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The best iPad Air stylus for drawing and note-taking can be characteristized as pen models that have true pressure sensitivity, communication between the iPad Air, bluetooth connection, palm rejection, tilt technology and ‘gesture’ features.
Apple has evolved it’s previous iPad Air models 1, 2, 3 and 4th generations to work better with the Apple pencil than any other third party stylus. This means having full functionality: true pressure sensitivity and gesture features (such as double tapping to switch brush sizes) with the Apple Pencil.
Inexpensive third party alternatives only work properly for writing and note taking. These third party alternatives are not ideal for pro-level artwork since they do not integrate proper pressure sensitivity with apps such as procreate.
Using Procreate? See: The Best Stylus for Procreate (iPad Air & Pro)
In this post I’ll be covering in further detail the Best Stylus for iPad Air and iPad Air 2 as well as apple pencil alternatives and the additional features that will help those drawing or note-taking choose the proper stylus.
Best iPad Air Stylus for Drawing & Note Taking (Top Pens Compared)
There following stylus work best for the iPad Air across all aspects including functionality, battery life, preciseness and accuracy for drawing and note-taking.
The Best Stylus for iPad Air at a glance:
Below are our top picks best iPad Air stylus based on affordability, preciseness, compatibility and functionality for writing and drawing.
Important: If you’re not using procreate, then Adonit Note+ (shown above) is a strong choice. The Adonit Note+ has most of the features of the Apple Pencil, and has ‘true’ pressure sensitivity, but doesn’t apply it to the procreate app when I tested it.
I’ve personally taken the time to test each of these stylus and these pros and cons are aimed to help you objectively choose the best stylus for iPad Air for your situation.
Related: Next to Wacom and XP-Pen, the iPad Air is considered one of the Best Drawing Tablets for Mac
1. Apple Pencil (2nd Gen): Best Stylus for iPad Air Drawing & Note taking
When it comes to drawing on the iPad Air the Apple Pencil is the undefeated champion of stylus pens. This is because it integrates seamless with apps such as Procreate.
In fact, the Apple pencil allows full tilt control, highly unique ‘gestures’ no other stylus can compete with as well as ‘true’ pressure sensitivity through communicating with the Apple iPad Air device.
The level of preciseness and control you get with the Apple Pencil simply can not be matched and is hands down the best stylus for both note taking and drawing. If you are a beginner artist the Apple Pencil is worth it. (See the Apple Pencil vs basic stylus comparison)
For those note-taking, the apple pencil allows for gestures and instant pairing unlike any other third-party stylus I’ve personally tested. It is hands down the Best Pen for iPad Air.
Is the Apple Pencil worth the extra money over a $30 pencil?
Most third party styluses that have a ‘true’ connection to the iPad via bluetooth have flaws when pairing to certain note-taking and drawing software… making the Apple pencil 2 well worth it for the 4th gen iPad Air.
Important: If you’re using the iPad Air (3rd generation), then only the Apple Pencil 1 is compatible and has useful, but not necessary features such as the position it charges on the iPad Air and a design that allows it to not roll off desks as easily (not a big difference)
Runner up: JAMJAKE: Best Cheap stylus for precise drawing on the iPad Air
The JAMJAKE uses tilt sensitivity to control brush strokes, it makes for a really nice cheap, yet quality note-taking or beginner drawing stylus pen for the iPad Air.
Unlike the Apple Pencil, you may need to tweak the settings with-in Procreate or similar drawing apps to get the stylus to work the way you’d like, which isn’t too big of a hassle for most.
2. Adonit Pro 4: Best Fine Tip Stylus for iPad Air 2 (capacitive)
The Adonit Pro 4 is one of the best, most affordable fine point precision pen for the iPad Air and uses ‘Soft Touch’ precision DISC’s that allow for touchscreen scratch resistance. Replacement discs are inexpensive and this.
The Adonit Pro 4 does not have bluetooth pressure sensitivity, but does work well for beginner artists in need of a quality stylus. In fact, I’d consider it one of the best iPad Air note taking stylus since it outshines all other alternatives in both design and functionality.
For those in search of an Apple pencil alternative with pressure sensitivity for drawing, then you’ll want to skip to the Adonit Note+ section in this post.
