What pen (not fountain!) do you like to draw with?
February 1, 2016 7:57 AM   Subscribe

I'm in the market for an every day drawing pen. Details inside.

I have been doing a lot of design work (on paper, like a true Luddite) as well as cartooning and general drawing. The design work involves basic drawing, shading, as well as some following of templates. (Landscape/garden design, if it matters.)

I have recently started using Sharpie Extra Fines for their richness, permanence, clarity, consistency of line, and lack of smudgeability, but I don't like the 'drag' in feel as they move across the paper, and I don't like that I always seem to need to draw a little scratchy squiggle to get the ink flowing before I start drawing.

I also use Sakura Microns and those are pretty decent, but I'd like advice for others to try. I want a go-to everyday drawing pen. I'd prefer it not cost a ridiculous amount because I'll buy them in batches and inevitably wind up using them occasionally to write checks, but if there's a universal favorite I'll go with it.

I'm not looking for super fine--the Extra Fine Sharpie is about the right width, though if it went a little thinner it would be nice--but if more experienced people have a different opinion about optimal line size I'm interested in hearing about it.

For reference my favorite writing pen are the pilot G2s -- mainly for the smoothness.

Definitely not into fountain pens. Life is complicated enough as it is.
posted by A Terrible Llama to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
My dad does a lot of pen drawings and he uses mostly Microns and Staedtler pigment liners, I believe. (I barely draw but I also really like the Staedtler pens.)
posted by cheesegrater at 8:04 AM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Have you tried Le Pen? They look like this and you can find them pretty cheap at any art store. My boyfriend does a lot of pen drawings and he swears by them for everyday use. Le Pen also has a different series that's nicer with varying tip sizes.

If you want fancy, Copics are usually the go to.
posted by monologish at 8:08 AM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

lynda barry swears by the Uniball Vision Stick Roller Ball Pens, Fine Point, Black ink #60126.
posted by listen, lady at 8:09 AM on February 1, 2016

I like to use Rapidograph/Technical Pens. The Sakura Microns are sort of a copy of these style pens.

I've had a set of Koh-I-Noor pens & ink for years.

Radiographs are nice too because they're refillable, and you can use India Ink which is one of the most archival/permanent inks (certainly better than Sharpie and probably better than the Sakura Micron).

You absolutely cannot let the ink dry in this kind of pen!
posted by gregr at 8:13 AM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

All the designers I've worked with use Pentel Sign Pens. I've previously kept a secret supply of them to use as bribes when needed.
posted by greenish at 8:19 AM on February 1, 2016

The Uniball Signo Gel RT 0.7 ends up looking remarkably similar to the Micron 0.5. The width and the shade of black are about the same, and the Uniball is very smooth. It takes a little longer to dry than the Micron, and of course isn't archival, but is nice for everyday use and you can buy big boxes of them inexpensively.
posted by dayintoday at 8:39 AM on February 1, 2016

I like the Staedtler triplus fineliner okay. However it's not waterproof. Microns are picky about the angle at which you hold them. Rapidographs are fussy about getting clogged, at least they were in the 90s. Delightful otherwise though.
posted by Lou Stuells at 8:51 AM on February 1, 2016

I like the feel of writing and drawing with G2s but they're too smudgey for drawing on the fly. Supposedly Zebra Sarasas have some sort of special quick drying gel ink; I haven't done a side-by-side smudge test myself but they feel very similar to G2s, are nice to write with, and come in a clippy model for extra fidgety fun.
posted by yeahlikethat at 8:52 AM on February 1, 2016

Faber Castell PITT artist pens: S and XS. I use them for cartooning, find that they are smooth, satisfying, create lines that are full and saturated, and as an added bonus, they are waterproof (give them about 3 minutes to be safe), which means that, should you ever get the desire, you can do some watercoloring or water-markering right over em.
posted by mrmanvir at 9:09 AM on February 1, 2016

Uniball 4 life! I can't stand the feel of felt tips, personally. I thought it was like a weird quirk that these are the only pens I can draw with until I found out one of my friends who is a professional cartoonist swears by them. You can usually get them in bulk wherever office supplies are sold.
posted by rodlymight at 9:12 AM on February 1, 2016

Huge fan of the Ohto Graphic Liner. I especially like the wider ones, but it's nice to have all the sizes.
posted by kidbritish at 9:47 AM on February 1, 2016

2nding someone else's recommendation for the pitt artist pens from Faber Castell. The ink quality is superb, and they don't dry out as fast as the microns and they also withstand an eraser going over them a lot.

The staedtler pigment liners are good for their selection of sizes, but they are really prone to fading, and they smudge really badly if you use anything else like marker or watercolour over them.

I also really enjoy my copic multiliners for their longevity. I use them for tattoo design commissions because you can have people tracing over them,sketching over them and erasing, and generally being rough with the work and the ink will not move. The downside is that they are hard to find,generally.
posted by InkDrinker at 10:21 AM on February 1, 2016

Papermate Flair M
posted by misterbrandt at 11:13 AM on February 1, 2016

Microns and Pigment Liners have to be held too upright to avoid a scratchy feel in my experience. I prefer the tip feel of the PITT and the penultimately-tiny Copic. The PITT comes in a really nice charcoal and umber tone, and the Copic has replaceable nibs for when you bend one. However, it seems like you're after an even smoother feel, which might be in the Pentel Sign or Le Pen territory.

