Pleasurable pens?
October 2, 2012 9:35 AM   Subscribe

What are your favorite affordable drawing supplies - especially pens?

I want to get in the habit of drawing every day.

I'm looking for pens (and any other materials you'd suggest) that are such a pleasure to use that I'll look forward to picking them up and practicing - both at my desk and when I'm out walking around.

I have 2 Micron 005s which are nice but really thin - the line they make is very thin, and the barrel is a little thin for my taste too.

(I also have a bunch of lovely Prismacolor markers - the kind with a thick end and a thin end - but for this question, I'm looking for a single pen or handful of pens I could keep with me all the time. Also, I have seen this.)

So what do you suggest? A single perfect pen? A small set? A handful of custom-selected pens? Ball points? Felt tips?

When you're out and about with your sketchbook, what pens do you have with you?

What drawing materials will make me reach for my sketchbook several times a day?

posted by kristi to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I really like the Sakura Microns, myself; I find 05 and 08 are the ones I enjoy using most, and the brush tip (BR) is a heck of a lot fun. I guess I've never thought of the barrel as being too thin, but you could always wrap some tape around it to make it thicker.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:46 AM on October 2, 2012

Best answer: When I'm planning to work in my sketch book outside the house, I usually grab a Pigma Micron 08, an Indenti-Pen, an eraser, and a pencil (any kind). Those are the basics.

I also have some dual point marker that aren't water proof and blend nicely, so I like to bring those along, as well as a water brush, to add watercolor-like color to line drawings. I'm not sure of the marker brand, but they resemble these Tombow markers.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:55 AM on October 2, 2012

Best answer: The Pilot Precise v7 is my favorite: heavy ink flow, thick lines.
posted by migurski at 9:55 AM on October 2, 2012

Best answer: You can buy Microns in multiple sizes, including the more standard 03 and 05, all the way up to a pretty fat 08. All the cartoonists I know carry a pile of Microns everywhere.

Stabilo Point 88 pens are popular for color work. They're also really good for twirling, since they're long and don't have clips. Unfortunately they're even thinner than Microns -- they're exactly the shape and size of pencils.

Brush pens are super fun and pleasing to write and draw with, and tend to have fatter barrels. According to your profile, you live in San Francisco -- there are at least two awesome stationery stores in the Japantown mall that sell a whole range of brush pens. Here's one I bought on my last trip there -- I can't read the label, but writing and drawing with it is terrifically satisfying.
posted by theodolite at 9:59 AM on October 2, 2012

I like these Copic Multiliner pens because of their larger barrel and range of sizes (but not colors). On the pricey side, but they are refillable.
posted by sub-culture at 10:02 AM on October 2, 2012

I like how my (cheap as far as fountain pens go) $26 Lamy fountain pen has made me stop trying to kill the paper I'm writing on with too much pressure. Now my hand doesn't hurt when I write.
posted by Brian Puccio at 10:02 AM on October 2, 2012

Micron 01 - after using the 005 for years, I realized that the point would wear out of use, while I could can get a similarly thin line with the 01 with more durability, etc.
posted by suedehead at 10:07 AM on October 2, 2012

Best answer: I agree with theodolite that brush pens are really fun to draw with. The Pentel Pocket Brush Pen is a pretty decent one on the inexpensive side. It's not exactly "cheap" but it is refillable, so once you have the pen you only need to buy the cheaper ink cartridge refills.

As far as just general drawing and sketching goes, lately I've been loving Staedtler Lumocolor "Broad" markers. They're chisel tipped so you can get a good variety of lines.
posted by Nedroid at 10:18 AM on October 2, 2012

Best answer: Seconding the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen.

Also currently in my pencil bag:
Pigma Sensei (current top pen)
Pentel Sign Pen
Some copic sketch markers for shading
A Pentel Watercolor brush & tiny watercolor kit (or fill the brush with ink)

and some skinny random ones. I'm a big fan of just buying a bunch and seeing what you like.
posted by sprezzy at 10:33 AM on October 2, 2012

Pitt Brush Pens + Micron Pens make a very nice combination.
posted by Wordwoman at 11:01 AM on October 2, 2012

Just putting in my vote for the Pilot G2 10. Thick 1mm line, smooth gel ink, comfortable barrel, solid clip, reliable, and retractable. Love 'em. Of course these days I mostly use mechanical pencils. I don't have a real favorite but I enjoy the balance and solidity of drafting pencils with the knurled metal barrels. Those may be an acquired taste though.
posted by Scientist at 11:02 AM on October 2, 2012

Best answer: A lot depends on A) your preferred drawing style and B) the kind of pressure you tend to put on the nib. A heavy hand will crush drafting pens in one use whereas ballpoints are far more forgiving. Here are my favorites for fine, tight detail work:

Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph
Staedtler MarsMatic
Staedtler Lumocolor

And finally, my favorite everyday pen I can't live without:
Sharpie Pen
posted by doreur at 11:05 AM on October 2, 2012

Lifehacker is currently doing a High Five on budget pens that might interest you.
posted by JJtheJetPlane at 11:52 AM on October 2, 2012

My current pen obsession for drawing, writing, and everything else is the Sumo Grip II GEL O5 by Sakura. Nice dark line, skinny but not too skinny, smooth-writing (I find the Pilot G Tech or whatever it is always skips, which is awful), and a nice weight. Try it!
posted by tuesdayschild at 2:59 PM on October 2, 2012

I've enjoyed the Pilot Precise v5 and v7, but at least in the red color, the v5 can fail pretty early in its lifespan. I use the black and blue colors pretty extensively because they do a good job with dual-duty as writing and drawing pens.

