Paperlike 2.1 review: Using Apple Pencil and iPad is more like writing on paper

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If you crave a more natural writing and drawing experience on the iPad, nothing will come close to Paperlike 2.1.

I won’t hide from you that my favorite Apple product is the iPad. It always has been. I’ve never been a big smartphone user, and as I get older, I find myself moving away from using my iMac during my downtime.

But I can’t leave the iPad. It’s lightweight and can go anywhere I go, and when paired with a Magic Keyboard, it’s a decent laptop replacement.

However, the real reason I’m so attached to the iPad is the Apple Pencil – and the real reason I love the Apple Pencil is Paperlike.

Why artists and note takers love Paperlike

If you ask any artist why they love matte screen protectors, they’ll tell you the same thing: less hand fatigue.

When writing or drawing on an iPad screen, there’s a noticeable lack of friction between the tip of the Apple Pencil and the screen. As a result, you tend to reach out your hand to compensate, which can lead to hand and forearm cramps.

It’s something I know only too well. Ever since I got my first iPad Pro, I’ve always used it with a Paperlike.

Indeed, before switching to using an iPad for all my digital artwork, I came from a Wacom Intuos background. When working on the Intuos, I exclusively used the felt tips of my Wacom stylus.

I knew that when I switched to the iPad, I would need to fight the feeling of drawing on glass. I bought my Paperlike before I got my iPad – I had only drawn on a bare iPad screen to compare and contrast experiences.

My latest Paperlike was pulled out and removed from my iPad when I switched cases, leaving me with just the bare screen to work on. I decided to hold on for a while because I’ve never been there Natural with my Apple Pencil for an extended period of time.

Taking notes was hard, but drawing for a long time was excruciating. Within 20 minutes, I massaged my forearm and palm, and inevitably put my iPad down. As a result, my artistic production declined sharply.

Paperlike gives your screen a bit of paper-like bite. That extra friction means you won’t be holding your Apple Pencil in a deadly grip. The lack of a deadly grip means you’re less likely to experience hand cramps.

Needless to say, I was relieved when I was finally able to put a new Paperlike back on my iPad Air.

Paperlike 2.1, aka the Swiss Paperlike

You might be wondering why I, someone who admits to using Paperlike for years, am only reviewing it now.

Paperlike on the iPad Air 2020

Paperlike on the iPad Air 2020

This is the latest iteration of Paperlike. It’s Paperlike 2.1, or as the creators call it now, the Swiss Paperlike.

I never thought that the old version changed the look of the screen too much. However, I’ve met people who weren’t a fan of how matte the screen was.

“It’s too cloudy,” a friend told me. “If I’m paying for an iPad, I want that crystal clear display.”

Fair enough, but I’d trade some clarity for a more comfortable drawing experience.

Fast forward a few years and the makers of Paperlike are trying to make it happen, so you don’t have to choose between the two choices.

This new version of Paperlike is much more transparent than the older version I was most familiar with. Sure, it’s not crystal clear, but it’s an impressive leap in clarity for a matte screen protector.

The color reproduction is significantly better, which I did not expect. The Paperlike I had used before tended to very slightly desaturate my colors, which meant that I often checked my work on my iMac when I was done.

Now the discrepancy between what I see on my iPad and my iMac is barely noticeable, and I could skip checking my work on my iMac if I wanted to.

All the other little advantages of Paperlike

So the only real reason to get a Paperlike is if you’re a heavy Apple Pencil user. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other great benefits to using it.

The first is that the texture makes fingerprints much less visible. I hate when my iPhone screen gets smudged with fingerprints. So at least five or six times a day, I wipe my iPhone screen on my sleeve to get rid of fingerprints.

I constantly clean my iMac screen, so much so that I have a spray bottle and a microfiber cloth living on my desk all the time.

Paperlike does not stain in the same way as a glass screen. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t get dirty – the texture means it gets dirty quickly. It’s just not see dirty.

Luckily, Paperlike is easy to clean. You can clean just about anything from the surface with a few drops of warm water and a small drop of dish soap on a paper towel. Then, once it has air-dried, take a lint-free cloth and wipe out any bits of dust.

Paperlike offers a pro pack, which includes two screen protectors, a cleaning kit and two Apple Pencil grips

Paperlike offers a pro pack, which includes two screen protectors, a cleaning kit and two Apple Pencil grips

Paperlike also offers a screen cleaning kit, and it’s included in some product bundles. Although it’s not necessary, I like that it’s small enough to store in a bag or drawer. It’s the perfect way to make sure your screen stays clean on the go.

There’s also the fact that it fixes screen glare. While some people may prefer the super shiny look of a bare iPad, there’s no denying that it doesn’t perform well in direct, bright lighting.

Paperlike is excellent for using your iPad in bright light – it diffuses glare and harsh light, making it much easier to use outdoors or near windows.

It’s really, really good, but it’s not perfect

Although I sing its praises, I fully agree that Paperlike is not suitable for users who do a lot of photo or video editing. While this version of Paperlike provides better clarity and displays colors more accurately on my test iPad Air, it’s less accurate than a bare screen.

Paper screen protectors don’t last forever – and honestly, they don’t even last that long, depending on how often you use them.

I know a fair number of people who use their iPad exclusively for digital art in their work and who use Paperlike screen protectors at the rate of four or five a year. For me – someone who mainly does digital art as a hobby – I always manage to do two a year.

Luckily, Paperlike sells its screen protectors in pairs, which makes it a little more tenable, but at just over $20 each, it can be an ongoing expense.

And the extra expenses don’t stop there either. Paperlike wears out the Apple Pencil tips much faster than drawing on the bare screen. But, again, that’s the nature of using any matte screen protector, and there’s not much you can do about it.

How fast depends on how often you use your Apple Pencil, how hard you press, and what you use it for.

If you do a lot of artwork – or if you’re a creative professional – you could burn out an Apple Pencil tip in as little as three or four months. I’ve already had to replace my second-generation Apple Pencil tip once in the nearly two years I’ve had it, and I’ll probably have to replace it in a month or two.

It’s not a big deal, as you can pick up a pack of four Apple Pencil tips for $20, but it’s something to consider in the long run.

So Paperlike isn’t for everyone, and there are a few things to consider before diving in.

Again, I don’t think this is a “must by” unless you regularly use your 11-inch iPad Pro for jotting down notes or artwork. But, with Apple’s Freeform app on the horizon, it might be worth considering.

Who is Paperlike for?

Paperlike is a game changer for those who use the iPad for note taking and digital art. The Swiss Paperlike is even better than the original, so I can wholeheartedly recommend it if you’ve been hesitant about buying a Paperlike.

Or buy

The Swiss Paperlike is compatible with iPad Pro 12.9 inch, iPad Pro 11 inch, iPad Air 10.9 inch, iPad 10.2 inch, iPad Mini 2021 and iPad 10, 9-inch 10th generation.

Paperlike also offers a Pro Bundle, which gets you two Paperlike screen protectors, an all-in-one cleaning kit, and two Apple Pencil grips, for $89.99.

If you have a different iPad model, Paperlike sells older versions of its screen protectors for $39.99 on or Amazon.

Advantages of Swiss Paperlike

  • Provides friction for writing and drawing on the iPad
  • Does not easily show fingerprints
  • Easy to clean
  • Improves iPad usability in bright light

Disadvantages of Swiss Paperlike

  • Still results in a small loss of clarity and color reproduction
  • Wears out after heavy use
  • Uses Apple Pencil tips
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