As of March 2019, all current iPad models support Apple Pencil with either the first or second-generation, and you can get more out of your favorite device with an Apple Pencil. Whether you're starting with an entry-level iPad, going to the next level with the iPad Air, running professional programs on an iPad Pro, or taking your ultra-portable iPad mini with you everywhere, you can use one of the two generations of Apple Pencil. It has full pressure sensitivity for dynamic line thickness, tilt control for shading, palm rejection for full sketching, and works as a simple stylus if you don't want to touch your screen.
To take full advantage of everything you can do with the Apple Pencil, you'll need to know how to use some of the fun little extras on your best iPad (opens in new tab). Here's our complete guide to Apple Pencil, whether you're an artist, note-taker, or professional graphics editor. Here's how to use Apple Pencil to its fullest abilities!
Meet the Apple Pencil
If you've previously used a stylus on the iPad or other graphics tablets, you'll find some aspects of the Apple Pencil familiar — and others very different. Here's a crash course in all things Apple Pencil for you!
There are two different versions of the Apple Pencil: Apple Pencil (1st Generation) and Apple Pencil (2nd Generation). Not only are their names quite similar, but they are both white and have nearly the same dimensions. But it's important to know the difference between both generations because neither are supported on all iPad devices. The second-generation Apple Pencil works on most of the newer iPad models in the iPad Pro, iPad Air, and iPad mini line, whereas the base model iPad works only with the first-generation Apple Pencil.
Apple Pencil (1st Generation) works with:
- iPad (6th generation)
- iPad (7th generation)
- iPad (8th generation)
- iPad (9th generation)
- iPad (10th generation)
- iPad Air (3rd generation)
- iPad mini (5th generation)
- iPad Pro 9.7-inch
- iPad Pro 10.5-inch
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2nd generation)
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (1st generation)
Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) works with:
- iPad Air (4th generation)
- iPad Air (5th generation)
- iPad mini (6th generation)
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation)
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (4th generation)
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th generation)
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (6th generation)
- iPad Pro 11-inch (1st generation)
- iPad Pro 11-inch (2nd generation)
- iPad Pro 11-inch (3rd generation)
- iPad Pro 11-inch (4th generation)
How to tell the difference
As mentioned in our Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) review, you can typically notice the difference between the two generations of Apple Pencil pretty quickly. If you're concerned about whether you're selecting the correct generation Apple Pencil, the most distinguishing difference is that the 1st-generation Apple Pencil has a silver band around the top. Apple Pencil (2nd-Generation) does not.
There are some additional features that aren't as easily identified in pictures, but in real life, they are more obvious. Apple Pencil (2nd-Generation) has a matte finish and one flat side. Apple Pencil (1st-Generation) has a smooth, shiny finish and is completely round. The second-generation Apple Pencil has the word "Apple Pencil" written on its flat side. The first-generation Apple Pencil has a silver band. The first-generation Apple Pencil has a removable cap that exposes a Lightning connector, which is used to pair and charge the Pencil. The second-generation Apple Pencil pairs and charges magnetically and so doesn't use a Lightning connector (it's also about a half-inch shorter because of this).
Before you get started, make sure you know which generation Apple Pencil you have. Where there are differences in the two (like pairing and charging), we've included sections for each generation separately.
How to pair your Apple Pencil with your iPad
Before you can start using your Apple Pencil, you'll need to pair it to your iPad or iPad Pro. The first and second-generation iPad Pro pair differently, so be sure you know your generation before starting.
How to pair the first-generation Apple Pencil
- Make sure the iPad you want to use is on and unlocked, then uncap your Pencil.
- Plug in your Pencil to the new iPad.
- When the Bluetooth Pairing Request appears, tap Pair.
How to pair the second-generation Apple Pencil
- Make sure the iPad you want to use is on and unlocked.
- Place the Apple Pencil on the wide side of the iPad Pro with the magnetic strip.
- Tap Pair when the Bluetooth Pairing Request appears.
You can now use your Apple Pencil with your iPad or iPad Pro! If you want to move your Pencil to a different iPad, follow the same steps above with the new one.
How to check the Apple Pencil battery level
The Apple Pencil doesn't have a physical charge indicator or LED light on its cylindrical body; instead, you can check its current battery life on your currently-paired iPad or iPad Pro.
How to check your Apple Pencil (first generation) battery level
- Swipe down from the iPad's top bezel to invoke Notification Center (or turn the iPad on to view the Lock screen).
- Swipe right to see the Widgets screen.
- View the Batteries section.
- If you don't see the Batteries section, you may first need to tap Edit at the bottom of the Widgets area and tap the green Plus button next to Batteries to add it as an active widget.
How to check the Apple Pencil (second generation) battery level
The second-generation Apple Pencil is even easier to check. You can follow the steps above for the first-generation Apple Pencil, or you can simply place it on the magnetic charging strip on the iPad Pro (or remove and then place it back down again if it's currently connected to the magnetic charging strip). A notification will pop up, telling you your current battery percentage.
How to charge Apple Pencil
When your Apple Pencil hits 20%, 10%, and 5%, respectively, it will give you a charge warning (you can also check your current battery status at any time by bringing up Notification Center).
The first and second-generation Apple Pencil charge differently, so make sure you know your generation before reading on.
