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Cal's Blog

Arist Tools: DIY Conductive Paintbrush Stylus

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This guide will demonstrate how to create your own capacitive stylus similar to specialty brushes by Nomad, Sensu, Wacom, Adonit et. al that is 1/4" wide and can be used on any drawing tablet or touchscreen including those with pressure-sensitive digitizers like a Galaxy Note, Surface Pro or Wacom bamboo tablet. For less than $20 you can build a total of 6 brushes of varying size and brush shapes.

Why would you want to do this? Many styluses are quite thick compared to a normal oil paintbrush which can be as thin as 1/8" on the end opposite the bristles. I prefer brushes that are 1/4" and are thin and light. The aforementioned companies' brushes are quite thick and feel unnatural in the hand.

Please be aware that this type of stylus is ONLY capacitive even if you have a pressure-sensitive device. Fortunately the oil painting process has more to do with opacity of layers than direct pressure application (unless you paint big and thick impasto).

These brushes will tarnish uniquely to your own personal patina as they oxidize simply by touching them.

The required item list is quite small along with a few hand tools you probably already have in your home or studio. They include:

Materials:

  • electrical tape
  • Guterman metallic effect thread Col. 36
  • Streamline Mueller copper coil utility 1/4 inch O.D. x 5 feet

Tools:

  • needle nose pliers
  • 2 small nails / brads
  • an occasional helper to hold things
  • crimping pliers or channel lock
  • hammer
  • heavy wire cutter / snips
  • scissors or razor blade
  • small poking tool
  • small board

Procedure:

1. Take your small board and nail the two nails into it about 6 - 8 inches apart.

2. You will use the the two nails as a looping post to "weave" the copper thread into an elongated eight shape until it is about half the thickness of the copper tubing = 1/8 inches in diameter.

3. Tie and knot the threading with a few 3 inch pieces to secure it in the middle and on both ends about 1/2 inch from the loops. This will help it stay together while you tape it on center with the electrical tape. Once the weave is secured, simply remove one of the nails to easily remove it from the jig.

4. Take the copper tubing and with the wire cutting pliers cut a length that is comfortable for your painting style or something that is close to one of your analog brushes. The end of the tubing that is cut will naturally pinch. It will separate easily with a few vibrating bends back and forth at the cut. Keep the pliers tight when doing this for a clean cut and to avoid bending the brush length itself.

5. On the open end of the tubing begin to stuff the threading tightly into the tubing twisting it like a braid. It will become progressively harder to feed into the tubing and likely plug after the tape is inserted.

6. Once you can no longer feed the threading into the tubing take the crimping pliers or channel locks and crimp the end of your brush immediately after the threading exits the end; be careful to note the other crimped end and place the new crimp on the same axis so it will lay flat on the table in a nice way.

7. After the first crimp of the neck, use the teeth on the pliers to crimp the exterior edges of the neck so they are completely crimped. Repeat for the interior of the crimped head to completely secure the bristles.

8. Carefully run your scissors or razor blade in the eye of the fabric and cut it as cleanly as you can on center. Running a fine tooth comb through the bristles aligns them nicely. It may need a little trimming.

9. Test on device.

10. Cut to final length as you to your liking.

11. Make digital paintings!


Device Test

These two brushes 1) 3/4 inch and 2) 1/4 inch were tested on a Galaxy Tab S 8.4 T-705 with a Unicorn Beetle case/screen protector and a Surface Pro v1 bare display with Infinite Painter (free version on Android 7) and MyPaint (on Ubuntu MATE Linux 16.04 LTS) respectively.

A quick demonstration is shown below on the Android device. The brushes are familiar, intuitive and immediately natural. There is no tooth resistance at all and they feel like you are painting on a slick wet surface. Marks can be made almost by the weight of the brush alone; you only need to barely graze the display. Developed digital paintings with these brushes will be presented in the near future.