Whether you're a professional illustrator or a dabbling painter, shopping for new art supplies is an exciting experience. Each type of medium holds a myriad of untapped possibilities for creative projects. A set of drawing pencils and a fresh sketchbook will help you begin your artistic journey, but the right pen may be the tool to bring your idea to life.
Unlike markers or colored pencils, pens can offer precision and consistent linework to artists that specialize in intricate details. Their affordability and fast drying time also allow for higher production than working with paint. That is why they are one of the most popular mediums among illustrators. However, there's more to pens than your typical ballpoint. You'll find that there's a pen made for almost every type of linework, including calligraphy, sketching, cartooning, drafting, and more.
With so many options available, choosing the ideal set of pens can be a bit overwhelming. That is why it's important to learn about the different types of pens and what each of them can do for your art. Once you've tried your hand at a few different inking ventures, you can even mix and match different kinds of pens to create new kinds of effects.
Different Types of Pens
Like any creative tool, pens come in a variety of categories. As you begin searching for the ideal utensil, it's helpful to consider what you want your pen to do for you—there are some that will help you produce consistent, even lines, and others that will add a flourish to your lettering. Here is a quick breakdown of the common types of pens:
- Ballpoint pens are perhaps the most practical and popular modern pens. Their revolutionary design channels thick, oil-based ink through a steel tip that “rolls” over the writing surface. Although ballpoint pens are most often used in note taking and journaling, some artists use them to make incredibly detailed illustrations as they are an affordable and long-lasting tool.
- Rollerball pens are similar to ballpoints, but instead of oil-based ink, they use gel or water-based ink. As a result, rollerballs produce “wet ink” that is more similar to the fountain pen.
- Gel pens are a great tool for crafters. The gel ink has a high viscosity and comes in a variety of colorful inks that are great decorative additions to any multimedia project. And, like ballpoints and rollerballs, gel pens allow for fine, controlled linework.
- Fountain pens are based on traditional dip pens and are defined mostly by their varying nibs. Writers and calligraphers trend towards these pens for their expressive, flourishing lines. Although some of the better fountain pens may come with a greater initial cost, they are often refillable and can be used in conjunction with a variety of permanent and non-permanent inks.
- Felt-tip pens are essentially finer markers and have the same porous tip made from pressed felt fibers. Although they are not a popular option for writers, artists and coloring book enthusiasts enjoy felt-tips for their bold strokes and variety of colors.
- Brush pens are ideal tools for achieving a bold application of ink. Their unique nib can be made from natural hair bristles or synthetic nylon and mimics the effects of a brush. These pens are especially popular with calligraphers and illustrators.
- Technical drawing pens, or drafting pens, are the artistic tool preferred by architects, engineers, illustrators, and anyone else who depends on precise and consistent lines. They typically feature needle-point tips in assorted widths, such as 0.5 mm and 1.0 mm—making them ideal for any detailed linework.
- Dip pens feature a handle made from wood, metal, or plastic and a unique metal nib. As their name suggests, dip pens do not contain ink reservoirs inside them, and instead must be dipped into an inkwell. Dip pens often come with a variety of different nibs that allow for specific linework and are popular tools for cartoonists, illustrators, and calligraphers.
Our Picks for the Best Drawing and Journaling Pens
Now that you're acquainted with the different types of pens, it's time to brainstorm which of these utensils would best complement your creative project. Even though there are hundreds of pens designed for unique purposes, don't be afraid to experiment. Part of the fun in acquiring art supplies is seeing how they can bring out a new side to your art.
Before you begin your next creative project, check out our list of best drawing and journaling pens, below.
Fiskars Gel Pen Set of 48
Searching for a pen set that can draw the rainbow? This gel pen set by Fiskars features 48 vibrant colors, including neon, glitter, metallic, even two-color blends. Use them on dark paper and multimedia projects for a decorative touch.
Pilot V-Ball Liquid Ink Pen
Pilot is known for its dependable pens. The V-Ball rollerball pen features an advanced ink feed system that will help you write journal entries effortlessly.
Pentel Arts Stylo Sketch Pen
The Pentel sketch pen features a flexible nib that can create both fine lines and broad strokes. It uses water-based, black dye ink that is ideal for expressive drawing, cartoons, and calligraphy.
Sakura Pigma Micron Fine Line Set of 10 (100th Anniversary Edition)
Almost every artist is familiar with Sakura‘s renowned Pigma Micron pens. These drafting pens come in an array of nib sizes that will help you perform both intricate and bold linework. Pigma ink does not feather or bleed through paper, and is fade-proof against sunlight and UV light.
Faber-Castell Ecco Pigment Pen
The Faber-Castell pigment pen can do it all. Whether you're drawing or writing, its fine metal nib provides stable precise linework that can be used on a variety of papers, including transparent.
Artline Drawing Pen Set of 4
Artline Drawing Pens is another technical pen set. Their nibs are reinforced by metal, making them great utensils to use with rulers and templates. Plus, Artline's ink is water-resistant and fade-proof.
Windsor & Newton FineLiner Pens Set of 5
Winsor & Newton art supplies are synonymous with quality. Their series of Fineliners is ideal for sketching, drawing, and writing. They also feature water-resistant, fade-proof pigment ink.
Rotring Isograph Technical Drawing Pens Set of 3
For precise linework, one has to look no further than rOtring‘s Isograph Technical Drawing Pens. The College Set is made for architects and includes 3 refillable pens with stainless steel nibs that will hold up to rulers and templates.
Pentel Arts Hybrid Technica Set of 5
The Pentel Arts Hybrid Technica Pen uses ballpoint technology and acid-free, water-resistant, archival ink. These pens provide smooth and consistent linework that is great for sketching, drawing, and manga art.
Pilot EasyTouch Refillable Ballpoint Pen Set of 12
Looking for a pen that will help you glide through schoolwork and double as a hardy drawing tool? Well, Pilot‘s retractable ballpoint pen can do just that and more. Choose the set of 12 to ensure you always have a pen ready to go.
Stabilo Color Parade Felt-Tip Pens Set of 20
Sometimes markers just don't make the cut when it comes to coloring intricate drawings. That's where Stabilo‘s Felt-Tip Pens come in. Their set of 20 pens comes in a convenient case that folds into a stand-up easel. And their odorless, water-based ink does not bleed through paper.
Kuretake Brush Pen
The Kuretake Brush Pen features a tip made of natural, sable hairs and water-resistant pigment ink. Not only is this brush pen great for expressive lettering, but it can also produce detailed line strokes in illustrations.
Kuretake ai Liner Ultra Fine Brush Pen
Modeled after cosmetic eyeliner, the Kuretake ai Liner Brush Pen offers precise linework—ideal for comics and manga. Additionally, it uses a black, water-based ink that is water-resistant and won't smudge or bleed once dry.
Pentel Pocket Brush Pen
Pentel‘s Pocket Brush Pen is a small but powerful tool. Its flexible nib allows you to alternate between fine and broad lines with a single brushstroke.
Rotring Fountain Pen
The right pen can enhance even mundane activities. Cue Rotring‘s Fountain Pen—this utensil combines the balance and nib of a quill pen with the utility and practicality of a fountain pen. Use it for calligraphy, journaling, and even illustration.
Speedball Dip Pen Cartooning Set
Some artists swear by dip pens. If you want to see what this expressive tool can do for you, Speedball‘s Cartooning set is a good place to start. This kit includes 2 plastic holders and 6 unique metal nibs to help you draw all types of linework.