Introduction: DIY IPad Brush

Picture of DIY IPad Brush

A few weeks ago I became aware of the new brush stylus for the iPad, the Nomad Brush ( ). While I was in awe and wanted one I just can't afford to purchase one as I rarely do digital sketching on my iPad. I wondered if I could MacGuyver one together so I dug out my old brushes looking for one I could alter the bristles on. I grabbed some conductive thread - tested a few to see which had the straightest thread and hacked one together. While I cannot vouch for how the Nomad Brush works or how it compares to this DIY brush, I must admit it works better than I expected. The next steps will show you the materials you need and go thru the process I used to put it together. I had all the materials on hand at home so if I had to estimate how much it cost me I'd say a couple of bucks (if even). Oh, and yeah it isn't as pretty as the nomad but it gets the job done. Enjoy!

Step 1: Materials + Tools

Picture of Materials + Tools

The materials and tools you will need:

- needle nose pliers

- super glue

- scissors

- cheap paintbrush ::
make sure that it has a metal bristle handle that has an edge so that you can open it up with the pliers. It needs to be metal because it needs to conduct the electrical charge from your body to the screen thru the conductive thread. The iPad's screen is capacative. You can read more about it different touchscreen technologies here:

- conductive thread :: I found that Sparkfun's 2 ply ended up having the straightest threads after untwisting / unravelling it.(

- patience :: unraveling the thread and putting it back together takes a barrel-load of patience

- iPad with a painting App :: how else are you going to test it and have fun once you are done?

Step 2: Step 1: Removing Bristles From Cheap Brush

Picture of Step 1: Removing Bristles From Cheap Brush

- First step is to remove the bristle holder/barrel from the body of the brush so that you can open it up and get at the bristles.
- Do this carefully with the needle nose plier. Gently insert them at the bottom of the barrel and start to straighten out the metal barrel.
- Do this until you can carefully remove the bristles.
- Don't over straighten it, you want to be able to put the bristles and conductive thread back in there and have enough of a curve to be able to squish it back together again to keep all the bristles/thread in.
- It is by far easier to remove the bristles than to put them back in.

Step 3: Step 2: Make Your Conductive Thread "bristles"

Picture of Step 2: Make Your Conductive Thread "bristles"

- use the scissors to cut pieces of thread about 1/2" larger than the bristles you just took out of the brush.
- carefully unravel the thread into individual strands
- at the very minimum you need a little more thread that in the picture below.

This is the first step where your patience will be tested : I had a pot of soothing tea handy and boy did I need it!
Also, keep your cats away from the pile of straight unravelled thread.

Step 4: Step 3: Mix in the Conductive Thread With the Bristles

Picture of Step 3: Mix in the Conductive Thread With the Bristles

- carefully lay the conductive threads around the bristles.
- make sure not to put them all in the center of the bristles but leave the on the exterior, surrounding the original brush bristles.
- the conductive thread needs to make contact with the metal bristle holder in order to work with the capacitive touchscreen on the iPad.
- don't worry about getting everything perfectly aligned, you will trim it once the bristle holder is closed up.

Step 5: Step 4: Closing the Bristle Holder

Picture of Step 4: Closing the Bristle Holder

- patience is required for this step as well.
- carefully lay the bristle and conductive thread into the bristle holder.
- once you have it in there, you close the barrel/bristle holder back up.
- attach the barrel/bristle holder onto the brush handle once the bristles are secure and carefully shape it with the pliers.
- shape it until it is closed so that no bristles are going to fall off and it fits nicely on the barrel.
- shaping the barrel while on the handle seems to help and aid in not making it too mishapen.
- Once it is shaped, slide it off, put some super glue in the handle and slide it back on. This will prevent it from slipping off while using it.

Step 6: Step 5: Trim Bristles

Picture of Step 5: Trim Bristles

Here is a pic after I cut the excess conductive thread bristles off.
You can see the difference in the brush tips as well as how the opening/closing of the barrel affected the shape.
It is a bit wonky but it is useable.

Step 7: Step 6: Playtime!

Picture of Step 6: Playtime!

