Do Styluses Work on Laptop Touchpads?

Most people purchase styluses to pair with their touchscreen tablets and smartphones to give them the convenience and freedom of a writing utensil versus their fingers. However, compared to a mouse or laptop touchpad, even your finger is an upgrade, which is why many people are curious whether they can use a stylus on this common device as well.

No, styluses are not typically compatible with a laptop’s touchpads located below its keyboard. You can use them on the rare occasion if paired with certain drawing programs while holding the touchpad mouse key with your non-dominant hand, but this is rare.

In this article, we will explain why styluses that work on touchscreen devices won’t work properly on a laptop touchpad. Afterward, we will discuss how you can use a stylus on a laptop with and without a touchscreen.

Why Won’t a Stylus Work on a Laptop Touchpad?

You might be confused to learn that your favorite tablet or smartphone stylus probably won’t work on your laptop’s touchpad. After all, how different can a touchpad be from a touchscreen? Both function when provided input from your finger. So, why isn’t the same true for a stylus?

The reason a stylus won’t work on a laptop touchpad is that most touchpads are specifically designed to respond to input from a human finger, not styluses. As a result, they often lack the pressure sensitivity necessary to register a stylus and feature other design elements that don’t interact with those in most styluses, especially passive styluses.

To be more specific, a majority of modern laptop touchscreens are made with capacitive touch technology. Some are still made using resistive technology, but these are quickly dying out due to capacitive touchscreen’s superior reliability and precision.

Capacitive touchscreens work by sensing the electrical properties of your skin to determine where on the screen you’re touching. This means, in order for your stylus to work, it would need to conduct electricity.

While there are capacitive styluses that do just that by transferring electric charges from your body to the tip of the stylus and then the electric field of your laptop touchpad, you run into the issue of sensitivity again. Some touchpads are capable of registering the input from these styluses and some aren’t.

Will a Stylus Work on a Laptop Touchscreen

It’s important to note that a laptop’s touchscreen and touchpad are two completely different components. The touchpad is where you control your cursor and mouse features, whereas the touchscreen is the screen itself.

Now that that’s been established, if a stylus won’t work with the capacitive technology of a laptop’s touchpad, does that mean it won’t work with its capacitive touchscreen?

Yes, most capacitive styluses will work on a laptop’s capacitive touchscreen because these are more sensitive components that are also more consciously designed to be compatible with tools other than one’s fingers.

Of course, before you start to assume the stylus you have will work for your touchscreen laptop, you’ll want to check if its manufacturer has a list of compatible options.

If you’re uncertain, the budget-friendly options listed below will work on most touchscreen PC laptops and MacBooks.

Another alternative would be to see if your laptop’s touchscreen is compatible with a Bluetooth stylus if capacitive isn’t your preferred design option.

Can I Use a Stylus Without a Touchscreen Laptop?

If you’re a digital artist or graphic designer who desperately wants to use a stylus but doesn’t have a touchscreen on their laptop, the best way to get access to this tool would be to purchase a compatible graphics drawing tablet.

These are devices that come with a pressure-sensitive pen and connect to your laptop via USB or Bluetooth. The tablet will mirror what’s on your screen and will give you the ability to draw, paint, and edit directly onto the device as if it were a piece of paper or canvas.

Wacom is one of the most popular brands when it comes to graphics tablets and they offer a wide range of products for different budgets and needs.

Final Thoughts

While it might be a bit disappointing to learn that most laptop touchpads won’t work with a stylus, there are other ways you can pair this convenient tool with these equally convenient devices. The easiest option would be to take advantage of your laptop’s touchscreen (if it has one). If not, investing in a graphics drawing tablet might be the best choice, especially if you’re using a stylus for artistic reasons.