Artists have a wide variety of pens to choose from when it comes to drawing and sketching. From fine-tip pens to brush pens, there is a pen out there that is perfect for every type of artist. In this review, we will be exploring the different types of art pens available on the market, as well as the best drawing pens for artists of all levels.
Disclaimer: Fine Art Tutorials is a reader supported site. When you make purchases through links on this site, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Liner pens, also known as technical pens, are perfect for artists who need precision in their drawings. These pens have a fine tip that allows for thin lines and small details. Liner pens are available in a variety of widths, from very thin to medium thin. They can also be found in different colours, although black is the most common colour used by artists.
The best brands of liner pens are Pigma Micron and the Copic Multiliner. Copic liners come in ultrafine tips, from 0.03 to 0.8 mm nibs. The ink is refillable in the Copic Multiliner pens. Pigma Micron pens are made from high quality pigment ink and are archival quality. The other advantage of Pigma Micron pens is that they don’t bleed through papers. Both of these brands make highly pigmented and professional quality pens, the main differences are that Micron pens are cheaper and Copic Fineliner pens are refillable.
Brush pens are a popular choice among artists because they offer a lot of versatility. These pens have a soft, brush-like tip that can be used to create both thick and thin lines. Brush pens come in both water-based and alcohol-based ink. Most water-based inks are water soluble. Alcohol-based ink is more vibrant and has a longer lasting finish.
Two affordable brush pens are the Tombow Dual Brush Pens and the Kuretake Zig Clean Color Real Brush Pens. The Tombow Dual Brush Pens have a water-based ink that is acid-free and non-toxic. These pens are perfect for artists who want to add some colour to their drawings. The Kuretake Zig Clean Color Real Brush Pens are watercolour markers, which means that you can use them like paints.
Another option is the Kuretake Zig Fountain brush pen, which has polyester bristles that resemble the feeling of painting with a brush. However, the bristles maintain their sharp point and have a snap to them, which makes varying the line thickness during strokes feel smooth and easy. The ink is made from pigment ink, which is long lasting and water resistant when dry. This is a great choice for calligraphy, illustration and more!
Markers are ideal for artists who want to add some colour to their drawings. They come in both water-based and alcohol-based ink and in various different nib shapes and colours.
Alcohol-based markers are the preferred choice for artists who want to achieve bold and vibrant colours, for comic book artists, cartoonists and manga artists. Most markers are made from dyes and alcohol solvent, which gives them their signature smooth, even coverage on the paper.
The best alcohol markers on the market are Copic Markers, which come in three different varieties. Copic Sketch markers are double sided with a brush and chisel tip and come in 358 colours, whilst the Copic Classic markers come in 214 colours and have a chisel and fine nib. Both these markers are expensive and aimed at professional artists. However, the Copic Ciao markers come at a more accessible price point, for beginners who enjoy using quality art supplies. The Copic Ciao markers also come in chisel and brush nibs, with 180 colours. The Classic and Sketch markers and refillable and have larger barrels and inkwells compared to the Copic Ciao.
Watercolour markers are made from water soluble pigment ink. This means that you can activate the markers with water, to make the ink disperse across the paper in washes. One way to use watercolour markers is to swatch colours on a porcelain or plastic palette, then wet a brush and pick up the colour from the palette to paint on paper.
The best brand of watercolour markers is the Winsor & Newton Watercolour ProMarkers. These markers are vibrant, pigmented and fade-resistant. The pens are also acid-free, lightfast and non-toxic, which makes the pen suitable for professional artwork, like commissions and saleable paintings. There are 36 colours to choose from and they work in conjunction with both watercolours and regular alcohol based markers.
When painting with watercolour markers, make sure to work on a watercolour paper, this could be a cold pressed, hot pressed or rough paper, depending on how you want details to appear and how much colour layering you want to do. Cold pressed papers are more absorbent and will take more washes of colour, whereas hot pressed paper will showcase details and colours will appear more vibrant on the surface.
Fountain pens make for an excellent drawing tool. With the right fountain pen, you will be able to achieve consistent fine lines and precision, perfect for line drawing, contour drawing and hatching techniques. Fountain pens have a nib, which is the part that touches the paper and a reservoir, which holds the ink. The ink flows from the reservoir to the nib via a feed.
