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Wacom Bamboo: An iPad stylus I can actually use

Like most creative types I know, I suffer from a debilitating problem where I’m rarely able to make it through a meeting without being able to describe an idea without having to draw some part of it. This historically meant that I carried a velum tablet and Sharpie everywhere and the desks of my designers are littered with these notes and sketches. Enter the iPad and my thought that I could evolve this process but I’ve really had a hard time finding a good sketching application and more importantly a stylus I actually like and can use on a regular basis.

Through course of my travels and speaking at various conferences I’ve been given a number of different stylus to try out and none have made it more than 24 hours before I gave them away to someone else because I didn’t like them. The latest was the Griffin Technology stylus which always seemed to get good reviews but when I got my hands on it I was really surprised to find it was really tiny.  Think the stubby little pencil you used to use at miniature golf courses when you were a kid to keep score tiny. So it lasted less than a day before I got tired of feeling like I was drawing with a kids warn down crayon.

A solution to both of my problems can from someplace I didn’t expect but probably should have – Wacom.  The same people that made the Intuos tablet I have been using to design with for years created an application and stylus that I really love and now use all the time.  The Bamboo Stylus is shorter than a full sized pencil but it’s big enough that you can use it without it feeling undersized. When I started using the stylus it needed some time to get broken in. At first there would be about a one second pause before the stylus would be recognized by the iPad but the more I used it the better it got and now there is no delay at all when I draw with it.

The more important part of the solution is the Bamboo Paper iPad application which was created for sketching ideas with features like multiple colors and pen types, multiple types a lined and graph paper, undo / redo and the ability to easily email your sketches instead of so many other applications that more of a fine art focus. The one downside of the app is that you are only able to create one notebook which is kind of a pain as it would really be nice to be able to create multiple notebooks broken out by client, project, etc.

The Bamboo Stylus runs about $30 and the Bamboo Paper app is free so if you have been looking for a great iPad sketching solution I really recommend this one.


  1. Jess Heitland

    July 1, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Great to see a post about the Bamboo….

    How is the tip of it compared to the Griffin? I currently use a Boxwave. The tip on it is a hollow rubbery material that feels like it will begin to warp or tear at some point. Also, the top of the boxwave is a bit heavier than the tip end, which creates an odd feel to the writing experience.

    Finally, I dig Penultimate ( the note taking pen and display options are a bit thinner than the Bamboo app, it is free, you can create your own paper templates and you can create separate notebooks.

  2. Stephen Gates

    July 1, 2011 at 11:16 am

    The tip has the same rubbery feeling but the material is thicker so it doesn’t feel like it will tear in 3 months. The pen also comes apart so it may be possible to get replacement tips, like Wacom tablet pens, should there be a problem.

    The balance of the pen is probably the thing I like the best because the Grifiin and Boxwave both always felt way too tip heavy to me. The Bamboo feels like a normal pen with an even balance. I am also curious because I have seen some glimpses of different stylus that are the same as a full sized pen but do it by using a battery to create the electric current the iPad needs to recognize the stylus.

    I tried PenUltimate for a while and I wasn’t crazy about it. Partially because of the options but main (and this is such a designers excuse) but I just didn’t like the way the app was designed with the older, sepia tone notebooks.

  3. Rob

    July 13, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Right with you Stephen. I’m also enjoying the Wacom Bamboo Stylus. Didn’t know about the Bamboo Notebook, i had been using PenUltimate, and also SketchBook Pro is not too bad either. I might be creating my first draft notes with Bamboo Notebook then if i need layering and more detailed tools i can import that note to SketchBook Pro.

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Creative Director, Designer, Brand Builder, Speaker, Podcaster, Crazy One. As a designer, I have 20+ years experience creating the strategy, concepts, and designs for award-winning integrated global advertising campaigns, building multiple global Fortune 500 brands and creating innovative digital experiences. As a leader, I have 15+ years transforming agency and client-side teams using a mix of creativity, business strategy, process and political skill to create innovative, world-class work and cultures that change industries and companies. My clients have included American Airlines, W Hotels, Disney, Citi, ExxonMobil, Acura, Old Navy, Nationwide Insurance, Verizon, Subaru and many others. My work has received over 150 international awards, my app designs have been named as one of the World’s 100 Greatest Apps, Apple has featured my work in 9 keynotes, 4 TV commercials and more.

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