One-Percenter Mods For Premium Apple Pencil Usability

At $129 USD, Apple certainly do sell a very expensive “pencil”. Despite the high cost of entry, [Eric] identified several shortcomings and set about solving them himself with a few choice mods.

The first concern is the excessively slippery surface finish, that could lead to the expensive device being dropped and damaged. [Eric] starts by creating a special tool to help handle the pencil during the refinishing process. He highlights how key this is to getting a good final result, without fingerprints or other flaws ruining the finish. With the manipulator ready, the pencil is then given a wipe down with wax and grease remover prior to a dusting of a translucent spray paint. The finish is poor, however, and [Eric] instead elects to try again with a plastic primer first. A series of tinted clear coats are chased with a urethane clear topcoat for a hardy, grippier surface texture.

The final mod concerns the tip. It’s lathed down in a power drill to give a shape more akin to the ballpoint pens [Eric] is used to sketching with. Additionally, the tip is dyed black with a Sharpie marker and a heat gun, to help it contrast better when sketching on a white screen.

These mods may seem trivial to a casual user, but for a designer who draws for a living, usability is key. The striking orange finish is just a bonus. We don’t see too many stylus mods, but with the increased popularity of tablets, we’re sure to see more down the road. If you’ve got one, be sure to drop us a line! Video after the break.


32 thoughts on “One-Percenter Mods For Premium Apple Pencil Usability

  1. iPad’s surface is indeed a bit too slippery and … cheap compared to “real” graphics tablets like Wacom Cintiq or Intuos.

    Usually the solution is to add “paper-like” film on top, apparently there’s a brand in that exact name that I assume took the name from the category, not the other way around, but that kinds of matte film increase resistance and feelings in general on touchscreens for touch with pens as a secondary.

    1. Yeah; the pencil itself isn’t slippery. I don’t see the issue.
      The iPad surface is more slippery than paper, which means it’s not like sketching with a pencil. You can get films to improve this, but their adhesives may compromise the coatings on the screen.
      My wife’s a professional illustrator, and it took her a few days to get used to the screen’ slack of texture, but she’s fine with it now.

  2. I swear that apple’s current products exist solely to detect people with too much money and not enough sense. I used to be all about macs, but they’ve become a parody of themselves.

    1. I feel the same way after making the move to the Apple ecosystem some 20+ years ago. The recent offerings are just expensive with no benefit – each iteration is a step backwards

    2. Add-on and accessories maybe, although like Macs, that depends on how long they last and stay relevant. I do remember my first iPod back in 2003. It came with all the bells and whistles. The pouch,dock and the remove were included. Subsequent versions did not. Still people called me crazy for splashing out 600 euro’s for a device the size of a pack of cards, essentially saying the same thing you are.

      That 3rd gen iPod now lives on our hifi stack in the living room, with a fresh battery ready to go on long bike rides. My first MBP is 13 years old and still works as a general purpose machine and I have no reason to upgrade my nearly 6 years old iPad at this moment.

      So if that pen is of a quality where it can be expected to operate 2 to 3 times the average life cycle of a piece of hardware, I do not think the price is that much unwarranted.

      1. My i7 imac is 10 years old. It’s got to the place I need to think about replacing it.

        £120 to turn an iPod into a Wacom screen is cheap. Especially if you’re a pro illustrator – it’s paid for itself on the first illustration.

  3. “At $129 USD, Apple certainly do sell a very expensive “pencil”. ”

    Decades ago, I worked as a cashier at a truck stop.
    One customer signed his credit card receipt with a nice looking pen.
    When I complemented him on the pen, he said that it cost him over a $100.
    I mentioned that would be sad to lose a pen of such value, to which he replied that because it was so expensive, he was
    VERY careful about where he placed it.

    1. Yup, I’ve met a couple of people who’ve had high end Parkers or similar on that theory… “I got fed up of losing pens, so I bought one expensive enough that I’d remember to look after it”

      1. Back in university, I had a house mate who, one day, arrived home with two huge boxes of pens. He proceeded to toss them all over the house. I asked him “Why?” and he replied that he was fed up with never being able to find a pen when he wanted to write something. He was trying to fill the house with pens so that one would always be available. Good idea, I thought.

        We never did determine how many pens were required to saturate a house…

    2. I had a similar experience when I was young and working as a lifeguard. I spent a large chunk of my first check on a pair of Ray Bans which I then proceeded to drop on the pool deck and scratch and nearly break. Those went back into the dresser and out came the dollar tree shades again. I could drop them, sit on them, have kids rip them off my face and it was no big woop. Went back to dollar tree and bought several more pairs and put them in my locker and boom all was good for the rest of that job. I ended up selling those Ray Bans on ebay several years ago after cleaning out my parents house and it turned out they were part of a limited run special edition so I profited pretty well off of them. As to the fancy pens, I have found several doing metal detecting on the beaches. I always ask myself “why the heck would you bring a fancy pantsy pen to the beach?” lol.

    1. 🤣
      Only downside with these is they’d get in the way of the magnetic attachment Of the pencil to the iPad. But yeah.
      Alternatively there’s wrap-around stickers for the pencil online, which would be a bit more grippy as they’d be vinyl.

  4. 1 percenter mod’s really that’s what you guys are going with? Then tell me why i see nearly every freaking unemployed starbucks screenwriter or other unemployeed apple drone with an apple pencil then. I guess you meant the 1 percent unemployeed…….

  5. Of course, there’s also that small issue that if you’ve got your ipad in a nice, protective, waterproof case… you now can’t charge _or_ pair that pencil to the ipad without cracking the main seal on the case and risking failure of the case and/or “look at it funny and it bends” ipad.

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