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Sensu Brush Review


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: $40 | Company Sensu | Web www.sensubrush.com | ContactVia website

Stop all that finger-painting and bring some grown-up creativity to your tablet.

Here’s living proof that not everything on Kickstarter is an overambitious, under-researched project. Last September, a design consultancy based in Chicago asked for $7,500 (less than £5,000) to fund the production of an artist’s brush that would work on the iPad. Within two days, they had the money they wanted. Over the next month, thousands more people pushed that total over $65,000.


The Sensu Brush looks like a million dollars and paints as smoothly with pixels as real brushes do with oils.

Less than six months later, the Sensu Brush started to find its way into the hands of thousands of eager backers. Those early birds managed to snag a Sensu for just $25 (£16), but even at its current price of $40, this is a wonderfully affordable design piece. Arriving in a nylon fabric sheath, the brush is a beautifully engineered tube of chrome-plated brass.

In its closed form, all that’s visible is the Sensu logo and a black rubber stylus, giving the brush the appearance of a retro-futuristic karaoke microphone. Slide it open, however, and its true function becomes obvious. The stylus end clips securely back into the shaft, revealing a short silicone grip, more chromed metal and a soft brush tip about 15mm long. Now simply stroke this over any capacitive touchscreen and watch your digital drawings improve before your eyes.


Above: Strokes feel natural and the brush is precise and well balanced. However, you don’t get the physical feedback of paintbrush on canvas.

Tablets should be made for art. They’re touch sensitive, have gloriously sharp colour displays and processing power to burn. The problem comes with the touch technology. Older and cheaper Android tablets use resistive technology, requiring pressure on the screen to sense motion. You can use a stylus or your finger to operate them, but they’re unable to detect anything more subtle than a firm press.

These days, virtually all phones and tablets have capacitive screens. These work using the natural electrical conductivity of your skin, making them extremely responsive, yet impossible to use with gloves on – or with a traditional paintbrush.

However, the Sensu is no ordinary brush. Instead of using animal hair, the Sensu bristles are synthetic and made conductive using a nanotechnology treatment first developed for the Japanese cosmetics industry. The result is a brush that looks like a million dollars and paints as smoothly with pixels as real brushes do with oils.


Above: When closed, the black rubber stylus looks not unlike a retro-futuristic karaoke microphone.

Testing the Sensu in SketchBook or FiftyThree’s Paper is a revelation. Instead of your fat fingers fumbling to address details in sketches, the brush springs to life, working all the way down to pixel level. Strokes and lines feel easy and natural, and the Sensu is precise and well balanced in the hand (left or right). There’s none of the physical feedback you get between a paintbrush and canvas, but then there’s none of the cleaning up afterwards. (Talking of which, using the brush and stylus instead of fingers means no smeary fingerprints to wipe off your touchscreen, either.)

Now that you have this fine control, you might start to notice a few things about your tablet. SketchBook running on a Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 was annoyingly laggy, with strokes struggling to keep up with the physical brush. We noticed the same effect, although much less pronounced, on an iPad 2. The iPad 3’s Retina display had virtually no lag at all, but Apple’s anti-stylus stance (requiring finger-sized objects) means that the Sensu Brush tip still feels a little large.

It would also be useful if the rubber stylus was accessible, for tapping on the screen, without unclipping the lower half of the brush. Take care when stowing the brush, too. If the bristles get caught going back into the shaft, they might bend away and spoil the lines of the nib.

Overall, though, this isn’t just a stylish iPad accessory, it’s near essential for anyone wanting to use their iPad for digital art. A big thumbs up – let’s hope international sales start shortly.


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