year in review

The Best Thing I Bought All Year Was an Apple Pencil

Photo: courtesy of the Retailer

If you’ve read any of our Strategist editor hauls this year, you’ll know that we buy a lot of stuff, and even though we think carefully about each thing that goes into our carts, there are still standouts. To close out the year, we’re asking each editor to write about the best thing they bought in the past 12 months. Today, writer/editor Liza Corsillo on the one piece of technology she now can’t live without.

My side hustle, a.k.a. my second job, is as a commercial illustrator, so when I’m not writing about the best cast-iron skillets or how every women in New York is wearing a teddy bear coat right now, I am drawing. Until this year, my illustration process included multiple steps: sketching, tracing my sketches, retracing those drawings, scanning, refining lines in Photoshop, scanning and adding hand-drawn textures and then finally adding layers of color. I’d been happy with the results, but in terms of speed I was behind the times and my process made taking on new projects difficult. Because of this, every time I met someone who used a stylus and tablet to draw I cornered them with questions. For years I fantasized about different tech options but never felt comfortable making the leap until I tried an Apple Pencil.

To be honest, I didn’t conduct a full and exhaustive test of other tablets and styluses. I’m not lazy, but let’s just say I wanted my new tool to instantly make my life easier and I didn’t have time to do hours and hours of research. For better or worse I live where there is almost always an Apple store within a few miles of me, which made testing the Apple Pencil and iPad Pro ridiculously convenient, and over a few months I tested it many, many times. One day, while visiting my family in Connecticut (after one particularly well-paid freelance gig), I decided to make the leap with the pencil and iPad Pro.

I knew within a few days of purchase that it was going to be the best thing I bought all year. I no longer have to trace sketches by hand or scan anything at all. I still begin all my illustrations in a sketchbook (drawing on my subway commute if I can get a seat), but instead of using rounds of tracing paper to refine line drawings, I now take a photo of my sketches with my phone or iPad and trace them using the Apple pencil. If I make a mistake I don’t have to erase anything or start over with a new piece of tracing paper — I just tap the screen with two fingers to undo my last action. If I want to put it back, I tap with three fingers.

I have only one complaint about the Apple Pencil. The first-generation version I have is annoying to charge — I have to do it either by plugging it into the iPad’s charging port (the pencil has a Lightning plug under its cap on the “eraser” side) or by using an adapter that comes with the pencil to pair it with a regular Lightning charger. Of course I lost that adapter when I moved apartments, so now if both pencil and iPad are low on battery, I am stuck. Naturally, the new generation of Apple Pencils charges magnetically with the new-generation iPad Pro, a vast improvement. But even with my first-generation Apple Pencil, buying a replacement adapter on Amazon is super easy, so it’s not even that serious of a complaint. I’ve saved so much time (and have been able to take on so much more work) using the Apple Pencil, I only wish I had bought one earlier.

This is the first-generation Apple Pencil that I have.

This is the second-generation Apple Pencil that charges wirelessly but only with the third-generation iPad.

Here’s the adapter I’m buying, which comes with a convenient tether so you won’t lose it like I did.

I saw this on somebody’s Instagram stories and instantly got jealous. I’ll be buying one for myself very soon.

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The Best Thing I Bought All Year Was an Apple Pencil