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Sensu Brush for touchscreens adds a realistic feel to digital painting

Here at the TUAW labs, we've seen just about every type of stylus that you can imagine. While some of them -- especially the newer pressure-sensitive styli -- are quite impressive, they just don't offer the same feel as a brush on paper or canvas. Now Artist Hardware of Skokie, Ill., is selling the Sensu Brush (US$39.99), the first combination artist brush and stylus for touchscreens that we've had the opportunity to test.

Design

Artists are going to love the Sensu Brush. When you first open the box, you'll find what looks like a traditional touchscreen stylus that's about four inches long with a capacitive tip on one end. That's perfect for sketching an outline or getting detail. When you want to use a brush, you pull on the end with the tip, revealing what looks just like the end of a real artist's paintbrush. Plug the "rubber-tipped" end back into the body of the brush and you have a 7-inch long, perfectly balanced artist's brush.

Now, I suppose that you could get out your watercolor kit and start painting away on real paper with the Sensu Brush -- after all, it IS a real brush. But don't. Instead, pull up one of your favorite iPad or iPhone sketching and painting apps, and go to work.

I must apologize to all of the artists who went out and purchased one of the other styluses I've recommended, because you're now going to need to spend another $40 on a Sensu Brush. Painters are going to love the feel of the Sensu Brush, which is much more like a real brush than a stylus.

Functionality

I gave the Sensu Brush a try with several iPad apps just to see how well it worked. Before I did this, I watched some of the fun and friendly videos that Artist Hardware's Matt Lynaugh has recorded showing how to use the Sensu Brush with some of those apps. He has a couple of my favorite art apps -- Paper by 53 and Procreate -- featured in some of the videos.

While I'm not willing to subject you to any of my sketches or paintings ("Dammit Jim, I'm a blogger, not an artist!"), I will say this about the Sensu Brush: it feels more like a real artist's brush than any other stylus I've used so far. Will that make me a better artist as I practice more? Perhaps.

For me, it seemed like the Sensu Brush gave me a feeling of more control over the strokes than the pressure-sensitive styluses. While pressure-sensitivity can vary the stroke, the fact that you feel more like you are painting with the Sensu yields a more satisfactory experience, if not more accurate art.

Conclusion:

Digital artists don't need to spend any more time looking for a stylus/brush for their iPad. The Sensu Brush may not have all of the battery-powered bells and whistles that the new pressure-sensitive stylusi do, but the actual feel of brush on screen provides a more realistic way to create art on an iPad.

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Compact to carry, yet turns into a 7-inch brush in seconds
  • Actual brush bristles provide a way to do realistic stippling effects
  • Relatively inexpensive compared to powered, pressure-sensitive styluses
  • No batteries required

Cons:

  • None

Who is it for?:

  • Artists and students who want a more realistic experience when creating art on the iPad or iPhone

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