So after all the hard work you now should have a brush you can use.
The main tip is that you HAVE to be touching the metal bristle holder part of the brush in order for the brush to work.

As you can see it works well. The software I have installed (and shown in the photo) is ArtRage for the iPad. There is a bit of lag time/delay in some brush strokes but hey, I can't complain. I made it with a couple of bucks of material that I had lying around.

I hope you have fun with making your own brush for your iPad!
If you make any of your own brushes or have tips post photo links in the comments. I'd love to see them!


omgineedone (author)2011-09-30

Wait, Wait, Wait!!! Although I love the DIY factor and always love projects. The story was she couldn't afford a nomad at $24.00, but the thread cost $32.95.

no wonder why artist are starving!

SewLolita (author)omgineedone2011-10-02

uhh? she used less than $2.00 worth of wire, which she already had lying about. not sure I follow your logic, bro

velogirl (author)SewLolita2011-10-05

Hi SewLolita, Yes, I used a heck less than $2.00 worth of conductive thread (not wire). Not sure what you think I am lying about. :\ ~m

AtmanD (author)velogirl2017-09-22

by 'lying about.' she meant 'lying around'

SewLolita (author)velogirl2011-10-05

*grins* I didn't mean 'lie' I meant 'lay', like, the wire was laying on your desk. I'm just a particularly awful typist :D

AtmanD (author)SewLolita2017-09-22

Present progressive tense (for an action which is ongoing): lying. The baby is lying in her crib. We’re lying on the sand. I’m lying there exhausted, ignoring the sirens.

Past progressive tense (for a past action which is ongoing): was lying.
While his son mowed, Larry was lying on the porch listening to the
game. The sniper was lying in wait until an officer came into range.

Future progressive tense (for a future action which is ongoing): will be lying. The tickets will be lying right here. This mess will be lying here waiting for you.

velogirl (author)SewLolita2011-10-10

No worries. :D

REA (author)omgineedone2011-10-02

I found a lesser quantity for $10 that will work just as good.

velogirl (author)REA2011-10-05

Yep, sparkfun is a good place to get conductive thread. Also, from the posts below it seems eBay has some as well. There are lots of places to get conductive thread online. ~m

My guess is she already had the thread, considering she focuses on both art+technology and fiber arts. Good point, though.

velogirl (author)padawanspider2011-10-05

Your guess is correct...already had all this stuff lying around in the studio. :)

$2.95 for more than enough to make a few brushes:

Yep, you've got. It really doesn't take very much of it to make it work. You just have to maker sure you have enough to make contact with the metal ferrule! ~m

velogirl (author)omgineedone2011-10-05

Hi there omgineedone, I had these all these items in my studio...indicated by lines 3 and 4:
"I wondered if I could MacGuyver one together so I dug out my old brushes looking for one I could alter the bristles on. I grabbed some conductive thread - tested a few to see which had the straightest thread and hacked one together." The only cost was time. :P

joaqi823 (author)2014-08-27

I need to make one, it's just that I need to look for conductive thread. And one question, what if we change all the bristles to Conductive thread

Raj Devan (author)joaqi8232014-12-03

that even better

MercuryCrest (author)2012-06-25

I can't wait to attempt this for use with my TouchPad....

mermaidkiller (author)2012-01-22

What about just using a standard electrical cord ? This consists of very fine copper wires which can be used as a brush.

Broom (author)mermaidkiller2012-04-20

Have you tried it, or just guessing it will work?

I'm trying to figure out what is necessary to activate the capacitive sensors properly. Conductive pinpoints won't do it (at least, not on my phone screen). Super-broad conductive contacts won't work. (Both used with my finger contacting the metal.)

FrozenIce (author)2012-02-11

What app do u use??

First read, then ask. Last step describes it.

thx 4 pointing that out.. didnt read the whole able

Prof.Jon (author)2011-11-27

Excellent idea. Thanks for sharing.

I added a twist of thread around that shaft that runs from the tip to the top; that allows the user to hold the brush naturally rather than gripping just the metal bit.

Peace and Love!

Andy Baird (author)2011-09-29

Great idea! Now the question is: where can we get less than 150 yards of conductive thread? Anybody want to buy a spool and mail out small hanks for a buck or two? I'd buy a couple.

