Add a stylus to improve your tablet production

March 12, 2013

I know about using a stylus with a tablet. I am a traditional pen and ink cartoonist that also uses Flash animation and digital photography. I create much of my work using an iPad with a professional stylus. I am one of the first syndicated animators in the mobile space producing work distributed by Verizon, Sprint, and Helio.

While attending Tablet Strategy West in San Francisco a comment was made that the first tablet was a actually an ancient clay slate made in Mesopotamia. They probably used a stick or a reed as a stylus. Steve Jobs was pro tablet but was outwardly anti-stylus. "Touch" meant “finger” to Jobs. However, more tablet manufacturers are looking at the stylus as a necessity for the best tablet experience.

As an example, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 comes with its own high-end stylus and built-in holder. The touch screen can be combined with a detachable keyboard, but has a lot of applications that benefit from stylus use. Microsoft's Surface Pro comes with a stylus. Samsung also recently announced the new Galaxy Note 8.0 tablet that comes with a pen as well.

Being that you are holding a $500 tablet, investing in a decent stylus makes a lot of sense. Adding one to your daily tablet routine gives you incredible versatility. Of course, you use your tablet for e-mail, music, and movies. Working with a stylus, however, you can create a precise experience that in some cases is better than using your finger or a keyboard.

Which stylus should I use?

Obviously, the majority of tablets do not come with their own stylus. The iPad doesn't come with a stylus nor does a Microsoft Surface RT, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook or Acer. If you want to write or take notes with a digital pen on these devices, there are many to choose from. But what type do you need? It really matters what you do.

Making your stylus choice is like choosing a pen. Do you carry a Mont Blanc or a Cross? Or do you grab the cheap throwaway you snagged at an office store? It matters how you roll.  

A low-end rubber tipped stylus cost $15 at the office store. It will do the job, but typically won’t have any additional features.

The Jot Pro uses a disc to slide across the screen while a PenGo has a rubber tip and a paintbrush. A "Hand" Stylus or a Pogo Sketch Pro are replicas of traditional shaped drawing tools like a rapidograph and an inkwell pen. For under $30 you can do most any task with these units.

The next step up are units that connect through Bluetooth wireless that have hundreds of levels of pressure sensitivity. The Pogo Connect, Jot Touch and Hex3 Jaja are high end but require charging to work. The good news is they hold their charge for a month.

If you are serious about writing, drawing or painting with a tablet, these are some of the tools of the trade. Hopefully, more tablet makers will see the value of precise input and include a stylus as part of their products.

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