Paperlike 2.1 review: Apple Pencil & iPad use feels more like writing on paper

in iPad edited February 2023
If you're craving a more natural writing and drawing experience on iPad, nothing will get you closer than Paperlike 2.1.

I don't keep it a secret that my favorite Apple product is the iPad. It always has been. I've never been much of a smartphone user, and as I get older, I find myself drifting away from using my iMac in my downtime.

But I just can't quit the iPad. It's lightweight and can go wherever I do, and when it's 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 like the Apple Pencil is Paperlike.

Why artists and note-takers love Paperlike

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

When you write or draw on an iPad screen, there's a notable lack of friction between the tip of the Apple Pencil and the screen. As a result, you tend to tense your hand to compensate for it, which can result in hand and forearm cramps.

This is something that I know all too well. Since I got my first iPad Pro, I've always used it with a Paperlike.

This is because before transitioning to using an iPad for all my digital artwork, I'd come from a Wacom Intuos background. When working on the Intuos, I exclusively used the felt nibs in my Wacom pen.

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

My last Paperlike got pulled up and off my iPad when I switched cases, leaving me with just the bare screen to work with. I decided to stick it out for a while because I never went au natural with my Apple Pencil for any extended period.

Boy, was that a mistake.

Taking notes was difficult, but drawing for an extended time was excruciating. Within 20 minutes, I massaged my forearm and palm and, inevitably, put my iPad down. As a result, my art production severely declined.

Paperlike gives your screen a little bit of tooth, similar to a sheet of paper. That extra friction means you won't hold your Apple Pencil in a death grip. No death grip means you're less likely to get hand cramps.

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

Paperlike 2.1, aka the Swiss Paperlike

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

Paperlike on the 2020 iPad Air
Paperlike on the 2020 iPad Air

This is the newest iteration of Paperlike. This is Paperlike 2.1, or as the creators call it now, the Swiss Paperlike.

I never thought the old version changed how the screen looked too much. However, I have met people who weren't fans of how matte it made the screen.

"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 a bit of clarity for a more comfortable drawing experience.

Fast forward a couple of years and the makers of Paperlike are trying to make it, so you don't have to pick 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 notably better, which I wasn't expecting. The Paperlike I had used previously tended to desaturate my colors ever so slightly, which meant I often checked my work on my iMac when I was finished.

Now, the gap 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 benefits of Paperlike

So, the only real reason to get a Paperlike is that 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 far less noticeable. I hate when the screen of my iPhone gets smudged up with fingerprints. So at least five or six times a day, I wipe my iPhone screen on my sleeve to get rid of the fingerprints.

I am constantly cleaning my iMac screen -- so much so that I've got a spray bottle and a microfiber cloth that lives permanently on my desk.

Paperlike does not get smudged up the same way a glass screen does. That isn't to say that it doesn't get dirty -- the texture means it gets dirty quickly. It just doesn't look dirty.

Fortunately, it's effortless to clean Paperlike. You can clean just about anything off the surface with a few drops of warm water and a tiny drop of dish soap on a paper towel. Then, once it has air dried, take a lint-free cloth and remove any bits of dust.

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

Paperlike also has a screen cleaning kit, and it's included in some product bundles. While not necessary, I like that it's small enough to toss in a bag or a drawer. It's the perfect way to ensure your screen stays clean while you're on the go.

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

Paperlike is excellent for using your iPad in bright light -- it diffuses reflections 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 am singing its praises, I fully acknowledge that Paperlike isn't suitable for users that do a lot of photo or video editing. While this version of Paperlike does offer better clarity and displays color more accurately on my test iPad Air, it is less accurate than a bare screen.

Paperlike screen protectors do not last forever -- and honestly, they don't even last that long, depending on how often you use them.

I know a fair amount of people who use their iPad exclusively for digital art at their jobs who burn through Paperlike screen protectors at a rate of four or five a year. For me -- a person who primarily does digital art as a hobby -- I still manage to go through two a year.

Fortunately, Paperlike does sell its screen protectors in pairs, which makes it a bit more tenable, but at a little over $20 each, it can be a bit of an ongoing expense.

And the added expenses don't stop there, either. Paperlike wears down Apple Pencil tips much quicker than drawing on the bare screen. But, again, this is the nature of using any matte screen protector, and there's not much you can do about it.

How much quicker depends on how much you use your Apple Pencil, how hard you bear down, and what you use it for.

If you're doing a lot of artwork -- or if you're a creative professional -- you might burn through an Apple Pencil tip in as short 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 will likely need to replace it in the next month or two.

This isn't a major deal, as you can buy 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 you dive in.

Again, I don't think it's a "must by" unless you routinely use your Apple Pencil to take notes or artwork. But, with Apple's Freeform app on the horizon, it might be worth considering.

Who Paperlike is 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, too, so I can wholeheartedly recommend it if you've been hesitant to buy a Paperlike.

Where to buy

You can snag a set of two Paperlike screen protectors from Paperlike's site for $44.99.

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

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

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

Pros of Swiss Paperlike

  • Provides friction for writing and drawing on the iPad

  • Doesn't show fingerprints easily

  • Easy to clean

  • Improves iPad usability in bright light

Cons of Swiss Paperlike

  • Still results in a small loss of clarity and color reproduction

  • Wears out after heavy use

  • Wears down Apple Pencil tips

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Read on AppleInsider


  • Reply 1 of 4
    I’ve never been a fan of any screen protectors, but this review made a compelling reason for me to try Paperlike out. I’ve always noticed that after a short time of illustrating my hand aches. I assumed it was because the iPad didn’t like what I was drawing. But the idea that it could be caused by the too-smooth surface makes much sense. Ordered. Great review.
  • Reply 2 of 4
    thttht Posts: 5,536member
    What's the roughness like compared to earlier versions? The earlier versions had a quite the rough surface imo. Went with Moshi instead.
  • Reply 3 of 4
    I’ve used all three versions of paperlike over the various models and this is truly the best. The right amount of paper feel and clarity. It’s perfect. 

    The cleaning kit is great but would be better if you could refill the container, it seems wasteful for a company that’s so focused on reducing waste. 

    And the pencil grips are really good except they yellowed RIDICULOUSLY fast. 
  • Reply 4 of 4
    netroxnetrox Posts: 1,464member
    I have tried those "paper like" films and they all left me disappointed. It felt too unnatural and the writing is not pleasant - almost like writing on a chalkboard. 

    The only one that offers the best writing experience with protection is Armorsuit (Dotcom). Unlike those companies who promise paper-like writing, Armorsuit does not claim paper like experience - just increased protection but what I like about it is that it does increase friction while writing since the protection film is very soft and it self-heals if you dent it from drawing too hard against it. Its film is very clear as well. And as a bonus, it doesn't wear out the tip fast. 

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