Some of the best drawing fountain pens are made by Japanese brands like Pilot and Platinum. The Pilot Metropolitan is an affordable cartridge pen that is perfect for beginners. It comes in fine and medium nibs and is on the more affordable end of the spectrum.
Another fountain pen by Pilot that feels a little more luxurious to draw with, is the Pilot Falcon. The 14k nib glides over paper, which feels soft to draw with but not overly flexible. The nibs allow for line thickness variation.
Ballpoint pens have a ball point that distributes ink onto the paper as you write or draw. The ink is usually oil based and more viscous than the ink used in rollerball pens.
To some extent, you can vary the line thickness and darkness with the amount of pressure applied to a ballpoint pen, however this isn’t possible with a rollerball pen. People often get confused between ballpoint and rollerball pens, ballpoint pens are the pens often used in schools and workplaces for writing, they’re cheap and most pens are disposable. Bic is an example of a popular ballpoint brand.
The Lamy AL-Star Ballpoint pen is a quality, refillable ballpoint pen that is available in a range of colours. The ballpoint is made from lightweight aluminium and has a reliable click mechanism.
If you want something special to add to your pen collection, the Montegrappa Elmo 02 Ballpoint pen comes in a multicoloured cast resin casing, with a chrome trim. The pen delivers professional quality results and would make a great gift for a fellow artist.
Rollerball pens also have a ball point that distributes ink onto the paper as you write or draw. The ink is usually water based and less viscous than the ink used in ballpoint, making them ideal for artists who want to quickly lay down even lines. Rollerball pens come in both disposable and refillable varieties.
With a rollerball pen, expect to achieve a more consistent, darker line of ink, compared to with ballpoint pens. Rollerball pens are more likely to bleed and feather than ballpoint pens, however the lines you can achieve will appear more like fineliner and fountain pen lines. For this reason, make sure to draw on a thick paper, like marker paper or Bristol board.
Rollerball pens come with a fine point and you don’t need to apply much pressure whilst drawing. The Faber-Castell Hexo Rollerball pen in matte black is a great option for artists who want to experiment with drawing with rollerballs. The ink is water resistant and the pen is refillable.
The Caran D’Ache Rollerball pens are also a great choice for artists. The pens have a hexagonal barrel and come in 10 different colours. The cartridges contain enough ink to write 600 A4 pages, so this will give you enough ink to get some drawing miles in without having to change the cartridge.
Paint pens have a fine tip and are filled with paint, making them perfect for adding details and colour to your drawings. They can be used on a variety of surfaces including paper, wood, fabric and glass. Paint pens usually come in either water or oil based ink formulations.
Some of the best paint pens for artists are made by Posca. The Posca paint pens come in sets of 8 or 16 and are available in a range of colours, including basic and pastel shades. The ink is opaque and water based and the pens can be used on a variety of surfaces.
Liquitex Professional Paint pens are water and acrylic based and come in a large range of colours. From the primaries, to fluorescents and transparent colours, you will be able to find the right shades for your project. The great thing about these pens is that they are compatible with acrylic paints, like the Liquitex professional paint range, so you can complete and underpainting by drawing on the canvas with the paint paints, or render some final details in the final layers. The pens come in two different nib sizes, 2mm and 15mm, so you can achieve broad strokes or fine details. These are professional quality paint pens, that are lightfast and compatible with varnishes, so use them to make saleable and archivable works of art.
Gel pens have a water based gel ink that is contained in a plastic tube. The ink is thicker than ballpoint and rollerball inks, giving you the ability to produce bold lines. Gel pens are available in a wide variety of colours, including metallic, glitter and pastel shades.
The Uni-Ball Signo Gel pen is a great choice for artists, as it produces smooth, consistent lines. The pen has a stainless steel tip and is available in 15 different colours.
The Sakura Gelly Roll pens are also a popular choice with artists. These gel pens come in sets of 8 or 10 and are available in a range of colours, including metallic, glitter and pastel shades.
Which art pens will you choose?
With so many different types of art pens available, you are sure to find the perfect pens for your needs. Whether you are looking for a pen to add some final details to your painting, or want something special to use for calligraphy, there is an art pen out there that is perfect for you.
If you liked this guide, share it on social media using the buttons below!