Apple Pencil Essentials: How to Set Up, Use, and Troubleshoot

Everything you need to know about using your Apple Pencil with your iPad.

Apple Pencil Essentials Featured

First released in 2015, the Apple Pencil almost immediately proved itself as one of the best iPad accessories. It has become popular with artists, invaluable for note-taking and so much more. Let’s take a look at all of the essential details you need to get the absolute most out of your Apple Pencil.

Apple Pencil Compatibility

Apple Pencil Essentials Both Models

Before delving further, let’s do a quick walkthrough on which devices support the Apple Pencil. Apple doesn’t specify any particular iOS/iPad OS requirements, but all of the tablets below should be supported.

Apple Pencil (1st gen)

  • iPad (8th gen)
  • iPad mini (5th gen)
  • iPad (7th gen)
  • R iPad (6th gen)
  • iPad Air (3rd gen)
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (1st or 2nd gen)
  • iPad Pro 10.5-inch
  • iPad Pro 9.7-inch

Apple Pencil (2nd gen)

  • iPad Air (4th gen)
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd gen and later)
  • iPad Pro 11-inch (first gen and later)

Differences Between 1st and 2nd Gen Apple Pencils

The biggest difference between the two generations of Apple Pencil is compatibility, as indicated above. However, there are a few other nuances worth mentioning. The 1st gen Apple Pencil charges through a Lightning connector at the top of the Pencil and any Lightning charging port. It’s not the most convenient solution but is easy and quick.

Apple Pencil Essentials Differences

On the other hand, the 2nd gen Apple Pencil is sleeker, slightly smaller and does not include a Lightning connector. Instead, its design enables it to charge inductively as it sticks to the side of recent iPad Pro and iPad Air (4th generation) models.

How to Connect the Apple Pencil to Your iPad

1st Gen Apple Pencil

Apple Pencil Essentials First Generation Charging

1. Unlock the iPad you want to use.

2. Take the cap off your Pencil.

3. When you plug the Pencil into the Lightning port of your iPad, tap on the Bluetooth pairing request that appears.

4. The Pencil will sync and be ready to use.

2nd Gen Apple Pencil

Apple Pencil Essentials Second Charging

1. Start by unlocking your iPad and placing the flat side of the Pencil on the magnetic charging strip on side of the iPad with the volume buttons.

2. Place the Pencil on the strip and tap “Pair” when the Bluetooth pairing request pops up.

How to Check Apple Pencil’s Battery Status

1st Gen Apple Pencil

1. Start by swiping down to bring up the Notification Center.

2. If you use the Today view, swipe right to the Widgets screen. You will see a “Batteries” section if you have previously added it. If you haven’t, tap the “Edit” button at the bottom of the Widgets area and hit the “+” button so it becomes an active widget.

Apple Pencil Essentials Check Battery First

Alternatively, if you use Widgets on your desktop in iOS 15 or later, you will see the “Batteries” widget on one of your desktop screens if you have previously added it. If not, you can add it by long-tapping anywhere on the screen, then tapping the “+” in the top-left corner. Tap the “Batteries” Widget in the list of the left, choose your desired layout, then tap “Add Widget.” Tap “Done” in the upper-right corner.

3. Inside this widget, you will see the battery life of your pencil as well as your iPad any other connected devices like AirPods, etc.

2nd Gen Apple Pencil

Apple Pencil Essentials Check Battery Second

You can follow the same steps as above with widgets to check the battery life of Apple’s 2nd gen Apple Pencil. Additionally, you will see the battery life pop up as soon as the Pencil is connected to the iPad.

How to Unpair the Apple Pencil

Apple Pencil Essentials Unpair

These instructions work for both the 1st and 2nd gen Apple Pencils.

1. Go to “Settings -> Bluetooth.”

2. Locate the “Info” button to the right of the Apple Pencil under the “My Devices” list.

3. Tap on “Forget This Device,” then tap on “OK.” The Apple Pencil will lose support.

4. To re-pair, plug the 1st gen back into the Lightning port or place the 2nd gen Apple Pencil on the magnetic charging strip.

Replacing the Pencil Tip

Apple Pencil Essentials Tips

As would be the case with any other pencil, the Apple Pencil will need to replace its tip from time to time. The 1st gen Apple Pencil comes with a spare tip already in the box; however, a replacement tip for the 2nd gen can be purchased in a pack of four from Apple’s website for $19.

Knowing when to replace the tip is not the same for everyone, but there are a few handy tricks to let you know when you should make a swap.

  • If you have been frequently using the Pencil for more than a year.
  • If the tip itself feels rough to the touch or the plastic feels worn down.
  • If the Pencil is less responsive than normal, and you need to tap harder than usual or re-tap.
  • If you feel a lot of friction when writing or drawing.

Note: sometimes the Pencil may be unresponsive, but the tip has only come loose. Simply retighten it rather than replacing it.

To Replace the Apple Pencil Tip

Twist the tip of the Apple Pencil counter-clockwise until the tip comes off. It should only take a few rotations.Twist the new tip on, but don’t over-tighten. Test it to be sure it’s working properly.

