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I work for Toys for Bob / Activision. Posts here are my personal views, and do not necessarily reflect that of my employer. 

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Wacom Creative Stylus & iPad Air Review/Mod

I am in love with this rig. iPad Air with the Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus. Check out the reivew and mod video:

Wacom Creative Stylus with Teflon tip.
Still fits in the case!
Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus is a Bluetooth stylus for the iPad. It's got 2048 levels of pressure, and comes with a case, battery, and a couple of extra nibs. I wasn't sure what to expect from this stylus, but it has exceeded my expectations, it simply works great. But I quickly noticed the low pressure levels to be lacking, and surfing around I found this official Wacom response.

An official Wacom rep on the European Wacom forums, confirming that the new iPad Air does have different hardware, making the stylus lack the ultra low pressure feel: http://forum.wacom.eu/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=16265&start=10 Wacom sez "It seems that the iPad Air touch sensor is a bit different than in previous iPads. Reports say that the glass is thinner (less layers) and probably there is a difference in the power to the touch sensor. This can require some more pressure with the pen to get any reaction independant of the Bluetooth connection"
Mod with JaJa Teflon tip

So when I saw that post, I thought of using a non rubber tip, perhaps one of the disc types. When I started digging around to see if it's been done, I found this: http://procreate.si/forums/index.php?topic=2910.0 and sure enough, I tried it and it worked great. Thanks Germs770 on the Procreate forums for sharing! I've improved how it's attached on, but credit goes out to him for the first to try it. Funny enough, I think maybe Wacom may have had something like this in mind? The tip has a hole it it, and the case has extra space for it as well. It's almost like it's made for it!
Seeing through the circular tip

And for the record, I did try the stock nib on the iPad 4th generation, and can confirm that the low pressure feel works great. And even with the lack of low pressure feel on the Air, I'd still recommend it for the Air.

One thing that I did forget to mention, is that there are 2 buttons on the stylus. For Procreate, they are for Undo and Redo. I did find that I hit the bottom button often by accident, while pinch zooming..... Strange, because I never do it on the Cintiq while pinch zooming, and the pen feels nicely balanced. I guess I'll probably get used to it with time.

Supplies list in the video:

The palm rejection pads used are: Targus CleanVu Cleaning Pads

The disc tips are: Hex3 JaJa Percision Teflon Tips

The plastic thermal plastics are: Shapelock

And as promised, here are my pencils to use with Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus:

All Purpose is the one that I use the most. I spent way too much time tweaking with it, to make it look and feel like a pencil:

Solid is one that lacks texture, and looks more digital and clean. It's good in conjunction with All Purpose pencil as well, to punch up the details.

Shading Graphite is just a modified version of the stock. I've modified it slightly to make it feel more natural.

Procreate forums also has a lot of really great custom brushes here: http://procreate.si/forums/index.php?board=20.0 and has instructions on how to download/upload them. Try them, I've found a lot of great brushes there. Make sure that in the brush settings, that the Size/Opacity Limits in "General" are varied for Max and Min, since most of them are not made with pressure sensitivity in mind. If pressure levels feel weird, try changing the "Pressure" in the "Dynamics" tab. It's best when it's not 100%, but somewhere in the 75-95% range. Strangely enough, 100% feels too sensitive and hard to control the full range. Of course tune to your own taste :)

I was finally able to find some time over vacation break to do some sketches with this rig. It's funny, but after designing Skylanders characters for so long, it's hard to do something outside of my own style. Here are some Speed Drawings, some are very rough and loose, and some are tighter.... testing out this combo:

This is the only image here that were done with the stock nib,
and using Sketchbook Pro instead of Procreate. Even lacking the
low pressure levels and with the big nib, you can still get
nice line weight and detail

Overall, this is the best thing ever for the iPad. The pressure levels are just amazing, feels almost like a Cintiq (I will try to find some time to do a review on the Wacom Cintiq Companion soon). And with the Procreate combo, along with mods mentioned, this is one amazing mobile sketchpad!

So, should you get it? If you've already have an ipad 3,4, or mini, and love to draw, then you'll probably love this! if you have an Air or Retina Mini, and either don't care about low pressure levels, or you love to modify things, then it's a no-brainer.

-Amazing pressure levels (except for low levels mentioned above)
-Comes with battery, case, and extra nibs
-Battery seems to be lasting forever
-Stylus is heavy for a Wacom, but somehow feels really nicely balanced. I don't find it heavy while drawing.

-Need mods for low pressure levels for the iPad Air and Retina Mini
-The buttons are too easily triggered when pinch zooming
-Not too many apps support it. Some of the listed apps don't work, or are way laggy. Palm rejection doesn't work well, even on Wacom's own Bamboo Paper App.


