A Paintbrush That Works On The iPad

Because why are we all finger painting like children?

The iPad has one of the sharpest, most responsive touch screens on the planet, and its art apps are incredible. They’re like blank canvases with Photoshop powering the backend. Mistakes can be made and fixed. Experimentations are a filter away. Art is malleable at a whole new tactile level.

“All this magic and still we are expected to finger paint,” writes the team from Artist Hardware. They’re a long-standing art company responsible for some of the most popular paint brushes on the market today. And they recently fundraised a new project on Kickstarter. It’s called the Sensu, and it’s a “paintbrush” that works on the iPad’s capacitive screen. It goes on sale this May for $40.

“We basically had to relearn how to make a perfect brush tip, one that felt like a real artist tool,” the team tells Co.Design. They started the process with some of the same hair-based bristles that are used in their traditional brushes, and then they treated each strand with a nanotechnological coating to put the bristles in a conductive state. “The treated hair remains very similar to the original, but a tremendous amount of time was spent accounting for the subtle differences imparted by the processing.”

Yet as perfect as Artist Hardware wanted to make their product, they eventually had to acknowledge the limitations within the model that were always going to be out of their control. No matter how perfectly the Sensu was constructed, it wouldn’t be 1:1 with a real paintbrush because the iPad was never meant to use a real paintbrush.

“Sensu is designed to feel like a real brush while convincing your device that it’s actually a finger,” the company explains. “iPads can’t interpret different widths or pressures applied. Apps provide really great solutions for all of these shortcomings but many of us look forward to a day when input devices can communicate more than just a point of contact.”

Even still, the Sensu has done something even more impressive than creating a clever iPad brush: It’s captured the imagination and passion of a general audience. About 30% of the project’s backers on Kickstarter supported the Sensu because “it looked like fun and they wanted to try it,” not because they were professional painters in a former life or had been counting the days until an iPad-capable paintbrush entered their lives.

So even if the Sensu isn’t quite the perfect tablet brush, it serves as a reminder that as great as the iPad is today, there’s still so much more to be imagined in this space. And maybe our old tools may find their place in the digital world yet.

[Hat tip: Core77]

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6 Comments

  • Guy Lynch

    Looks like Sensu might be a great product.  I'm completely mystified as to why it's creators have seemingly gone to sleep in marketing this.  Just a note that it will be available May 2012, no specific date, no link to pre-order, no wait-list, no offer to get back to interested parties - nothing.  It gives it a kind of "myth" feel.

  • Julie

    I can't wait to try this! Thanks for the information. It's fun to think that i could be painting with a paintbrush on a plane or something like that!

  • Jason Hanson

    Nice article, and thanks for writing about it. Would have never known about it otherwise, and not just some 'bandwagon' news article either. And as an actual artist, see it as yet another tool possible to utilize if others contribute, and they can get it polished.