Good drawing pens for artists have seen a remarkable upsurge in popularity recently! With all of the new brands and new pens on the market, along with all of the established ones, how can you possibly find a really good drawing pen for your own needs and art? I’ve tried lots and lots of them, and have put this buyer’s guide together to help you do just that.
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Table of Contents
Many people attribute the popularity of artist pens to the similarly high popularity of manga comics – fine line ink pens are especially popular with cartoon artists – but in fact manga originated over 200 years ago, and has been ultra-popular for decades now, as have western comics.
So yes, there are a lot of people doing that kind of art, and this at least contributes to the huge popularity of drawing pens, but I think it is more due to the fact that drawing pens as they exist today are, well, fantastic – with rich, flowing pigment, precise and varied sizes of tips, ease and controllability in use and consistently beautiful results.
In this article we’ll try to answer some basic questions, like:
- What are the best pens for drawing?
- What are the best pens for sketching?
- What are the best Japanese ink pens?
- What is a pigment liner?
- Is a fountain pen good for sketching and drawing?
- What is the best fountain pen for artists?
- What is the best brush pen for artists?
- What is the best brush pen for drawing and sketching?
I’ve also just posted two related articles, so please check those out as well:
What Makes Good Drawing Pens?
I am tempted to say that there are only two really important things that the best art pens must have – flow and control.
A pen that lays ink down on the page with great flow, in consistently solid and beautiful lines, is a joy to use, and you can really just drop into the creative zone without worrying about clogging, sputtering, faded, inconsistent or broken lines or any other problems.
And a pen that has a good tip, with ideal shape, firmness and durability, makes anything you see easier to realize and anything you try to do possible. Controlling a pen with a great tip and good flow is easy, allowing for precise detail, broad expressive gestures and a wide range of techniques. The best pens for artists provide a consistency and reliability which makes the creative process nicer and more productive, and can make you feel more confident and capable, and even more inspired.
Of course there’s more to it than that – price and value, quality of ink, feel in the hand, fit and finish, long term durability and other things – but if a drawing pen has good flow and is nicely and precisely controllable you are pretty well set. Anyway, with every pen I recommend in this buyer’s guide, all those other factors will be there too, and at the very highest levels (well, hopefully not the price!).
What Types of Drawing Pens Are There?
Although there are lots and lots of different kinds of artist pens out there, there are three specific types which are so popular with artists and crafters right now: pigment liners, brush pens and fountain pens. So let’s talk a little about each of these most popular and useful art pens:
A precise and high quality drawing pen with excellent archival-quality, fade resistant, pigment ink, these pens have a range of very specific and exact tip sizes, from very small and fine to, well, still pretty small and fine. These are probably the most popular ink pens on the market today for any and all kinds of drawing and sketching, cartoon and comic book art and more, as well as engineering and technical drawing. Mostly in black ink, they are also sometimes available in different colors.
Highly expressive ink pens with a tip that resembles a paint brush and is often even made of the same type of natural or high quality synthetic bristles. Extremely flexible, the best brush pens allow you to do fine detail as well as broad strokes, and are super responsive to changes in angle and pressure. Generally offered in variety packs with a range of colors, brush pens are also sometimes available with just black ink.
Beautiful old-school pens with split metal nibs and ink inserts which, once you can get the hang of them, are perhaps the best choice for calligraphy and many kinds of illustration, and can also do a stunningly beautiful job with any type of drawing. Although you can get different colored ink for fountain pens, black ink is the standard choice, and by far the most widely used for drawing as well as for pretty much any other purpose.
There are, of course, lots of other pens suitable for drawing, including good ballpoint pens, roller balls, gel pens and colored markers of various sizes and types, but I often see that serious artists (and a lot of not-so-serious ones as well) tend to focus on and use brush pens, pigment liners and/or fountain pens for their work, and so shall we. Anyway, just ballpoint pens alone could take up at least one separate article – well, maybe soon…
If I had my preference (which I apparently do) and could set up the truly ideal range of art tools (which I sometimes think I am very close to doing), as far as artist pens go I would definitely want a good set of black pigment liners, for fine work, precise detail, all kinds of techniques and a really wide spectrum of expressive possibilities, and at least a good selection of colored brush pens. But I also love my fountain pens, and for certain work – like special invitations, announcements, menus and other paper products, and for the finest lettering and calligraphy, I wouldn’t want to be without them.
