The Best Stylus For Ipad – Drawing and Note taking

best stylus for drawing

As of 2017, there are 100s of  different styli to choose from. Although the designs are different, there are only a limited set of technological differences between them all. Wacom and Intel are working on an universal stylus, but until they release that, we need to figure it out on our own.

First, I'll make a few quick recommendations and then for those who want to know more, I've explained the the techology and reasoning behind the choices.

Best stylus for Ipad

Fortunately, the choice of styli for Ipads is much more limited. There are more than 20 companies in the market, including the Apple Pencil. But a key thing to remember is that a lot of these alternatives to the Apple Pencil are capacitive pencils. Which means they are functionally like your finger. Which means they don't have the drawing, pressure or tilt capabilities that the original pencil has. This is fine, if you don't want to take a lot of notes or draw but if you're interested in a superior experience then this is something you need to consider.

best stylus for ipad adonit

Although it still costs a lot compared to a regular pen, it's still cheaper than the official Apple Pencil. Adonit is mindful of the experience you'll have using this. Some people will experience more cramping with their hand if the stylus is too thin ( like the Apple Pencil) but nobody will experience cramping with a fairly thick pencil like the Adonit Pixel Pressure. Both Adonit and the Apple Pencil know the importance of having no unneccessary addons on the pencils that might obstruct your use. This makes both pencils perfect for those who prefer to write in style, even mimicking calligraphy. It's an active pen and therefor is handy for casual use when your palm rests on the tablet. Unlike the Apple Pencil it also comes in a number of colors.

adonit jot pro fine

It's a capacitive stylus which means it lacks a lot of the functionality of an active pressure sensitive pen. But if you're looking to write some quick notes or simply don't want to use your fingers on your tablet or smartphone, then this is the stylus for you. It comes in multiple colors and is designed to support a grip from any angle. Additionally unlike the Adonit Pixel Pressure or the Apple Pencil, this doesn't need to be recharged. It's also significantly cheaper. It's also not too thin so if you're a person whose hand cramps easily, this might be a preferred choice.

fifty three

Fat, capacitive and rugged. Although a bit more expensive than the Cosmonaut, you will likely appreciate the aesthetic. Easy on the hand and a beautiful design. With capacitive styli it really comes down to aesthetic and functional preference. A wider stylus will be much more comfortable and will protect against cramping while allowing better control over the pencil which in calligraphy is never actually done with the fingers but with your arm muscles.

Variatons of stylus technology

Digital pens can be divided into pressure sensitive and non-pressure sensitive.
Most stylus can be categorized into active or passive styli. A passive (capacitive) stylus works basically like your finger would on an Ipad and thus doesn't require an electrical charge in the pen. An active stylus however, is more suitable for drawing and writing because they normally block out the capacitive nature of your resting hand. They also usually include features like pressure sensitivity, tilt or an eraser.

An active stylus is also more likely to be brand specific - meaning it's much less likely to be compatible with with different devices. For instance your HP stylus might not be compatible with your Dell laptop. Passive styluses are much more likely to work across the board, on any device. In this article we will focus on pressure sensitive styli.

Wacom EMR

EMR stands for electromagnetic resonance. It is the oldest and the most reliable. Used most commonly in the Intuos line of graphic tablets by Wacom. This is why Wacom is the industry leader in drawing tablets because they got the hold on the patented technology that allows for a stylus to influence a graphic tablet without a power source of its own. Recently they have been partnering up with companies such as Samsung or Apple who have adopted their technology. 

Any Wacom pen with "UP" model prefix. Any pen compatible with Wacom "Penabled" tablet PCs or Wacom Feel tablet PCs, although some pen-device combinations may have larger cursor offsets than others

  • No battery or recharging
  • Durable, I've dropped it. A lot.
  • A good hover distance to connect to the screen before your palm does.
  • Little innovation
  • Known edge accuracy problems

Prefered stylus for note taking


N-trig is a small Israeli company that Microsoft acquired in 2015. The Stylus you nowadays see accompanied with the Surface Pro is from that company. The digital pen runs on a powered stylus with a passive digitizer. N-Trig technology is what we see in the Surface Pro 3 and up. 1 and 2 are responsive to Wacom EMR pens. The improvement in note taking is only slight due to the improved pressure curve.

  • More accurate
  • Cheaper
  • ​Battery powered

Stylus for drawing and notes

Wacom AES

Wacom AES which stands for Active Electrostatic Solution is Wacom's response to being poked by a competitor like N-Trig. Powered stylus with a passive digitizer. When ever possible opt for a Wacom AES stylus. This is the type of stylus you want for your tablets in college.

  • Most accurate
  • Cheaper
  • Longer battery life for the tablet? Need to confirm this somehow.
  • No parallax
  • Perfect edge accuracy
  • Cheap 

Bluetooth Stylus

Although the Apple Pencil is a beautiful device, it does suffer from the need to be recharged and although Apple products are normally easy to use, this is not always the case when you put more software (bluetooth drivers) between people and the hardware they want to use. There are no noticeable advantages to using a bluetooth stylus. Only potential downside. Luckily, Apple devices don't experience much driver issues.

UC-logic Digitizer

Such as found in Yiyinova, Huion, XP-pen or other good drawing tablet monitors. You can find more information about the best drawing tablets in our guide. All of these require recharging and lack functionality like tilt and rotate. They all use their own modified version of the same unpatented hardware.


The new kid on the block. Came into prominence with new powerhouse devices like the Dell XPS 13 and HP Spectre or the Asus Transformer. Users report horrendous backwards compatibility so don't expect these pens to work on anything older than 2016 and even then it's very iffy.

Definition of Stylus

A stylus (pronounced STAI-luhs, from the Latin stilus or "stake") is an instrument for writing and, in computers, an input device used to write text or draw lines on a surface as input to a computer. The term was first used in workstations designed for graphics applications, such as CAD/CAM, where the stylus was attached to an electronically-sensitive tablet or surface on which the stylus user wrote. Later, in handheld computers such as Apple's Newton and 3Com's PalmPilot, a stylus was provided as an instrument for writing text characters and simple pictures. In most of the today's handheld computers that accept written input, the writing instrument is referred to as a stylus or a pen.

Wrapping it up

Unless you're looking for an active pressure sensitive stylus with extra functionality it doesn't really matter which stylus you choose. Since as you know from reading the article capacitive stylus don't differ much from your finger in terms of functionality. On a general note we recommend you always take a pencil that's thicker  over a pencil's that's slim because experience shows that fat pencils are simply easier to handle and cause less cramping. If in doubt and you don't want to risk a lot of money then the Adonit Jot Pro is a safe choice and will do most of what most people need unless they are an artist.


About the author

John Thatch

John Thatcher is a computer science educated artist. He uses technology to solve artist problems. His friends don't like it when he speaks of himself in the third person. But John does it anyway, because he's a rebel.

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