Best overall: Apple Pencil

See at Apple

Whether you want to use a stylus on the iPad Pro for sketching, illustration, writing, details, or RSI-based navigation, you're going to want an Apple Pencil. The company's lengthy white stylus doesn't come with some of the bells and whistles of third-party styluses (like erasers or action buttons), but it more than makes up for those omissions by being, hands down, the best experience for using a pen on an iPad. With state of the art palm rejection, pressure sensitivity, and an easy weight and grip, it alone can (and should) sell iPad Pros to aspiring artists, writers, and students.

Bottom line: If you own an iPad Pro and want to use a stylus for any reason, splurge on the Apple Pencil.

One more thing: The Pencil's Lightning quick charge means you'll never lack for power as long as your iPad's on and working.

Why the Apple Pencil is the best

Outdraw, outwrite, outshine.

Digital penmanship is a challenge: To create the perfect stylus for a tablet, you need to hit a couple of key points. You need something that fits well in your hand and doesn't cramp after potential hours of use. It needs to feel as fluid as drawing on paper — which means eliminating lag and jagged, awkward lines. You need to be able to draw naturally by putting your hand on the screen, rather than awkwardly balancing the stylus to keep your multi-touch-triggering fingers away. And it shouldn't ever require a wall plug or battery charger if you need it.

The Apple Pencil takes all of these metrics into account and does an excellent job being an all-purpose tool for many different user needs. It's first and foremost comfortable and easy to hold, but the real joy is how well it works in tandem with the iPad and apps to create unparalleled pressure-sensitive linework. Whether you're sketching, doing calligraphy, writing notes, or working in vector shapes, the Pencil is responsive, smart, and feels more like a traditional tool than many digital styluses past. It's also great for those who need an RSI-friendly way to navigate on their iPad. I've been writing and drawing digitally for decades on Wacom tablets, iPads, Surfaces, ModBooks, and more, and the Apple Pencil is the best digital stylus I've ever used.

That said, it's not without its drawbacks. At $99, the Apple Pencil is priced above many other entrants to the market, even Bluetooth styluses; it also lacks secondary inputs like an eraser end or multiple customizable pen nibs, and eschews the kinds of programmable buttons Wacom users have come to rely on. And its current pen tip is sometimes more slippery (thanks to drawing on the glass surface) than I'd prefer.

But those aren't make-or-break features for many people — and if they are, you have other options for the iPad or alternative tablet platforms like the Windows Surface. Frankly, I prefer the Pencil's simplistic featureset. Apple got the most important part of a great stylus right: It writes and draws like a real pen, and you can use it like one on any iPad Pro. You can write big, block letters, or in minuscule fonts. You can free-form sketch on a gigantic 12.9-inch iPad Pro canvas, or doodle in the margins of your class notes. You can use it how you see fit.

The Apple Pencil is a charged stylus, which means it requires power to function; thankfully, the Pencil's charges last for weeks at a time. If you do happen to walk out of the house with an iPad and a dead Pencil, you can simply pull off the magnetic cap and charge it through your iPad's Lightning port for 5 minutes to get up to a 25% charge. It looks ridiculous, yes, but it's such a quick process (and happens so rarely) that it falls much more into the "pro" column than the con.

There's only one model of Apple Pencil: the company's $99 white version. Though it might be nice to get them in colors, for now, you're stuck with the single design. (You can absolutely accessorize with decals and other sprucing, however.)

Best for older iPads: Adonit Mark

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If you don't have an iPad Pro, or you don't need pressure sensitivity and palm rejection, the Adonit Mark is a comfortable (and inexpensive) option for writing, drawing, and sketching. The mesh-based round stylus doesn't have the fine control or app integration of the Pencil, but it still works well with most multitouch screens and provides enough resistance to write well without much aberration. The triangular grip sits nicely like an old charcoal stick in the hand, and though you can't put your hand on the screen, the Mark provides a good counterweight so that the nib doesn't slip on the glass screen while writing or drawing.

Bottom line: If you're on a budget or don't have an iPad Pro, the Adonit Mark is a low-cost stylus that works on any multitouch screen.

Best for kids: Studio Neat Cosmonaut

See at Apple

If you have smaller children in your house who like to draw digitally, Studio Neat's Cosmonaut is a wide-grip rubber stylus that works like a champ. Though its barrel body is effortlessly comfortable for folks of all ages, kids especially benefit from the matte rubber grip and internal balance. And despite a large rubber nib, drawing and writing with the Cosmonaut is surprisingly precise.

Bottom line: If you want a great stylus for kids (or an all-purpose tool), check out the Cosmonaut.

Conclusion

For iPad Pro users, the Apple Pencil is the best stylus you can buy.

Best overall: Apple Pencil

See at Apple

Whether you want to use a stylus on the iPad Pro for sketching, illustration, writing, details, or RSI-based navigation, you're going to want an Apple Pencil. The company's lengthy white stylus doesn't come with some of the bells and whistles of third-party styluses (like erasers or action buttons), but it more than makes up for those omissions by being, hands down, the best experience for using a pen on an iPad. With state of the art palm rejection, pressure sensitivity, and an easy weight and grip, it alone can (and should) sell iPad Pros to aspiring artists, writers, and students.

Bottom line: If you own an iPad Pro and want to use a stylus for any reason, splurge on the Apple Pencil.

One more thing: The Pencil's Lightning quick charge means you'll never lack for power as long as your iPad's on and working.

iPad Pro

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