  1. I loved this review so much so that I am going to get a stylus and start drawing!!!! Just one question though....
    If the Teflon tip from the HEX 3 JaJa Pressure Sensitive Stylus are so good wouldn't it be simpler and better to just use the HEX 3 JaJa Pressure Sensitive Stylus or is the Wacom Creative Stylus that much better?? Thanks and I will wait until I hear before I buy one :-)

    1. I haven't used jaja, so I can't personally compared the two. But wacom knows art, and it reviewed much better than the jaja. Quick search on blog reviews, and user reviews on amazon, and you'll see people like the wacom more. Jaja uses ultrasonic transmission instead of Bluetooth, so there are more issues.

    2. I have tried the both the JaJa and the Wacom Styluses....the JaJa does have the nice tip but the responsiveness just wasn't even close to the sensitivity of the wacom.

    3. Crabfu, just wondering if you have tried the latest iteration of the Jot Touch?...Having tried the wacom and jot touch, I would give the sensitivity (and tip) to the Jot, it just seemed better (using ipad mini, 1st gen).

      How does the mod-Wacom + iPad air stack up to the note 10.1 (say, even software, like SBP)?

      Also, you have the cintiq companion too? You gots all the toys!

    4. I have the first jot touch, not the latest. A friend is getting it so hopefully I can test drive it soon. Comparing wacom to the original jot touch, it's a clear wacom win for me, just no comparison.

      I love wacom mod and air, I'd say sensitivity wins on that combo. But note 10.1 wins on accuracy. It's a close race though, but I care about sensitivity levels more than I do about accuracy, and preference for ios vs android. So I prefer the wacom and ipad for art, but only by a hair. Wacom and ipad doesn't work great with sbp though... It's laggy, but on procreate it is as smooth as butter. So if you want to stick with sbp the note 10.1 is better. Overall they are both great tools, I would recommend both.

      And yeah I do have the companion, and hope to find time to review it. Yeah I have the toys because it's what I do for a living. At least that's what I keep telling myself :)

    5. Here is my original jot touch revie btw: http://crabfuartworks.blogspot.com/2012/08/jot-touch-review-and-mod.html

  2. Great post. First helpful thing I've seen in regards to the Air sensitivity issue. Where did you purchase your Jaja tips?

    1. Thanks. Tips here: http://www.hex3.co/products/jaja-precision-teflon-tips

  3. Extremely helpful post for this newbie to drawing on the ipad.

  4. Have you played with Layerpaint HD much (on android)? I am interested to see if you have had success making your own brushes.... Thanks

    1. I have tried Layerpaint, and tried to tweak with the brushes. I couldn't get a feel that I liked, but it seems to be a nice app.

    2. Cool. Don't know if you noticed you can import your own images and create new brushes from them too :)

  5. Hi. Thanks for your videos. I have a question to you. Can you import an image to use the background and drawing on it?

    1. Yes, you can import image into procreate.

  6. Wow, CrabFu, this is a fantastic post loaded up with great info! I came across it from the Procreate forum that described the pen hack that you so ably demonstrate here.
    I decided after much research to go with the wacom stylus over the jot pro touch and jaja stylii, I did really want to have the precision afforded by the higher visibility of the disc style tips. Now I can have it all!
    This is the best review of the wacom stylus that I have seen...it would have made my decision easier. Can't wait to read more of your blog, and to try out your custom brushes.
    Happy sketching,

  7. Very nice mod. I just picked up one of these the other day and I can see the issues first hand. I just place an order for the jaja tips and can't wait to try it out.

    I had an idea for a more sturdy way to attach the jaja tip to the wacom creative stylus and was wondering what your opinion would be. You have access to 3d printer maybe this is something you can make? How about a tip holder that will tighten as you screw the WCS cap on.

    I have an illustration of what I'm talking about here


    Thanks and keep up great work.

    1. That is a great idea, like a mechanical/drafting pencil lead holder. But unfortunately, it'd be way too much trouble to 3d print and test. On something this small, prints gets really fragile, and requires level of precision that is difficult even on a high end printer. Cleaning a tiny piece like that, would also be a nightmare on printers that I have access to. I did consider 3d printing, but the thought of making it in 3d, testing, printing, cleaning etc, just didn't feel like it's worth it to me. By comparison, shapelock required only a minute to do, so I picked the easy route. Your design is really good though, if it's manufactured that way it'll be pretty awesome.

  8. I got this honest confirmation from the Wacom Technical Support Team. Still it would be better if they mentioned it on the webpage of the creative stylus too. (After all it isn't really their fault.)

