I do a lot of sketching and drawing on my iPad. I usually use a stylus, but I recently lost mine. I can draw with my fingers, but I would prefer to use a stylus because it's just easier and I can do more stuff with one. I'm getting a new one soon (probably), but I need something to replace it for a week or two. What is a good substitute for a tablet stylus?
Aluminum foil works similarly to a stylus. I've successfully created a stylus by wrapping several (~7) layers of aluminum foil over the eraser end of a pencil. Note that the contact points will not be as smooth as with a good stylus (e.g., lines drawn may be dashed) and if the foil rips it may scratch the screen, so be cautious.
Using Aluminum foil has already been mentioned by Mooseman. Since there are different ways of crafting your own stylus, I'd like to expand on this a bit.
The following method found on CNET uses aluminum foil as well but also includes a Q-tip to accomplish a screen gentle meeting place:
Here's what you'll need:
- A cotton swab (aka "Q-tip")
- Aluminum foil
- A pen
- Remove the ink from the pen.
- Cut the cotton swab at a sharp angle and insert it into the mouth of the pen. Secure with tape.
- Wrap the foil around the neck of the pen, a couple of centimeters above the tip of the cotton swab. Wrap tightly, and secure with tape at the top.
- Moisten the cotton swab with a drop of water. (No, this will not harm your tablet's or phone's screen.)
This is what the process should look like:
Another method found on lifehacker uses conductive foam instead of aluminum foil. Here's a video in case you don't like reading instructions.
What you'll need:
- A small piece of conductive foam (the kind that microchips and other small electronic parts come embedded in)
- A not insulated wire or a wire stripper to remove insulation more than twice the length of your pen
- A pen
- Remove the ink from the pen.
- Disassemble the rear of the pen so that you get a tube. If you can't easily achieve this, you may want to use a different pen or try to break the rear off.
- Cut a small stripe off of the conductive foam so it's a little bit wider than the tip of the pen.
- Wrap the wire around the foam multiple times at about one-third of the stripe.
- Stuff the piece of conductive foam into the tip of the pen, making sure that some of the foam sticks out of the pen and the wire sticks out of the rear of the pen.
- Wrap the excess wire around the pen in a spiral course (in direction of the tip).
- Fix it in position with tape so that you're touching the wire with your skin while holding the pen normally.
- Trim the sticking out foam so that it has a more round shape.
This is how it might look like:
Any object with the following properties can act as a stylus:
- The tip must be able to conduct electricity (like metal or a wet sponge)
- It must conduct electricity to your hand (a pair of pliers with insulated handles doesn't work because the current cannot flow into your hand)
- The tip must be roughly the size of a finger tip (in my experiment, it had to be wider than 5mm). Most displays filter out small points of contact to reduce unintentional activation.
The result of my 5 minutes experiment looks like this:
That leaves one last problem: how to avoid scratches on your display?
- Tape a small piece of damp sponge to the tip of your DIY stylus
- Wrap and tape a piece of normal office paper around the tip and slightly dampen it with water.
- Cut a little piece of foil from either a bag of potato chips / crisps (the kind that looks silver on the inside) or an anti-static bag that electronic components are usually packed in. Tape that around the tip of your stylus.
- If you happen to have conductive tape, simply tape a small piece onto the tip.