Drawing or sketching is the perfect representation of an idea for us artists. Before you go about a rant on this topic, let me tell you, “No, there aren’t anything called an imperfect or flawed sketch.”
There ARE better representations, sure. But there’s no imperfection in my opinion. Take doodling for example. It won’t tire you out even after an hour and you can only make it better as time goes by.
That is, “If” you have the right tools for the job. In this case, the “Right tool” is the pen we draw with. Trust me, you’d need the best pens for drawing, sketching or doodling to get your points across when the time comes. Not the crappy ones that stop and start on their own will.
A “Jammed” nib or a thin barrel can put your idea on halt and make a caricature out of it. That too, not a good one. The result? You’ll have to rush to the store and buy a new set all over again.
I have the perfect solution. Rather, my article does. What if I give you some of the top-rated illustrator pens that you can use to put your idea on any surface? Oh, and I’ll also tag a buying guide and FAQ section to help aspiring artists in finding their own products and tone when it comes to drawing.
Interested? Let’s get into the heart of the topic.
Different Types of Drawing, Sketching or Doodling Pens
If you’re new into the world of sketching and drawing, you’ll get lost in different brands and their products. Chances are, you’ll not find the product you’re looking for in months. That’s frustrating, isn’t it?
Let’s get you out of the pit and talk about different types of these products. This way, you’ll know exactly what to look for and where before you end up buying one.
Type Casting on the Basis of Ink
When choosing sharpies or pens for sketching, you’ll have two primary types to deal with. There’ll be one set of products that use “Alcohol-based” inks. Other set of products will have “Water-based” inks. Both the types have their advantages and disadvantages.
For example, you’ll have a fast-drying marker or pen when considering “Alcohol-based” ink for a product. The drawing or sketch won’t fade anytime soon. At the same time, they’ll cost you some extra bucks on the market. However, these pens may or may not work on several surfaces.
On top of that, Alcohol is not so subtle when it comes to showing reactions. It can react with certain paints, papers, and surfaces. There are products which claim to be odorless. Yet, you’ll need to check for yourselves or depend on trusted reviews to see if they carry a pungent scent with them or not.
On a positive note: This type of ink doesn’t bleed through the papers that often. You’ll have a clean drawing or doodle at hand at the very end of the job. That’s a guarantee.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have products that use “Water-Based” ink. This ink is water-resistant to some degree. It fades quicker when compared to alcohol. Yet, fading takes time to take effect. The concentration of this ink type is less than that of alcohol.
That’s why it’ll bleed through the surface. That’s if artists aren’t careful and use too much of the ink on thinner variety of papers.
Pens that use water ink should go well with watercolor painting. However, people should be careful about leaving no smudges on paper when wiping off the extra bit of ink. Most products come with blending pens for this specific reason.
Type Casting on The Basis of Nibs/Tips
Besides the ink types, you will have to deal with pens that have different diameters when it comes to nibs or tips as well. Normally, these pens range from .05mm to .8mm nibs. Some of the brands have that go up to 1mm or higher in nib size. Then there are “Brush Pens” as well.
I had to deal with multi-liners AND single-liners when it came to nibs. Multi-liners are pens which can draw multiple shapes and lines. They’ll either have two nibs at each end of the barrel or the existing nibs can be replaced with a bigger or smaller diameter nib.
Single-liner pens are less versatile but they do the job just the same. You’ll be able to use a pen for one type of lines only. Because there’s almost no tinkering with the nibs or barrels, the lifespan for these products are significantly higher than their “Multi-liner” counterparts.
The brush pens have their own criteria as well. These are generally used for doodling. You’ll have the “Small” and “Medium” brush size of Copic Multi-liner SP pens for example.
Top-Rated Pens for Drawing, Sketching or Doodling
With all the fuss about artist markers, doodle pens, and drawing ink depths…
This assorted list of markers/archival ink pens will help to bring the artist inside you to light. I hope you find your ideal companion among the products after reading these brief reviews of mine. Let’s jump into it.
1. Sakura Pigma 30062 Micron Blister Card Ink Pen Set
You’d want a quality pen if you’re thinking of sketching or drawing with it, right? Sakura Pigma is the perfect tool that I came across recently when I was looking for one to doodle with. These are perfect for graphic novels where you need uniformed, crisp lines with clear details.
