Styluses suck, but I might get another one


I no longer use a stylus for digital illustrations. I only use my right-hand index finger. I tried 3 different styluses each of a different style—soft rubber-domed, wide tip; firm rubber slender tip that caps onto a Sharpie; and a Bluetooth model.

The cons in general with styluses consist of awkward friction on the glass and visual obstruction of the point of contact on the glass. Add to that, some specific cons with each stylus, inspiring artwork from digital finger-painters that I found online, and the idea that maybe a tablet shouldn’t be forced into pretending it’s a piece of paper drove me to be stylus-less. (I wrote about that 10 months ago.)

I may sound satisfied, but I still want to try one more style. The one need that just can’t be filled with digital finger-painting is high-precision. Although I improved in that facet, I can’t replicate the precision of touching down a pointy pencil tip to a piece of paper. More on that after this list.

I want to paint a picture for you of my stylus experience.

The Friendly Swede Basics

The first that I used was the The Friendly Swede Basics ($), a multi-pack that I had on my Amazon wish list and my sister purchased for me. I used one to make my first artwork on a tablet.

This is the most inexpensive kind of stylus you can get. Short aluminum shaft with an air-cushioned dome of thin rubber. They come in a multi-pack not just because they’re cheap to manufacture, but because the rubber dome wears out quickly. A rough guess says in about 10 hours. I hear this is a fault of all styluses of this type, not just the Friendly Swede models.

If you’ve never used one you’ll be surprised how thin, and therefore flimsy, the rubber is. It’s a very unsatisfying tactile feel, however, this feature is what makes its capacitive response on a touch-screen flawless. The aluminum conducts the electricity from your finger through the thin rubber with ease. A stroke will never go unregistered by your tablet.

I used these every time I drew while I continued reading reviews so that I could choose my next stylus.

More/Real stylus cap

After too much deliberation and researching online, because that’s what I do, I chose the More Real Stylus Cap ($$) for its cool, original design and its firm rubber tip. My first use out of the box was on my Android smart phone with a terrific experience of tactile feel and responsiveness, but my hope and reason for buying it was to have it work well on my iPad (gen 3). Here it failed. The pressure required to press on the glass and get a response was too much for comfortable artwork. If I was just taking notes I could get used to it, maybe. FYI, I didn’t even have a screen protector on the iPad, yet I had one on my Galaxy S3 which worked well.

Next came my transition period where I decided to no longer waste time with styluses and I moved onto finger-painting only.

During this transition period, along came the now famous Pencil by FiftyThree ($$$) that promised to work magic with Paper, the app from the same company. My attention was grabbed, but I’m not a Paper fan, so I just watched from the sideline. Fast-forward to when Procreate added support for Pencil: I had to try it. I added it to my Amazon wish list and my wife gave it to me for Christmas.

I love the look, feel, packaging and image of this stylus, but I didn’t like the responsiveness.

The most popular stylus on the market failed me because it was not consistent. It also happens to be the most expensive on my list because it’s the only one using Bluetooth tech to talk to my iPad. One thing this feature is supposed to allow is for the butt end to function as an eraser, but for me it had too much trouble remembering which end was which. I would try to draw with the tip and it would erase instead.

Adverse to spending much money on peripherals, I immediately returned it before it got lost in a drawer.

The experience with each was bad, but I’m not done, yet.

The next style I want to try is a fine metal tip fitted to a clear plastic disc such as the Adonit Jot Pro. The disc protects the glass from the metal tip and allows you to see the point of contact, i.e. precision. I was put off by the design in the beginning, but now after the others letting me down and remembering some positive reviews that I read, I want to try a disc head.

However, I’m cheap and so it’s great that I have a birthday coming up!



  1. I pretty much agree. However, I have wide fingertips, so I use a stylus, usually the Sty-HD styluses that come multicolored in a pack. I recently cracked my iPad screen and went through iCracked to get a replacement screen. However it has a screen protector, which I’ve never had. I’m finding that I now need to remove the screen protector because, here’s my theory, finger oils that are left on the screen protector kinda’ turn spots into dead spots, an aggravating thing that is even more aggravating when one uses a stylus; the dead spots caused by the greasy screen spots interrupt continuous lines produced by styluses. Pain in the butt! Maybe I should just go with my finger! Thanks for the observations!


    • Sorry about your screen. I dread the day that happens. I wonder if a Galaxy tablet is cheaper than a new iPad screen. I too have no screen protector and I’ve noticed a few tiny scratches.

      Give your finger a try for an honest 3-months and you’ll be surprised. I took on the stance that I can adapt to anything and went for it, took 3-4 months for me to be comfortable with it. Now, if I try a stylus I end up asking myself “why is this better” and I go back to my finger. Tip: tilt your finger 45 degrees so that the side of the fingertip touches and wiggle it up and down to color in areas and for shading.

      But like I said, I’m still curious about the flat disc styluses and want to give one a go, for line drawing at the least. Thank you for the words.

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