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The 12 Best Styli for Note-Takers and Artists

Whether you’re the sort of person who doodles in class, diagrams lectures, or just jots down old-fashioned notes, you’ve probably considered buying a stylus or a tablet that’s already equipped with one. In recent years, have become more popular and more varied, meaning they’re not just for art majors anymore. The release of the Apple Pencil also helped push the once ill-fated peripheral back into the spotlight, helping to reinvigorate a market that is now bursting with viable options. To help you make sense of them all, we’ve put together a list of the best pen for every occasion, not to mention the top tablets that come bundled with them. Read on for more details!

More: Universal Stylus Initiative 1.0 is here, but devices won’t be until 2018

Best for

No artist is exactly the same, and depending on your medium of choice, you may want a specific kind of stylus. Some artistic styli come with interchangeable tips, so you can vary the quality of stylus input, while others are a one-size fits all option or specifically designed to mimic a certain medium.

Apple Pencil ($99)

The Apple Pencil may have debuted towards the end of 2015, but it has already set the standard for styli. Before jumping to specifics, that the Pencil only works with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and the latest 9.7-inch version. The Pencil itself is one of the fastest, and most responsive styli we have used, with essentially no latency (if there is some, we didn’t notice).

Thanks to the pressure-sensitive screen in the iPad Pro, the Pencil can produce incredibly fine lines with variations in gradient as you increase pressure. The side of the tip creates wider strokes, which is great for shading, and the tip can also offer a fine point when you need it. It can be slippery at times, but it generally sits pretty well in the hand.

Unfortunately, the Pencil’s other end only features a charging cap that’s easy to lose, rather than an eraser.

Buy one now from:

Apple Amazon B&H

Adobe Ink & Slide ($124)

If you’re really invested in Adobe apps and the Creative Cloud, Adobe’s Ink & Slide stylus and ruler combo may just be the perfect tools for you. The Ink & Slide connect to any iPad 4 or later, iPad Air, or iPad Mini via Bluetooth LE. It’s also synced up with the Creative Cloud, so every drawing you make or preference you set will be stored in the cloud for you to access on your computer or other devices later. The Ink & Slide also work with Adobe’s Illustrator Line and Photoshop Sketch apps.

The Ink stylus has a fine-tip, pressure-sensitive point and feels like a normal pen in your hand. The Ink uses Pixelpoint technology from Adonit for greater accuracy. A status LED on the stylus even shows you what color you chose, so you don’t make any mistakes. The Slide ruler can be used to make perfectly straight lines, circles, and other shapes. Even though it’s a pricier stylus, the Ink & Slide does come with a USB charger and carrying case, and it’s the ideal stylus for serious creatives who are deeply invested in Adobe’s products already.

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Adobe  Amazon

FiftyThree Pencil, digital stylus for iPad ($60+)

Pencil is one of the best all-around artistic styli when used in conjunction with the company’s app Paper. Using the preset tools available in the app — available for iOS — you can produce remarkable watercolor paintings, fine line drawings, pen and ink sketches, as well as dynamic comic-book like images with the marker function.

FiftyThree specifically designed Pencil to feel solid and comfortable in your hand. It’s shaped like a carpenter’s pencil and even comes in real walnut wood. Pencil even touts a built-in eraser on the end, so you can just flip it around when you want to erase. You can also use Pencil to smudge lines and create a nice blurred effect.

Although Pencil works best with Paper, it is also fully compatible with popular drawing and painting app Procreate, as well as Noteshelf and Squiggle. It connects to your iPad via Bluetooth, and once you’ve paired it, you’ll never have to do so again. When it runs out of battery, you can just remove the tip and pop the USB into any standard USB port.

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Amazon  Target

Sensu Artist Brush & Stylus ($40)

Sensu’s Artist Brush and Stylus combo offer the best of both worlds with its real paintbrush tip and built-in stylus tip. The brush tip acts just like a real paintbrush, which makes it perfect for painting, but it certainly won’t work if you want to execute a fine line drawing. Luckily, once you switch over to the rubber stylus tip, you’ll be able to draw more precise lines. However, the Sensu isn’t pressure-sensitive and it may suffer from delayed reaction times now and then.

