Often the first way to try out new ideas and experiment is by putting a humble pen to paper.
It's a foundation of any artist, illustrator and designer’s work, and with the lure of craftmanship more enticing than ever in a digital world, we're sure many artists jump at the chance to use an inky pen.
Here is a roundup of just pens, by the way. Not smart pens (though we’ve got you covered there), nor styluses (yup, and there – for both Android and iPad), and not lightsabers (maybe we’ll write that next?). This list is solely for our favourite ancient creator of ink drawings, sketches and scrawled mind-maps.
You’ve probably searched exhaustively for The One: a pen that doesn’t blot, run dry or simply look awful on paper. But whether you want a highly technical pen or something more free-flowing, you’ll not find yourself with empty-handed with our list of the 10 best pens for artists, illustrators and designers.
For tips, tricks and inspiration on drawing and illustration, see our list of artists on YouTube that you need to be watching, as well as free video tutorial websites.
Rotring Rapidograph Technical Pen
Highly precise and thin-tipped, Rotring’s Rapidograph Technical Pen is for exquisite detail – and sell for a pretty exquisite prices, if exquisite is the word. It’s a demanding, specialised pen that will excel at demanding jobs. Treat it properly, do your homework and you will get a pen that lasts, as it’s designed to.
And you never have to clean the ink helix; along with the pressure equalisation system, it’s replaced each time you change the cartridge. The pen is available in nib sizes from 0.1mm to 1mm.
Sakura Pigma Micron Pen
This pen series are a classic, a ‘must have’ if there was ever one. Some have even described them as an addiction (seriously, give the Amazon reviews a scroll). Though they are less consistent than some pens, such as the Uni Pin (below), this loss of control makes the Micron pens great for sketching.
No smears, feathers or bleed-through on most paper, with acid-free, chemically stable, waterproof and fade-resistant ink, and of course a beautiful flow, should we be surprised these go-to pens have enraptured so many?
With a wide variety of colours and tip sizes, they could soon enrapture you too. If they haven’t already.
Staedtler Pigment Liner
A favourite of Johanna Basford – find out how she sold millions of copies of her colouring book, beyond the help of her pen, in our interview – and a trusty creator of uniform, smooth lines, Staedtler’s pen is cheap, available in 5 different tips and… why don’t you already own one, again?
Sailor Fude De Mannen - Stroke style calligraphy fountain pen
This pen is perfect for writing and practising calligraphy. This particular pen is navy blue with a tip angle of 40 degrees (for those who write and lay the pen), but Sailor offer all kinds of fude pens with different sized nibs and colours.
The pens are made in Japan and so bear in mind they’re usually dispatched within four to five days.
Uni Pin Fineliner
At a similar price to the Staedtler Pigment Liner, and with similar features – 5 tip sizes, waterproof and with lightfast ink – it is a matter of personal preference which you prefer: whilst the Staedtler Pigment Liner is great for a fine line, the Uni Pin is faultlessly consistent and with blacker ink.
Faber-Castell Pitt Artists' Drawing Pen
A highly-regarded pen that is made for drawing. Available in three classic drawing colours – black, sanguine and sepia – and four nib sizes, it is sturdy, precise and easy to use. And it comes from Faber-Castell, one of the world’s largest and most respected art manufacturers.
Pilot Drawing pen
A truly fine pen. Though it doesn’t move as slowly as some competitors, it lends itself to light sketching. It is also comfortable to use – important if you’re drawing for hours. Plus, it’s cheap, so why not give it a try? It might not be the prettiest of pens, but the drawings it can create certainly are.
Pentel Color Brush pen
This is wonderfully expressive pen that can create incredibly varied strokes, from super-thick strokes to intricate detail and delicacy. As it’s a brush, control will never be perfect, but this adds the risk and chance sometimes needed for creativity. It takes longer to dry than some pens on this list, but it uses more ink in a more brushy, free style.
Posca markers write on – deep breath- metal, glass, plastic, stone, fabric, photographs... And more. They don’t bleed. They blend well. And, once dried, they will cover the layer below, making mistakes easy to hide. With all these great features, plus their bold colours and ability to draw gorgeous thin lines, they are a great addition to any artist's arsenal.
Copic Ciao Markers
Copic markers smash their slogan ‘the markers created for creative people’. Creative, well-off people, that is – because they are pretty pricey. But many clearly think they’re worth the cash. The ink doesn’t bleed, the colours blend well and they are just gorgeous to work with.
Choose from Copic Original (a classic marker suite to basic drawings), Copic Sketch (suited more to fine art) and Copic Cia (essentially a cheaper version of Sketch)
Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn't affect our editorial independence. Learn more.