Is Snapchat making the smartphone stylus cool?

Three Snapchat posts featuring art from Cyrene Quiamco. (Cyrene Quiamco)

Some of Snapchat’s most artistic users are leaving fingerpainting to the amateurs, turning to a stylus instead.

Steve Jobs once famously denigrated the very idea of a stylus for a hand-held device. But now, especially for people who make money from drawing, styluses are back in fashion.

Big hardware companies are selling them, including the Apple Pencil stylus for the new iPad Pro and Samsung’s S Pen and Microsoft’s Surface Pen.  Start-ups such as FiftyThree sell them too.

They say styluses are great for interacting with important sketches and documents, but whimsical doodling on Snapchat could be just as big a selling point to youth. We asked some Snapchat users to explain their preferences.

"Like driving a car"

A timelapse shows how one drawing by Cyrene Quiamco came together. (Cyrene Quiamco)

Cyrene Quiamco used her finger when she joined Snapchat early last year. But after three months, her finger needed a rest. She gave the stylus a try, preferring the Jot Pro. As a freelance artist, she makes 10 Snapchat sketches on an average week, sometimes charging thousands of dollars to do them for advertisers including  “Hunger Games” and “The Voice.” Her take:

“I’m pro whatever makes the job easier. I’m pro work smarter rather than harder. Using a stylus is like driving a car versus walking; you’ll have more time to get to your destination and enjoy. Instead of worrying about the process, you’ll have more time to think about designing a good Snapchat.

For a finger, you’ll have to guess where that stroke is going to hit. Especially on the Note 5, the stylus is so precise. It’s less work to have to think about. With a stylus, you’re also able to color in faster and go on the edges. It’s just an easier tool.

Everybody has different ways to create art. If finger is easier for you, go for it. If using a finger is an obstacle, take that away. Most people use styluses now ... to be quick. When they are home relaxing, they do their fingers.”

Her secret: layering. Paint a stroke, shave it off with another color and so forth to make thinner strokes.

"Less stressful"

Three Snapchat posts with doodling by Michael Platco. (Michael Platco)

Michael Platco, who’s done Snapchat art for Marriott, Major League Soccer and more, uses the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 with an S Pen just for detailed drawings on Snapchat. He sticks to an iPhone for all other smartphone needs.

“I tried doing drawings with just my finger. But it’s just very tough to be poking at your phone for up to three hours on something detailed. I come from fine arts, so having something in your hands feels natural. It feels like an extension of the hand.

It’s accuracy, it’s precision and less stressful on the hand trying to get corners, trying to write words ... anything to a highly detailed extent.

The number is shrinking, of artists that strictly use their finger. I don’t think that when they made Snapchat that they were considering people would dedicate their careers to make detailed drawings. Stylus -- it’s going against the grain. But it’s also just working with the tools available.”

Big wish: The ability to quickly select recently used colors.

"Felt foreign"

Three Snapchat drawings by Dasha Battelle.

Dasha Battelle and other purists are holding out. She’s done Snapchat art for several companies, though she now works for Snapchat as a content producer.

“I started doing these drawings when the app was young. I had some drawing background. Most people wouldn’t spend more than a few seconds drawing. I spent a few more doing something more elaborate.

I haven’t spent much time [using a stylus] because I’ve felt negatively toward it. I probably tried it a year ago, just playing around the phone. It didn’t feel very accurate, and it felt foreign on Snapchat. Occasionally I would use it to write something, but I haven’t in quite a while.

Not using the stylus feels truer to the restrictions of the app. There’s something really true about using the touchscreen with touch. It feels one step closer to traditional drawing.”

Her tip: Rotate the smartphone to shift icons in the app and draw where they normally are.

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