Pencil, the iPad stylus from app-maker turned hardware builder FiftyThree, is getting an update that allows it to change the character of lines drawn in its Paper app based on how you apply the unique tip of the pen to the iPad’s surface. It can do this thanks to iOS 8’s introduction of variable touch sizing, which lets developers specify a range of touch point sizes, from a pinpoint to a wider circle.
The Pencil seems almost to have been designed with the feature in mind (which is crazy of course, since Apple keeps the details of upcoming operating system features secret, right?), with its wide, angled tip which is coated in capacitive material. Most existing stylus designs feature just a single touch-capable nub at the end of the device, instead of the pyramid featured on the writing end of the Pencil, and the wide rectangle that graces the back of the stylus.
So why is this cool? It means that just like when you use a piece of charcoal or a pencil with thick lead on paper, you can angle the Pencil on the iPad to achieve different line widths – using just the very tip will produce thin lines for detail work, and using the sides will allow you to draw wide, soft strokes for shading. Twisting from one to the other will allow you to create a marker line that moves smoothly from thin to thick for top-notch inking and digital painting, too. It adds extra precision to the erase function, too, depending on how you angle the eraser on the drawing service.
FiftyThree admits that the tip of Pencil was designed with additional modes of creative use in mind, and the changes to iOS 8 merely facilitate their original dreams for the accessory. You’ll likely see other stylus makers move to take advantage of the same changes with competing devices, but FiftyThree will be the first to offer it, and it could change the way digital artists use their iPads, combined with the existing palm rejection and blending features the company already offers on their drawing software and stylus combo.