"The software I have installed is Auryn Ink for the iPad."

Auryn Ink looks good. But to clarify, these photos show ArtRage, a different and more versatile "natural media" painting program. Wouldn't want folks to be confused. :-)

velogirl (author)Andy Baird2011-10-05

Change and corrected. Thanks again for that!

velogirl (author)Andy Baird2011-10-05

Yes, After double-checking on my iPad ArtRage is the APP in the photo. Thanks for pointing that out. There were a couple of APPs on the iPad I was testing with. My sincerest apologies on that one...will see if I can change the text above. ~m

atanguay (author)2011-09-28

I like this idea a lot. I have one of those Nomad brushes, and while it was nice, it was much softer than I would like. I like a fairly stiff brush. This would allow me to make one.

Another way to come at it would be to just make the brush from scratch...

velogirl (author)atanguay2011-10-05

That is one very cool video! Thank you for sharing that one with me!!! ~m

ro'daniel (author)2011-09-28

Brilliant! This has "Kickstarter" written all over it! I could envision an inexpensive set of 3 or 4 typical painters brushes selling really well within the iPad artist community.

velogirl (author)ro'daniel2011-10-05

Maybe someone will customize it and make them. Sounds like a great idea! ~m

zacoo (author)2011-09-28

so cool....very nice,thanks for sharing.

velogirl (author)zacoo2011-10-05

Thanks for the nice comment! :)

lotusduck (author)2011-10-02

Very cool. You could also run a wire farther up the handle if you didn't want to grip it at the low metal bit, or a strip of conductive glue.
And yes, someone is selling tiny amounts of conductive thread on ebay for one to three dollars!
I'm guessing people go to this trouble because it's bad to get water on your ipad screen, yes?

velogirl (author)lotusduck2011-10-05

Yeah, potentially you could. Or maybe even some sort of conductive/metal tape (perhaps like the copper tape that stained glass projects use.) If you do happen to test it out, post a pic in the comments. About the getting water on your iPad screen, I would imagine it probably isn't a good idea. ;)

REA (author)2011-10-02

Nice instructable! One thing I would add is tha there's no need to spend so much on a large quantity of thread if this is all you're going to use it for. There's 50' for ~$10 USD.

velogirl (author)REA2011-10-05

Thanks for posting and the link! Very true, I'm used to buying large quantities for e-textiles projects. Glad to know there are places people can get small quantities of the material. ~m

jaywar (author)2011-10-02

I'm not sure if it's the right thickness, but you can order 4 feet of conductive thread here for under $2.00.

velogirl (author)jaywar2011-10-05

Sweet! Thanks for posting the link. That should be MORE than enough for the brush. :) ~m

xenobiologista (author)2011-10-02

Btw the metal bit that wraps around the handle and holds the bristles together is called a ferrule.

velogirl (author)xenobiologista2011-10-05

Thank you for teaching me something new! I was wondering what the term was! :(

susanrm (author)2011-10-02

Excellent idea! Thanks for doing this.

velogirl (author)susanrm2011-10-05

Thanks for the nice comment! If you do make one post a pic. :) ~m

Spokehedz (author)2011-10-02

How about gathering up a bunch of thread segments, and then running them over a file cleaner or a block of pins that they do in making hairpeices?

velogirl (author)Spokehedz2011-10-05

Hmmmm...that's a really interesting thought. If you (or anyone) test this out, post about it. I'm not familiar with the hairpiece technique. Cool idea! ~m

flyingpuppy (author)2011-10-02

I wonder if this will work with the Kindle Fire coming out soon. Will favorite this to come back to later. THanks!

velogirl (author)flyingpuppy2011-10-05

If you test it out post on here and let me know! I'd love to know if this works too! Super curious... ~m

SeamusDubh (author)2011-03-11

Quite brilliant and all for a hundredth of the cost of a fancy production stylus.

velogirl (author)SeamusDubh2011-03-11

Thank you, SeamusDubh!

About This Instructable




Bio: Margarita Benitez is an art + technology and fiber artist based in Kent, OH + Miami, FL. She is interested in the explorations of art within the ... More »
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