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What is a Stylus? Types of Stylus & Stylus Pens Explained

What Is a Stylus?

What’s all the fuss about the stylus? What are styluses? Styli. Stylus pens. In a sentence, a stylus is a pen-like object people use to point, swipe, sign, and draw on all manner of touchscreens and electronic devices. For those a bit more curious, following is everything you need to know about the modern (oh, and ancient) stylus. Enjoy!

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Types of Stylus

Today’s stylus is made of rubber or conductive foam, and is either “active” or “passive” (also known as capacitive). Here’s the difference between the two:

Active Stylus

Photo by Plush Design Studio on Unsplash

An active stylus has a tip like a pen and includes internal electronic components. Features include memory, electronic erasers, and pressure sensitivity that allows lighter or heavier lines depending upon how much pressure you apply.

You can rest your palm on the screen without causing interference (this feature’s called “palm rejection”). An active stylus is usually larger than a passive stylus (described below) because of the internal electronic components.

Passive/Capacitive Stylus

Like the active stylus, you can tap or write directly on a screen with a passive stylus (also called a capacitive stylus). But unlike an active stylus, the passive/capacitive stylus doesn’t have touch sensitivity or electronic components. There’s no communication between the stylus and the device.

A passive/capacitive stylus simply conducts the electrical charge from your finger to the screen just like your finger would. You can use a passive/capacitive stylus on any touchscreen that works with your finger.

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What Is a Stylus Pen?

A stylus is sometimes referred to as a stylus pen, as it’s held like a pen and in the case of an active stylus, often used exactly like one. However, the term “stylus pen” can also refer to a passive/capacitive stylus that incorporates a ballpoint or other ink pen into its design.

Sometimes the stylus is on the opposite end of the barrel from the ink pen, like this:

Other times the stylus and ink pen are on the same side and the ink pen tip extends through a hole in the stylus, like this:

 

Stylus History

Contrary to the tech-forward vibe of today’s modern stylus, the tool’s been around forever. Around 3,000 BCE the Sumerians of Sumer (in what was then Mesopotamia and is now the Persian Gulf region) used a reed stylus to write on wet clay tablets. They’d push the end of the cut reed into the clay tablet to make marks that formed one of the first written languages—Sumerian cuneiform script. The Sumerians are considered the creators of civilization, so leave it to them to be blazing trails for us in the stylus area as well.

Over time stylus materials have included metal, bone, ivory, feathers (quills), and wood. Though the composition has changed, the tool is still used in much the same way: to push, draw, or write (and swipe!) in the interest of communication and creative expression. A worthy goal and worthy tool as well!

Stylus Then

4 examples of medieval styli: two large iron examples, a smaller one made of brass, the smallest stylus made of bone. By Numisantica http://www.numisantica.com/

Stylus Now

 

Customizing Your Stylus Pen

Here at Pens.com we specialize in customizing a large selection of capacitive stylus pens with your logo, slogan, text, or other messaging.

A passive/capacitive stylus will work on any device that responds to a finger touch, so it’s a good bet any recipient will be able to put it to use. In addition, we combine the stylus functionality with a ballpoint pen so your recipients can put it to use twice as often, advertising your branding all the while.

A Few Parting Swipes, Er, Thoughts

For thousands of years we humans have used the stylus tool to communicate. Times change, technology changes, but the need to communicate remains constant.

So get on the stylus train and ride into the future. Customize a stylus with your company, cause, or special occasion and your branding comes along for the ride, too!

Will your customized stylus be used to sign a tax return? Make a shopping list? Tap out the next historical text? Any way you swipe it, the stylus is here to stay!

(On a related note, check out our blog on why you should use a stylus, including smudge-free, germ-free swiping and all around elevation in social status!)

Shop Stylus Pens & More

Shop your favorite pen types at Pens.com. Plus browse custom notebooks, personalized gifts and more.

 

Karleen Wise Andersen

From marketing tips to product recommendations, I’m here to help small businesses be their best.

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