oddball

        Re: Because no self respecting...

        My point exactly. Down votes be damned.

  4. druck Silver badge

    At £180, Ink & Slide is ludicrously expensive.

    This is an Apple peripheral we are talking about.

  5. Anonymous Coward


    Could you use one of these pens to write a letter asking permission to link to the aboves Pan Am Games website???

    (They require a WRITTEN letter, and my PC currently only does TYPING).

  6. Phuq Witt
    Thumb Down

    They're All Shit

    Because, at the end of the day, the iPad isn't designed to work in this way, so all these stylii are trying to sledgehammer square pegs into round holes –with varying degrees of success.

    I don't know if its true in this case [apologies if not] but one thing that annoys me with a lot of reviews of this kind of thing is that they almost always seem to be done by people who aren't artists. So they doodle a few stick men and proclaim the software or hardware in question to be good, bad or indifferent. A 'real' artist will care about things like pressure sensitivity response curve, drawing lag while drawing fast, accuracy/jitter while drawing slowly, weight & balance of the stylus in the hand, etc. Having digital art equipment reviewed by non-artists is about as useful as someone who can't drive reviewing a car after sitting in the driver seat, wiggling the wheel a bit and shouting "Vroom! Vroom!"

    Someone up there ^^ got downvoted for suggesting the Surface Pro. However the original Surface Pro and the Surface Pro 2 did use Wacom digitisers and they do shit all over the iPad as a digital sketchbook, if you can bear to use Windows.

    [I can't unfortunately.]

    The most exciting thing to happen recently in the field of digital sketchbooking looked like it was going to be the Wacom Cintiq Companion Hybrid, which was a Wacom Cintiq [ie. draw on the screen] graphics tablet and Android fondleslab combined. Unfortunately the initial models were underpowered, ridiculously overpriced for what they were [Wacom could give Apple a run for their money in this department] and were plagued with hardware issues which Wacom took ages to acknowledge and sort out [More similarities with Apple].

    The Cintiq Companion Hybrid now looks to have been abandoned, as Wacom haven't bothered bringing out a successor and us digital artists longing for a fondlesketchbook to call our own are left disappointed again –and hoping that one of the Chinese upstarts like Yiynova or Huion [who are currently eating Wacom's lunch by producing respectable graphics tablets at a fraction of Wacom's prices] might step into the breach.

    1. Jan 0 Silver badge

      Re: They're All Shit

      Well, yes. They're all shit because they ignore the great achievement of modern pointing devices: moving the pointing device away from the display, so that your hand doesn't obscure the image. Just because artists can draw or paint directly on a surface doesn't mean that that's the ideal way to do it. The ideal way would be to do it entirely by thought, but taking a little time to learn to offset your hand movements is a useful skill that most people do, albeit a little clumsily, whenever they use a computer mouse in a WIMP context. A stylus on a dedicated sensor surface is much better for controlling fine movements in two dimensions. The dedicated sensor surface can be tailored to give an appropriate feel* to the interface without compromising it's transparency (because it doesn't need to be transparent:).

      *coefficient of friction, rigidity, etc.

    2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: They're All Shit

      Having digital art equipment reviewed by non-artists is about as useful as someone who can't drive reviewing a car after sitting in the driver seat, wiggling the wheel a bit and shouting "Vroom! Vroom!"

      Love the analogy :).

      I think YMMV - artists that need precision won't go near these products, sure, but I can see artists that spend their time sketching out basic ideas (or work with coarser strokes) jump at the chance of having something portable that doesn't cost the amounts that Wacom wants (let's face it, you've bought a second PC at their prices), yet has enough functionality to rough something out.

      Anyone in the audience who professes to being an artist? (not me, I don't even feature in amateur league when it comes to freehand drawing anything more than stick figures :) ).

      1. Phuq Witt

        Re: They're All Shit

        "...Anyone in the audience who professes to being an artist?..."

        [Waving hand in the air] Please sir. Me, sir.