How Can You Find the Best Drawing Pen for Your Art?
All of the factors and qualities I mentioned above as being important to have in the best pens for drawing and sketching are things I myself really look for when selecting a new drawing pen, and all of the recommendations I’ll make here will take them into account.
Whether you are looking for the finest fountain pen, need a new set of really good pigment liners, want to really express yourself with nice new brush pens, or simply want to find the best ink pen of any type for your work, any of the choices below will offer the best quality, performance, control, feel and creative flow, and will also represent not just the best choice for their particular type and price range, but the best value as well.
I will include separate sections for the best pigment liners, the best brush pens and the best fountain pens, with several recommendations for each, but here are my top picks:
Overview: Best Drawing Pens in 2021
Best Pigment Liners for Sketching and Drawing
Best Brush Pen for Sketching and Drawing
Best Fountain Pens for Sketching and Drawing
- Faber-Castell E-motion EF Fountain Pen - Pure Silver
High-quality stainless steel nib in width M (medium)
Equipped with a cartridge/converter system
At the end of the article, in the Bonus section, I will talk a little about the best paper to use with artist pen. But now let’s get into the fantastic world of pen and ink, and find the best pens on the market today for drawing, sketching, crafting, technical drawing, illustration and any other creative work.
Best Pigment Liners for Drawing
Copic Multiliner Pigment Liners
- Copic Multiliner Pigment Liners
- Copic Multiliner SP College Set
Copic Markers 9-Piece Multiliner Inking Pen Set B-2, Black
Set A - Copic Multiliner SP in 0.25 mm, 0.35 mm, and 0.5 mm widths, 1 refill cartridge, 1 attachment for compass, 1 push pencil (HB 0.5 mm) including 15 spare leads, and 1 eraser
Copic is quite probably the most respected brand on the market today when it comes to pigment liners and art markers, and the brand most professionals use, and when you actually hold a Copic Multiliner in your hand and begin to draw with it you immediately understand why.
Solid black pigment flows onto the paper with ease and evenness from a tip so perfectly shaped, and of such ideal firmness, that you feel as if you can do anything, express yourself however you feel, capture any image or idea that you see in your mind’s eye. With refillable pigment based, fade resistant archival ink, precise fine nibs, lifetime aluminum bodies and refillable reservoirs, the Copic Multiliners get everything just right.
There is something about perfectly designed artist tools that really frees the artist and brings the process, and the art, to a whole new level. Now, many of these items are outlandishly expensive – and well worth it – but to find a really ideal art tool at such a low price, that works so well and feels so good and intuitive when you’re using it, is amazing.
That said, the Copic Multiliners are not the cheapest art pens on the market. But they are nonetheless a supreme value, and probably the best pigment liners for sketching and drawing available today.
Staedtler Fineliner Pigment Liners
While we might easily consider the Copic Multiliner ink pens as a great value, they are still somewhat pricey compared to other pigment liners out there. This is of little concern considering how most of those cheaper pens perform compared to the Copic, but I do want to mention one alternative which comes very close to the Copic standard, but for significantly less money and in a bigger, more versatile set.
The Staedtler Pigment Liner professional art pens are wonderful to use. They produce even, solid black lines which are totally controllable and always come out crisp and clear. They feel right in the hand – like they were designed by working artists – and are a joy to use.
While they are not refillable, like the Copic, they seem to last a long, long time, and the quality of their archival pigment based, fade resistant ink never changes over the life of the pen, just as the appearance and beauty of the ink is consistent from pen to pen, from wet to dry and from set to set. The nibs are precise and offer both fine control and good expressivity, and the basic set has 12 (!) different nib sizes, from 0.05 mm to 2.0 mm.
