The combination of iPad and Apple Pencil makes for an excellent solution for taking notes or digital drawings. But while writing notes or creating art on the iPad has many advantages over using analog pen and paper, the feel of writing with a plastic-tipped stylus on the smooth glass of the iPad isn’t great. The hard plastic of the stylus touching the hard glass of the iPad can be noisy, slippery, and unpleasant to use if you’re used to writing on paper.
However, it does not necessarily have to be that way. There is a small cottage industry of papery (or papery or papery) screen protectors for the iPad that directly address this issue. And as someone who takes handwritten notes on the iPad every day, I now swear by it.
These types of screen protectors serve a different purpose than the typical clear plastic screen protector which is designed to prevent scratches on the screen. They have a matte finish that both diffuses the light coming off the screen and provides a rougher texture for writing. This has the effect of resisting the tip of the Apple Pencil, making writing on the glass feel more like writing on paper and giving you more control over your strokes. They also reduce the sound of tapping on glass that you hear with the Pencil on the iPad. Writing through the screen protector is no less responsive than without it, and you can still easily navigate the iPad with standard finger taps and swipes.
Yes, as expected, this makes the iPad feel more like paper, although I’m not going to tell you it’s exactly the same.
Common brands of papery screen protectors include Paperlike, Moshi (this is what I use on an iPad Mini and an iPad Pro), and PenTips, although there are many off-brand options on Amazon for a lower cost. You can find options for every iPad on the market, from the base 9.7-inch model released a few years ago to the latest and greatest iPad Pro models. A matte screen protector typically costs more than a standard clear one, with the branded versions running anywhere from $30 to $45 each.
The matte finish of the screen protector adds texture to the surface of the iPad, giving you more control over pencil strokes Image: Paperlike
There are a number of disadvantages that you should be aware of when using a matte screen protector. Because these screen protectors diffuse the light coming from the screen, there is an impact on the brightness and color saturation of the screen. If you use your iPad outside the home or mainly use it to watch movies, this could be a problem for you. The PenTips PenMat offers a clever solution to this: it attaches magnetically to the iPad, so you can easily put it on when you want to write or draw and remove it again when you want to watch a movie or use the full brightness of the iPad . screen. I haven’t used this one myself, but YouTuber Brad Colbow, who makes videos about creating art on digital devices, recently tested it and was impressed.
Those who write with a heavy hand or draw a lot on their iPad may find the tip of the Apple Pencil wears out faster with a matte screen protector due to its rougher texture. (This seems to be worst when you tilt the pencil for shading effects.) Replacing the pencil tip is easy, and you can get four replacements for less than $20, but it’s something to be aware of.
The matte screen protector makes my handwriting almost legible
Personally, I’ve never had a problem with the reduced brightness and contrast caused by the matte screen protector, so it’s something I leave on my iPad 100 percent of the time. And when I take notes, it’s more comfortable to use, I have more control, and you can almost read my chicken-scratch handwriting. It also eliminates glare when I’m reading or watching video. One final benefit is that the matte screen protector seems to repel fingerprints and other cruds better than the bare glass screen.
If you only use your iPad for watching video and entertaining young children, then you probably don’t need to shell out money for a good matte screen protector. But if you’ve had ideas for using it for note-taking or digital art, then it’s one of the best accessories you can buy – if you already own a pencil, of course. And an iPad with a matte screen protector is a big step toward a similar writing experience to a Remarkable, while still being capable of all the other things an iPad is great for.