Pencil by FiftyThree (early 2016 review): The best drawing stylus for iPad

Pencil by Fiftythree was a beautifully designed product with useful but limited functionality when it launched in late 2013. But now in 2016, Fiftythree’s Pencil has evolved into a creative powerhouse. This is definitely the best drawing stylus you can get for the iPad (minus Apple Pencil for iPad Pro).


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Kiss-To-Pair is the easiest bluetooth pairing method I’ve ever used.

This stylus boasts incredible features to help digital creators. Utilizing the Paper app on iOS guarantees the full range of features with the Pencil. However Paper has released an SDK so that several other apps in the App Store can now take advantage of Pencil’ great feature set.

Easy Bluetooth pairing is among its most innovative features. By using Kiss-to-Pair, you can pair Pencil by holding its tip to a small icon in the Paper app. After a couple of seconds Pencil is automatically ready to use.

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You can draw different size lines by changing the tip angle. This is called Surface Pressure

Once paired, Pencil changes from a normal stylus to an incredibly powerful tool. Surface Pressure allows you to change the size of your strokes by changing the angle of the tip as it touches the surface of your iPad. This can be used to great effect for shading or filling in areas.

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset The Blend feature allows you to use your finger to blend parts of your image together while paired with Pencil. It’s similar to wiping your hand across fresh paint on a canvas. This gives you an extra tool to use that is unique to the Pencil experience. The eraser on Pencil is intuitive and easy to use. It feels like you’re actually using a real Pencil rather than a digital tool.

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An example of Palm Rejection. My palm is on the iPad but I can still draw without any issues.

The best feature is probably palm rejection, and it’s quite good on Pencil. When paired, you can put your palm down on the iPad while drawing. This recreates the natural sensation of placing your palm down on real paper. This makes iPad drawing easier and comfortable.

Pencil also has incredible battery life. It lasts for about one month with normal use and can be easily recharged by removing the tip from the body and plugging it into any usb power source. The Paper app can tell you how much battery life is left on Pencil.


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I want to find excuses to use Pencil everyday. The walnut body and brilliant craftsmanship are worth admiring. There is real premium, analog feel to the stylus that makes you love holding it. You don’t get this kind of satisfaction from utilizing plastic tools. Just staring at the fine details in the wood and feeling it’s weight in your hands makes you want to create something with it. The design is nothing short of brilliant.

There is also a Graphite brushed aluminum model and a Gold model that matches the gold iPads very nicely. These models are a bit heftier than the Walnut finish. However, only the Walnut Pencil has magnets in the body that stick to iPad Smart Covers.

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The Walnut body has magnets inside that stick to your Smart Cover.

Pencil is comfortable to hold and use. Because it’s modeled after a carpenter pencil, the shape can be a little odd at first. But use it for a few minutes and you’ll find that it actually sits quite comfortably in your hand.

It should also be noted that the tips can wear out depending on frequency of use. I’ve seen some users complain about this. I’ve yet to come across any issues with my tips or significant signs of wear and tear. I will say that the eraser can be unresponsive on occasion. I do believe it’s a hardware issue, but it doesn’t affect my everyday usage very much.


Here is a list of things to be aware of before buying Pencil.

  • Pencil is only compatible with the iPad and iPhone. Anything older than an iPad 3 or iPad mini will not work. Sorry Android users!
  • iPad screen covers will interfere with responsiveness. I needed to take mine off to get the best results from Pencil.
  • There is a specific list of apps that work with Pencil. Luckily, this list is continuously growing.
  • You will occasionally need to buy new tips and erasers. They run for about $8 on Amazon.


This is still the stylus to beat for iPad users in 2016. The only con is that the tip is not very precise. This is not the ideal stylus for writing or precision. It’s great for creating art and organizing ideas. I love my Pencil and highly recommend it for creative iPad users.

For more on the Paper app, see below.

Paper for work:

Paper for creativity:

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Freelance writer. Home barista. Seattle / Federal Way. Married to Suz. Jesus is King.

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