It’s accurate, precise and affordable. Many softwares do have pressure sensitivity that can adjust to pens such as the adonit Pro 4, however when I tested it it was not on par with the Apple Pencil of course (as it’s not intended to be).
The Adonit Pro 4 does not compete with the Apple Pencil in terms of drawing there is a significant lack of stylus with true pressure sensitivity for the iPad Air. The majority of Pro artists I know that use an iPad Air use the Apple Pencil since it’s designed by Apple themselves and has all the missing features they need.
Be careful when choosing a cheap stylus online that claims to have true pressure sensitivity, most do not; you can tell this is true by checking if the pen connects via bluetooth or not- if not, then it very likely does not even remotely match the precision of a apple pencil.
3. Adonit Note +: Best Active Fine Tip Stylus for iPad Air 3rd & 4th gen (bluetooth pressure sensitive)
The Adonit brand stylus has many different models with many different purposes. The Adonit Note+ is the only non-Apple stylus I found that was able to somewhat compete with the Apple Pencil since it has true pressure sensitivity for most apps.
The best part about the Adonit Note+: it’s an active stylus with bluetooth connectivity and a battery. These are beneficial features because the pressure sensitivity communication is improved between the iPad air and stylus compared to other non-bluetooth alternative that claim to be an active stylus.
The Adonit has tilt support, shortcut buttons, palm rejection, and USB-C connectivity for recharging and makes for a fantastic iPad air pencil alternative.
Related: Best Tablets for reading PDF files
Adonit Note+ does work with drawing apps (like Procreate) since they have a ‘third party stylus setting’ to adjust the pressure sensitivity. However, if you’re considering drawing the extra few dollars spent on the Apple Pencil is worth saving up for and prefer for Pro-level artwork. (Sorry, Adonit)
4. Logitech Crayon: Best Stylus for writing on iPad Air (3rd & 4th Gen Compatible)
The Logitech Crayon is the best stylus for writing & taking notes on the iPad Air because of how reliable, accurate and durable the pen is.
Logitech Crayon is one of the few stylus that pairs nearly instantaneously to the iPad Air 3rd and 4th gen. No surprise that logitech is the brand that creates the Crayon stylus because it’s truly a quality, budget alternative to the Apple Pencil.
As far as writing and drawing capabilities, the Logitech Crayon doesn’t disappoint. It boasts compatibility with hundreds of apple pencil supported apps and poses precise lines without stuttering or delays. It’s able to create a thicker or thinner line by using tilt technology that actually works quite well.
The tilt technology varies the line weight you draw or write just like handwritten notes and can be done by adjusting the angle of the tip like a real pencil or pen. I’ve personally tested this and it works as intended and marketed.
Cons: The Logictech Crayon does not have the true pressure sensitivity feature artist seek; best described as when you press down harder; the line gets harder -however there are some softwares that allow this to occur depending on the specific app you are using the draw or write on.
The Logitech stylus pen for iPad Air has palm rejection and actually stays on the desk you put it on instead of rolling off like other stylus’ such as Adonit and 1st gen apple pencil. This is an advantageous feature most overlook and don’t realize they need until after they bought a stylus.
5. Adonit Note-M: Best iPad Air Stylus for Note Taking (Apple alternative)
The Adonit Note-M is a third party apple pencil alternative stylus that connects to the iPad Air 3 & 4. On top of it being categorized properly as a “fine tip pen for iPad Air”, it also has a unique feature: touch sensitive scrolling wheel and a mouse sensor.
The Unique mouse sensor of the Adonit Note-M provides consumers with mouse functions, as well as left and right click buttons and connects to the side of your iPad via magnetics. It’s palm rejection allows users of the Adonit Note-M to comfortably rest their palm and works without any issues.
I’ve used the Adonit Note-M personally and after rigorous testing the mouse function works just like a real mouse. I found the best way to use it is to lay the pen down like a conventional mouse and move as needed. When not in pen mode, the mouse mode allows you to use your stylus with a limit on drawing.
The Adonit brand has evolved over the years and has applied a 10 hour battery to the Stylus. This is a con because if you’re using the mouse function the battery lasts 5 hours. However, you can always just plug it in and it charges quite quickly.
Overall the Adonit Note-M is lightweight, has a fine point tip and gives us the option of a replaceable tip.
