Whether you've drawn many things or this is your first digital sketching tool, make the most of your Apple Pencil with these tips.
Apple's Pencil stands out from the rest of the iPad stylus crowd for a number of reasons: It works in tandem with Apple's display to create low-latency brush strokes, it's lengthier than your average digital pen, and it charges via Lightning connector. But when it comes to drawing or writing with one, there are only a few basic techniques you need to know before you can start mastering your new tool.
Use your hands
In conjunction with the iPad Pro, the Apple Pencil features palm-rejection technology, which means your hand, arm, and fingers can rest against the screen while you draw. While previous third-party styli have had variations on palm rejection in certain apps, they never quite worked perfectly; the Apple Pencil, in contrast, is about as perfect at palm rejection as you can be with a digital touchscreen.
Because of bad stylus experiences in the past, I've seen dozens of first-time Pencil users awkwardly gripping the pen to hover their hand above the screen. Trust me: I did it too, but you don't need to with the Pencil. Feel free to rest your hand against the screen while you draw. It'll take a bit of getting used to, but once you do, it'll feel as natural as resting your hand on paper.
Test the Pencil's pressure
Equipped at the drawing end of the Apple Pencil is a beautifully responsive plastic nib for all manner of sketching and writing. It's pressure-sensitive, too, so you shouldn't be afraid to press harder and softer on the screen to see how your Pencil reacts. One of my first calibration tests with any new drawing tool — digital or not — is drawing a series of vertical and horizontal lines, to test how different pressure results in different line widths. I highly encourage everyone to do something similar — not only will it get you comfortable with the Pencil's variations, but you'll also get a better sense for how you need to hold the tool for optimal control.
I also recommend moving your grip up closer to the nib when doing detailed lettering or drawing: It gives you more precision over those fine lines. (And don't be afraid to pinch-to-zoom with your free hand — most great apps support it.)
Shade with the sides
It's not just the tip of the Pencil nib that works on the iPad Pro's screen: The entire cone of that nib is responsive. As a result, you can use the side of the Pencil to shade with your digital brushes — much as you might use the side of a graphite stick to color in a shadow on paper. Not only is it a cool effect, but it's one I see early Pencil users miss out on when they're first getting to know their new tool.
Shading also looks different in different apps and with different brushes — don't be afraid to experiment to find which brushes and apps work best for your purposes.
Tap and scroll
In addition to being a great drawing implement, the Apple Pencil can be used to navigate your iPad in-between drawing programs. Currently, you can use the Pencil to both tap and scroll, though the iOS 9.3 Public Beta appears to have removed the scrolling feature.
I really enjoy using the Pencil to scroll lists and swipe between views — its precision tip makes tapping and selecting certain items a whiz, and if I have to switch to another app while drawing, it keeps me from having to put the Pencil down to enter a task.
Add a clip (and store that cap)
While the Pencil's smooth, cylindrical shape may please the eye in the negative space of an Apple Store or design lab, in the real world... well, pencils roll. The Apple Pencil does have a clever weighted magnet that stops slow rolls, but even that won't help you when you want to store the Pencil somewhere.
Luckily, it's easy enough to add a free-standing clip or one stolen off your nearest pen. I adorned my Apple Pencil with a clip from one of my Micron pens: Once you slide it off the Micron top, you just have to slip it on, nib first, up the Pencil body. Easy peasy.
One other accessory-style tip — or cap, as it were: If you charge the Pencil with your iPad's Lightning port, you can store its magnetic cap on the iPad surface using one of the two bottom Smart Cover magnets next to the home button. I use this trick constantly: It's a great way to avoid losing a tiny white plastic cylinder while charging the slightly larger cylinder it belongs to.
Learn how to draw from the masters
If you love the idea of an Apple Pencil but your drawing skills are lackluster, my best advice is going to be the advice of many artists before me: Practice! Drawing constantly is the best way to get better.
If you're just starting out, I recommend looking at some of your favorite artists, studying their styles, and trying to recreate them on your choice of digital canvas. It's a fun exercise, and should get you thinking about shapes and styles.
That might be too complex for you — and that's fine! If you truly want a 101 course, there are a couple of wonderful free drawing sites out there that offer great tutorials and videos. Drawspace boasts the slogan "now everyone can draw," and if its excellent step-by-step drawing lessons are anything to go by, that statement is the absolute truth. Proko offers a bunch of great videos on drawing forms and anatomy shapes, while Draw a Box offers some great active tutorials for drawing everyday objects, people, landscapes, and yes — boxes.
Have other questions about your Pencil? Want to know something else about drawing on the iPad not covered here? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to check out our round-up of the best drawing apps for iPad Pro.