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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Make Your Own iPad Stylus

Why would you even want an iPad stylus? Well, have you ever grabbed a phone call and wanted to quickly jot down a phone number or short bit of information? How about making a quick sketch of furniture placement in a room or making a simple back-of-napkin drawing?

The iPad fires up so quickly, you've probably been tempted to use it like this. But as much the iPad's keyboard is functional and fast, it's not as fast as grabbing a notebook and scribbling as someone fires a phone number at you.

To use the iPad like this you need an app that will capture your writing in all it's hasty glory.

Enter Penultimate (iTunes), a great little notebook app that let's you do that. With Penultimate, you can create as many notebooks as you want; select lined, graph or plain paper; use multiple colours; even change the thickness of your lines.

The drawback is you're still using your finger to write or draw, and with your palm resting on the glass, writing with your finger doesn't feel as natural as holding a pen.

No, what you need is a stylus. But your old Palm or DS stylus isn't going to do the trick. They're made for resistive touchscreens, not the capacitive touchscreen of your iPad.

So, you'll have to buy a third-party stylus that will set you back between $20 - $35. Can you say Ouch? I shudder to think what the Apple product sells for.

The secret to any iPad stylus, no matter what the price, is a little capacitive foam nib. Pull any brand of stylus off the shelf and you'll see the nib looks fuzzy and unremarkable. I went to my local London Drugs last week, bought one for $35 and thought, "This much for a feather light stick and a piece of foam?" I tested it in the store and returned it right away, hoping to find the $20 version across town.

Then, I saw this simple video that shows how to make a capactive stylus for your iPad out of an old pen, a piece of wire, and - you guessed it - a piece of capacitive foam.

The end result may not draw oohs and aahs for style, but it works. And if you're around kids all day, they certainly won't mind.

Sometimes, good enough is all you need.


  1. Hey, Ray - you are a source of great ideas & information! Thanks! Maybe I can return the favour one day!

  2. Thanks so much, Mike. I appreciate that!

  3. Use a pen with a metal casing, then you don't need the wire

  4. I used a $1 (including shipping from China) capacitive touch pencil and some conductive foam to make a great pen for Penultimate. The one dollar extra was an ok investement. That way I didnt have to use the wire, and thus it was more stylish.

    Its interesting to note how crappy the pen was in its original design, and how much better it got by just replacing the tip with conductive foam... (demonstrated in video below)

    Just another tip for making a great pen, at a cheap price...