    Dear Frank,

    Thank you for your message and interest in Wacom. The man in the Youtube video is right. Alas our Ipad/iPhone styluses work less well on the new retina screens of Apple. The Wacom developers know about this, but unfortunately we don't have more information. So it's up to you to decide if buying a Intuos Creative Stylus is worthwile.

    I wonder if you can get that jaja teflon tip out of the hole of the stylus easily, or will it break off because it fits very tight, and is it an irreversable act?

    1. That's good confirmation. Even with the issue, it's still really great, and I'd still recommend it. The baby sketch above, was made with stock nib, before the mod. The issue only effects the very low end pressure... Maybe the bottom 5-10 percent. For a lot of people this won't be an issue, but it is for some people like me who rely on super light pressure, it makes a difference.

      The mod just makes the jaja tip snug, you can take them out easily, and can still use a normal stock nib when taken out. You can use the tip without using shapelock too, just puncture a hole through a nib, and let the rubber nib hold it in place. It works, just falls out a bit easier.

  9. Thank you for a exceptional review really helpful as I have an ipad. Was going to get a intuos not now!

  10. Thanks for your review and video! I ended up copying you, except instead of the shapelock, I just used a dense foam earplug. Thrilled at how sensitive the stylus is now with the teflon tip! Huge difference than the stock Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus.

    Again, thanks for the inspiration :) And it still fits in my pretty case, too!

    1. Cool, good idea with earplug!

    2. Hello, techic.

      If you don't mind, Could you send me the Pic. of your Wacom stylus with earplug mod?

      I try to make this Mod ver. stylus. But there is no seller of 'shape lock' in Korea.

      I think, your mod style is the best way for me.

      Thank you. :)

      Dear I-Wei Huang.

      Thank you for a nice posting.

      Changwoo. Han
      e-mail: han0418@naver.com

  11. I was so glad to find this review and mod, after seeing the one you did on the Jot Touch a while back. I just got a new iPad Air after an unfortunate accident claimed my iPad 3, and am looking for a good art setup to go with it. Did you ever get an opportunity to use your friend's new Jot Touch 4, and would you recommend this over the JT4?

    I use Procreate a lot, and ArtRage sometimes, if that makes any difference.

    1. I did try my friend's jot touch 4 months back. It has issues with random big stokes at the time, seems like it would be something that could be fixed with app updates, but was bad enough for my friend to return it then. I liked the wacom much better, especially with the mod.

  12. I just tried out a random sketching app on my friends iPad Air this afternoon and was pretty impressed. I am a pretty die hard fan of sketching the hard way... (with 1 black pen and my sketchpad). However, I am looking to get a tablet anyway and it would be rude to not use it for sketching!

    I have 2 questions for you:
    Is the iPad or the Galaxy Note 10.1 better for sketching in general? As I understand it, with the built in Wacom sensitivity layer, the Note should be more accurate/responsive and should be able to use the normal pressure sensitive stylii (no need for Bluetooth).

    The issue is, I am not a huge fan on the Samsung TouchWiz UI but nor am I a huge fan of iOS. However, as far as I can tell, for all round use, there is not really another tablet that comes close to the iPad Air (and this definitely has to be a consideration) The drawing experience may just tip the balance for em either way I think. Which would you recommend?

    Also, If I were to go with the iPad i would definitely get the Intuos to accompany it. Do you think that just sticking a bit of Blu-tac in the tip would work for the mod in the same way as than the shapelock?



    1. I think overall, if you want it for art, the Note will be better because of the accuracy over ipad/wacom. But like you, I prefer ios, so my main tablet is the ipad, and I occasionally draw on it using this wacom creative stylus. With that said, I think Android offers a lot of good things, and each has their pluses and minuses, so the preference isn't big for me. If you are looking for a tablet mainly for art, I think Note is a better choice. If you are looking for an everyday tablet to occasionally draw on, the ipad/wacom is a great way to go. It all depends on what you are looking to do, but I think they are both amazing and cheap options for digital art.Sorry, I know this isn't really helping you decide, but luckily you can't go wrong either way, I think they are both amazing devices.

      I don't know what blu-tac is. But you can actually do this without using shapelock or anything. The shaft is too small for the bore, but it does stay in there if you just puncture through the nib. It just would slide out more often, and so I use shapelock as a more secure way to attach it. It's not needed, you can try it without first and see if it bothers you. If you decide to attach it with something else, just make sure that the metal shaft of the tip is touching the metal bore of the pen.

    2. Thanks for the help. I want the tablet for casual media consumption, productivity(occasionally) and also art. I think I might just take the plunge for the iPad. It seems that the level of accuracy would be more then enough for me.