I’d say these are perfect black pens for people who’re into calligraphy at a professional level as well. I’m not one who’d say things off the cuff. This pen set is waterproof and does stay vibrant on paper for a long time. Worried about the color fading away? Don’t fret. This set is fade resistant as well.
Yes, as you guessed… Sakura Pigma can be your “Go To” brand when you’re into Manga or Comicbook art precisely for that reason. This little brand resonates perfectly with a wide range of colors without distorting any of them. As with any waterproof pen, these are quick drying.
I understand that this is coming off as a sales speech and you’ll have to excuse me for that.
Seeing these in action and after using these for at least three months, I can safely say that you’ll find them pH natural. Most of the brands claim to be non-acidic, this Japanese brand is neutral to alkaline as well.
Most drawing or doodling pens are only good for one type of paper. Professional artists or calligraphers are often cautious about that. Using the pens on a thin paper may cause the ink to bleed through and spoil your fun. Not with these babies. They don’t bleed on any kind of medium.
The obvious question is, “Why so?” The answer lies in the name, my friend. The guys at Sakura didn’t use normal liquid as the ink here. Instead, they went for pigmented ink that remains on the paper and doesn’t cause soaking even when the user goes over the same line multiple times.
This is why I put it on the top of my list. Unlike the dye-based ink, its pigmented cousin doesn’t react with any kind of chemicals or UV rays for that matter. Drop a bit of oil on top of your calligraphy and it’ll distort or go bad very soon. Well, not if you use the pigment-based ink to draw your lines.
Okay, enough of the details, let’s talk about variety that the product offers, shall we? What I got was a set of pens that have as many as six points or tip sizes. Thanks to these, I can draw thin, moderately thick, and thick lines in one go. I don’t have to drag these over my drawings too much.
What mediums can you use these on besides paper? As it turns out, experienced (and I emphasize on this word) artists can use these on fabric, comicbook drawings, and thin leather to name a few.
2. Tombow 56171 Dual Brush Pen Art Markers
I understand that these pens are too close to professional art markers that I discussed in another article of mine. Why wouldn’t they? Tombow has its own line of art markers and these things can do pretty much everything that an art marker can. But these babies are mainly pens that doodle.
One can easily go for faux calligraphy, doodling (duh), fine lettering, and illustrations with these pens. Tombow utilizes water ink. That’s why you can do watercolor effect with it as well.
It’s pretty easy to confuse these with markers. Tombow uses nylon tips that are just as flexible as the tips of its markers after all. Thanks to nylon, people can slightly bend or put a bit of pressure on the tips. That’s what results in lines of different thickness and depth.
Yes, fine lines that you draw with these pens are constant. The ink doesn’t cause smudges or smears on paper when you go about doodling. Of course, you can do medium or full-blown bold lines with these as well. Now, the makers put a “Blending Pen” in the mix as well.
This is for occasions where artists accidentally made one or two bold lines too many and have to soften the impact a bit. Call it an insurance if you would. And don’t worry about inconsistencies in your doodles or drawings. The water-based ink blends in perfectly. No problems there.
One unique thing I found about this little brand (pun intended, of course) is that the tip of the blending pen cleans itself when I finish softening the color.
As it’s normal with water-based ink, these pens are non-toxic, chemically non-responsive, and odorless. And if it’s not obvious to any of you, the ink doesn’t bleed through most papers. I say, “Most” because too much usage of the ink may result in a bleeding effect if the paper is thin.
The solution? Always let the ink dry a bit before moving on. Yes, the ink dries pretty quickly as well.
This little package includes as many as 108 pens (if you decide to expand your repertoire). As expected from Tombow, these pens are color-coded. If you’re wondering, “Why these many pens?” Well, you can do drawing, work on rubber stamps, intricate designs on fabrics, AND tattoo outlining.
3. HuhuHero Fineliner Color Pen Set
If you want to be a little bit more specific and are on the hunt for the best pen for sketching, this one here is your answer. HuhuHero Fineliner comes with 18 different colors (and no duplicate colors, mind you) to facilitate top-of-the-line sketching. One can do a heap of things with it.
Make no mistake, you can write with these babies. Feel free to draw artworks as you like as well. I’ve even seen instances where people use these when signing a book as well. Yet, nothing draws out the true potential of HuhuHero than sketching.
You have .38mm tips at your disposal, why not use them?
Oh, HuhuHero Fineliner comes with water-based ink. Unlike some of its competitors, it doesn’t promise that it won’t bleed through paper. Rather, the makers promise to keep it as low as possible. Thanks to this, it’s convenient to color children’s books, journaling books, and many more.
