PaperLike 2 matte screen protector to provide a much-improved drawing surface on the iPad

Jan 23, 2020

PaperLike 2 and its accessories laid out on the table ready to be applied on the iPad Pro 12.9 

After yet another successful Kickstarter campaign, creator Jan Sapper and his team are back with the refined version of their original matte iPad screen protector, especially designed for artists. Drawing on the iPad has always been compared – often unfavorably – to drawing on paper, and the situation hasn’t improved since the release of the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. As we wrote more than a year ago, the iPad drawing experience can immensely benefit from the application of a matte film surface, not just by providing an extra layer of protection but by giving that necessary grip to the stylus, found only on pen displays. As digitalEPIGRAPHY concluded back then, PaperLike truly emerges above the competition in every aspect of what we expect from such accessory. Although applying the screen protector wasn’t an easy task, however, to be able to draw on such fantastic surface with only a barely noticeable rainbow effect fully compensated for our efforts. Nonetheless, Jan felt that there was room for improvement and recently released an improved version, the PaperLike 2, using a new know-how called “Nanodots Surface Technology”. Two areas where the new screen protector supposedly excels are screen clarity and the textured feel of the original.

After penciling for a week, using Procreate at Luxor Temple with the new PaperLike installed, we are ready to share our first impressions. In the past year we had to change our PaperLike protector ($29 for a 2-sheet pack) in roughly every 2 months, due to the screen being exposed while drawing in the field. The constant presence of micro-granular dust at the monuments put a lot of pressure on the iPad and eventually scratched the surface up to the point when replacing the protector was unavoidable. Naturally, this wasn’t much of an issue in the studio, where one single PaperLike lasted for the entire off-season without any visible alterations on the surface. Obviously, what we were most curious about this time was usability in the field. In order to find out, first we had to go through the exact same installation process, swapping the perfectly installed previous version for the new one.  

Installing PaperLike is still a cumbersome process that involves the thorough cleaning of your screen while in an absolutely dust-free environment

For easier alignment, there is now a larger gap between the screen’s edge and the screen protector

Additional stickers help with lifting the PaperLike during installation

Unfortunately, despite the new, helpful video guide and a couple of extra stickers, there are no real improvements to the installation procedure. Proper application still involves a thoroughly cleaned iPad, a perfectly lined up protector and – mostly afterwards – a lot of hunting for and getting rid of dust particles and bubbles. An additional trick we learned along previous applications was that one can always lift the PaperLike with a piece of Scotch tape even after being applied, therefore dust bubbles that are close to the edge can be removed at a later stage. There is some development concerning alignment, mostly due to the smaller size of the new screen cover, producing a slightly larger gap around the edge. Cutouts for the camera area and the home button on older iPad models are more generous as well, which also makes alignment somewhat less critical. Considering the high asking price, it would have been justified to include an installation frame of some sort to improve alignment, not to mention that it would prevent dust going underneath while peeling off the protective film. Nevertheless, applying such a large protector will always have its challenges and none of these issues should be a deal breaker as long as the result is worth it. 

Screen clarity comparison between the original PaperLike (left) and PaperLike 2 (right)

What feels immediately different with the new protector applied is the surface texture. There is this immense feeling of touching some fine-grain office paper that hits you immediately upon installation. Although the matte surface seems much smoother, almost non-visible compared to the previous iteration (and frankly to all other matte solutions we’ve tried so far), once you touch it, there is a certain unexpected roughness, a pretty similar sensation to dragging your finger on a piece of paper. After using it for a couple of days, this initial sensation wears off and drawing with the Apple Pencil produces a fairly similar feeling to using the original PaperLike, providing just enough grip to have the needed control for penciling at the monuments. However, the finer material brings a great deal of extra screen reflection and glare. It’s not nearly as bad as it would be with no screen protector applied at all, but it’s definitely noticeable, requiring a more careful light control when working outside in the field. Again, this is a trade-off that benefits overall readability that we found to be a massive improvement over the original. 

Thin brush strokes applied over white background tend to look fuzzy when seen through a matte screen protector. This well-known consequence notorious for such protectors is called “rainbow-effect”, and is primarily due to the adhesive between the applied layer and the glass screen. Although the adhesive used on the original PaperLike had already treated this problem in a more successful manner than others, causing minimal patterning and no noticeable parallax whatsoever, improvement is always welcome in this department.

Thanks to the new technology developed for the second iteration, now even the thinnest pencil lines and inked brush strokes look very crisp with no visible distortion. Furthermore, the applied Nanodot Technology almost completely eliminates color noise to a point that at times it makes you forget that you have a protector on. We must mention that our test was done on an iPad Pro with fully laminated display. Nonetheless, we can say with much certainty that Sapper’s new technology brings even more dramatic improvements to basic iPads that still have air gaps underneath the glass surface. 

Scratches developed on the PaperLike 2 after a short week of penciling at Luxor Temple

Unfortunately, using the new PaperLike in a real-life scenario hasn’t been without problems, even with the added bells and whistles. While we enjoyed a long studio session with the protector applied, once the iPad left the relatively dust-free environment, the pristine condition of its surface quickly deteriorated. As the iPad was exposed while penciling a large scene at the temple, fine dust got constantly stuck on the Apple Pencil’s tip, viscously scratching the PaperLike along the process. Horrified by the results, we swapped the damaged protector for a new one and added extra protection to the work area, trying to prevent dust from coming in. But of course, our workplace being in Egypt, one can do only so much. The situation somewhat improved with the added protection to our setup and by keeping a fine cloth nearby for the occasional swiping off dust. Nonetheless, we must say that the new PaperLike being so sensitive to surface scratches was a slight disappointment. 

PaperLike 2 is quite an expensive product, especially considering the competition, but it’s improvements over the first iteration can’t be denied. A lot has happened since Jan Sapper’s original Kickstarter campaign was initiated in order to provide the ultimate drawing experience on the iPad. In the meantime, he received a tremendous amount of feedback that was clearly considered when designing the follow-up version. Despite its newly discovered sensitivity to scratches, the new PaperLike still achieves the seemingly impossible task of improving on clarity while providing a rougher texture with improved grip. Truth be told, we didn’t have much caveats using the previous version either, but we truly appreciate the added clarity when penciling or reading on the iPad, even if it’s more persistent to dust. Not that we have a choice anymore, as from now on PaperLike only sells the second generation with the original version being discontinued. 

The new and improved PaperLike 2 costs $37.49 (€34/ £28.67) and can be purchased for all iPad models that support the Apple Pencil directly through Jan Sapper’s website. The package contains 2x PaperLike iPad screen protectors (yes! you get TWO!), 2x wet/dry screen wipes, 2x dust absorbers and 2x sticker guide sheets.

Turn up the volume to hear the difference!

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