Nomad Brush Digital Paintbrush for Touchscreens – iPad Accessory Review

I recently tested the Nomad Brush, a handcrafted paintbrush stylus for touchscreens, which comes in three styles: the original (long tip), the short tip, and the Nomad Mini — the newest model that is designed primarily for smaller devices such as the iPhone or iPod touch.

The Nomad Brush came to life out of necessity when its creator, RISD-trained artist and architect Don Lee was looking for a better way to digitally paint and sketch on his iPad. Lee now produces the Nomad Brush commercially, and they are available for purchase through the company website and Amazon.

I reviewed the original and short tip Nomad Brush. Both brushes are constructed in a similar manner. The brush handle is made of walnut and carbon, while the brush tip mixes natural and synthetic fibers. A rubber grip (a.k.a. ferrule) surrounds the brush tip to improve the user’s grip.

The only difference between the two brushes is respective brush tip length. The original is 0.7″ long while the short tip is 0.4″ long. The shorter brush length may be better suited to smaller screens.

The Nomad Brush is a pleasure to hold. It is easy to grip. The brush tips on both models glided with ease across the iPad screen. There is no risk of scratching the iPad screen while using a Nomad Brush.

Though my artistic training stopped in the eighth grade (and I’m afraid it shows), I attempted to use the Nomad Brush with Art Rage, one of the apps, the company recommended. I can imagine that if one were creating art frequently on the iPad, and spending long periods of time using an art app that the Nomad Brush would be much more comfortable to use than ones finger.

There is, however, one caveat. The Nomad Brush does not effect the artwork’s appearance as much as one might imagine. Most of the specific effects the user associates with a technique (i.e. how the paint actually looks on the screen) come from the choices the user makes within the app. The brush makes using the app more comfortable, but it does not increase in precision or control to a noticeable degree.

It is possible that an artist with more training than I possess would find a difference in certain circumstances, but I created the chart below to demonstrate how similar the final appearance of the “paint” looks regardless of the tool.

The value an artist finds in the Nomad Brush depends on how much an individual plans to paint, draw or sketch. Despite the aforementioned limitation, and my own (obvious) creative shortcomings, I would prefer the Nomad Brush to a stylus or my finger even if the end product looked the same.

Why? Because the Nomad Brush mimics how it feels to paint. It reminded me of the way iBooks replicates turning paper pages. It is not essential to the process of reading, but it makes the experience more enjoyable.

The original (long tip) Nomad Brush and the short tip Nomad Brush retail for $24 each.

What I liked: The Nomad Brush is made in the USA by an entrepreneur. It is a solidly constructed product that is a pleasure to use.

What I didn’t like: I found it more difficult to control the short tip Nomad Brush on the iPad. Perhaps this is because, as the company website notes, that model is designed for use with smaller screens.

To buy or not to buy: Any artist who plans to paint, sketch, or draw with regularity will enjoy using the Nomad Brush, and may even find they want to spend more time creating because of it.
Accessory Name: Nomad Brush
Manufacturer: NomadBrush, LLC
Price: $24.00

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