Paper developer FiftyThree enters the stylus fray with Pencil

FiftyThree’s Paper made waves when it was first released in 2012, thanks to its beautiful implementation of a digital sketchbook, and the company has only improved it since. Now, FiftyThree is embarking on a new kind of update for its iPad app—hardware, in the form of a Bluetooth stylus called Pencil.

Outwardly, Pencil looks like a cross between the Maglus and Cosmonaut, with a thick rubber tip, elongated body, and magnetic clasp (on the walnut model only). But like many recent styluses from other companies, the Pencil also boasts a Bluetooth component.

For most styluses, Bluetooth support means creating a Software Development Kit (SDK) for app-makers to implement across a wide variety of drawing and sketching apps. FiftyThree, in contrast, seems to have tailor-made Pencil for Paper—and for Paper only. While the stylus will still work like a regular capacitative tool in other apps, its special features only come alive in FiftyThree’s native app.

And those special features are pretty nifty. There’s no pressure-sensitivity, but Pencil offers “Kiss-to-Touch” instant pairing with Paper—no pesky switches or hidden settings to enable—along with palm rejection, an eraser tool on the end of the stylus, and Paper’s new Blend mode.

Blend mode lets you use your finger to smudge or extend lines.

Blend is possibly the feature I’m most excited for: When you have a Pencil enabled, Blend lets you use your finger to smudge and elongate ink lines, like you might when using a charcoal stick and your fingers. It’s enabled only when a Pencil is present, so you need the hardware to take advantage of the new software tool.

I’m also curious to see if Pencil’s Bluetooth connection helps with Paper’s lag and accuracy—while the app has gotten better in recent months, its drawing engine is still noticeably slower than competitors. (It’s also one of the best, so slower lines aren’t necessarily the worst thing in the world, but any improvement would be exciting to see.)

We’ll be reviewing the Pencil as soon as we get one in-house. In the meantime, The Verge’s Ellis Hamburger has an excellent overview of the company’s new stylus, as well as interviews with several folks from FiftyThree, if you’re curious to learn more about Pencil. You can also visit Pencil’s website for more.

Pencil works with the iPad mini or later and third-generation iPad or later; you can purchase it from FiftyThree’s online store for $50 (graphite) or $60 (walnut and magnetic snap option).

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