It comes in an aluminum finish and looks just like a normal paintbrush. The brush bristles are actually made of synthetic brush hair that was developed in Japan. The stylus tip is made of rubber. Luckily, it works on most Android, Windows, and iOS tablets, so you won’t be limited in your choice of tablet.

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Studio Neat Cosmonaut ($25)

The Cosmonaut stylus may look huge a bulky, but it’s actually the ultimate stylus for white board and marker . This stylus won’t give you the thinnest line you’ve ever seen, but it will give you a nice, solid line. The Cosmonaut is easy to grip and it certainly isn’t delicate, so it can take a knocking in your bag without suffering any ill effects.

It’s a short, squat, round rubber stylus with no other defining features. It really looks like a fat, black crayon. The Cosmonaut seems like the perfect stylus for those of you who like to diagram lectures and take notes in a visual style. It works with both Android, iOS, and presumably Windows tablets. The Cosmonauts’ creators say it should also work on any touchscreen.

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Studio Neat

Adonit Mark ($13+)

Adonit has been offering affordable, but well-built styli for quite a while and the Mark is no different. At $13, it lets anyone with a smartphone, tablet, or laptop have access to a solid, all-purpose stylus. The best thing about the Mark is how the stylus feels in the hand — it’s made of anodized aluminum and is smooth, but has a good grip. It’s also has a triangular shape, so it doesn’t roll, which also feels natural.

It’s a decent, cheap alternative for drawing, but we wouldn’t recommend it for -taking as it’s not precise, being that it is tipped with a mesh. Even when drawing, don’t expect to get accurate strokes while you’re working on the finer details.

Buy one now from: 

Amazon B&H

Nomad Flex ($30)

If you’re looking for a paintbrush instead of just a stylus, then the Nomad Flex may be the tool you need for your iPad. The brush is made of aluminum and has synthetic bristles, which make it feel more akin to a real paintbrush. The Flex will work perfectly with apps such as Paper or Procreate, but in an app like Penultimate, a traditional stylus would be more appropriate. Nomad’s offering includes a plastic carrying case inside the box, too, so you can safeguard the brush from unwanted abuse.

How does it compare to the Sensu brush? Well, the bristles on the Sensu are a bit stiffer than the ones on the Flex — the bristles on the former are also more round. The Flex is going to feel thinner and lighter than the Sensu, and the Flex’s bristles will feel mushier by comparison. Another great thing about the Flex is that it is compatible with iPads, as well as Android tablets and Microsoft’s Surface lineup. The brush also comes in a variety of colors, including charcoal, pink, silver, blue, and red.

Buy one now from:

Amazon  Nomadbrush

Best styli for notetakers

There are almost as many styli for note taking as there are for drawing. Although there are scads of fine-tipped styli for taking notes, these are two of the best we’ve found for precise writing on tablets.

Adonit Switch ($24+)

While the Adonit Switch may have a low price tag, it certainly doesn’t mean it lacks in style or usefulness. That’s right, the Switch doubles as a stylus and an actual pen. Roll the striped grip-end, and you’ll find a ball-point pen sliding out. Rotate to take off the cap on the other side, and voilà, you have a precision stylus.

The precision stylus has a disk at the end, allowing for more precise marks on your tablet. It feels and weighs about the same as a normal pen, and can easily be mistaken for one. It can be used to draw, but you’re better off sticking with writing notes with the Adonit Switch. The ball-point pen writes fairly well and adds an immensely useful function if you happen to always carry a stylus around.

Buy one now from:

Amazon  B&H

Adonit Jot Script 2 Evernote Edition ($80+)

Fans of Evernote will love Adonit’s Jot Script 2 Evernote Edition, not only because it allows for fast note-taking, but it also comes with six months of Evernote Premium. With Premium, you can see your notes offline, upload as many as you want, attach PDFs, scan business cards, search for offline documents, and more. It’s a great tool for students or anyone who likes to take notes, and with the Jot Script 2, you’ll never need to carry around all those heavy paper notebooks from class to class.