Of course, people will be able to create watercolor effects with these pens. As it’s normal with water-based pens, the ink dries rather quickly. You won’t have to keep the artwork exposed in the sun for a long period of time. It won’t give off a pungent smell that we fear either.
Naturally, these pens are chemically non-responsive. You won’t suffer allergic reactions or have any adverse effects of some sorts on your skin. Yet, the 18 different colors I mentioned earlier… will remain as vivid as they can be no matter how old your sketch or painting is for that matter.
Now that we’re done with the usual shenanigan of how a water-based pen set behaves, let’s focus on the durability of these pens. These are rather durable thanks to the flexible tips they have. You can draw doodles, fine lines, and borders of your artwork (in case of the Manga) when drawing.
These pens are very comfortable to hold. Naturally, these are ergonomic. You can very easily remove or replace the caps on top. Each of these caps are color coded for people to understand what color they are dealing with. Trust me, it’s needed when you’re deep into your drawing sessions.
4. Faber-Castell F167100 Pitt Artist Pen Wallet
We’ve all heard the name “Faber Castle” at some points of our lives. I mean, there’s hardly any generation that skipped the name when drawing. The brand comes with a number of alternatives when it comes to pens for drawing, sketching or doodling. One can very well get lost in the products.
However, in this article, I’ll specifically focus on pens for artwork. The makers have these in a set of four whenever people want to buy some. When it comes to versatility, these things do the brand justice. Each of the four pens have different thickness when it comes to nibs.
For example, people will enjoy drawing with super-fine, fine, medium, and brush-style pens. Each pen has a different use after all. Of course, you can do thick outer strokes to thinner inner lines at a moment’s notice. These can be used for calligraphy, Manga, Anime, adult & children’s drawings.
Make no mistake, the ink Faber Castle uses is highly pigmented. As a result, people will have lifelike drawings in their hands. The pigmented ink dries quickly. I didn’t have to keep all my drawings in the sun or near a heat source to dry up for long.
However, to maintain the consistency, one needs to keep the pens horizontally stacked up.
If you find any similarities to water-based inks while using this thing, I don’t blame you. The pigmented ink is waterproof (just as the water-based inks are) when they dry. They won’t cause smudges on your paper. No matter the thickness of the paper, the ink won’t bleed through.
The tips of these pens are surprisingly flexible. The tips are processed without the help of any kind of acid. That’s why you won’t find any residue of any harmful materials so to speak.
Of course, the pigmented ink is pH natural as well and has no odor to it. Yes, our children can use the ink without any health issues or risks of contracting diseases. The kids will have bold and rich colors to play with. The colors won’t fade away after just hours of drawing like the cheap competitors.
Want to play with the flexibility these pens offer you? You can! These things are great even when you use it with other drawing pens or brushes for that matter. For example, one can truly shine in his/her drawings when using these with Albrechet Durer pencils.
Even when it comes to papers, PITT pens will be as effective on Gesso as on any other medium. These things are highly resistant to light as well. I just thought to add this tiny fact before I actually end my brief review on these wonder products. I’m one happy customer and a fanboy after all.
5. Staedtler Pigment Liner Bonus Sketch Set
If a set of four pens isn’t enough for you, then… Staedtler gives you as many as six pens to work with. This little product is a multipurpose pen set that caters to every possible demand of people who’re artists, calligraphers, and even children. People don’t have to worry about one bit.
As you’d expect from “Quality” markers, the ink is waterproof. You’ll not have to deal with any type of smudge or degradation even after months of doodling on or drawing the artwork. Yes, many of the products will promise the same. This one actually delivers. Also, the ink isn’t smelly at all.
Kids won’t have to deal with pungent odor. I ended up using on a comic book I didn’t have to dry the ink in the sun for hours when my doodling was done. With this thing at the helm, I could draw more without worrying about the end product that I’m getting. It’s a lifesaver if you ask me.
If you’re wondering what width you’re getting with these pens, let me put your minds at ease. I got .05mm, .1mm, .2mm, and .5mm width from these drawing marker pens. This allows people to draw shades, character outlines, speech bubbles, and detailed outlines when it comes to anime studios.
One thing that impressed me is the barrel of the pen. The guys used Polypropylene in the making to give it some class and a sleek look. The build quality is sturdy and it doesn’t degrade over time (you know, like several “Top” products out there).