For any kind of drawing, for fast rough sketching, for incredibly fine and complex detail and for large and dramatic gestures, for calligraphy, for illustration and graphic embellishment, for archival journaling, for anything you can imagine, the Staedtler Pigment Liner is outstanding, and represent the best value I’ve ever found in pigment liners for artists.
Sakura Pigma Micron Pigment Liners
While the Copic Multiliners are the de facto choice of so many western artists, we could say the same thing about the Sakura Pigma Micron pigment liners in Asia, where they are probably used by more comic book artists – and all other types of commercial and fine artists – than all other brands combined.
The Sakura Pigma Micron pens are surprisingly inexpensive too. For quite an affordable price you can get an 8 pen set of fine line markers, with tips from .2mm to 2.0mm and one brush tip, which are the perfect shape and consistency for any type of drawing, sketching or illustration, calligraphy and even just writing and journaling. And they are filled with superior black ink – solid and beautiful, archival quality, fade resistant and pigment based, and as rich and pure dry as it is wet.
I sometimes mention in my buyer’s guides which product is my favorite, or the one I use most often, but it’s honestly really tough here. I mean, I am using high quality fine line black pigment pens more and more often, and I probably use Copic Mulitliners the most often, but I might be tempted to admit that the pens I love the most are the Sakura Pigma Micron pens.
I’m providing links to two different sets here. The first Sakura Pigma Micron set is the one I mentioned above, with 7 microliners and 1 brush tip, and the second link will lead to a set of 6 brush tip pigment pens, with 2 each of small, medium and large tips. These will allow for new levels of expressivity and different kinds of techniques, and for the most range (and the most fun) you might want to consider getting both sets.
rOtring Tikky Pigment Liner & Faber Castell Pigment Wallet
- rOtring Tikky Graphic Pigment Liner Black Ink 7 Pen Set
Technical Drawing Pen Fibre Tip Fineliner Pen Black Ink - 7 Pen Set 0.1/0.2/0.3/0.4/0.5/0.7/0.8 mm
I wanted to quickly point out a couple of other excellent sets of pigment liners. These are pens I haven’t used myself, but I have heard nothing but good about both of them from other artists and some of my students, and feel confident recommending either set.
Both have pigment based archival ink, just like the sets above, and come in a range of 7 or 8 tip sizes respectively. And, of course, they come from two of the most respected names in the art world: rOtring and Faber-Castell.
Best Brush Pen for Drawing and Sketching
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Faber Castell Pitt Brush Pens
With an extraordinary range of lovely colors and exceptionally expressive and durable tips, it’s natural that so many artists who use the Faber Castell Pitt India ink brush pens love them so much and recommend them so highly. But I think that the most important, and wonderful, thing about these professional quality drawing pens, and what makes them the best for any artist, is their permanence – colors will look as good dry as they did wet, and will maintain that intensity and beauty for years and years.
A great brush pen to work with, with unmatched control and expressive range and essentially archival quality fine art results, the Faber Castell Pitt is the best brush pen for drawing and sketching that I know, my top recommendation and one of my favorite artist tools.
Sakura Archival Brush Pens
From the same company which brought one of our top recommendations for best pigment liners, the Sakura archival brush pens are similarly beloved by, and extremely popular with, artists all over the world, and have a feel and a flow which really separates them from other brush pens, and represents exactly what we would want from the best premium brush pen for artists.
Beautiful colors, long life, a great feeling in the hand and against the paper, and true archival ink, which is fade resistant, will remain vivid, true and beautiful for years – these are wonderfully useful and fun pens, and it is easy to see why they are so highly esteemed among working artists. One of the best brush pens available today, both in colors and black ink, and a fantastic value.
