Let me guess….you stopped in to an Apple Store or perhaps just unboxed your new iPad Pro….anxious to see what it’s like to write with the Apple Pencil and are feeling a bit disappointed? Confused? Embarrassed? lol. There really are few things that felt more futuristic and exciting to me than those first initial strokes of the Pencil, but I was left laughing at the fact that it looked like scribbles from a 5-year-old. I’ve heard from a lot of people who have had the same experience and luckily I have some tips to help you improve your handwriting on the iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil (or any stylus).
First and foremost I want to assure you that you can write just as neatly — if not neater — on the iPad Pro than you can with pen + paper, it’s just a matter of 1. getting used to it and 2. knowing a few tricks. So, with that, let’s dive into 10 Tips for Improving Your Handwriting on the iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil.
- It isn’t uncommon to feel like the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil are more challenging to write on fresh out of the box. When both the screen’s surface and pencil tip are brand new they can be slippery and it results in feeling a bit out of control with your writing. As gross as it might sound, a bit of greasy residue on the screen or a bit of a break-in period with your Pencil tip will help it gain a bit of grip. If that doesn’t seem like it’s doing the trick try getting a Matte Screen Protector which will help it have a more “paper-like” texture that offers just a bit of the resistance you’re used to with writing in a physical notebook. There is also this brand called Paperlike that makes screen protectors that feel like paper when you’re writing or drawing. Update: at the time I first wrote this post I hadn’t yet tried Paperlike. But, since then I have ordered one, got it installed, and absolutely LOVE it! It makes such a difference and it feels so much like writing in a paper planner. I LOVE IT! (pro tip: they provide you with a great video tutorial to install it….take their advice about installing the screen protector in the bathroom after a shower. It really does make a huge difference!)
- Consider a grip or sleeve for the Apple Pencil. The Pencil can perhaps feel a bit thin and slippery (especially the 2nd Gen), depending on what you’re used to writing with. If your grip on the Pencil feels uncomfortable or really different from how you hold your favorite writing utensil try finding a grip or sleeve that will make it feel more familiar. I got this one on Amazon and love it. They also make more complex ones that will mimic a calligraphy pen or provide more ergonomic support if you’ll be using it for hours on end.
- Practice. Perhaps this is the tip you didn’t want to hear, but its the best one. Writing on the glass surface of the iPad Pro Screen with a plastic-tipped Pencil is a completely different experience for most of us. You might find that you need to hold the Apple Pencil differently, adjust your hand posture, or perhaps write a bit slower. It’s a new thing, and might require new habits! The good news is that I don’t think you’ll need tons of practice. Playing around for a day or two seems to do the trick, but you can perhaps speed it up by doing excessive amounts of free-writing or even doing calligraphy guides or other writing exercises to help yourself get comfortable faster.
TIPS FOR GOODNOTES + OTHER APPS
Goodnotes is one of the most common and well-designed apps for note-taking, marking up PDFs, or digital planning so I have some additional tips that are specific to improving your handwriting within Goodnotes 5. However, most apps that are compatible with the Apple Pencil are going to have similar options and settings.
- Adjust your hand position. Most apps will allow you to identify how you hold the pencil and how you position your hand so that the app is better at identifying your natural handwriting. In Goodnotes you can simply tap on any of the writing utensil icons > click “stylus and palm rejection” > then click on “writing posture” and pick the icon that most closely represent how you hold the pencil and position your hand. Consider trying out a few of these options to see how it changes the way your writing looks.
- Adjust the Sensitivity. Within the same menu, you’ll find an option for Sensitivity and can choose between High, Medium, or Low. Try adjusting this to see if it impacts your handwriting.
- Find a pen style that is close to your preferred writing utensil. In Goodnotes you can only choose between 3 types of pens. Apps like Procreate will have many more options (plus the option to import your own style of pen). Goodnotes gives you a Fountain Pen, a Ball Pen, and Brush Pen. What type of pen do you typically gravitate towards when writing on paper? Try testing these out to see the different strokes they offer and what your handwriting looks like with each.
- Play around with line thickness. Goodnotes along with most other writing/note-taking apps will allow you to adjust the line thickness for each pen tool and will also allow you to set some default options for fast access. With this tip, you can also look to your “real-life favorite pen” for help. For example, if your favorite pen is a .5 or .8 tip, try that line thickness in your favorite apps.
- Try adding lines or grid lines while you write. Most note-taking apps will allow you to toggle lines, grids, or guides on and off. So, you can have them there to help you write straight and keep your letters similarly lined or spaced, and then toggle it off when you’re finished.
- Try changing the position or angle of your iPad. Again, look to “real life”. If you grab a notebook do you turn it at and angle? How you position the notebook, your arm, and your hand will all impact how your writing looks. Try mimicking these same things with the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil.
- Zoom in! Most apps will allow you to zoom in on the screen when you are writing and I find that the more I zoom in, the better I’m able to write uniformly.
This video will show you how to access several of these settings within Goodnotes 5. If you’re curious about my planner, The Daily Page Planner for Goodnotes, you can head over to this blog post to learn more about it, get a discount code, and see some video tutorials for setting it up on your iPad.