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It can sometimes feel as if we will eventually lose our ability to write by hand altogether in the digital age. School children seem more adept at swiping screens than they do at natural penmanship, and we know that formal, cursive handwriting has all but gone the way of the dinosaurs.
However, there are also the creators among us who thrive when sketching, or watching a brush glide slowly across a canvas, or quickly jotting down a poem when inspired by lush, idyllic surroundings. And this kind of creative pursuit does not have to exist completely outside the realm of technology. In fact, we can sketch or draw or write notes on our mobile devices, all with the help of a stylus.
Humans started writing more than 5,000 years ago, and even though it now seems typing and texting are our only means of “written” communication, perhaps there is still a deep-seated need in us to carry on our most basic means of expression.
Swiping a stylus across an Android tablet or iPad screen is perhaps a quaint reminder of days gone by, days with lined notebook paper and sharp pencils, or charcoal sketchbooks, or “to-do lists” taped to refrigerator doors, written in pencil and not dictated to digital assistants.
We will take a look at how a stylus works and then guide you through the process of purchasing the best stylus for drawing on Android devices.
What Is a Stylus and How Does It Work?
The word “stylus” actually dates back to the early 18th century, and before our mobile devices came along, we still thought of a stylus as an ancient writing implement. A traditional form of a stylus is a small rod with a pointed end; it was originally used to draw letters on wax-covered tablets.
But like so many words in the English language, stylus has more than one definition. And it’s not just our modern-day use of stylus to describe a mobile device accessory. For those who are old enough to remember 1987, there was a period during that year when you could not get this phrase out of your mind, “Put the needle on the record….”
The group MARRS had one of the most memorable one-hit wonders of all time with “Pump Up the Volume,” and that command to listeners “put the needle on the record” could have just as easily been “put the stylus on the record.” However, it would have been lost on anyone who did not know that stylus can be interchanged with a needle when it comes to describing a turntable component.
Moving on from that little pop culture meets vocabulary history lesson, the term stylus today most often refers to a popular accessory for mobile touchscreen devices. The stylus is essentially a pen for your smartphone or tablet. Even the small segment of the population who forego cell phones and computers have likely used a stylus at some point: they are often found attached to credit card processing machines in retail stores.
While we can “write” on touch screens with our hands in many cases, a stylus is still a popular choice for the precision it offers. Many prefer specific stylus tools to get the most out of their drawing tablet, needing the pressure sensitivity of a fine tip stylus to mimic a real pen. If you’re looking to get the most out of any tablet’s drawing app or art app, a stylus can be a must.
The narrow stylus can also eliminate the typographical errors that happen when tiny devices meet large fingers. Plus, when it comes to artists and digital tablets, a stylus is simply a must-have, enabling the user to draw and sketch and design on her mobile device.
Can a Stylus Be Used on All of My Devices?
You may be wondering now if the smart device you already own is compatible with any stylus. Some devices come with a stylus when purchased, and others are compatible with them, based on whether or not they are touch screen devices.
Almost all modern touchscreen devices work with a capacitive stylus. Some older devices still have a resistive touch screen (like a Wii U GamePad, for instance). When in doubt, check with the manufacturer for the specific compatibility, but in general, if you can command the device with your finger, you will be able to do the same with a capacitive stylus.
You will also come across the phrase “Wacom digitizer” as you being to explore stylus options on the market. This stylus pen is specially designed to work with a special sensor within the touch screen, meaning it is more robust than the average capacitive stylus. For example, it can detect different pressure levels, and it can send an “erase” signal to the touch screen to correct mistakes.
And perhaps one of the greatest innovations is known as “palm rejection.” This allows you to have your palm rest on the screen while drawing without interfering with the communication between the stylus and the device. A typical capacitive stylus will not come with this feature, and in turn, the Wacom digitizers are more expensive.
What Should I Look for When Shopping for a Stylus?
If your device did not come with a stylus when you purchased it, or if you are replacing a lost one, consider the following items before making your purchase:
Compatibility. Check the manufacturer’s information to ensure the stylus you are considering is compatible with the device you already own. As we mentioned earlier, most modern touch screen devices will work with any capacitive stylus. But take extra care if your device is older to ensure the stylus pen’s functionality is compatible.
Price. While basic stylus pens are fairly cheap, those specially designed for drawing can be considerably more expensive. So, if you aim to find the best stylus for drawing on an Android, you may be in for a bit of sticker shock. A top-of-the-line stylus may run you $50 up to $150 or more. (Those who are budget shoppers can rest easy knowing we have found considerably less expensive choices, too.)