Like most Adonit styli, the Jot Script 2 has palm rejection and features Pixelpoint technology — which ensures smooth, fast accurate strokes. Its tip is less than 2-millimeters thick, so you know you’ll be able to write just as you would with a ballpoint pen. Adonit says it works for 20 hours, so you won’t have to charge it too often either. The stylus works with any app, though, Adonit boasts partnerships with many app makers that take advantage of its abilities.

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Amazon  Adonit

Adonit Jot Pro ($23+)

Adonit probably offers the most precise and fine stylus tips of any manufacturer. Although the Jot Script is well-liked for its extra fine tip, it only works with iOS devices, which limits its reach. The benefit if the Adonit Jot Pro, is that it works on most touchscreen devices, including both iPads and Android tablets. It will probably also work on Windows tablets, too, but we haven’t tested that theory.

The Jot Pro has a very fine point, which makes it perfect for taking notes. When precision is the order of the day, it doesn’t get much better than this. The Jot Pro looks and feels like a regular ballpoint pen, with the addition of a small plastic disc on the tip to protect the screen. It even comes in several different colors, including a nice turquoise and bright red.

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Adonit Pixel ($72+)

Adonit is one of the best styli manufacturers in existence, one that recently added the Adonit Pixel to its already impressive lineup. While it’s true that the Apple Pencil is one of the most accurate styli that you can get, it’s only compatible with the iPad Pro. In contrast, the Pixel stylus is compatible with iPhone 5 and higher, third and fourth-gen iPads, all iPad Minis, the iPad Air, and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Unfortunately, however, it’s not compatible with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

Like Adonit’s other wears, the Pixel has a 1.9-millimeter tip instead of a disc, allowing for easy drawing and sketching. The stylus’ tip has improved drag performance as well, to make it feel like you’re writing on paper. A USB dongle also allows you to charge the stylus via your computer, while a host of programmable buttons let you perform a variety of customized actions on the . If you’re looking for a blue-ribbon stylus that touts solid functionality across the board, you can’t go wrong with the Pixel.

Buy one now from:

Amazon Adonit

Musemee Notier V2 ($12-$13)

If you’re looking for an affordable alternative to some of the premium offerings on our roundup, then look no further than the Musemee Notier V2. The stylus touts a fine disc tip, one that is both durable and replaceable. The V2 has also undergone a set of rigorous bend tests, and features an ergonomic design that is flexible enough that you can hold the pen at any angle, much like you would a traditional pen. One of its best features is its compatibility, however, which allows you to use the stylus with a multitude of iOS and Android devices. It works with all touch-capacitive displays, meaning it’s compatible with iPads, iPhones, devices, HTC devices, Motorola devices, and a host of others.

Buy one now from:

Amazon Musemee

Best tablets for styli

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As laptop-tablet hybrids grow increasingly popular — just take a look at the numbers for both the iPad Pro and Microsoft’s Surface lineup — so does the use of styli as an accessory. On that note, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Tab S3 at Mobile World Congress 2017, and you won’t be disappointed drawing on the device’s 10-inch, HDR-ready AMOLED. The device as big as the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, so the screen size makes it a great canvas to work with. Samsung also offers the S Pen as an accessory, which offers decent performance when it comes to taking notes.

However, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 also comes with a stylus, and it delivers on performance. The Surface Pen is four times as pressure sensitive as the Surface Pro 3’s stylus. It also comes with an eraser, can handle fine lines easily, and boasts a variety of special features. You can activate Cortana with the pen, for example, or open a note with the press of a button. It looks and feels like a regular pen, too, and though it may not be the best for drawing, it certainly works.

Our last recommendation, the iPad Pro, needs no introduction. The tablet’s massive display is a beauty to draw on, and the Apple Pencil is the perfect accessory for it, due to its pressure-sensitive screen. The new 9.7-inch Pro is just a smaller — albeit, capable — alternative for budding artists.

Buy one now:

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 iPad Pro 12.9-inch iPad Pro 9.7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab S3

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