6. FOJOJO: Most affordable, mid-tier fine tip Stylus Pen for iPad Air (artists)
If you’re not ready to spend $100+ on the Apple Pencil, but still want a cheap stylus with palm rejection and precision, then the FOJOJO is for you. The FOJO is the cheapest stylus pen for a beginner artist or for students taking notes for school.
The FOJOJO was particularly created and designed with the Apple iPad in mind. In fact, this stylus proved to have no lag and a 1.2 mm pencil tip, making it a very strong stylus for those that don’t require tilt or pressure sensitivity.
These third party stylus do work well… however, if you’re using a stylus on another top drawing Tablet with screen built-in then you’ll likely use the one it comes with.
This stylus has a trendy, sleek, modern appeal and allows for very smooth lines and writing without stuttering, skipping or delay. In fact, the FOJOJO brand even offers a 12-month after sales service and tech support (this is something I’ve never seen yet from a low-cost stylus brand).
Other features include a sleep function that turns off automatically after 5 minutes of no use allowing you to appropriately save battery even though it lasted for 20 hours per charge when I tested it. This pen for iPad air also allows for replaceable tips and turns on and off by simply tapping the tip.
7. Pony: Best Beginner Stylus for iPad Air 4 for sketching and taking notes
The pony is one of the best, cheap stylus for writing on all iPad Air models because it’s a capacitive stylus pen- meaning this stylus will connect instantly and work well on iPhones as well as other devices. This stylus pen is great for artists and writers who use the iPad Air and are on a budget.
Also see the 11 best stylus pens for iPhones (Drawing & Writing)
While the Pony pen stylus for iPad air doesn’t have Pressure sensitivity, precision-wise the pen works quite well. The Disc tips of this stylus are replaceable and easy to change. Additionally, this stylus also comes with a leather case.
The biggest con to the Pony is that it doesn’t have pen rejection, but considering how cheap the stylus is the trade-off a lack of palm rejection seems fair. The best alternative to this pen I’ve found is the FOJOJO or the JAMJAKE from amazon as mentioned earlier.
See our post: How to Use an iPad as Phone Replacement
How to use a Stylus on the iPad Air
1. Ensure the Stylus is charged
Most styluses connect via usb-c or micro usb. This means you’ll want to charge the device fully before using. The stylus with bluetooth connectivity, like the apple pencil or adonit note+ allows for better pressure sensitivity, but comes at the sacrifice of a battery that needs to be charged or replaced.
2. Connect & Pair the Stylus to the iPad Air
If the stylus is a capacitive pen, then it will work instantly without a battery and without pairing- you’ll just have to turn the stylus on. However, with the active stylus pens (Adonit Note+ or Apple Pencil) you’ll need to pair the device by tapping the pair button after you’ve connected your apple pencil to the lightning connector on your iPad air.
Apple pencil is connected but not working
If the Apple pencil or third party stylus is not working, then you’ll want to go into settings turn off bluetooth, then plug in the stylus and turn on the bluetooth immediately after. The iPad Air will recognize the pencil from the settings rather than the simple box that pops up.
3. Ensure the tip is not worn and begin testing the pen
Finally, you’ll be able to test the pen and ensure it works as expected. Be sure to test for tilt sensitivity, pressure that works the harder or lighter you press it as well as palm rejection. The less expensive stylus won’t have palm rejection so be sure to look for this feature before you invest money into a stylus for a very low cost. The Palm rejection ensures a more comfortable and less frustration experience overall.
Apple Pencil Compared to Third Party Stylus on the iPad Air
The Apple Pencil has two unique benefits that draws it apart from other stylus: it’s apple gesture feature and it’s true pressure sensitivity. These are possible because the device is designed, created and built by the same tech company that creates the iPad Air: Apple.
While it may seem obvious, you may be surprised how many iPad air users attempt to use a low-cost amazon alternative stylus and are unaware of the drawbacks that occur when doing so. These drawbacks include difficult pairing, false pressure sensitivity, stuttering, delay, lag and incompatibility amongst drawing and note taking apps like Medibang, Artflow, Procreate, OneNote and Notability.
|iPad Air Stylus||True Pressure sensitivity||Tilt Technology||Palm Rejection||Fine Tip||Gestures|
|Adonit Note +||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
Related: Which iPad is Best for Procreate
What Stylus works best with iPad Air 4
What is the best pen for the iPad? The Apple Pencil gen 2 works best with the iPad Air 4 as well as Apple iPad Air 3. The Adonit models are also thoroughly tested to work properly with the Apple iPad, but lacks the gestures feature as well as seamless pressure sensitivity integration on certain models.
