Not all touchscreens work with a stylus. By definition, a touchscreen is any device that supports touch commands. While some types of touchscreens do, in fact, support the use of a stylus to perform these touch commands, others only support bare finger touch commands. What types of touchscreens work with a stylus exactly?


Resistive touchscreens work with a stylus. Resistive touchscreens are comprised of two transparent layers. By default, the two layers are separated by a thin layer of air or inert gas. Resistive touchscreens apply a current to the top layer. The bottom layer will then sense this current to identify touch commands.

You can control resistive touchscreens using any object, including a stylus. When you perform a touch command, you’ll push the top layer into the bottom layer. The bottom layer will sense this current, thereby allowing the resistive touchscreen to identify your touch command.


Surface acoustic wave (SAW) touchscreens also work with a stylus. SAW is a relatively new touchscreen technology. It’s not as popular as resistive or capacitive. Nonetheless, some touchscreens use SAW technology to identify touch commands. If you buy a SAW touchscreen, you’ll be able to perform touch commands using a stylus.

SAW touchscreens leverage ultrasonic waves to identify touch commands. They project ultrasonic waves across the display interface. There are sensors around the perimeter of SAW touchscreens that sense these ultrasonic waves. When you perform a touch command, you’ll disrupt the ultrasonic waves in the area of your touch command. The SAW touchscreen will then register your touch command.

IR Grid

In addition to resistive and SAW touchscreens, infrared (IR) grid touchscreens work with a stylus. IR gird touchscreens use a similar technology as SAW, Rather than leveraging ultrasonic waves, though, IR grid touchscreens leverage IR light.

IR grid touchscreens feature IR light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and sensors. The LED project IR light across the display interface, whereas the sensors sense this IR light. Whether you perform a touch command using a bare finger, a gloved finger or a stylus, you’ll disrupt the IR light. IR grid touchscreens will detect this disruption, at which point they’ll respond by registering a touch event.

While capacitive touchscreens typically won’t work with a stylus, this doesn’t apply to all touchscreens. There are certain types of touchscreens that do, in fact, work with a stylus. They include resistive, SAW and IR grid touchscreens.