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« Is it an iPad? Is it a laptop? No its a Brydge | Main | Kickstarter Project: SketchPad Pro - iPad Storyboarding for Artists and Filmmakers »

Sensu Brush Review - Was it Worth the Wait?

Sensu- Artist Brush for iPad from Artist Hardware on Vimeo.

It took 6 months from the close of their successful Kickstarter campaign (it felt like a lot longer somehow), but the team at Artist Hardware finally started sending out the first Sensu brush production units earlier this month to their patiently waiting backers, including us.

So, was it worth the wait?

Oh yes - we have a new love in our lives!

Industrial design

The Sensu has been designed as both a stylus and an artist brush for your iPad (and other capacitive screen devices).

It performs this dual function using a very carefully thought out design that incorporates the brush handle as a protective cap when in 'stylus mode' and it works really well.

Sensu brush stages - Image courtesy of sensubrush.com

As a Stylus

When the Sensu arrives (complete with a nice little felt slip case for Kickstarter backers) it is in stylus mode (top of the picture above). We were really impressed by the way the Sensu Brush works as a stylus or pointing device.

How it feels

The chrome-plated brass body feels light but stable in hand. The length of the stylus means it fits perfectly in the crook of our hands between thumb and index finger when used in pen/pointer mode. The smooth sculpted shape of the stylus body/brush cover is simply lovely. 

We felt it was one of the most natural and balanced styli we have used. It seems just about perfect for long sessions writing, sketching, or painting. Of course, everyone's hands are different, but we think the Sensu is spot-on as a stylus.

Sensu brush stylus - Image courtesy of sensubrush.com

Stylus tip

Artist Hardware have gone for the soft, malleable rubber 'ball' approach that many other stylus makers have used, which does seem to best emulate a human digit. The construction is solid though and we had no worries about possibly tearing the material or mushing it out of shape like some of the cheaper styli we have tested.

As with many new styli, it takes a short while to get used to the amount of pressure needed, but once you have worked it out you don't think about it again.

As a Brush

It is when it is in brush mode, though, that the Sensu really shines. Slip the protective cap away from the stylus tip and you reveal the brush, cosseted inside.

Flipping the cap round and putting it back on over the stylus tip creates a handle for the Sensu Brush which is only a little shorter than the handle found on another favourite of ours from last year, the Nomad Brush.

Sensu in Brush mode - Image courtesy of sensubrush.com

Again, the team at Artist Hardware have thought very carefully about the design here and we don't have any complaints about the balance or feel of the brush in use. As with the stylus mode, the brush sits nicely in the crook of our hand and, with fingers on the rubberised barrel grip, feels perfectly natural to use. 

Similar to the Nomad Brush but with a more tightly bunched cluster, the hairs of the brush are synthetic, conductive, fibres.

In use, the brush felt very responsive and tracked precisely across the iPad's screen. Like the Nomad Brush, it is possible to use the brush as a pointing device on the iPad screen if you really wanted to (though it is not always as accurate or reliable as your finger would be for these tasks).

You can see Matt Lynaugh from Artist Hardware doing just this in his video below, where he demonstrates using the Sensu to paint a portrait in ArtRage on his iPad. It is well worth a watch if you're keen to see the Sensu brush in action.

Painting a Portrait with the Sensu brush and Artrage from Artist Hardware on Vimeo.

Tried, tested, loved!

We tried the brush with ArtRage, procreate, Inspire Pro, SketchBook Pro, Paper, and the stylus with Penultimate, Notability, Skitch, Bamboo Paper, even (perhaps especially) Draw Something, as well as other apps that we had sat on our iPads. The Sensu worked faultlessly with all of them.

But we're not the only ones who have been using the Sensu, check out some of the images below from Matt Lynaugh (the first one being the end result of his video above) plus a few other Sensu users who have shared their work:

Sam-3.17.12 © Matt Lynaugh

Assorted Veggies © Matt LynaughImage © Raul Allen

Image © Margi Laurin

Final Thoughts

Whilst individual user style and personal preference always come into play with devices like the Sensu, we have to say we have loved using the Sensu Brush. In fact, it is now a permanent companion to our iPad and taken everywhere with it.