Battery Life. Just like the device you will be drawing on, your stylus pen will often have a battery limit (although some styli operate without batteries). Suppose the battery will need to be recharged. In that case, you want to shop for the stylus with the longest battery power to ensure drawing on your Android device is not unnecessarily interrupted by frequent charging breaks.
Comfort and Ease of Use. Most of us have a favorite type of real pen, whether we prefer gel ink or a good old-fashioned ballpoint variety. We each have a pen with a grip that is preferable to us, and a stylus will be no different. You want to find the one that feels the most natural in your hand, so you can draw on your Android device with ease.
Those searching for the best stylus for drawing on an Android will be relieved to know we have done the legwork for you. Take a look at the five options below.
Adonit Dash 3
The under $50 price tag makes the Adonit Dash 3 a popular choice for a stylus for drawing on Android, and it has several nice features for an affordable stylus.
Buyers can choose from three colors – black, silver, or bronze, our favorite) and this stylus is universally compatible with touchscreens. So, if yours is a “divided household,” with some users who are loyal to Android and other family members who prefer Apple products, you can rest assured that the Stylus will work on all of the touch screen devices you own.
A 1.9 mm tip on the Adonit Dash 3 creates an outstanding paper-like drag, and with a simple click, you can draw and write on your device with ease. Users do not have to waste time connecting to apps; this stylus is ready to draw and go right out of the box. It is an affordable choice for a capacitive fine point stylus.
- Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.3 x 0.3 inches
- Weight: 0.32 ounces
- Batteries: 1 Lithium-ion battery included
LynkTec TruGlide Universal Stylus
If you have a habit of losing things, the built-in tether on this budget stylus pen is the perfect feature for you. The LynkTec TruGlide is a great and affordable choice for drawing on Android devices, and the tether will snap right into your headphone jack, ensuring the pen stays with your device.
The conductive fiber tip on the LynkTec TruGlide Universal Stylus is a durable choice that will last longer than a rubber tip, and it glides easily across your screen with a natural feel.
Whether you are using this stylus with an Android device for drawing, playing games, or simply texting family and friends, it will perform well at a great price point. An added bonus is you can easily color coordinate the pen with your device as it comes in five different shades: brushed silver, champagne gold, classic black, pearl white, or sapphire blue.
The size of this stylus is both a pro and a con: it is compact, making it easy to carry along with your smartphone. But for users who prefer a full-size pen, this may be a drawback.
- Dimensions: 3.2 x 0.25 x 0.25 inches
- Weight: 0.2 ounces
- Batteries: n/a
Digiroot Universal Stylus
With six discs and three fiber tips included, the Digiroot will ensure you can draw on your Android device any time you wish! This is a durable stylus made of aluminum and stainless steel, and it will put only the tiniest dent in your wallet. It is a budget-friendly stylus with style to boot: users who are bored by basic black can opt for the rose gold or blue versions of this stylus instead.
The Digiroot Universal Stylus works well with all capacitive touch screens, and it requires no battery. This low-maintenance stylus is a great choice for drawing on Android, and it is backed by the company’s commitment to replace it within a year if you experience any problems with quality.
- Dimensions: 5.7 x 2.5 x 0.4 inches
- Weight: 2.39 ounces
- Battery: n/a
Wacom Bamboo Tip
We introduced the strengths of Wacom technology earlier, and now we can show you a specific stylus that outperforms almost all others when it comes to drawing on an Android device.
The Wacom Bamboo Tip is 1.9 mm for accuracy and precision in drawing or writing on a touchscreen device. Plus, Wacom offers the Bamboo Paper app, which turns your device into your artist’s sketchbook. You can use the app along with the Wacom Bamboo Tip stylus to quickly sketch and draw when a creative idea strikes.
For serious artists, purchasing the Wacom Bamboo Tip stylus, versus a much cheaper tool, would be akin to purchasing fine oil paints from an art store instead of kids finger paints from the discount dollar store.
It’s true the kids finger paints could still turn out a masterpiece, but the chances are much slimmer. The Wacom Bamboo Tip stylus is the gold standard for drawing on a touchscreen device and a worthwhile investment for those who want to do more than occasionally doodle or text with a stylus.
Included with your Wacom Bamboo Tip Stylus are a user’s guide as well as a micro USB cable. The battery lasts for up to 20 hours before it needs to be recharged.
While the stylus can be used for drawing on Android, you may be tempted to explore other Wacom products, including their pen tablets and smart pads, once you see how it performs. Like the styli manufactured by Wacom, these products are not cheap. But they are second to none when it comes to performance.
- Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 inches
- Weight: 0.6 ounces
- Battery: Built-in rechargeable Li-polymer battery