Like many others, I've also liked Micron pens, but with pens in general, smaller points are more troublesome for any number of reasons (speaking as a veteran of countless 4x0 technical pens like rapidographs) so I tend to use the small sizes sparingly and will typically use the largest size I can get away with regardless of pen type.

My secret shame pen is the Y&C Stylist. It's not really great quality, not lightfast, if you draw in a book the lines will stain the opposite page yellow, but they're cheap and I like the way they feel.
posted by LionIndex at 3:07 PM on October 2, 2012

Also a fan of the Pilot Precise (V5 or V7, your preference). I use them for writing by hand. I like the kind with the click-top (as opposed to the cap, because caps can get lost).

Sharpie's pens (super fine felt tip) are pretty fun too.
posted by Brittanie at 3:15 PM on October 2, 2012

Best answer: A lot of these suggestions are awesome, particularly for mobile drawing. My favorite pens to use at home are cheap Speedball dip pens with acrylic inks.

Ballpoint sketching is cheap and can be quite beautiful. (Link to Samuel Silva's 8 color Bic ballpoint works.) I like to sketch in monochrome ballpoint on toned paper and use white colored pencil for highlights.
posted by xyzzy at 4:46 PM on October 2, 2012

There are some good recommendations in here. I just wanted to chime in and say that at the complete budget end of the spectrum, I love the Sharpie Pen. It rolls across the page rather smoothly, and sounds like it has the thickness of line you aren't getting from your Micron 005. It's a good value, and cheap enough that you won't worry too much about losing it, unlike your Rapidographs and such.

Also, seconding that water brush pens are fun! Give that a try, it can be a fun way of coloring or shading your drawings.
posted by malapropist at 5:03 PM on October 2, 2012

Best answer: I adore my Pentel pocket brush pen, linked to above by nerdroid. Just to be clear- it isn't a molded felt tip like many "brush" tip pens. It's nylon bristles and a liquid ink reservoir. It is nothing like using a marker and much more like using a brush dipped in ink. I use the standard refills, which are a nice dark black, even after light erasing, and waterproof. The ink takes a few minutes to dry completely, and I do blot before erasing. I was worried it would leak. It does not.
I have a Staedtler mechanical pencil and it feels great in my hand, but irritatingly, their lead refills seem not to fit the pencil correctly. When I finish one lead, the next won't advance out of the barrel, I have to open up the pencil and get one out, then feed it through the writing end. Also, they squeak when I write, which is my least favorite mechanical pencil feature. I'm hoping that using Pentel leads (which do not squeak) will fix this, haven't tried it yet. I like that you can set the little window on the pencil to remind you which lead you have in it.
Always in my pencil case:
-One Staedtler Mechanical pencil, .5 F lead
- One Quicker Clicker, .5 F or 2B lead
- one Mars white plastic eraser
- One long eraser in a holder.
- one kneaded rubber eraser, in a plastic bag so it doesn't get filthy
- My Pentel Pocket Brush pen and an extra ink cartridge.
- Prismacolor markers in warm grey- 20%, 40%, 60% and 70%.
- A ballpoint pen I got from our tax guy, pretty much exclusively so I can loan it to people who can see that I have writing utensils but who I do not wish to loan my good drawing pencils/pens to.
posted by Adridne at 6:46 PM on October 2, 2012

Best answer: oooh, now mechanical pencils are something I know a lot about. I like the shaker style Pentel mechanical pencils with thick barrels, but I love the huge array of lead hardnesses available at JetPens even more. 4B leads ftw. Plus they have colored leads!
posted by xyzzy at 10:22 PM on October 2, 2012

Response by poster: Great, great, great answers! Thank you all so much!

theodolite, I'll be stopping in at the Japantown mall to check out what they have these days. I know about the stationery store in the southwest corner near the crepe place - do you remember where the other one is?

xyzzy, that ballpoint pen art is amazing. Thank you for linking to it. Wow.

sprezzy, I'm also a big fan of buying a bunch and seeing which ones work for me ... but I thought it'd be nice to start with a bunch of different recommendations, since I somehow often seem to pick a lot of crummy choices when I just buy random pens.

Adridne, thanks for the great rundown of what you carry with you. The spare loaner pen is a great idea.

Thank you all! I can't wait to try these out.
posted by kristi at 10:54 AM on October 4, 2012

For something completely different you might keep an eye out for a Pilot Varsity disposable fountain pen. They have a medium nib and nice ink flow. And though marketed as disposable, you can refill them if you want.

(Caveat about many fountain pen inks - they tend not to be waterproof and can be fugitive - if indelibility is a concern, there's always Noodler's Bulletproof line of inks.)
posted by usonian at 11:01 AM on October 5, 2012

I use:

A mechanical pencil (it's a pain in the ass to sharpen them when I'm out and about)
Two Pilot Precise Rolling Ball V7 pens - one Fine, one Extra Fine. They're good and they're also cheap and easy to replace - my line drawing style relies on bearing down kind of hard which is murder on pen tips so I go through them a lot.
A four-pack of Faber-Castell PITT artist pens in black. I mostly just use the brush pen for fill-in work but I've used the others too and if you're into Microns you might have more use for them than me.
A gum eraser.

Results tend to look something like this (I was drawing pond monsters that day).
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:24 PM on October 25, 2012

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