FirstLook: Pencil by FiftyThree

FirstLook: Pencil by FiftyThree

  • Company: Fifty Three
  • Product: Pencil
  • Model: Graphite
  • Size: 137mm x 15.6mm x 8.5mm
  • Weight: 1.4oz
  • Color: Graphite / Black
  • Price: $59.95
  • Website:


FiftyThree the makers of the gorgeous drawing app Paper released their own take on what a drawing tool should be called the Pencil. Engineers at FiftyThree have stated they have been working for some time side by side with artists and Paper developers. Producing some innovative features such as an eraser, blending, palm rejection as well as keeping an eye on the future with the upcoming iOS8 making use of surface pressure.


First Thoughts:

Out the gate, you will find the design of Pencil to be a bit different. FiftyThree chose to go with a carpenter's pencil design in hopes it will feel more family to their users. Although I don’t ever remember them coming with an eraser. Unlike most conventional styli who choose different form factors which tend to come off a bit foreign.

Upon picking up Pencil for the first time it’s metal frame and good weight lent to a sturdy feel. The encapsulated and sleek design lends to excellent engineering. The soft drawing tip is attached to a sensor, which is also connected to a battery pack with integrated USB connecter. In order to charge you will need to pull the battery out of the Penci’s frame and plug it into any USB port. A led next to a lighting symbol will indicate amber to green depending or the level of charge.


Features & Specs:

  • Bluetooth LE
  • Surface Press (Coming in iOS8)
  • Eraser
  • Blend
  • Palm Rejection

What’s included:

  • Pencil
  • Rechargeable Battery
  • Extra tip
  • Extra Eraser

Final Thoughts: (after a week of use)

I must say I was skeptical of the physical design of the “Pencil”. After a few minutes of use it felt right at home in my hand. I must say I feel they hit the nail on the head I almost feel as though I prefer this style rather than the traditional cylinder styles.

You can tell right off the bat Pencil was truly made and compliments FiftyThree’s Paper app. Everything Pencil does it does and just feels right. Something as simple as incorporating a traditional feeling eraser felt like a breath of fresh air. I was surprised at how well and how often I went back to using this. It surely will be something you're looking for on other stylus’s after using it. They also nailed palm rejection. Other apps and stylus which claim palm rejection have not seemed to be fully there yet. Being generous here, maybe they caught 80% of the palm rejections and alot of them also let you mark up the screen with your palm and delete it after the fact, which was more noticeable during lag. With all that said I must say FiftyThree has nailed it not palm rejection in a solid 5hours over the course of a week.

I must admit I was a little bit worried about the lack of buttons. How would you turn it on and pair? Also I’ve gotten so accustomed to having an undo button how will I manage without it? This is where you find the synergy and how Paper and Pencil compliment each other. Pencil may not have an on button, but it does utilise Bluetooth 4.0 LE (low energy) giving it a run time of around a month. I have been using the Pencil for 8 days now and the battery still shows full. That being said there really is no need for an on/off button.

Pairing on the other hand needs to be done through the Paper app which is a bit odd. Normaly we go right to our bluetooth settings, well with Pencil we have to press down on a designated spot within the Paper app. This feature was designed to work pretty seamlessly and does. I’ve yet to have an issue pairing.

I am a bit confused if you are actually just pairing or pairing and turning it on. Since anytime you open Paper, you are required to pair it again before you can use the Pencil again. The documentation says you are pairing and the device is always one.

If you have used Paper in the past, you will know there are some in-app purchases mostly additional drawing tools. One neat thing here is once you pair you Pencil you will notice that all these tools become amiable ONLY when using the Pencil. This is kind of neat, but did not realize that it worked this way until I tried it. Keep in mind when not using the Pencil you will NOT have access to these tools.

Anyone who loves and uses the Paper app Pencil is a no brainier and a must.


Disappointments: (small nit-picking)

For me, there are some limitations which seem to roll down hill and inherited from that synergy of Paper. Bluetooth options such as using the eraser are not supported in other apps. It’s stated that Pencil works in other apps, but so does your finger and that's pretty much what your getting.

Again Paper is an awesome and gorgeous app and I really want it to work for me. However, the lack of layers and image importing really makes it impossible for my drawing style and what I use it for. FiftyThree have stated in their forms there are no current plans to implement layers anytime soon, but they are looking into importing images.

My goto apps is SketchBook then Procreate, both of which do not officially support Pencil. However, they both support many other stylus’s like Adonit Jot Touch my goto stylus along with Ten one Pogo Connect, Hex3 Ja Ja and Wacom Intuos Creative. It would be nice if FiftyThree would work with them and get Pencil officially supported.



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