The iPad is a perfect digital “canvas” for artistic work like on-site sketches and quick paintings en plein air, but the tablet doesn’t respond to input like pressure or variable stroke width. The stylus market is growing but also fairly limited—a lot of iPad styluses I see are modeled after pens or felt markers. There aren’t many brushes for iPad, which is what makes the Nomad Brush so exciting.
The Nomad Brush is a true brush for the iPad with a head of synthetic and natural bristles. Don Lee, creator of the Nomad Brush, tells me capacitive screens like those on the iPad have a small charge and the brush’s fibers create an electrostatic anomaly that can be tracked by the touchscreen controller. My first experience painting with the Nomad Brush was really exciting—it seemed like I was really putting paint onto paper, even though I knew I was using a dry brush on a piece of glass. The technology is very impressive.
The bristles are top quality and feel very soft, like a sable brush. They won’t scratch the iPad surface either. The head glides on the surface and has good snap, but I am reviewing the original long tip (Don has since released a short-head version designed for smaller touch devices). I expect the short tip would have a lot less snap to it. The handle is made of carbon and walnut, with a walnut cap at the end showing the Nomad Brush logo. It’s a stylish design. The handle is only roughly six inches long, which makes it more portable—it can fit in an iPad’s case—but it doesn’t have the length of a real brush and it doesn’t taper, so it doesn’t handle in the hand like a painter’s brush. If I could ask one thing of Don, it would be a Nomad Brush with the same handle I’m used to in my painting brushes.
The painting experience with the Nomad Brush is more natural than the usual “fingerpainting” one does on the iPad, but it still feels unnatural to me. I don’t blame the Nomad Brush for this, but the touchscreen technology. For example, it doesn’t detect the brush head’s width so I can’t taper or fatten my brushstroke while painting. This makes the brush tip fairly moot—a fan brush and line brush would show the same stroke on the iPad. When this changes, we’ll be a lot closer to the perfect natural painting experience on the iPad.
I really enjoy the Nomad Brush and would recommend it to anyone painting on the iPad. It’s a stylish piece of technology and at $24.00 it’s not very expensive. There’s room for improvement but not much!