Apple Pencil

Apple Pencil is a versatile, intuitive tool that offers pixel‑level precision when jotting down notes, sketching, painting, marking up documents, and more in iPad apps.

An image of Apple Pencil, a pencil-shaped tool with a rounded tip and the Apple logo on the side beside the word "Pencil".

Support expected behaviors. Apple Pencil is designed for mark-making—it’s not intended as a pointer or selection tool. Consider interesting and unexpected ways your app can enable Apple Pencil interactions. For example, your app might accept handwritten input in areas that typically require keyboard input, or let people make notes in the margins of a document.

Provide a consistent Apple Pencil and finger experience. People shouldn’t need to switch from Apple Pencil to their finger to interact with a control. If your app supports Apple Pencil for mark-making, your app’s controls should also respond to Apple Pencil. An unresponsive control causes confusion, and may give the impression of a malfunction or low battery. Likewise, drawing and writing should also work with a finger.

Let people make a mark the moment Apple Pencil touches the screen. The experience of putting Apple Pencil to screen should mirror the experience of putting a classic pencil to paper. Don’t require people to tap a button or enter a special mode before using Apple Pencil.

Embrace expression. Apple Pencil can sense tilt (altitude), force (pressure), and orientation (azimuth). Your app should use this information to affect the strokes Apple Pencil makes, such as by varying thickness and intensity. When responding to pressure, keep things simple and intuitive—for example, it feels natural when people can affect continuous properties, such as ink opacity or brush size, by varying the pressure.

A diagram of Apple Pencil tilted up from a horizontal line by 45 degrees.

Altitude

A diagram of Apple Pencil drawing a curved line that increases in thickness as more pressure is applied to the tool.

Pressure

A diagram of Apple Pencil balancing on its tip at the center of a circle that has degree marks around its circumference. A line from the center of the circle to one of the degree marks indicates the angle at which Apple Pencil is tilted.

Azimuth

Use visual feedback to indicate a direct connection with content. Apple Pencil should appear to directly and immediately manipulate content it touches onscreen. It shouldn’t initiate seemingly disconnected actions, or affect content on other parts of the screen.

Design a great left- and right-handed experience. Avoid placing controls in locations that may be obscured by either hand. If there’s a chance controls may become obscured, consider allowing the controls to be repositioned.

A diagram of an iPad app in which controls at the left edge 
of the screen are obscured by a user holding Apple Pencil in the left hand. Below the diagram, a red X in a circle indicates the layout is not recommended.

Red X in a circle to indicate incorrect usage.

A diagram of an iPad app 
in which controls at the right edge of the screen are obscured by a user holding Apple Pencil in the right hand. Below the diagram, a red X in a circle indicates the layout is not recommended.

Red X in a circle to indicate incorrect usage.

A diagram of an iPad app in which controls at the top edge of the screen are not obscured by a user holding Apple Pencil. Below the diagram, a green checkmark in a circle indicates this is the recommended style of layout.

Green check in a circle to indicate correct usage.

Whenever possible, respect the user’s settings for the double-tap gesture. Apple Pencil responds to the double-tap gesture by changing how it draws, either directly (by changing the tool) or indirectly (by presenting color options). Although double-tap toggles between the current tool and the eraser by default, users can go to Settings and specify that double-tap should toggle between the current and previous tool, show and hide the color picker, or do nothing at all. If your app supports these behaviors, ensure a consistent experience by respecting the user’s systemwide settings for double-tap, and don’t expect them to learn new gestures for the same behaviors. If the systemwide double-tap settings don’t make sense in your app, you can still use the gesture to change the mode of Apple Pencil. For example, users of a 3D app with a mesh editing tool could use double-tap to toggle between the tool's raise and lower modes.

Give users a way to enable custom double-tap behavior if necessary. When your app supports some or all of the Apple Pencil double-tap behaviors, but you also support a custom double-tap behavior, offer a control that lets users enable the custom behavior. If users don’t have an explicit way to enable the custom behavior, they may get confused when your app doesn’t respond to their systemwide double-tap settings. In this scenario, make sure it’s easy for users to discover the alternative behaviors your app supports, but don’t enable them by default.

Never use the double-tap gesture to perform an action that modifies content. It’s possible for people to double-tap accidentally, which means that they may not even be aware that your app has performed the action. When double-tapping toggles between tool modes, it’s easy for users to reverse an accidental mode change by simply double-tapping again. In an app that uses the gesture to perform an action, however, users must disrupt their workflow to find a way to undo it. Even worse is an app that uses double-tap to perform a potentially destructive action: if users are unaware that the action has occurred, they can lose data.

For developer guidance, see Pencil Interactions.