The other thing you could try is changing your paper type. Are you drawing on office paper, bumwad, or something else?
posted by a halcyon day at 11:26 AM on February 1, 2016

There's actually three varieties of pens from Copic. The Multiliners are similar to Micron pens, made of plastic and disposable. The Multiliner SPs have aluminum pen bodies and the both the ink cartridge and nibs are replaceable. They also have their drawing pens, which are basically disposable fountain pens.

Another pen to look out for are the Zig Memory System Millennium pens. They are similar to Microns. (There are at least three or four other brands of similar pens, but I haven't tried any of the others to recommend them at all.)
posted by jimw at 12:06 PM on February 1, 2016

Thanks everyone. I just ordered six of the ones that looked closest to what I'm looking for off Amazon.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:47 AM on February 2, 2016

My friend, I was once like you.
Well, I still very much am, as the quest for the perfect drawing gear is an ongoing one. But since posting that question and spending a bunch of time and money on Jetpens.com and in art supply stores, I have arrived at an everyday-carry set of pens for writing and drawing that I'm very happy with.
Of course, the degree to which any of these work for you will partly depend on what paper you're using, too. For me, medium-heavy weight paper with a smooth finish is super important. So with that caveat in mind...

TECHNICAL DRAWING PENS (uniform line), thick to thin:
- Pilot Bravo marker pen
- Uni Pin Pen, pigment ink, 03 (0.38mm)
- Uni Pin Pen, pigment ink, 01 (0.28mm)
- Derwent Graphik Line Maker, pigment ink, 0.05photo shown is sepia for some reason, but I use black.
(The Uni Pin series and Derwent Graphik Line Maker series are very similar to Sakura Pigma Microns, but I find the tips to be sturdier and the ink a little richer.)

BRUSH PENS (variable line), thick to thin:
- Pilot Pocket Brush Pen, soft
- Pilot Pocket Brush Pen, hard
- Zebra Disposable Brush Pen, fine
- Zebra Disposable Brush Pen, super fine

WHITE-INK PEN for corrections:
- Uni-ball Signo Broad UM-153 Gel Pen, white

- Uni-Ball Jetstream, 0.7mm — Just freakishly smooth.
- Uni-Ball Signo 207, 0.5mm — Somewhat similar to the Pilot G2, but with a finer and more controlled line.

posted by D.Billy at 5:39 AM on February 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

In late, but if you like drawing with a chunky Sharpie marker, give a Sakura Permapaque a try. I love them for filling in large black areas when I'm drawing. They go on very smoothly, which is essential for me, as I also hate scratchiness. They don't bleed through paper either, like Sharpies or other markers. It's full-on marker sized, however, so maybe not ideal.

As for pens, the champion for smooth and cheap, in my opinion, is the Pilot VBall extra fine. I've used it for nigh on 20 years and it's still the best for writing/sketching in my opinion.
posted by picea at 5:46 AM on February 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Totally an embarrassment of riches here.

I just ordered the Derwent Grafik, Uniball Jetstream, Vball Extra Fine, Sakura Permapaque.

I ordered last week, and received, Pitt pens (back order on those), Pentel sign pens, Copics, Le Pens, and Staedtler.

The sign pens are what I'm reaching for most but they're mostly for lettering/bolding. They have a nice feel and they're generous with ink without being sloppy.

It's actually kind of hard to be trying a lot of pens at once but I still feel like some sort of royalty with all these pens and I'm not sure--am I reaching for the Pentels because I have a case as opposed to just one jewel of a pen??? Are those Copics going unappreciated simply because of their rarity?

It's going to take a while to get to know them but I can say that that they're all pretty awesome in their own right and it's so cool to be able to pick a pen by the line it is going to draw--that alone is such a leap and luxury. Up to now, I've been rocking 'Sharpie fine versus Sharpie Extra Fine' (I still like Sharpies for the full rich color, but I like them best when I'm only using them for a sentence, max.)

Every once in a great while it's fun to be middle-aged. I could not have indulged this little exercise years ago.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:58 PM on February 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

I feel a little silly updating because I feel outclassed by a lot of these pens. Of the fancy pants ones, I haven't had a ton of time to compare (it turns out it's challenging to compare ten kinds of black pens.)

But that said, I've got go-tos:
For every day use, between the thin black Le Pens and the Pentel sign pens, that's what I'm using most along with Sharpies.

I liked the Staedtler for fine detail quite a bit but the Graphik set came in this absolutely awesome little snap case that's perfect for carrying around so I find myself using it a lot just because it's easy to carry them around in a set and I haven't really figured out my drawing pad/pencils/pens organizing principles for those moments when I really want a .05 line.

Anyway. This was so much fun. Thanks everyone.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:48 AM on March 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older Now that's DEEE-LUX!   |   View two parts of one PDF at once Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.