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  1. Choosing a Basic Stylus
  2. Upgrading to a Bluetooth Stylus
  3. Stylus-Compatible Apps for Writing and Drawing
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Like this article? We recommend Stylus-Compatible Apps for Writing and Drawing

Stylus-Compatible Apps for Writing and Drawing

Whether you want to use a stylus with your new iPad to handwrite notes, sketch, draw or paint, the App Store offers multiple apps that will meet your needs, many of which have been optimized for use with the new iPad. The following sections detail a small sampling of what’s available.

To find additional apps that work well with a stylus, visit the App Store and within the Search field, enter the keywords stylus, handwrite, sketch, draw, or paint.


Recently selected by Apple as a “Featured” app within the App Store, Paper is a well-designed drawing and sketching tool with a simple premise. When the app launches, you’ll see several blank virtual notebooks displayed. You can customize the look of a notepad’s cover using your own photo or a pre-created design, as well as a custom title.

When you tap on a notebook to open it, what’s revealed are blank pages. Tap on any blank page to access the drawing tools offered within the app, which include a simulated fountain pen, sketch pencil, felt-tip marker, ballpoint pen, paintbrush and eraser. Choose your writing instrument, and then tap on an ink color. There are nine colors to choose from; however, colors can be blended on the screen to create an infinite color palate, especially when using the paintbrush.

Using your stylus or finger, simply begin writing or drawing on each blank page of the notebook. Swipe your finger from right to left, or from left to right, to turn the page of the notebook, or perform a pinch motion with your fingers to exit the drawing/writing mode. From here, you’ll discover a trash can icon (to delete entire pages of notes), a Share icon (used for sharing notes via Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, or email), and a plus sign icon (that adds blank pages to a notebook).

The Paper app does have some limitations, but as a basic drawing, painting, or sketching app, it is very easy to use and allows you to create some impressive results. The basic app is free; however, there’s an in-app charge to purchase individual writing tools ($1.99 each). Or, for $7.99, you can unlock the entire app.

Pen and Paper

This $1.99 app allows you to combine multi-colored on-screen handwriting, sketches, and drawings with typed notes in order to create virtual notebooks. Each notebook can have its own title. When you’re done writing or drawing on the virtual lined or blank notebook paper, you can save and export each page as a PDF file, and then email it to others, or sync app-specific data with your computer using iCloud or Dropbox.

Draw Pad Pro: Amazing Notepads and Sketchbooks

Draw Pad Pro: Amazing Notepads and Sketchbooks ($1.99) is another app that offers similar notepad and sketchbook functionality that becomes really useful when used with a stylus. This app allows you to choose from a handful of writing tools, ink colors, and paper styles (including yellow lined paper, graph paper, and sketch paper).

MyNotePad HD

Taking the virtual notebook concept a step further, this $2.99 app includes an integrated calculator and audio recorder. This allows you to write or draw on the iPad’s screen, attach audio dictation to each note, and perform calculations.

Note Taker HD

This $4.99 app is one of the more powerful ones designed specifically for note-taking. It allows you to write directly on the iPad’s screen, plus incorporate sketches or diagrams on each virtual page. One useful feature of this app is that it can automatically reduce the size of your handwriting, so more fits on each virtual page, while allowing you to write in a comfortable way using a stylus or your finger.

Each document can be accompanied by a unique filename, as well as keyword tags and a date/time label for easy reference later. One or more pages can also be grouped together and saved as a single PDF file, before transferring the document to your computer or sharing it with others via email.

As you’re writing, you can select from several different virtual writing tools and ink colors, plus incorporate pre-created clip art and shapes into your notes. It’s also possible to select, copy, and paste content between pages.

PDF Expert: Fill Forms, Annotate PDFs

This powerful app ($9.99) serves as a PDF reader, but allows you to annotate PDF files, either created using other apps on your iPad or that have been imported into your iPad from other sources. As you view and annotate a PDF file, you can handwrite your comments, edits, or revisions on the screen, directly over what’s on the page.

PDF Expert can also be used to fill out on-screen forms. Built into the app are a handful of virtual writing tools, including pencils, pens, felt-tip markers, and highlighters, plus a choice of ink colors. Thus, you can underline or highlight text with ease, and then switch to a virtual pen, for example, to add comments or text to a PDF document.

Annotated PDF files can be saved on the iPad and shared via email or by using a compatible cloud-based file sharing service, such as Dropbox or Google Docs.


This virtual notebook/sketchbook app allows you to write or draw on the new iPad’s screen, plus import photos or graphics into your documents. Individual notebook pages can be grouped together and saved within notebooks.

Priced at 99 cents, this is one of the more versatile and popular virtual notebook apps available. One of the unique features of this app is that in addition to selecting a virtual writing/drawing tool and ink color, you can select from a handful of paper types. In-app purchases allow you to acquire specialty papers, like time and task management forms, music paper, and photo album paper, which you can then incorporate into your virtual notebooks.

Finished notes can be saved, printed, or shared via email or a compatible cloud-based file-sharing service, such as Dropbox. When an iPad is connected to an HD monitor or LCD projector, for example, the app can be used as a whiteboard so the presenter can share notes with an audience.


When it comes to reviewing and annotating PDF files, or adding a digital signature to a PDF document (such as a letter or contract), the PDFpen for iPad app ($9.99) is an extremely powerful business tool that’s both versatile and easy to use. Annotating, editing, filling out forms, or writing on a PDF file is more accurate when used with an optional stylus.

Using this app, someone can email a contract in PDF format to your iPad. You can view it using the PDFpen app and mark it up with changes, or select a virtual pen tool and sign the contract, save it, and email it back with minimal effort.

PDFpen allows you to view one page at a time in full-screen mode, quickly scroll through a multi-page document with a series of finger swipes, or view thumbnails of an entire document on a single screen.

As you’re annotating a PDF document, PDFpen offers a handful of writing tools, including multi-color pens, a felt-tip marker and a highlighter. There are also in-app tools for underlining or striking through typed text by hand (using a finger or stylus).

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