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 the kids use them for their doodle 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.

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.

Doodles with PITT brush pens and Sakura Gelly Rolls.

Doodles with PITT brush pens and Sakura Gelly Rolls.

Sakura Gelly Roll Pen

First, I should just say that I love Gelly Rolls. My kids love 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!

Sakura Glaze pen {raised, translucent ink} on the pink background of page 123 in my Art Doodle Love journal.

Sakura Glaze pen {raised, translucent ink} on the pink background of page 123 in my Art Doodle Love journal.

3x5" index card, Sakura Glaze pen, artwork by Tammy Garcia.

3x5" index card, Sakura Glaze pen, artwork 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.

I love Sakura Gelly Rolls so much that I made an entire Sakura Gelly Roll Reference Guide

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

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

5x8" drawing Moleskine, PITT artist pen, extra superfine, artwork by Tammy Garcia.

5x8" drawing Moleskine, PITT artist pen, extra superfine, artwork by Tammy Garcia.

5x8" watercolor Moleskine, PITT pen, face drawing practice {these are teeny tiny} by Tammy Garcia.

5x8" watercolor Moleskine, PITT pen, face drawing practice {these are teeny tiny} by Tammy Garcia.

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

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

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. 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, but if you are heavy handed you'll find these more sensitive to nib damage than PITT pens.

The Sakura Pigma Brush pens are offered in a smaller array of colors but those colors are all bold and intense. The nib is very sturdy. 

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

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

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

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

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Pilot Kaküno Fountain Pen

I only own a few fountain pens and this one is my favorite . 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. 

Here's a video about hand-lettering in white on an acrylic background in an art journal using the Uni-Ball Signo and the white Sakura Gelly Roll.

Here's a video about hand-lettering in white on an acrylic background in an art journal using the Uni-Ball Signo and the white Sakura Gelly Roll.

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.

What about white pens?

White Uni-Ball Signo UM-153 and White Sakura Gelly Rolls

These metal-nibbed gel ink pens have a consistent flow of opaque ink. The Uni-Ball has a wider nib; they both work on slightly uneven surfaces. These are my go-to pens for writing and drawing on dark backgrounds. Both look crisp on black acrylic paint too, so they are very useful in mixed media art journaling. The Uni-ball is slightly better, because it flows better on super uneven and glossy surfaces. 

Sharpie Water-Based Paint Markers

If you plan to write on dark backgrounds, you'll need a white opaque marker or a neon marker. These markers are opaque, sturdy and write on anything. Keep in mind that these lines are NOT THIN and elegant but bold. 

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. We always have these in our travel art kit!

Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils

And even though 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 these for drawing, doodling, making maps and mandalas. They are rich and saturated.

For more tips about art materials, see Art Journaling 102: Materials