How to Use the Apple Pencil

Apple Pencil Guide Using

Ultimately, the Apple Pencil is best used for two different scenarios: writing and drawing. There are hundreds of drawing apps to choose from, and on the other side, note-taking apps in particular have jumped to the top of the use-case for Apple Pencil.

Fortunately, the feature set goes well beyond just drawing and writing:

  • Pressure Sensitivity – The Apple Pencil knows how much pressure is being placed on the iPad while writing or drawing, so lines will vary in thickness. The harder you press, the thicker a line or letter will be.
  • Palm Rejection – When you are using the Apple Pencil, the iPad knows to only recognize the Pencil tip and not your hand or finger so that you can draw and write without worrying about your palm or the side of your hand creating additional marks.
  • Tilt-Sensitivity – Designed to work and feel like a regular pencil, holding the Apple Pencil at an angle will work perfectly for shading in boxes, circles, squares, etc., when drawing. The Pencil knows its general orientation and reacts accordingly.
  • Precision – The Apple Pencil is accurate down to the pixel. In this case, where you place the Pencil tip and what is shown on the screen will match perfectly.
  • Touch Gestures (2nd gen only) – Double-tap on the Pencil so that you can swap between tools inside supported apps. This can be extremely helpful for switching between a brush or pen tool and an eraser tool for quick edit.

Inside Notes

Apple’s Notes app is one of the best places to learn how to use the Apple Pencil. Inside the app, you can create a new note and tap on the “Markup” icon at the top of the screen. Once the available tools are displayed, you can choose from one of four drawing options: pen, felt-tip pen, highlighter and pencil. You can also utilize an eraser and selection tool.

Apple Pencil Essentials Notes

Experimentation is the name of the game until you get used to the features, pressure and tilt sensitivity and understand how to best hold the Pencil in your hand.

Separately, you can choose colors and shapes to add inside the app. Black and white are the initial prime colors but tapping on the color wheel with the Pencil enables you to select or create any color of your choice.


Apple Pencil Essentials Scribble

Additionally, users of iOS 14 and later can use the “Scribble” feature for handwriting recognition. Learn this feature by tapping the Pencil icon inside the Notes app that is marked by an “A” on top and start writing. Anything that is written is then converted into text inside a note.

Inside Apps

When connected, the Apple Pencil can also double as a finger. Whether it’s games or scrolling Facebook or Twitter, your Pencil acts as a stylus and can scroll/drag a slide, tap, and edit just as your finger would. The only thing it can’t do is swipe up from the bottom to return to the Home Screen.

Apple Pencil Essentials Procreate

Of course, apps like Procreate, one of the most popular drawing apps in the App Store, thrives on the use of the Apple Pencil. This professional drawing tool can be used with just a finger but absolutely shines when used in combination with the Pencil.

Other popular apps that work well with the Apple Pencil include:

Troubleshooting Common Pencil Issues

1. What should I do if the Apple Pencil will not charge?

Start by disconnecting from the iPad and then reconnecting. You can also restart the iPad to see if it’s an iPad issue. Try a different iPad if possible to properly determine if it is the iPad or Pencil, and if it is the latter, take it to the Apple Store.

2. What should I do if the Apple Pencil is slow?

There are a couple of reasons why an Apple Pencil could be reacting slowly. Start by closing the app you are currently using and reopening to see if that resolves the speed issue. If it continues, plug the Pencil back in to make sure it has a solid charge. If all else fails, you likely need to consider replace the tip of the Pencil as described above.

3. What should I do if the Apple Pencil loses its connection?

This very well could be an iPad problem and not necessarily the Pencil. In cases like this, start by restarting your iPad and seeing if the issue fixes itself. If it doesn’t, try another iPad with the Pencil. If you see success with a different iPad, you may want to try an alternate route and unpair and re-pair the Pencil. Also check compatibility and that Bluetooth is on.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does the Apple Pencil work with the iPhone?

At the time of writing, Apple has not made the Apple Pencil available to any iPhone model.

2. Should I buy a Logitech Crayon instead?

Realistically, you will get 95% of the Apple Pencil features in a less expensive package with the Logitech Crayon. What you do not get is pressure sensitivity with the Logitech. If you are not someone who plans to draw frequently, the Logitech Crayon is the only other stylus that is officially approved for use with the iPad.

3. Does the 1st gen Apple Pencil work with iPads that support the 2nd gen?

No, there is no backward compatibility. See the list at the beginning of the article for a complete list of supported devices and pencil versions.

Wrapping Up

As far as iPad accessories go, the Apple Pencil is one of the most popular and for very good reason. It’s excellent to both write and draw with and opens the door to far more iPad capabilities that may have been considered.

Read on for our review of the Apple Magic Keyboard for the iPad as well as a review of the 2021 iPad Pro.

David Joz
David Joz

David is a freelance tech writer with over 15 years of experience in the tech industry. He loves all things Nintendo.

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