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Fingertip input is great for most touchscreen usage like typing, web-browsing – all sorts of virtual button-pushing tasks. But for many people, drawing remains an activity best approached with a pen, pencil, brush, etc.

With a bit of conductive foam and wire, it’s surprisingly easy to make your own conductive stylus, suitable for use with iPhone, iPad and similar capacitive touchscreen devices – and you’ll likely find it a lot more precise compared to regular fingertip input.

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This one’s a bit different from the topics I usually cover in video form – it’s quick, super-simple, and requires no soldering, chemicals, or schematics (no worries – more of the good stuff’s a comin’). The results made drawing/digital-painting on the iPad much more enjoyable for me, and I hope it can do the same for others. Of course this basic conductive stylus should work well for most capacitive and resistive touchscreens – and I’m positive it could be made with far greater care for aesthetics ;)

Also worth mentioning: If a metal pen barrel is used instead of plastic, then the wire can be omitted entirely – as long as the foam is connected to a relatively sizable conductive object (i.e. – a human being), it should register as input.

Oh – and if anyone’s looking for a stylized depiction of the Gakken SX-150, I’ve got you covered -

handMadeSX150_cc.gif

Collin Cunningham

Born, drew a lot, made video, made music on 4-track, then computer, more songwriting, met future wife, went to art school for video major, made websites, toured in a band, worked as web media tech, discovered electronics, taught myself electronics, blogged about DIY electronics, made web videos about electronics and made music for them … and I still do!


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Comments

  1. John Park says:

    This is a super sweet build, Collin. I think you should make a one-off edition in a Mont Blanc fountain pen to auction for charity.

    1. Vanessa says:

      Bah! Someone has the right idea :) I’ve been trying to convert my Leonardo Sketch Pen by Mont Blanc as a gift for my husband, he finally got an iPad and though he loves the Bamboo stylus, he writes with a death-grip. Hence why he will only write with his 149! So far it’s lookin’ great!

  2. Gareth Branwyn says:

    Great job on this, Collin. Thanks. I’m going to make one of these for sure!

  3. RogerK says:

    Great job Collin. Using your inspiration, I buit my own, but one-upped you — I used a metal barreled pen, so the wire is just touching the inside. No need for tape, no need for exposed wire!

    Thanks

  4. this is karen, shocked says:

    Collin,

    What a great idea!

    I don’t have an iPad so can’t test this myself–are you able to rest your palm on the iPad while drawing with the stylus? As a lefty, I know how awkward it is to have to write without being able to rest the side of my hand on the paper. . .

    1. Collin Cunningham says:

      Unfortunately no – resting your palm registers as a second touch input. I usually end up accidentally “pinch-zooming” whenever this happens.

      The official Apple case does provide a raised edge that can help a bit as a palm rest I suppose. Hmmm … guessing there’s likely some sort of simple solution out there though.

      1. adcurtin says:

        How about a thin glove with conductive thread in appropriate places?

        I have some under armor gloves then are pretty thin, but they’re thick enough to make it very difficult to use my capacitive touchscreen. If you put some conductive thread in the index finger and thumb region of the glove, it should work quite well to enable resting your palm on the screen.

        1. this is karen, shocked says:

          Hmm, I was thinking glove too. That would seem restrictive. It’s a tricky one. And thanks for sating my curiosity, Collin!

          1. Freeman says:

            You could use fingerless gloves.

  5. Aaron B. says:

    I am gonna have to make one of these, out of curiosity, what drawing program are you using?

    1. Collin Cunningham says:

      I usually use Brushes, though Sketchbook Pro does have some cool features.

      1. davekyte.myopenid.com says:

        For my money ArtStudio is the best of the bunch. Much better line smoothing and a real smudge tool and a wet oil type brush. They just added a dodge and burn brush too.

        I got to think sticking the foam into a steel or aluminum tube would work best, no need for the wire thing. Maybe a long old TV antenna, use like a long handle paint brush. Put the iPad on a little easel and make like a digital Rembrandt.

        FYI, some of use who use Wacom’s have been thinking of a iPad stylus with a Bluetooth sensing system to transmit tip pressure to the painting app.

  6. Drawr says:

    Not sure where I’ll find the conductive foam. For those of us who don’t usually build electric devices, is there a place one might already have such foam? Maybe I could cannibalize an obsolete piece of equipment.
    I do enjoy drawing on the iPhone, small as it it, but can’t wait for my ipad to arrive. Since the 1st gen iPhone I’ve been wrapping pens and brushes in aluminum foil to make a suitable stylus. They never worked well–imagine the one you made does!! Best I came up with was the negative end of a aaa battery. Can’t recommend that one, though. Might scratch up the screen!

    1. nekokami says:

      This was my question, as well. I actually have a commercially purchased stylus for my iPod Touch (oh, the shame!) because my aluminum foil-wrapped mechanical pencil was kinda kludgy and I was always worried that it would scratch the screen. I know some electronic components are probably shipped in conductive foam, but I don’t think I have any on hand– I think all my parts have just come in the anti-static plastic bags. But ever since my cockatiel got at the end of the stylus, it’s been looking like it’s about to fray to bits any moment now. Naturally, I’d much rather repair it than buy a new one! :D

      What’s the least expensive microchip or whatever that I could buy that would be sent in conductive foam, I wonder?

      1. Collin Cunningham says:

        While making the video I kept trying to think up alternative sources for conductive foam, but unfortunately couldn’t come up with any :/

        Perhaps some computer parts come with conductive foam? … reaching a bit here.

  7. RogerK says:

    A quick ebay search turned up a 4″ x 4″ piece for $1.00 plus $3.95 shipping. Someone could slice it up into 32 1/4″ x 2″ and make a killing selling a piece for $1.00 including 1st class shipping!

  8. Pete Prodoehl says:

    Great video… I made my own, with just a few modifications… build info is here: http://rasterweb.net/raster/2010/12/29/diy-ipad-stylus/

  9. Anonymous says:

    Here is our version only that it is an iPad brush:
    http://www.rainydaymagazine.com/RDM2011/Home/March/Week2/RDMHomeMar0911.htm#DIY_iPadBrush

    We are currently looking for better fibers, but the concept is sound.

    Sincerely,
    RainyDayInterns

  10. what app is that used in the video?

  11. bree says:

    hey! Great work Collins! As a beginner, i would like to ask, WHY have u used Gakken SX-150 in your video? can u please tell what is that thing?

  12. Last week I read an article about styluses and I decided to see how difficult was to re-convert a capacitive stylus with a rubber nose to conductive foam… Follow this link to check it… http://bcontext.com/bfile/player/ftfkf/#.UCACCr_7RJE

  13. Radi says:

    I don’t get it. If the stylus needs the electrical signal (wire and all) why can cherry or grape skins work? I mean, i was eating a grape while playing draw something. It slipped from my fingers and left a mark where it fell. I actually drew something with a grape.

  14. Karla says:

    Thanks for the idea. It’s works for me. I leave a photo.
    http://thumbs.subefotos.com/f854d699ec368445c22d73fd86c7e37fo.jpg

  15. Rick says:

    what kind of wire are you using? should I look for any red-coated wire?