How to charge the first-generation Apple Pencil
- Remove the cap from your Apple Pencil (if you're worried about losing the cap during the charging process, you can magnetically attach it to the iPad next to the Home button).
- Insert your Apple Pencil's Lightning connector into your iPad or iPad Pro's Lightning port.
How to charge the first-generation Apple Pencil using the Lightning adapter
- Remove the cap from the back of your Apple Pencil.
- Insert your Apple Pencil's Lightning connector into the Lightning adapter.
- Plug the Lightning adapter into your Lightning cable.
How to charge the second-generation Apple Pencil
For the second-generation Apple Pencil, Apple made it much easier to charge. There's only one way.
Just place the Apple Pencil on the side of the iPad that has the magnetic strip, and you'll be charging right away.
The Apple Pencil's quick-charge technology provides users up to 30 minutes of use after a 15-second charge, but we generally recommend charging your Pencil for at least 5-10 minutes — especially if it's under 20% — to avoid having to constantly recharge.
How to unpair your Apple Pencil from your iPad
Your Apple Pencil will automatically unpair from your iPad or iPad Pro if you pair it with a different iPad or you pair a different Apple Pencil with your iPad. You can also manually unpair if the need arises.
- Launch the Settings app from your iPad's Home screen.
- Tap Bluetooth.
- Tap the Info button to the right of Apple Pencil under My Devices.
- Tap on Forget.
To re-pair the first-generation Apple Pencil, simply plug it back into the Lightning port on your iPad. To re-pair the second-generation Apple Pencil, simply place it on the magnetic charging strip of your iPad again.
You don't have to engage a special menu or complicated per-app pairing process to use Apple Pencil: Once you've paired it to your iPad or iPad Pro, you're ready to draw, write, sketch, or navigate in any app you choose — just put the Pencil's pen nib to the iPad's glass screen and get to it!
The Apple Pencil doesn't have an eraser
Unlike Wacom's patented styluses, the Apple Pencil doesn't offer an eraser nib: All your primary interactions with the iPad's screen happen through the Pencil's white nib on the first-generation Apple Pencil, and with the white nib or a double-tap on the flat side of the second-generation Apple Pencil.
That's not to say the Pencil doesn't have a few tricks up its sleeve, however: It's completely pressure- and tilt-sensitive, which means you can press harder against the screen to get a thicker line or tilt your Pencil against the screen to virtually "shade" in a drawing or draw calligraphic letters.
Some apps, like Astropad Studio (opens in new tab), even offer special combination Pencil-and-touch gestures that have the same uses as function buttons.
How to change functions on the second-generation Apple Pencil
The second-generation Apple Pencil has the added benefit of one additional function, which is accessed by double-tapping the flat side of the Apple Pencil near the nib. In most circumstances, this will trigger the eraser feature of an app.
App developers can assign a different action to the double-tap, like selecting a different artist tool, but so far, we've only seen it used to trigger the eraser in most apps other than the Notes app.
In the Notes app, you can change the double-tap function to trigger switching between the current and last used tool, showing the color palette, switching between the current tool and the eraser, and turning off the Apple Pencil 2.
Learning how to switch the double-tap function on the Apple Pencil 2 can improve using the best iPad apps (opens in new tab).
Use the Apple Pencil to navigate your iPad
Whether you have RSI issues or just like being able to use a stylus on your tablet in between drawing or writing sessions, the Apple Pencil supports basic navigational tapping and swiping within iOS. Because multitouch gestures and the Pencil are recognized separately by the iPad's operating system, it may not be supported for advanced gesture-based navigation (like multi-finger operations) in separate apps.
However, there's an upside to that: In certain apps (as in the aforementioned Astropad Studio), you can even use your fingers and Apple Pencil simultaneously. Notes is also a great example of this: Touch two fingers down when drawing in Notes, and you'll get a ruler you can use to draw straight lines with the Apple Pencil.
Best Apple Pencil Accessories
The Apple Pencil is quickly becoming a necessary companion for iPad users, but an often-lost one. Between its slim cylindrical white body and the removable magnetic cap, it's not hard to lose one or the other to couch cushions or forgetful minds. On the bright side, there are dozens of great Apple Pencil accessories to help keep your Pencil (and cap) safe, secure, and ready to sketch. Additionally, you can add style and protection simultaneously with the best cases for Apple Pencil 2.
Still a good buy
While it may not be quite as fancy as the newer version, it's still the only version of Apple Pencil you can use with most iPads. If you want to experiment with drawing apps or just have an amazing stylus to use with your iPad, there's no reason not to pick one up.
The absolute best
With a much more elegant magnetic charging solution, better pressure sensitivity, and overall better performance, the Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) is the ultimate stylus for the iPad Pro and iPad Air 4.
Need to know how to fix a faulty Apple Pencil?
More often than not, the Apple Pencil just works. But if you're having an issue with Apple's stylus not responding in apps, disappearing from Notification Center's battery menu, or refusing to turn on, we've got some simple tips to help you troubleshoot it back to health.
So be not afraid, and use your Apple Pencil to do just about everything on your iPad. You may just find that it fits into your workflow in ways you've never imagined.
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Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way.
Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.
- Karen S FreemanContributor
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