What pens & accessories should I get for sketchnoting & design thinking?
January 2, 2016 8:56 PM   Subscribe

I've been digging into various design thinking techniques (lots of sticky note stuff and writing/drawing on flipchart paper) and also am starting to get into sketchnoting (for now, just personal use and not in front of people). I own some black sharpies in 2 thicknesses but that's it. What's on your must-have pen/marker/carrying case/notebook recommendation list for being able to sketchnote or facilitate a storyboarding/concept poster/etc exercise on the fly? I'm curious about specific brand and product recommendations; the pen universe for instance is really daunting!
posted by jenbo1 to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
You might find Whitelines Link useful.

I'm looking forward to seeing more answers.
posted by HoraceH at 9:05 PM on January 2, 2016

There's a couple of episodes of The Pen Addict (17, 120) where they talk to Mike Rohde about what he uses.
posted by zamboni at 9:06 PM on January 2, 2016

Sakura Pigma Micron Ink pens are pretty standard for what you describe!
posted by gemutlichkeit at 9:15 PM on January 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Pentel Pulaman JM20 Pen This pen is my obsession. I draw and write impromptu comics with it. It's probably no surprise it reminds me of a felt version of a dip pen nib. I can create a thin to thick line, but it doesn't require gentle, precise and slow of a touch of a brush pen. If line weight variance (thick to thin) excites you, I highly recommend these pens.

Pentel Sign Pens are a nice felt tip feel, I used to love these pens. They were my thicker, bold line pen.

If I did more sketchnoting, I'd probably drool over the selection of felt pens on this guide to felt tip marker pens. The markers I've used on this list, I've adored (including the Micron Ink pens gemutlichkeit mentioned).
posted by SometimesChartreuse at 9:40 PM on January 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

In terms of notebooks - you can't go wrong with Rhodia paper, and you especially can't go wrong with the dimensions of the Rhodia Reverse Book - it's pretty much a large square! For me, it's perfect to figuring things out creatively as it's large enough for me to feel free to write whatever down, and the square format gets me to write left - right - upside down - around. Tom Bihn (maker of the best bags ever!) also said in an interview: "For some reason I'm drawn to square sketchbooks instead of rectangular ones: sometimes turning an idea 90 degrees suddenly makes it work."

Rhodia paper can handle all 'em pens listed above (most probably not sharpies, though) and the Rhodia Reverse Book is in grid/graph format. YMMV on grid format, but I find that I like the in-built structure, that with greater restrictions comes greater creativity. I can also imagine that a grid format might be useful for storyboarding and concept posters.
posted by facehugger at 10:31 PM on January 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Moleskines, various sizes and weights. Waterford or ArtPen fountain pens. Micron as cited upthread. If you have the luxury, dip-nib speedball with india ink. Non-photo blue pencils; an anachronism, but still my pencil of choice.

ProCreate and a pressure-sensitive stylus on iPad.

I love Sharpies, but NEVER for this use; the ink smell is problematic. Best used on non-paper.
posted by mwhybark at 10:32 PM on January 2, 2016

Those Pigma Micron pens have spoiled me for life!
posted by Gusaroo at 11:56 PM on January 2, 2016

Don't fetishize the tools. There are no "essential" pens and paper for this. There is no reason "the pen universe" should be daunting. You can use whatever pen you have laying around. The ideas are what matter. You should get used to not putting off what you need to do til you spent $100 at Amazon on 10 different notebooks.
posted by bleep at 12:02 AM on January 3, 2016 [22 favorites]

For fine line drawing and text, Platinum Carbon Desk Pen from jetpens, as per boulet.

Staedtler non-photo blue pencils for your underdrawing.

For a sketchbook, an 11x14 Robert Bateman sketchbook, and a spare 11x14 masonite sheet to stiffen it.

For loose paper, a ream of 8.5 x 11 or 11 x 17 'vellum bristol' cover stock, as per Brandon Graham:
what kind(s) of paper do you use?

For comics I use 11 by 17 80 pound vellum bristol. I get it in 250 sheet packages from office supply stores.
sometimes 11 by 17 typing paper.

(Not fancy art supply store vellum-bristol paper for this. I think the Bateman sketchbook is basically the same stuff as the 250 sheet ream.)

I'd pick up one chunky grey marker like industrial designers use, for a mid-tone, to see if it works for you, (like a copic) and then later another black marker if you like it, or if it smears with the sharpie.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:09 AM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I had to look up what you are talking about: this guy has some answers for you
I sketch and take notes in the cheapest black sketchbooks I can find and I use uni ball eye pens. For me, the size of the sketchbooks is determined by portability, so they are quite small, which is not ideal for sketching.
Good luck!
posted by mumimor at 2:40 AM on January 3, 2016

Seconding bleep. I'm an architecture student and I'm also really into the pen and paper world, but the first is really not at all dependent on the second.

I would recommend a thicker pen/marker (pentel sign pen or sharpie), a thinner pen (sharpie pen or micron), and a pack of thin or thick crayola markers. And a blank notebook.

The only specific thing I'd note is that on certain papers, normal sharpies can have a bluish sheen, whereas the sign pen doesn't. But I think for most applications this shouldn't be an issue.
posted by wym at 3:52 AM on January 3, 2016

The best pen and notebook are whatever feel right to you. That said, if I had to pick just one pen for sketching/doodling, I'd go with the Sakura Micron.

Frixion pens get a lot of love in the planner community (a second cousin to sketchnoting, I'd say) for their erasability. They're not what I'd use to draw a New Yorker cartoon, but they're fine for more casual doodling.

As for notebooks, I think Hand-Book journals are all-around nicer than Moleskines. If you're drawn to graph paper, you might really love dot grid paper.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:10 AM on January 3, 2016

I just got one of these Essentials notebooks for Christmas and I love it so far. It has slightly different dimensions than a moleskine (it's a bit wider, mostly) and the grid lines are a bit lighter so they're easier to draw over. I've been using it with a fountain pen and have had very little bleedthrough. I really like the gridlines for sketchnoting, just because it makes it easier to keep a clean layout, but many of the grid notebooks that I've seen print the grids much too dark, so you can't really write/draw over it. Unfortunately, I can't speak to wear and tear yet, since I just got it, but it feels pretty solid - the cover actually feels a bit stiffer than my moleskin, which is really nice when you're trying to write in your lap. The paper is a bit thicker too.

I haven't used the fountain pen for notetaking yet, though I suspect that I'll end up liking it. The one I got is this Pilot Metropolitan one. It's very easy (and non-messy, so far) to use and writes like a dream. Pretty much any pen that you like the feel of should be good. Those erasable Frixion pens that Metroid Baby linked to sound pretty cool, though!
posted by ashirys at 7:02 AM on January 4, 2016

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