The ink reserve is long as well. I could go on for pages before my set gave out. Honestly, I was going “Hard Core” for this review. The metal tip made my journey that much fun with these pens. Metal is hard to mess with. That’s why it can survive hot, damp OR wet environment as well.
Fortunately for me, the ink doesn’t fade away that easily. I wouldn’t claim the fact that these “Don’t Fade at All.” They do! But the process is slower than most pens for doodling. I did sketches with it as well. It’s been four months since I drew my last sketch and it’s surviving just fine.
Let me tell you, it’s not always sunny in Philadelphia. I do have one beef with the product. You see, the ink is “Not” refillable. Instead, you have to toss them out.
There’s a silver lining in this as well. Toss these in the landfill. These things are environment-friendly. Nature will take care of the decomposing for you guys.
Factors You Kept in Mind while Selecting
When you gather 10 – 15 of the sketching, drawing, and doodling pens, the last thing you do is go in blind. Of course, I did my research before selecting these products. I even used some of these. In this segment of the article, I’ll be discussing the factors that prompted me to go for these items.
Buy A Set – Not One Pen at a Time!
If you’re someone who does sketches and drawings from the ground up, your kit should contain several sets of pens. It’s very hard to go on a sketching spree depending on one or two pens only. You’ll be needing something to define the lines. You’ll be needing others to fill in the gaps as well.
Some of us use thicker pens to color their sketches or artbooks. That’s why it’s best to choose a set of drawing pens that have nibs of different thicknesses. An ideal set would contain pens with .05mm, .03mm, .01mm, .1mm, .3mm, .5mm, and .8mm nibs.
Of course, there’d be brush pens as well. Products like Copic Multiliner SP have several sizes for brush pens as well. You’d have plenty of options regarding what papers to use for your drawings if there’s a quality product on offer.
Look at the Surface You’re Drawing On
This is one of the first things you’d need to do before deciding on a pen to be honest. It’s normal for us artists to draw on various mediums. Some of us prefer paper, others go for hard surfaces like wood, rock, glass, and so on. Then you find guys who showcase their art on a human body.
Each medium demands a different type of pen/marker (cue: I have a substantial collection of these products in this article). For example, you need durable nibs to be able to draw on rocks. They need to be flexible as well. People need nibs that don’t gush out ink when drawing on different papers.
On the other hand, you’ll need non-reactant metal nibs when drawing on human skin (i.e: tattoos and stuff). This way, those who have sensitive skins, would feel at ease.
My advice would be to go for Copic or Bianyo when drawing on paper. You’d need archival ink pens to design or do caligraphy on papers that are other than white in color. Use thin markers for tattoos and hard surfaces like glass, wood, and rocks. Tombow is a legit choice in this regard.
On Using Pens with Paintings
If you’re somebody who paints and just need pens to define outlines of the paintings, you’ll not need brush pens. Instead, go for fine-tipped pens that blend in with the painting. I’d suggest water-based inks for the job. Both the painting and the ink for the pen shouldn’t react adversely with one another.
The nibs should have perfect balls at the end so that they don’t get stuck. You want measurements? In my experience, tips ranging from .05mm to .3mm are perfect when it comes to define the outlines of certain paintings. They can be used for bordering anime characters as well.
If you’re doodling for speech bubbles on comic books, use thinner brush pens to give your doodles an artistic look. Don’t go overboard with thicker pens. You’ll end up with a bleeding paper and a mess of an artwork for you to fix.
Take A Look at The Ink in Use
When choosing these pens, I had to deal with two ink types. It’s either alcohol-based or water-based ink for me to choose from. I had to pay attention to the fact that the ink shouldn’t leave smudges on my paper or any surface that I’m drawing on. Or else, it’d be a bad deal for me.
Typically, I prefer sketching, doodling, and drawing pens that don’t ignore my calls. I mean, they should have smooth ink flow when I’m drawing. I chose products for this list keeping that fact in mind. These products blend in with other mediums while leaving no traces.
Pen sets like PandaFly can blend with alcohol-based inks and they streak in the middle of my work. They don’t gush out to make my life difficult either. I prefer waterproof inks. These don’t disappear over time and don’t fade either.
Make sure to test out the ink if you have sensitive skin. It shouldn’t react adversely when you’re drawing. If you’re buying a set for your child, make sure to gift them one that comes with odorless ink.
