Review: Three Apps and a Stylus

I’ve always used my iPad without a stylus. When they first came out, various and sundry types of styluses were put out as an accessory for the iPad and I wasn’t a fan. The end of the stylus often broke off after use for a short amount of time and everything out there felt weird. I figured I could do better without one, and did for a while.

Then I dove head first into writing a fantasy novel large enough in scope and scale to require maps.

Drawing is not my forte, but sometimes, you need a map! I struggled with pencil and paper to complete two maps for the book and still had more maps to create and got frustrated with drawing them on paper. So, I figured, “Why not try a sketching app on my iPad?”

I tried three before I found one I liked for the purpose.

Paper by Fifty-Three for iPadPaper by Fifty Three: Paper comes with two sketch books in it. It’s a beautiful app. Gorgeous. Easy to work with, fun to use. But in order to get the complete suite of drawing tools, beyond using the calligraphy pen, it’s 7$. To get all of the tools, including the Mixer so you can create your own custom colors? 10$. Not a lot, but I’m not that serious about drawing on my iPad and I need a line tool here for map making. Paper seems to be lacking a line tool entirely. Definitely not what I needed for this project. So I kept looking.

Bamboo Paper for iPadBamboo Paper: This thing is great for writing stuff. It’s a quick and light note taking app and that’s it. Nothing too fancy about it. It produces a reasonable facsimile of my own handwriting, but I do wish I could rest my hand on the screen as I write. It’s hard to get the amount of control I need in order to be able to write in cursive, without resting my hand. That was annoying and there are no real “drawing” tools to speak of here. This is all about providing you with a virtual notebook, which is great if that’s what you need, but I needed more.

Sketchbook Pro for iPadSketchbook Pro: Ah ha! A line tool! A circle tool! A text tool! Color blending and mixing so I can draw lines that look somewhat like water, with my limited artistic abilities! It’s all here! It even has layers! Yes, please! And the full version? 5$. Sold!

Still, I needed a stylus for better control. My lines were shaky and not as neat as I needed them to be. So, it all came down to the question of which stylus to buy. There are lots of reviews out there, so I read them. Like a million of them. Most of them said, “You must get the Wacom Bamboo Stylus!” Luckily, my daughter had one, so I borrowed hers and played around with it and my drawing apps.

The reviews were right!

I fiddled around for twenty minutes in Sketchbook Express and the Wacom Bamboo stylus and by the time I was done, I had a workable, awesome looking map that came out way better than I’d pictured in my head.

Here’s the kicker though.

When I finished drawing my maps, I found myself naturally switching back and forth between my other apps and doing things like, you know, checking my Facebook page, and I hadn’t put the stylus down. It was just that comfortable in my hands. Something about this stylus felt right, that just didn’t feel right with all of the other styluses that had been put in my hands before.

Now, I’m not a stylus convert. I still think that for flipping pages in a book, a stylus is clumsy and silly. Hands are also not an accessory that’s going to get lost in the bottom of my handbag. When it comes to drawing though, the Wacom Bamboo stylus is an elegant tool for getting the job done.

The one big holdback for me on buying the Wacom Bamboo stylus was the price. It’s thirty bucks. Most other products out there are ten bucks cheaper. If you’re just using a stylus for taking some quick notes then, pick one you like and use it. But if you’re drawing something? You’ve gotta get the Wacom Bamboo Stylus.