The iPad Creative kids (ages 6 and 4) took to the Sensu with total ease as well and began painting with the brush immediately after it was unwrapped. In fact, for a while, it was a struggle to get it off of them.

If you are looking for a great stylus or brush for your iPad, but especially if you are looking for both, our recommendation is that you order the Sensu as soon as it becomes available.

We got our Sensu by backing the Kickstarter project and we are very happy we did.

Sensu will be available for purchase in May 2012 from sensubrush.com at a price of $39.99.

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Reader Comments (13)

I totally agree with your very well written review. I have two and they are freaking great and I don't normally like a brush (just seems like a crazy idea), plus this is the most beautiful stylus I own. Congrats they did such a great job. Be careful putting the cap back on. I use the pointy finger on opposing hand to gently press all bristles up together to easily control cap placement.

April 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Murtaugh

I so totally agree with your review. I absolutely love my Sensu brush. It's a beautiful thing.

April 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSwardraws

Hi,
I see no pressure sensitivity? Shouldn't the strokes be different depending on the pressure put on the tip?
I thought that was the point of using a brush instead of a stylus or am i misunderstanding?

That's what our group of artists is wondering (might buy a couple for the class).

April 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarc

Hi Marc - none of the brushes or styli can currently offer the pressure sensitivity you are after (like the Wacom tablets do) as it should come from the iPad screen, but there are a few prototypes about that use some sort of signal from the stylus via Bluetooth, or other wireless, through a unit plugged into the iPad.

We haven't seen any here yet, so no idea on how well these would work, but the Sensu doesn't pretend to offer any pressure sensitivity, sorry.

As far as stylus vs brush, it is probably hard to imagine without trying it hands-on but there is a real difference painting in say ArtRage with a brush as opposed to a more pencil/pen/charcoal like stylus. It does feel like you are painting in those colours. It is hard to explain but you will notice the difference.

The best thing about the Sensu is that you have both options.

Thanks for your comment, I hope you can get a couple for your class and see for yourself. Let us know if you do.

April 28, 2012 | Registered CommenteriPad Creative

Susan - thanks for your comment, glad you like the Sensu too, if we had known you were using one we would have included one of your lovely images too. ^_^

That's a really good point about putting the cap on - a slight caution we should have included, thank you.

April 28, 2012 | Registered CommenteriPad Creative

Swardraws - glad you agree, it is certainly our favourite all-in-one device too.

Thanks for commenting.

April 28, 2012 | Registered CommenteriPad Creative

Huh, it's hard for me to tell watching the demo it was so dark. I've been painting with the different sizes of my beloved Nomad Brushes since they came out and I treid another I found on Amazon which I did not like at all, can't remember the name of it. So how do you like this, to the author of the article since you've used the Nomad brushes already? The smallest Nomad brush has tight bristles and it's such a joy to have a real hair brush it's so much like genuinely painting. I figured I would ask you. Unless it's something beyond the Nomad brushes, I have all sizes, I probably won't buy it but if it is I might LOL Some opinion eh? Thanks

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdl

dl - If you already have the Nomad Brushes and are happy with them the only real advantage with the Sensu is to have a stylus and brush in one. Their performance is very similar.

April 29, 2012 | Registered CommenteriPad Creative

There are three pressure sensitive iPad styli in various stages of development at the moment:

jaja: due in July
Adonit Jot Touch: due "soon"
Ten One Design "Blue Tiger" due?

The first two use disc tips, while the last uses a rubber tip. Can't stand the rubber tips personally, due to their lack of responsiveness. The tool should serve the artist IMHO, not the other way around.

April 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDonn

Looks good! Do consider checking the good but obscure New Jersey stylus from Stylus R Us.

May 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMiege

I've only seen reviews from iPad users. How is the Sensu Brush with the Samsung Galaxy? Which apps would work on my Android if I get the brush?

May 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterS

FANTASTICO.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterARMANDO RUIZ YEPES
At first I really loved the brush but found the more I used it the less sensitive it becomes. I returned the first one to the retailer where I purchased it from and exchanged it for another one thinking that perhaps the first one was faulty...however, again the more I used it the less sensitive it became. I emailed the Sensu company as they say it has a 90 day warrantee but did not receive a reply...very disappointing.
November 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichelle

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