Took a Close Look on the Nibs/Tips
Imagine a scenario where the pen you’re sketching with stops. No matter how hard you pull it on paper, the ink doesn’t come out. In other words, the nib jams. Annoying, right?
Yes, a ballpoint sketch pen with a non-responsive tip gives people quite the trouble. Simple artworks take hours to finish.
Don’t get me wrong! Products that are overly responsive, can spell trouble when drawing too. For example, if you choose a non-ballpoint tip, the ink gushes out. Well… sometimes. That’s why a balance is necessary. Artists need products that complement their art style and makes the job easy.
I don’t mean to brag but the list you see, has a product for every type of artist, doodler, and sketch fanatic. Just look closely and you’ll find a brand that you might like.
However, if you have your own choice, make sure to test the product out before buying.
I’d be running the set on the back of my hand or on a piece of paper just to see the ink is irritation-free and it doesn’t bleed through the paper I’m gonna use. If you don’t have the luxury, read some of the customer reviews instead to make sure.
Barrels are Important as Well
This is the part where you ask me, “Why is that so?” Well, barrels are where we “Hold” the pen for drawing, sketching or doodling. Naturally, you’d want to feel comfortable. In my experience, thick barrels are the easiest to hold and are the most comfortable to work with.
At the same time, you’d need a sturdy barrel as well. Artists are forgetful and careless at times. We drop things at the most inconvenient moments. A sturdy barrel would prevent the pen from breaking into two. I recommended products that have textured grip for comfort with sturdy barrels.
If you have some extra doe lying around and are looking for refillable sketch pens, make sure the barrel is easy to open and close when you’re doing the “Maintenance” as well.
If you pay attention to the list, you’d see some products having soft caps as well. These caps are instrumental in preventing the ink from gushing out. Also, these fit snugly with the barrels.
FAQ on Drawing, Sketching, Doodling Pens
I understand that recommending pens aren’t the only thing to do when guiding someone in sketching or doodling. People have several questions that they need an answer to. This is the segment where I’ll attempt to answer some of the popular questions you have in your minds.
Pencil or Pen for An Artist, which is Better?
The answer depends on many variables. If you’re drawing something that calls for multiple revisions and erasing, I’ll go for a pencil. Better yet, I’ll form some lines with pencils first and then override them with pen for the final touches. This strategy is perfect for beginners.
If you’re a seasoned artist and don’t need to go through several drafts, I’d suggest pens. It’s better to go with ballpoint pens as they keep the ink flow constant for complex artwork. If you’re into illustrations, I’d suggest using illustration pens like PandaFly.
I’m a bit old-school. I don’t go for photoshop when doing illustrations just to keep the effect authentic and believable for my fanbase.
Which Pens are Good If You’re into Zentangle art?
To give you a general idea, Zentagle is the “More Complex” version of doodles. In theory, people can get started anytime anywhere if they are into doodling. Yet, good artists need some prepwork. In my experience, Sakura Pigma Micron pens are the ideal ink blasters for this Japanese-style art.
I’m New to Pen Ink Drawing. Which is the Best Guide to Begin With?
Oh man! you have a long way to go if you want to perfect this art. But there’s always somewhere people go for a good beginning. I took my cue from a slew of resources. Paul Priestly’s YouTube Channel is a good place to hang out and get tips from if you’re a novice.
Art is Fun is another resource if you want to know about brush sizes and their implications in art. The guys go in-depth in their “Detailed” guides. Also, keep an eye on ChooseMarker (my own website) if you want to know about products that’ll take your artistry to another level.
My Two Cents at The End
Drawing or sketching is a huge sphere of expressive culture. You CANNOT sum it up in a 6000 or so words’ worth of a guide titled “Best Pens for Drawing, Sketching or Doodling.” No sir! Yet, it’s a start. This guide will give you pens you can use for different styles of doodling or sketching.
You have products like PandaFly, Sakura Micron, and Copic which have their own fanbase. Tombow is rather versatile when it comes to intricate designs. These things have different ink types and papers that they are good with. Not all pens fit all the dresses (I meant, drawings).
It’s a good approach to start with one or two different sets till you get your bearings in order. My guide covers the third base as well where I designed a buying guide and helped you through several issues as an artist in my FAQ section. It’s time for you to tell me about your experiences.
Do let me know in the comments about your time using one of these products. Or could it be that you’ve used them all and have several stories to tell? I’m eager to know. Reach out to me.