      Sorry, I suppose i never thought about people not knowing what Blu-tac is, it's everywhere in the UK! It's like a soft, blue sticky material that you can use to hang posters on wall etc... it's malleable and sticky so might work. Anyway, I guess ill just try it when I get the stylus!

      Thanks again for the help!


    3. Great. With securing the tip, you need the metal to be touching each other, or the substance need to be conductive. Not sure about blu-tac, but assume that it's not conductive. Shapelock is not conductive, but I place a tiny amount on the side, so that the tip shaft is touching the metal around the bore. Try it without blu-tac first, it may hold it well enough for you :)

  13. Hello, I stumbled upon your blog recently and really enjoy it, thank you!

    I do some light drawing at home and never have drawn on a tablet (ipad air) before but have been wanting to try. I was going to buy the stylus you use in this entry, but bit nervous to spend so much for something that I may completely suck at and then never use...

    Would you have a suggestion for a "test" type of stylus? Having never drawn on a tablet before, I thought maybe its better than i test my skills at it first before investing into something a bit more permanent.

    Thanks for your feedback and I enjoy your work,


    1. Thanks. You can try finger painting, it's fun on the ipad, you just need to zoom in a lot to get the accuracy. You can go back to some of my earliest blog entries and see finger painting on the iPhone :) also, you can try a dumb stylus, just a capacitive stylus without electronics. Look on amazon, there are lots of cheap ones for just a few bucks.

  14. I am very curious about the soon to come hex 3 yufu pro. It sounds promising. 4048 pressure levels. 1,9mm tip.

    1. Me too, but I'm a bit confused about their way of sensing pressure on the side.... they just barely mentioned it in the video, but hard to know how that's going to feel. I'm also cautious about these new stylus with tiny tip, I've tried a few of them, and they produce very wiggly lines. Hopefully the yufu works as good as it promises!

  15. Great review!
    I have had great experiences with Wacom products and since I've got my iPad air I'm having doubts in acquiring a Jot or a Wacom pen.
    The references from the new Jot are very hopeful. However I've heard that it can scratch the screen because of the metal pointer. Is that correct?
    Thanks in advance for your comments!

    1. I'd go with wacom pen over jot. The jot touch disc is not metal, it's a rubbery flat tip. There is a risk that the disc could trap particles and scratch the screen, but it should be ok if you make sure that the disc and screen are clean. The default wacom tip is rubber nib, with this mod it's a taflon nib.... So no metal nib with these options. If you're thinking of the jot script, that has no sensitivity and does have some sort of fine tip that seem to be metal of some sort. I'd stay away from that because of the accuracy issues, on top of not having pressure.

  16. Thank you for this "tip"!

    Just made it myself, and eventhough I had a hardtime working with the plastique, the outcome is magnificient :)

    Someone in Denmark

  17. This looks like a great mod! I was wondering, do you think low-temperature hot glue would work in place of the pellets? I'm thinking of the kind that's cool enough to use on things like styrofoam without melting it. Maybe expel some and let it cool a bit, and then stick a wad of it into the stock tip.

    1. Yeah I'd imagine that will work.... you want to make sure to get very little in there. And also that the metal tip is touching the metal bore. Of course, do it at your own risk, but I'd imagine it'd be easy to get the hot glue out of there with a pin, if you mess up.

    2. Thank you so much for the quick reply!

      The glue is a lot more accessible to me than the plastic pellets are, although they seem versatile enough that it might be worth ordering them to use for other applications as well. Reading about them, I wonder if they might not be better since they cure hard, while hot glue always remains flexible and tears relatively easily. Something rigid would likely be better at maintaining the metal-to-metal contact.

    3. Yes, shapelock is awesome for lots of things, I'm built lots of robots with the stuff. But it does get super hard, and would be difficult to remove. I'd recommend just getting the tip and try it without anything first. If you poke through the rubber nib, it'll keep it in place. I just wanted a more secure way of keeping the tip in there, but is not needed.

  18. Thank you for posting this. I have the Wacom ICS and wish it had better low pressure sensitivity so I will be trying this for sure! Have you noticed any scratching from the teflon tips?

    Also, have you thought about trying the new Jot Touch with PixelPoint by Adonit? I was curious what you thought about it compared to this Wacom ICS mod.

    1. Thanks. I haven't tried jot touch with pixelpoint, but did try jot script with pixelpoint. The lines were too wiggly in the diagonal, and the slower the stroke, the worse it is. And no, I haven't scratched the screen with Teflon tip, but I tend to baby the screen and have a light hand.