10 tips & tricks for the Apple Pencil

The Apple Pencil is an amazing stylus, but you can get even more out of this handy tool with our tips and tricks. Watch and learn as we walk you through the best features of the Apple Pencil

By

  • apple pencil close up Apple Pencil tips
  • 1 handwriting Handwriting
  • 2 trace paper Tracing paper
  • 3 replace tip Replace the tip
  • 4 lightning to usb USB adapter
  • 5 notes Notes sketches
  • 6 swype Swype keyboard
  • 7 mail edit Draw in Mail
  • 8 signature Signatures
  • 9 control centre Fingers only
  • 10 disconnect Disconnect
  • More stories
Next Prev

Apple Pencil tips

Apple's iPad Pro was one of the biggest tech releases of 2015: about the only thing that could have threatened to upstage the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus at their own launch event. 

Aside from the deliciously powerful processor and expansive screen, part of the Pro's appeal lies in the pair of beautifully designed accessories that Apple unveiled at the same time: the productivity-boosting Smart Keyboard for business users, and the Apple Pencil stylus for creative types - and for anyone who likes to sketch, write or improve their fine control when using a tablet.

This slideshow collects our favourite Apple Pencil tips and secret features: you can trace, jot down signatures and handwritten notes, even type more efficiently with Apple's clever stylus. Jump to the next slide to get started, and have fun!

Next »

Next Prev apple pencil close up

Apple's iPad Pro was one of the biggest tech releases of 2015: about the only thing that could have threatened to upstage the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus at their own launch event. 

Aside from the deliciously powerful processor and expansive screen, part of the Pro's appeal lies in the pair of beautifully designed accessories that Apple unveiled at the same time: the productivity-boosting Smart Keyboard for business users, and the Apple Pencil stylus for creative types - and for anyone who likes to sketch, write or improve their fine control when using a tablet.

This slideshow collects our favourite Apple Pencil tips and secret features: you can trace, jot down signatures and handwritten notes, even type more efficiently with Apple's clever stylus. Jump to the next slide to get started, and have fun!

 

Take handwritten notes

The Apple Pencil's simplest and most obvious role is writing on the screen of your tablet. But which app is best for this task?

Apple's own preinstalled Notes app allows you to draw on the screen with the Apple Pencil and make, well, notes in your natural handwriting. But you're better off installing a third-party app such as Penultimate or Notability. These offer much better options, including graphed and lined paper and the ability to translate handwritten notes into searchable text. Penultimate also syncs up with Evernote to keep all your notes in one place.

See also:

iPad Pro vs MacBook Air comparison review

10 of the best apps for the iPad Pro

iPad Pro review

 

Trace through paper

Not many people know this, but you can use the Apple Pencil through a piece of paper, making it perfect for tracing designs on to your iPad.

Just place a piece of paper over the iPad Pro's display, then use the stylus to trace its outline: the system will detect the pressure accurately despite the barrier.

This works on most pieces of paper we've tried, although thickness is obviously a factor: it doesn't work with thick card, unsurprisingly. Nevertheless it's great to trace out patterns on your iPad Pro.

Read next: Apple Pencil review

 

How to replace the Apple Pencil tip

The Apple Pencil comes with a spare tip in the box. This can be used to replace the tip on your stylus when it wears out (we assume this is something that happens after you've used the Apple Pencil for a while, although it's looking fine so far). And if you take the original tip off for some reason and then lose it, the spare will save your blushes.

Whatever your reasoning, you remove the tip by unscrewing it anti- or counter-clockwise. Underneath is a metal nib used to detect motion and pressure. Replace the Apple Pencil tip by screwing the new one (or the same one) back on, clockwise. Don't even think about using the Apple Pencil without the tip attached (it'll only scratch the screen).

We're not sure how long the tips are supposed to last, but we'd guess it's a fair while. You can't currently buy further replacement tips on their own, so make sure you don't lose the second one too.

 

Using the Apple Pencil Lightning-To-USB Adapter

While you're looking inside the Apple Pencil box for the replacement tip, don't overlook the Apple Pencil Lightning-To-USB Adapter.

Normally you charge the Apple Pencil by connecting it to the Lightning socket of the iPad Pro. (Apple claims you'll get around 30 minutes of battery life from just 30 seconds of charge. A full charge lasts around 12 hours.) But the Lightning-To-USB Adapter clips onto the end of the Apple Pencil and enables you to use the power cable from the iPad Pro (or an iPhone) to charge up the Apple Pencil from a plugged-in USB adapter.

This way you can keep using the Apple Pencil fully charged indefinitely - not that battery life tends to be a problem for the Pencil, thanks to its fast-charging feature.

 

Side-by-side Notes sketching

Notes is the quickest and easiest way to use the Apple Pencil for sketches. The great thing about Notes is that it can be used in Split View mode with any other app, and it works especially well with Safari.

Let's say you want to sketch from photos on a web page. (This would also work well for taking notes for Christmas presents, for example, while you browse through an e-commerce site.) Open Safari and navigate to your page of choice. Now slide your finger in from the right of the screen to open the Split View mode. Open Notes and drag the split view line to the left to view both Safari and Notes side by side. Now you can browse the web while doodling images (and notes) that occur to you as you go.

 

Improve your typing by using the Swype keyboard with the Apple Pencil

Has it occured to you that the Apple Pencil can be used for typing? This can be a little awkward, but we've found that it works well if you use the Swype keyboard. Give it a try.

The original idea behind Swype was that you slide one finger around the keyboard to type, but this principle works really well with the Apple Pencil.

Read next: Best keyboard apps for iPad & iPhone | iPad Pro Smart Keyboard review

 

Sketch and doodle on attachments in Mail

When somebody sends you a PDF in Mail, you can sketch and doodle on it before sending it back.

Tap on the attachment to open it, and then hit the Markup icon at the top. Tap the draw icon in the bottom-left and you can sketch away. The other icons enable you to add text, photo loupes and your signature.

 

Add your signature to documents

When looking at a document in Mail, you can add your signature to it.

Open a PDF in Mail and tap the Markup icon and Signatures. Tap Add or Remove Signature and Add. Now sign your signature using the Apple Pencil. It'll appear as an image in the document: tap to move it to wherever you need it.

 

Fingers only: Control Centre and Notification Centre

The Apple Pencil can be used to access icons, and swiping left and right on the Home screen switches from one screen to the next. Note, however, that you can't swipe down to access Notification Centre, or up to access Control Centre.

This is because Apple didn't want users accidentally bringing up these two areas while sketching near the top or bottom of the screen, so you'll need to use your fingers for these.

 

Disconnect the Apple Pencil

The Apple Pencil is so easy to set up (all you do is connect it to the iPad Pro via the Lightning port) that you may not realise it's actually a Bluetooth device. Disconnecting is slightly more difficult than setting up a connection, but not by much.

If you want to disconnect the Pencil, tap on your iPad's Settings app, then select Bluetooth: you'll see Apple Pencil under Devices. Tap the info button and Forget This Device, then tap OK in the alert window to remove the Apple Pencil from your iPad Pro.

Don't worry; you can always set it up again. Just connect the Apple Pencil to your iPad Pro's Lightning port, remember?

Hands-on: Acer Predator Triton 700 review

Hands-on: Acer Predator Triton 700 review

1995-2015: How technology has changed the world in 20 years

1995-2015: How technology has changed the world in 20 years

D&AD Awards 2017: see the best design, advertising, illustration, animation and VR of the past year

D&AD Awards 2017: see the best design, advertising, illustration, animation and VR of the past year

Apple predictions 2017

Apple predictions 2017