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Got the Paper app? There’s a Pencil for that.

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Pencil Digital stylus for Paper iPad app


If you have an iPad, you are likely already familiar with the Paper app by FiftyThree. According to its developer, the purpose of the app is to allow you to “capture your ideas as sketches, diagrams, illustrations, notes or drawings and share them across the web.”

If you like Paper, you will likely love using the Pencil stylus (via Bluetooth) to write, draw, and paint within the app.

The Pencil is available in walnut or graphite from FiftyThree and Amazon. If you buy from FiftyThree, the walnut tool (with a magnetic strap) is $74.95, and the graphite is $59.95 (with free shipping on orders over $50). I chose graphite because it was sleek and a little heavier than the walnut Pencil. And, admittedly, because it was cheaper.

To get started, I slid the battery out from the Pencil and charged it using a USB port. It took less than 90 minutes to charge and, according to the developer, won't need to be recharged for approximately a month.

The Pencil can be used with all of the tools available to Paper users (i.e., the paintbrush, the bold marker, the ink pen, the fountain pen, the lead pencil); however, I found that it is most useful (and amazing) when used with the paintbrush. Of all the tools, I find that the Pencil best approximates the feel of the actual instrument; I also have more control using the Pencil as the paintbrush than when I use my fingertip. And I can switch effortlessly from using the Pencil as the paintbrush and my fingers to blur.

And when I'm not happy with what I've done, I simply flip the Pencil and use the opposite end to erase my work. The “Palm Rejection” feature means that the app can distinguish between my hand or the Pencil, so I can switch between the two. For example, let’s say I've used the Pencil to draw details, like the mouth, lips, eyes, and eyelashes of a face. Then I can switch and use my index finger to smooth edges and blend colors. In fall 2014, the Pencil will also have “Surface Pressure,” which will mean the point can be used for fine details and the angled edge for broad strokes.

Again, the Pencil can also be used in lieu of one's fingertip with the bold marker, the ink pen, the fountain pen, and the lead pencil. However, the official “writing” end of the Pencil has a squishy rubber tip and not a fine point, so I found that my “handwriting” comes off as even less legible than usual if I’m writing small letters/trying to fit a lot of words onto the “page.” So if the Pencil is used for journaling, for me, the bold marker is the way to go – and certainly easier on my hands on days when I write quite a bit.

Despite these minor drawbacks, the Paper + Pencil combination has to be one of the most exciting apps available. Is the Pencil as good as the real thing (read: using a real paintbrush or writing utensils)? No. But for someone who can’t or doesn’t want to bring various artistic tools/pens/pencils everywhere they go, it’s amazing and offers seemingly limitless opportunities for self-expression.