Ok, I can’t resist! While we’re on the subject of Sakura, they also make a range of brush pens called “Koi.” Not only do I love the name, I also love, love love using these pens! Maybe not of the same incredibly high quality as their professional Archival brush pen, the Sakura Koi are a lot better than other similarly priced brush pens, with great tips and absolutely amazing colors. Sometimes it is about just having fun, and the Koi are tons of fun, but it is also extremely good brush pen for drawing, sketching or anything else and I strongly recommend this range.
Tombow Dual Brush Pens
- Tombow Multi-Color Dual Brush Pens
- Tombow Dual Brush Pens Primary Colors
- Tombow Dual Brush Pens Bright Colors
- Tombow Dual Brush Pens Pastel Colors
Water-based pens ideal for coloring, fine art, illustrations, doodling, journaling, hand lettering and more;
96 colors, including a colorless blender, and a desk stand
Primary, 10-Pack. Blendable, Brush and Fine Tip Markers
Bright, 10-Pack. Blendable, Brush and Fine Tip Markers
Pastel, 10-Pack. Blendable, Brush and Fine Tip Markers
An incredibly well-respected producer of art supplies, and a first choice among top level professional artists, Tombow as a company is well over a hundred years old and, if anything, their products seem to get better and better as time goes on.
One of the best examples of this is their dual brush pen, which is the best of their type available, and an absolute joy to use. The two-tip design provides an excellent nylon brush tip, with great control and responsiveness to a wide range of gestures, and a more precise fine tip for details and precision. And the ink is just beautiful, dries well and has exceptionally high permanence. A premium quality set of brush pens for sketching, drawing and a lot more, and suitable for artists, crafters and illustrators – from beginners to the very highest level. Highly recommended!
Best Fountain Pens for Drawing and Sketching
Faber Castell E-Motion Fountain Pen
High-quality stainless steel nib in width M (medium)
Equipped with a cartridge/converter system
There are definitely lots and lots of much more expensive fountain pens out there, and some are truly glorious works of art in their own right, but it is hard to imagine a pen that more perfectly combines truly luxurious premium fit and finish with natural and organic feeling in the hand than the Faber-Castell E-Motion pen.
With an extraordinarily expressive nib that offers consistent flow, complete control and responsiveness and a really wonderful feeling on the paper, the E-Motion is a nearly perfect drawing pen, which makes any technique or style easier and more enjoyable. If you have already mastered the subtle art of the fountain pen, the E-Motion will take you to new heights, and if you are just learning it will encourage you with ease and with beautiful results.
For my money, the Faber-Castell E-Motion is the best fountain pen for drawing and sketching on the market today, and especially in the pure silver edition is an extraordinarily beautiful and special pen – a glorious gift for yourself or somebody you love!
And for a complete kit, you might want to consider getting the two additional nibs, in smaller and larger sizes:
Kaweco Al Sport Raw M Fountain Pen
Part of the attraction of fountain pens is surely the luxury and the special feeling you get just having one in your possession, and in your hand. While lots of companies try to capture this super-premium essence in mid-priced pens, many end up feeling forced, like lightweight copies of the real thing.
The Kaweco Al Sport, however, is the real thing – a truly original piece which pays hommage to the great tradition of pen design without copying anybody. The result is a pen which looks fresh and new and yet solid and traditional, and which feels absolutely extraordinary in the hand when you’re drawing.
And the drawing itself is extraordinary, with a soft and responsive nib that still allows for razor sharp detail and precise control, but flows with lovely ease, allowing an unprecedented range of techniques and expressivity.
A relatively inexpensive pen that is truly premium in every way, the Kaweco Al Sport is the best value I have found, and easily one of the best fountain pens at any price for drawing and sketching.
rOtring ArtPen Fountain Pen
For a fountain pen that costs around 30 dollars to be included in a section that also recommends outstanding and special pens like the E-Motion and the Al Sport, this in itself says so much about the rOtring ArtPen – but mainly that it too is really special and outstanding.