There are also Wireless drawing tablets, that will typically come with their own stylus created by their manufacturer.
Can you use an active Stylus on an iPad air
Yes, you can use both an active and capacitive stylus on the iPad Air 2, 3, and 4. In fact, the Apple Pencil was created with this in mind and the iPad Air remains one of the most affordable, yet lightweight touchscreen tablets that works well with professional drawing apps.
If you’re a beginner who plans on drawing on the iPad, then see our post on What stylus pen do artists use to draw on iPad
What is the best stylus that works with iPad Air 2 and iPad Air 3 (Gen)
The best stylus that works well on the iPad Air 2 and 3 is the Apple Pencil. The earlier versions Apple Gen 1 pencil, works best on the older versions of the iPad air. However, it’s very important you are careful which Apple pencil you get before purchasing as recent models have different support for different pens.
Related: Non iPhone apps for turning & converting handwriting into text
Does iPad Air and Stylus Work on Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator
Yes, the Apple Pencil and third party stylus of quality for the iPad Air will work with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. The Stylus ideally should have pressure sensitivity if it is created from a third party since the Adobe softwares have capacity for advanced graphic design and illustration. Tilt technology and Palm rejection is crucial for this and this is why Apple Pencil is ideal: it has all of these features as well as gesture shortcuts.
Will Third Party alternative stylus for iPad Air also work with Lenovo or windows tablets?
Third party alternatives Adonit models will work with Lenovo models, however the Lenovo Active pen 2 or lenovo stylus alternatives are ideal for this. If you are using a capacitive stylus, it’s likely it will work on all touch screen devices including, but not limited to the iPad Air, Lenovo devices, Microsoft surface and even smartphones such as the iPhone or android devices.
How does the apple pencil compare to Lenovo Active Pen 2 or other Android Stylus? Well since some operating systems on certain Lenovo Tablets, like the M models and P models are technically an android OS, they work very similar in regards to the iPad and Appel Pencil combination. For more on this, view our post: Best Stylus for Android Drawing
Should I use an iPad or a wired graphics tablet that needs a computer
It’s important to understand the differences between the two. A Standalone drawing tablet will allow for portability and one main display rather than the dual screen a desktop + Wacom tablet will offer.
However, you’ll be missing out on some power for running multiple apps. The Drawing functionality is somewhat similar, but a wired tablet will provide some additional features that studio level artists may prefer. If you’re using photoshop and adobe it may be best to stick with a laptop and drawing tablet, rather than a cheap android that uses a third party stylus because android’s version of photoshop or illustrator is much different than desktop.
If using iPad and a Apple Pencil or pressure sensitivity third party stylus, then these drawing and notes app work flawlessly with minimal issues from my experience as a digital artist. For more on deciding whether you want a drawing tablet that doesn’t need a computer or a standard, less portable, traditional, graphics tablet, view our post: 7 Best drawing tablets that don’t require a computer
When using the iPAd with a stylus for note taking or drawing, the best iPad air 4 and 3 stylus is the apple pencil. This is objectively the best choice for consumers drawing or taking notes because Apple has created seamless connectivity between the two devices allowing for instant pairing and the most precise pen strokes possible amongst all compatible stylus.
Additionally, the Apple pencil has additional shortcut features in the form of “gestures” meaning you won’t have to click a button in order to swap brushes or change brush size. You also won’t have to worry about pressure sensitivity like you would with third party alternatives. Using a third party stylus over an apple pencil has its flaws in terms of lack of features and connectivity, which shows as you use the device.
I’ve tested this personally and found this to be true on nearly all third party stylus and this is something that expert artists and writers that use a stylus on their apple iPad air have agreed upon.
Other Stylus, such as those you’d find on amazon or other brands (like Adonit stylus) can work well, but the pressure sensitivity gets very specific and tailored per each model. The Adonit Note+ is the only model that I found works well for the iPad Air regarding a full line features such as fine tip point, tilt technology, bluetooth pressure sensitivity and a plethora of shortcut buttons.