I'm not the greatest artist in the world, but I do like to tinker with a bit of sketching. When my vision deteriorated to the point of this becoming difficult, I turned to my iPad for assistance. Using a stylus and a drawing app I found I was able to continue sketching. The ability to magnify the canvas to whatever was comfortable for me has, quite literally, been an eye opener.
There is no doubting though, that digital art is a very different beast to getting your fingers dirty with some charcoal and a piece of paper. Mainly, it has to be said, because of the 'feel' of it. I have always liked the feel of a pencil, charcoal stick, crayon or paintbrush in my hand. The sensory experience of applying the drawing medium is part of the process. Indeed, I still finish my sketches by hand, with a charcoal stick and the help of a magnifying glass, for this very reason. Without this physical touch I don't feel that the picture is mine.
When it comes to painting, despite there being some excellent paint apps for the iPad, the inability to use a proper brush has been something of a stumbling block for me. I'm well aware that the apps in question have an almost infinite variety of brushes to use, but a digital brush is not a real one. Making the connection between your finger or a stylus and the digital brush that does the actual painting is something I have found rather difficult. Sure, the likes of David Hockney or David Kassan seem to manage it with very impressive results, but sadly I am not in their league.
So I was rather looking forward to using the eKit Paintbrush Stylus when it landed on my desk. This is the most simple of ideas: a tablet stylus with a 'proper' paintbrush that is constructed so as to be compatible with most capacitive touch screens including the iPad.
The brush end of the stylus is adjustable for bristle length to suit your style, and retracts fully when not in use for protection. Think of it in terms of a propelling paintbrush and you will get the idea. At the other end of the stylus is a traditional rubber tip for precision work when needed.
Overall, the stylus feels very well constructed and is perfectly balanced for the task in hand (if you will forgive the pun). I like the sleek metal casing and the slimline design. It doesn't feel like a 'real' paintbrush if you are used to large wooden ones, but as a modern twist it's perfectly acceptable.
So how does it feel when actually creating a digital painting? The truth is that while the action of brushing is far more natural than a standard stylus or fingertip, you are not actually using the paintbrush stylus to paint with. That is being done by the app itself, you are only using the brush as a controller for whatever tool you have selected in your app. Not that it's a bad experience by any means, but it's no way anything like the real thing.
Would I recommend it? For £15, you betcha! This is a no brainer gift for any budding digital artist you know, or a traditional artist thinking about having a dabble in the digital arts. It has certainly made me think differently about painting on the iPad, and has quickly become an essential item in my kitbag.
You can watch a video of the eKit Paintbrush Stylus in action here.