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. I draw most often on watercolor paper, Moleskine drawing paper and 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. 

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, the type of paper you use, even the humidity in your work space... all of that will figure in. 

 3x5" index card, PITT pen XS, gouache.

3x5" index card, PITT pen XS, gouache.

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. These are fiber-nibbed pens with pigmented ink that is resistant to water - so you can draw and then use watercolor or gouache over the lines and they'll remain intact. They do not bleed and are a reliable and consistent go-to pen.

For drawing or writing, go for the XS {extra super fine .1mm} or S {super fine .3mm} or M {medium .7mm} nib. Great for writing on paper, lettering, line work, doodling, mandalas and sketching on anything from index cards to watercolor paper. They do not bleed. These pens are an inexpensive luxury and I'm never without one!! I keep them in my backpack, purse, on the table. Faber-Castell PITT artist pens have "pigmented India Ink that is permanent, waterproof, light-fast, orderless, acid-free and archival (pH neutral)."

I use brush nibbed PITT pens {brush, soft brush and big brush} to add color or draw patterns. For "coloring in" doodles, I suggest the standard B brush nibs because they can be used to fill small or medium areas and come in 48 colors. I indulged in a huge set of PITT brush pens, and my daughters use them for their art. For extremely BOLD lines, yet still brush nib, go for the Big Brush nibs. To see the Big Brush nibs in action, check out my Bold Doodle Patterns tutorial.

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.

There are a few other PITT pens, like the Calligraphy, Chisel, Bullet, and 1.5, but my favs are above. 

 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

The next pen on the hit parade is 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 - extremely useful and beloved by art journalists. The right side of this Moleskine page "Every Picture Tells a Story" is written with this pen. The white version is excellent as well, described below.

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

5x8" Moleskine Journal, XS 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} draw a more concise line, Gelly Rolls have a more flowy, juicy line and have a super duper 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.

Pilot Hi-Tec C Pens

If you LOVE extremely fine-line metal nibbed pens, you will love the Pilot Hi-Tec C. They come in a rainbow assortment of 10 colors and draw an elegant .25, .3 or .4mm line. These are bright and colorful, but not at all bold. So if you are looking for a bold line this is not your pen. The pen draws a smooth and consistent line. The yellow is pretty light, so it can be difficult to read. You can also find these at Jet Pens. The lines on the gridded journal below are .3mm.

Pilot Hi-Tec C pens

Sakura Glaze Pen

Glaze pens are a unique type of marker, like nothing else. These metal-nibbed gel ink pens come in 10-12 colors; the ink has a slight texture and when dry it is raised, translucent, even shiny. You'll either love them or hate them, that's my bet. You'll need to draw a bit more slowly than with typical gel pens, and the payoff is lush color. With this nib size you can make beautiful dots too! The ink dries slowly and so they are easy to smudge if you smash your drawing hand along the lines. 

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

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

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. 

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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