Computers & Mobile Craft & Design Technology
Collin’s Lab: DIY iPad Stylus

”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YE8rGuLCtU&feature=youtube_gdata”
http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2010/05/collins_lab_diy_ipad_stylus.html

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 conductive touchscreen devices – and you’ll likely find it a lot more precise compared to regular fingertip input.

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Collin’s Lab: DIY iPad Stylus

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.

Subscribe to the MAKE Podcast in iTunes, download the m4v video directly, or watch it on YouTube.

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

53 thoughts on “Collin’s Lab: DIY iPad Stylus

  1. 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. 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. 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

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

      1. 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.

  4. 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. 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. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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?

  7. 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.

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