Pencil for Paper by 53

Blognosticator Head

It’s a stylus with a rubber tip on both ends. It works with the Paper app on iPads.


I absolutely love Paper, the app by 53. I have been using it for well over a year on my iPad, and I have done many sketches and drawings with it, some of which have become parts of commercial illustrative work. I wrote about the app in a blog in 2012.

Paper, for the uninitiated, is a drawing app for iPad. It was the first app that has ever felt like real drawing to me. I have tried others, and found them less than perfect, usually far less than perfect. When I first tried Paper, I fell in love with its feel. I could draw, just like I draw on paper, using my finger on the screen of my iPad. The tools are fresh and fluid, and they work very intuitively. I soon added a rubber-tip stylus from Griffin, which I like a lot, and that made Paper even more effective.

Griffin stylus

My Griffin stylus has served me well for a couple of years, but it’s not working well these days and I don’t know why.

For some reason, my Griffin stylus no longer works. I’ve tried washing it with soap and water, cleaned it with alcohol, and cleaned it with Windex, none of which help. Pencil comes along at just the right time.

Pencil for Paper 03

This is Pencil for Paper by 53. It’s an aluminum device with soft rubber tips on both ends. One is for drawing, the other is for erasing.

In the first release of Paper there were only seven colors, and the colors were not the primaries or secondaries. They were an odd assortment of colors chosen by the company that develops the app: 53. Those of us who love Paper learned to love those colors, and were soon rewarded by 53 with a complete color palette that allows us to select colors, to blend colors, and expand the palette. It’s delightful.

Then they added a rewind tool, which allows you to go backward, erasing your work in reverse to a point where you could begin anew. The rewind acts like an undo feature that is animated. Once selected, one can rewind or “wind” again to the point where you want to restart your drawing.

Enter Pencil for Paper. I saw this when I upgraded to a new iPad Air in October. 53 offered me this accessory when I was renewing my app from the iTunes Store.

The Pencil is an aluminum bar with rubber tips on both ends (they also offer one made of wood). The pointed end comes out, revealing a USB plug and a circuit board. You plug it into a USB receptacle on your computer to charge its internal battery. Once it’s charged, you reinsert it into the Pencil and it’s ready to draw.

Pencil for Paper 13

This is the electronics part of Pencil, removed from the shell. On this device you will see a USB plug, which goes into a computer to be charged. The charge lasts an hour or more of continuous use.

The two ends of the Pencil behave differently. One is for drawing and blending, the other end is for erasing.

With Paper running on the iPad, you touch the Pencil to a circle on the left side of the toolbar, and it activates the Bluetooth communication between Pencil and app. Its most impressive feature is called palm rejection, which prevents your hand from creating marks while you are drawing with the Pencil. Drawing with Pencil is otherwise effortless. It’s smooth and easy.

Technical sketch

This is a technical sketch I made using Pencil. It worked quite well, but occasionally frustrated me by blending when I just wanted to continue drawing.

I’ve had the Pencil for a week now, and have had a chance to test it thoroughly. For lettering it’s fine. I love the way I can draw letters with a fluidity not common on a computer device. For detail drawing it’s not as good in my week-long experience. It has a tendency to misread my intention to draw with its intention to blend. I wish there were a way to tell it to be more discrete.

Pencil lettering

Freehand lettering is very nice with the Pencil. I love the way it and its companion app work on my iPad.

I also find that I like drawing with the Pencil when it has not activated Bluetooth. It works as a passive stylus, and it’s very pleasant. It also doesn’t try to blend when you approach a line you have already drawn.

So, hat’s off to 53 for this clever new pencil. I think it will help me a lot as I work with the iPad to make illustrations.

 Read my original post on Paper by 53.

About Brian Lawler

Brian Lawler is an Emeritus Professor of Graphic Communication at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and currently Guest Professor at Hochschule München. He writes about graphic arts processes and technologies for various industry publications, and on his blog, The Blognosticator.
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