        Which is why I waffled on so much about the subject, up there ^^

        [and am about to do again!]

        For me, the technology for working digitally is a case of "nearly there!" at the moment. The image manipulation side of things is pretty much a 'done deal'. We have: the ability to undo mistakes, easy copying & rescaling, layered composition, non-destructive editing, precise lettering, etc. etc.

        But, unfortunately the process of actually creating the images in the first place is still severely lacking. Even with the top of the range Wacom Cintiq tablets, you're ultimately still skidding a plastic-tipped pen about on a sheet of glass. That might work fine for some people, but it's not great for me. Us doodlers are pretty picky about our favourite media and for me, it's got to be something with a bit of bite to it, or flexibility, such as: a nice soft pencil, a dip pen & ink or a fude [Japanese brush pen].

        I also mentioned jitter & lag above ^^. This tends to affect two kinds of artists: those who draw really slowly and precisely, where the tendency for a lot of digitisers to 'jitter' when the stylus moves in tiny increments is a problem and those who draw really fast, where the on-screen display often struggles to keep up.

        I'm in the latter camp.

        So, with my doodles tending often to be fast, scratchy and scribbly [a few examples here], I'm still forlornly waiting for <something> that will give me the sensation of drawing with the media I prefer and keep up with the spasmodic threshings of my drawing arm, whilst still giving me all the advantages of working digitally.

        Meantime I won't be throwing my scanner in the bin, just yet.

        PS: after writing my previous droning monologue on the subject, I remembered that there's also another approach to this problem.

        Moleskine and a few others have experimented with approaching the problem from another angle; namely making a smart bluetooth-enabled pen that you can write on 'normal' paper with, but which keeps track of its changing position and can send this data to computer/tablet. Thus [at least theoretically] also reproducing on screen, what you've put down on paper.

        Alas, as with the graphics tablet approach, it's another "not quite!" solution: although you get to draw on 'real' paper, you're still limited to using the provided ballpoint pen [cf. previous comments on artists and their preferred media]. Also, initial reviews of this technology suggest that the accuracy is lamentable and the digital version of your paper drawing often bears only a passing resemblance to the original.

        C'mon tech companies. Give us 'right brain' types some love!

    3. fruitoftheloon

      @Phuq: Re: They're All Shit


      I'm with you on that...

      Our preferred (can't afford a Cintiq) solution, is a fabby Wacom (Bamboo) pen to work with a Samsung NotePro, the missus is a very capable artist (was a reluctant convert to the digital world), she absolutely loves it.

      Plus the wacom bamboo pen also works great with my Note 2 etc

      I use it for note taking and sketching out ideas/mind maps etc. Small boy enjoys using it for doodles etc

      There is an area of the screen around the button where goes a bit weird, that aside it is an awesome combination.



  7. Roland6 Silver badge


    It would be useful to also take a look at the various solutions that permit you to actually draw/write on paper and that information automatically transferred to the computer. Yes, basically we are looking at variations on the Anoto pen (ink written on to special paper), pressure pads like the Wacom range, co-ordinate measuring systems (either in pen or pad) that record pen movements.

    The advantage of these tend to be that the resolution isn't limited to that of the display and (where real ink is used) there is no user perceived lag between nib movement and ink appearing on paper.

  8. moylan

    wake me up when

    wake me up when they're as precise and as cheap to replace as stylus were on palm and psions. i could quickly draw note or diagram with those. the ones i've seen so far for ipad and android are horrible. i'm sure the expensive ones are better but not worth the money.

    1. Graham O'Brien

      Re: wake me up when

      the technology matures to the level of my 12-year-old Motion Computing LE1600.

  9. Benchops

    > This is convenient as long as you have a horizontal USB port handy, such as those on a MacBook.

    Not the new ones:

  10. neil hanvey

    Try Astropad

    I use Astropad on my ipad3 with a wacom creative stylus 1 and it's like having a cheap cintiq, if anyone has the need for a cheaper solution than a cintiq i'd definitely recommend this setup

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