Favorite Pens for Writing, Sketching, Doodling & Drawing

{fully revised January 2015}

Let's talk about pens, markers and colored pencils too. I draw every single day, because I feel better if I draw. It's a diversion and a challenge all wrapped into one.  These are my favorite pens for drawing on watercolor paper, drawing paper, in Moleskine watercolor/sketch/drawing journals, and on paper that has been painted with watercolor but has fully dried.

If you are looking for information about art journaling materials, check out Art Journaling 102.


Pitt Artist Pens Faber-Castell PITT artist pens have "pigmented India Ink that is permanent, waterproof, light-fast, orderless, acid-free and archival (pH neutral)" and they come in a bunch of nib sizes, from big brush (largest) to extra super fine (smallest). I like the extra superfine (XS) tip PITT pens in black, sanguine or sepia.

These pens are good for writing on paper, lettering, line work, doodling, mandalas and sketching. An inexpensive luxury. If you draw with them, you can watercolor immediately without the ink bleeding. I keep them in my backpack, purse, on the table. The brush nibbed PITT pens are good for "coloring in" your doodles. 

I like that the ink dries immediately to minimize smudging. The line is consistent and smooth. Brush nib PITT pens are popular with art journalists - they write on most surfaces and come in 48 colors. {Nib sizes: Brush, Medium = 0.8 mm, Fine = 0.6 mm, Superfine = 0.4 mm, Extra Superfine = 0.1 mm.}


Black PITT artist pen, extra superfine nib, watercolor paper

Sakura Gelly Roll Pens. These are gel pens that also dry quickly (but more slowly than PITT or Micron pens) and the lines do not bleed when painted with watercolor. My favorite for doodling is the black Gelly Roll. The ink in these pens flows smoothly and deliciously. [As an aside, I might mention that white gelly rolls are luscious on pages painted with dark acrylics.] Detailed review of Gelly Rolls.

Sakura Pigma Micron Pen. Microns are essential tools for writing, lettering, detailed line work, doodling, drawing mandalas, sketching. They come in several colors and tips, so they can draw finer lines than PITT pens. They dry immediately and are permanent so minimize smudging. More sensitive to nib damage than PITT pens.

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Black Sakura Gelly Roll on a background of gouache.

White Uni-Ball Signo UM-153 and White Sakura Gelly Rolls. Lovely flow and consistent on slightly uneven surfaces. Opaque. My go-to pens for writing and drawing on dark backgrounds. Looks lovely on black gesso, dark acrylic paint, dark watercolors. The Uni-ball is slightly better, because it flows better on super uneven and glossy surfaces. Read Waiting for Acrylics to Dry.


Black Sakura Gelly Roll & Prismacolor colored pencils on an index card

Sharpie Water-Based Paint Markers. If you plan to write on dark backgrounds, you'll need a white opaque marker or a neon marker. Opaque, sturdy and write on anything. Keep in mind that these lines are NOT THIN and elegant like the Uni-ball or the Gelly Roll above. But not Sharpie oil-based paint markers. They clog, drip, and smell bad!


Sharpie Ultra-Fine Point Markers. My daughters use these markers for drawing mandalas, doodling, drawing ribbons and sketching. There is bleed-through on thinner papers, but the color is vivid and saturated and the tips are sturdy. 

Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils. I like to "color in" doodles with colored pencils, although they tire my hands. My kids use these for drawing, doodling, making maps and mandalas. They are rich and saturated.

You might also like Ten Things to Draw to Improve Your Line Work.