The Pencil, a stylus by Fiftythree, the makers of the app Paper, is going to receive a big update.

By tilting the tip, you'll be able to draw a line of varying thickness. You know, just like a real pencil.

The update actually comes largely of Apple.

In iOS8, the company unlocked the capacity for the screen to recognize objects of various width.

For these analog-digital hybrid drawing tools, this could lead to a wave of more naturalistic sketching experiences.

Eventually, these tools could get so good that we won't be able to distinguish Paper from paper.

Co.Design

Why Drawing On The iPad Just Got Way Better

Thanks to Apple unlocking the iPad's potential, FiftyThree's Pencil will soon get even better.

Today, the iPad stylus takes another step away from stupid stick and closer to expressive artistic tool. FiftyThree's Pencil--a wooden stylus made for the impressive iPad sketching app Paper--will soon allow you to vary the width of your line as naturally as drawing with a real pencil or marker.

As the video shows, you simply tilt the tip of the Pencil to go from fine point to thick line while sketching on screen--just as you would with the real thing. In other words, digital drawing on the iPad can feel a step more intuitive than it has.

While the Paper app--also developed by FiftyThree--has some incredible algorithms inside that enable intuitive color mixing and for you to rest the palm of your hand on the screen as you draw, this update actually comes largely as courtesy of Apple. Amongst countless updates in iOS 8 is a powerful feature that most of us missed: The iPad’s touch screen can now recognize objects of various size. So instead of treating a thumb or pinky as the same sized orb, it can accommodate the precision necessary for the Pencil’s tip to begin simulating the multitude of subtle thicknesses we’d find in any natural drawing tool.

If you already own a Pencil, there’s no need to buy anything new. Free software will update the feel of the hardware. Timing will coincide with the public release of iOS 8 in the fall.

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12 Comments

  • I own the Pencil and can report it is a colossal piece of junk. NEVER worked with my iPad, and multiple emails to customer service didn't help at all. A co-worker bought one and his works, so mine is 100% defective trash. He even tried mine out and used every trick he knew. Nope.

    So I bought a stick of garbage that has never been used. Buy Pencil at your own risk. There's a chance you're throwing money away.

    And that is sad, because the Paper app itself is wonderful.

  • dalas

    Hi Philip,

    It looks like we were working on an exchange for you and needed your serial number, which is when communication dropped off. We've reached back out to you through email to try to finish the process. Your Pencil should still be under warranty, so we'll be able to replace it :)

  • This isn't actually Apple "unlocking the iPad's potential" - Wacom did that years ago with the Cintiq. The only reason a pressure-sensitive iPad hasn't come around is that Apple can't claim to have created the technology (or perhaps can't get a hold of a license) for a natural drawing experience. So instead, they come up with something that's maybe 5% better than a speed-sensitive stylus by designing a width-sensitive stylus. Woo hoo...

  • Cherese Valene Chambliss

    Wacom is fantastic but it lacks the convenience of an iPad. Completely different products.This article is about a drawing tool, for an app, on an iPad. I would never replace my Wacom, but the iPad is more attractive when it comes to just pulling it out of my bag and drawing.

  • Sadly you'll still be drawing with a 2x4 wooden plank, but hey... still pretty interesting. I look forward to giving it another shot once it gets this new functionality.

  • I suggest do not buy. The Paper app is great. The Pencil I own does not work. Period. Never once synced to the iPad and works as well as any cheap stylus. The features of Pencil just do not work.