Hands-on: FiftyThree Pencil review: Going for gold
Paper by FiftyThree is a beautiful app that allows you to draw to your heart's content on the iPad with little interference. And recently, the developer announced a tie-in with Adobe to make Paper compatible with the Creative Cloud.
However, that's not the only announcement it's made in relation to iPad artwork creation in the last few months. In the summer of last year, FiftyThree released its own stylus device for the UK market. Pencil helped Paper users to create sketches and designs in a much more normal, natural way.
It was first released in graphite and a walnut finished variants and now it has added a gold version to the mix, available to ship from 3 February. So while we previously had a play with the former models, we've decided to give the gold one a spin too. After all, our iPad Air 2 is gold as well, so it matches perfectly.
What we love about the Paper app is that it is pleasingly simple to use, yet offers enough customisation to draw in a number of styles. And if the app is simple, then Pencil is simpler still. It is now available with a gold finish, as well as the previously released walnut and graphite models, yet does exactly the same thing.
Made from wood, rather than a veneer, the Pencil measures around 7cm long and is about the width of a USB socket. There's a reason for the wider width than you see on most styluses, and that's because hidden within the wooden shell is an intelligent nib that slides out to reveal the USB charging dongle.
At the tip of the Pencil is the rubber nib you use for drawing, while the other end has an eraser, allowing you to quickly rub things out on the app.
The Pencil connects to your iPad via Bluetooth, and you link it to the app by pressing the tip to a dedicated on-screen button. And with a month's worth of charge from a 90 minute recharge session using a USB socket, you don't really have to worry about running out of juice.
Benefits to connecting a Pencil include access to all the optional tools within the app, and the ability to use the Pencil while leaning your hand on the touchscreen. This won't make extra marks or delete anything you've done as only the Pencil tip will be recognised when connected (or the eraser if you turn it around).
That's different to many of the cheaper non-Bluetooth-enabled styluses. Every touch in their case will confuse the iPad into making lines or marks. And while Pencil is connected, you can still use your fingers too, with the app encouraging you to use your digits for blending rather than drawing.
The nib is fairly wide and therefore does have a tendency to wobble around a bit when it comes to drawing. It's not that it is not precise, but it does take some getting use to. When you do you'll find you can make all manner of differently weighted lines - something further aided with the different in-app brush choices.
We will warn that the nib is not very robust, especially when children are involved, although you do get a spare in the box too.
The Pencil is a lovely stylus to use with the app, the wider form factor is very comfortable to use (think carpenter pencil) and the wood finish really gives it a luxury feel - even with the gold finished version.
We also like that FiftyThree has bundled the cost of the optional extras within the Paper app to really let you benefit from all the brushes you can get.
At £49.99 for the walnut version and £39.99 for the gold and graphite models, the Pencil is not cheap. However, it is a tool that inspires creativity and can you really put a price on that?