With a very fine nib, the rOtring is especially well suited for drawing, and fine detail, precise control and lots of specific drawing techniques in particular. And at the same time, the nib is expressive enough, and has such an easy and controllable flow, allowing for more bold and expressive gestures as well as ease in filling in larger areas or creating heavier and darker lines and objects.
Great ink, an optimal nib for drawing, a wonderful and natural feeling in the drawing hand, premium fit and finish and real material quality – this is way more than I would have ever expected in such an affordable pen, but the rOtring ArtPen has it all, and is easily the best budget fountain pen on the market today for drawing, sketching, calligraphy and all kinds of art.
Bonus: What is the Best Paper for Drawing Pens?
Best Paper for Practice with Drawing Pens
Best Paper for Finished Art Pieces with Drawing Pens
- Arches Cold Press 300 Pound Watercolor Paper
- Arches Watercolor Paper Block, Hot Press, 9" x 12", 140 Lb
- L’Aquarelle Canson Heritage Hot Press Watercolor Paper 140 Lb
22 x 30 Inches, 300 lb, Off White, 5 Sheets
Great for both wet and dry techniques
Hot Pressed Paper for Watercolors
140 lb / 300GSM, 9" x 12", 20 Sheets
Hot Pressed Watercolor Paper
9x12 12 Sheets | Made from 100% Cotton
Best Notebooks and Journals for Drawing Pens
- Menorah Artist Sketch Book
- Strathmore Bristol Smooth 300 Series Visual Journal
- Daler-Rowney Ebony Artist’s Hardback Sketch Book A4
A3 - Hard Case Bound - Drawing Notebook, 100 Pages/50 Sheets,180 GSM - (± 17 x 12 Inches = 42.0 cm x 29.7 cm) - Portrait
9"x12" Smooth, Wire Bound, 28 Sheets
150gsm - 62 Pages - A4 Portrait, Acid Free Paper
Different types of paper are good for different purposes – paper with some tooth, or texture may be better for painting, but not so good for drawing (or even sometimes for painting complex images or in very fine detail). A very smooth paper may be great for detail, for smooth and controllable lines with a pen or pencil and for complex subjects, but may not really pull paint off of a brush in a satisfactory way.
There is, however, one fairly universal truth, that heavier paper is better. Well, ok, there are a ton of exceptions to that truth too, but it is pretty universal, if I might be indulged in such inelegant semantics. Did I use “semantics” correctly there?
What were we talking about? Oh yeah, paper. With fine quality pigment ink, which will produce archival quality images that are fade resistant and won’t degrade over time, it is best to get a very high quality heavy paper which has the same ability to last over time – and which anyway just makes your artwork look and feel better.
And for fountain pens, pigment ink fine-liners and even the best brush pens I do recommend a smooth paper. The paper doesn’t need tooth to pull ink from the tip or nib of a good drawing pen, and smooth surfaces will, again, allow better control, more precise detail and a trouble-free overall creative experience. This can include something like a good smooth bristol, which is tailor made for drawing, or for an even more luxurious look and feel a hot pressed premium watercolor paper.
Even practice paper should have these basic qualities, and for a couple of important reasons. First, you don’t want your experience while practicing (or even while making rough sketches) to be noticeably different from when you’re drawing finished art pieces. And second it is nice to have even your practice pieces look as good as possible, which is really encouraging and will prime you to continue and try new and different things, and which will also give you a better idea of the effect and effectiveness of what you’re doing or trying.
Keeping all that in mind, I will list out a couple of my favorite brands, which I use most frequently and always get wonderful results from. These are what I would consider the best papers available today for drawing with ink pens, whether they are fountain pens, pigment ink liners, ballpoint, rollerball or gel pens, or pretty much any other variety.
Thanks for reading this article – Best Pens for Sketching and Drawing: A 2021 Buyer’s Guide – and make sure to check out my two related articles, on the Best Artist Pencils for Sketching and Drawing and the Best Mechanical Pencils for Sketching and Drawing. And please also visit my blog – Art Side of Life – for tons of other inspiring ideas, resources, articles, buyer’s guides and a lot more!
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