Favorite Pens for Writing, Sketching, Doodling & Drawing

I draw every day, and I've tried a BOATLOAD of pens in order to find my beloved favorites. So I thought it would be helpful to share examples of my favorite drawing pens and go-to drawing tools. Here's how I draw: freehand on watercolor paper, plain Moleskine drawing paper and ordinary index cards. I also draw on painted acrylic art journal backgrounds and painted watercolor or gouache backgrounds so if a pen is a good fit for that, I've noted so below. 

With further ado, my favorite pens for writing, drawing, etc. Your mileage will definitely vary, because the way that you draw, the way that you hold your pen or the amount of pressure  you apply, all of that, will figure in.

PITT Artist Pen

If I could suggest one pen for your collection, it would be the Faber-Castell PITT Artist pen. PITT pens are my go-to pen. From the smallest nib up to the M {medium} nib, they are great 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 PITT pens {brush and big brush nibs} are good for varying your line widths, hand-lettering and "coloring in" your doodles. PITT pens are popular with art journalists - they write on most surfaces and come in 48 colors. I indulged in a huge set of PITT brush pens, and my daughters use them for their art.

A perfect way to figure out your favorite PITT pen nib? Get a kit with with every type of PITT pen nib in black. A very reasonable investment, about 15 bucks.

8x8" fabriano watercolor paper, PITT artist pen, superfine, artwork by Tammy Garcia.

8x8" fabriano watercolor paper, PITT artist pen, superfine, artwork by Tammy Garcia.

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. 

Reference for PITT pens for my pen-geek buddies! Nib size specs: Brush, Medium = 0.8 mm, Fine = 0.6 mm, Superfine = 0.4 mm, Extra Superfine = 0.1 mm.

5x8" Moleskine Journal, PITT Artist Pen, Extra Super fine, Artwork by Tammy Garcia

5x8" Moleskine Journal, PITT Artist Pen, Extra Super fine, Artwork by Tammy Garcia

5x8" watercolor Moleskine, PITT pen, Artwork by Tammy Garcia.

5x8" watercolor Moleskine, PITT pen, Artwork by Tammy Garcia.

Doodles with PITT brush pens and Sakura Gelly Rolls.

Doodles with PITT brush pens and Sakura Gelly Rolls.

Uni-Ball UM-153

A fantastic metal-nibbed gel ink pen with a lush, consistent flow of opaque black ink. The Uni-Ball UM-153 broad point 1mm nib writes on uneven surfaces, including acrylic paint and collaged backgrounds - excellent for art journalists. Above, "Every Picture Tells a Story" is written with this pen. The white version is excellent as well, described below.

5x8" Moleskine Journal, PITT pen, Uni-Ball UM 153, PITT Big Brush Markers, Artwork by Tammy Garcia.

5x8" Moleskine Journal, PITT pen, Uni-Ball UM 153, PITT Big Brush Markers, Artwork by Tammy Garcia.

Sakura Gelly Roll Pen

First, I should just say that I love Gelly Rolls. My kids love Gelly Rolls. I devised an entire Guide to Gelly Rolls! They are metal-nibbed gel ink pens that come in a wide array of colors and even sparkles and neons and metallics. While PITT pens {above} are more concise and fine, Gelly Rolls have a juicy line and are pure FUN FACTOR. The ink dries more slowly than PITT or Micron pens. When dry, you can paint over the lines with watercolor or gouache or whatever. My favorite for doodling is the black Gelly Roll. The ink in these pens flows smoothly and consistently and they can write on acrylic painted backgrounds, even if they are slightly uneven, like collaged papers. We always have these in our travel art kit!

Lined notebook, Sakura Gelly Roll, lettering by Tammy Garcia.

Lined notebook, Sakura Gelly Roll, lettering by Tammy Garcia.

Sakura Glaze Pen

Glaze pens are not typical drawing pens - they are more likely to be used for adding color inside the lines. These metal-nibbed gel ink pens come in about 10-12 colors; the ink is raised, translucent, even shiny. Even more FUN than Gelly Rolls. You'll either love them or hate them, that's my bet. The ink dries fairly slowly and so they are easy to smudge if you smash your drawing hand along the lines. The ink rolls out of these unique pens smoothly like thick ink.

3x5" index card, SakURA Glaze Pen, Artwork by Tammy Garcia

3x5" index card, SakURA Glaze Pen, Artwork by Tammy Garcia

Sakura Glaze pen on the pink background of page 123 in my Art Doodle Love journal.

Sakura Glaze pen on the pink background of page 123 in my Art Doodle Love journal.

Sakura Pigma Micron Pen

Microns are essential tools for writing, lettering, detailed line work, doodling, and sketching. They come in a bunch of colors and nib sizes, and the 005, for example, draws finer lines than the smallest nibbed PITT pens. Microns have a fiber nib with a tiny metal shaft. They dry immediately and are permanent so this helps to minimize smudging. These are extremely good quality pens, be aware that if you are heavy handed and apply a lot of pressure when you draw, you'll find these more sensitive to nib damage than PITT pens. 

5x8" Moleskine drawing journal, Sakura microns, artwork by Tammy Garcia.

5x8" Moleskine drawing journal, Sakura microns, artwork by Tammy Garcia.

What about white pens?

White Uni-Ball Signo UM-153

This is a metal-nibbed gel ink pen with a lush, consistent flow of opaque white ink. The Uni-Ball UM-153 is my favorite white pen!!! It writes on uneven surfaces, including acrylic paint and collaged backgrounds - a major plus for art journalists. This pen and the next are my go-to pens for writing and drawing on dark backgrounds. 

3x5" index card divider, white Uni-Ball Signo UM-153 on gouache background, artwork by Tammy Garcia.

3x5" index card divider, white Uni-Ball Signo UM-153 on gouache background, artwork by Tammy Garcia.

White Sakura Gelly Roll

Another solid metal-nibbed gel ink pen with a consistent flow of opaque ink is the white Sakura Gelly Roll. This pen has a smaller nib and draws a finer line than the Uni-Ball above; they both work on slightly uneven surfaces. On the page below, I used the UM-153 on the left corner and the white Gelly Roll on the vertical writing on the center of the page. 

Sharpie Water-Based Paint Marker

To make marks on dark backgrounds, you'll need a white opaque marker or a neon marker, for sure. The Sharpie Water-Based paint marker draws a THICK white opaque bold line. These markers are fiber-nibbed, sturdy, and write on just about anything. These are great for making polka dots. 

Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils

Although I'm talking pens & markers, colored pencils have a very important role in drawing! I like to add color to doodles with colored pencils, although they tire my hands. My kids use Prismacolor Premiere for drawing, doodling, making maps and mandalas. They are rich and saturated. We love the metal boxes and these rainbowy delightful pencils make a stunning gift. 

3x5 index card divider, black Sakura Gelly Roll, Prismacolor colored pencils.

3x5 index card divider, black Sakura Gelly Roll, Prismacolor colored pencils.

Pilot Kaküno Fountain Pen

The Pilot Kaküno is a delicious pen. The lines are smooth and consistent and the pen is a lovely weight and size. My husband brought them back from a business trip to Tokyo and they are now part of my regular repertoire. Here's my review of this Japanense pen, with photographs of the packaging, the pen, the cartridge, etc. 

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