Have you ever looked at a perfect hand-inked drawing and wondered, how are the lines so clean?
To some extent, you must have steady hands -- like a surgeon or a pianist. And you can always modify things digitally, with programs like Photoshop and GIMP. But the first and most basic component is always the quality of the instrument you hold in your hand. Just as you wouldn’t use an Xacto knife to perform surgery, you wouldn’t use a ballpoint pen to ink a pencil sketch. Instead, artists use drawing pens with archival (meaning waterproof and fade-resistant) ink because they produce consistent, fluid, and graceful lines that stay put on the paper.
Graphic drawing pens are also highly recommended by academics and writers of all kinds: researchers in the field, journalists, Asian language students, and Youth Group pastors alike find the precision and quality of drawing pens to be quite useful. Although they’re made to satisfy the rigorous demands of professional artists, they require no special care or maintenance.
Drawing pens give you that extra bit of oomph to get through class, particularly if that class has anything to do with Asian Kanji characters. The thinner tip sizes, like 0.05 mm, 0.1 mm, and 0.2 mm, typically won’t bleed or feather. Japanese and Chinese students regularly write characters with ten strokes or more, and the most complex Kanji character tops out at a whopping twenty-nine strokes. There are more strokes in this single character than there are letters in the English alphabet! Appropriately, this Kanji means “depression” or “gloom” in Japanese... emotions you can hopefully avoid with the help of a smudge-proof, no-bleed drawing pen.
Another niche that drawing pens appeal to is the bible study set. Ink quality is very important when you’re working on a long-term project, especially when that long-term project has thin pages. Since most personal bibles are made to stay open at a certain page, like textbooks, fade-resistant archival ink is a must. That way, you don't have to worry about losing your work.
Staedtler Pigment Liner Marker Pens
Sakura Pigma Micron Drawing Pens
Drawing pens with medium-to-big tip sizes are excellent for journal writing, particularly if you’re on the road. If you’re looking to document a lengthy bike trip down the coast, or to jot down quick notes and impressions of a music festival, it might be worth it to invest in archival quality drawing pens. Since drawing pens are waterproof, they’re ideal for outdoors adventures. However, keep in mind that most drawing pens are not immune to the effects of changing air pressure, and may leak on airplane flights. If you want to be absolutely sure your pen won’t leak or break while traveling by air, a Fisher Space Pen is your best bet.
Ohto Graphic Liner Needle Point Drawing Pens
Uni Pin Pens - Pigment Ink
When you’re inking a pencil sketch, smudge-proof ink is an absolute necessity. After meticulously outlining your illustration in three different line widths, the last thing you want is to have the ink smudge while you’re erasing the pencil lines underneath. Although most drawing pens are relatively smudge-proof, your results may vary depending on: the quality of the eraser, how much pressure you’re applying, etc. Erase with caution! For some instant inspiration, check out the insanely detailed doodlings of Ester Wilson (featured in this month's Artist Highlight).
Pilot Drawing Pens
Marvy LePen Technical Drawing Pens
With comic and manga illustration, you generally want thin lines for facial detail, a thick brush tip for filling dark, shadowed areas, and a few sizes in between for everything else. Brush pens like the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen can create lines of many varying sizes and are renowned for their versatility, but do not mix well with markers or watercolors. Only use them if you’re planning to color your artwork digitally, or you’re not coloring your artwork at all.
If you want to throw markers (like Copic Markers) or a watercolor wash over the line drawing, you definitely want a pen with waterproof ink. All archival inks are waterproof, but not all waterproof inks are archival. Even if the ink is waterproof, give it some time to dry before applying the color layer!
Kuretake Zig Cartoonist Mangaka Outline Pens
Deleter Neopiko Line 2 Pens
Archival inks are manufactured specifically to resist fading, and are usually non-toxic and acid-free (or “pH-neutral”). Archival pigment inks tend to be more expensive than other inks, but are probably the best, most enduring inks that you can use for creative projects. When it comes to comic/manga artists and animators, archival ink pens are the industry standard. If you’re serious about journaling, invest in something like the Rhodia Webnotebook, which has the archival-quality paper to match.
Felt tip (also known as “fibre tip”) pens have a nice and fluid feel, and the larger tip sizes are ideal for writers that like bold lines. They’re also useful for smoothing out shaky or spidery handwriting. Sakura Pigma Micron Drawing Pens are felt tip drawing pens at their best -- they’re crisp, dark, and great for carefully inking sketches. However, since felt tip pens are porous, they can get crushed by a hurried hand bearing down with too much pressure.
Heavy writers should try a drawing pen with a metal tip, like the Ohto Graphic Liner Drawing Pen. The archival ink is quite capable of rising to any occasion, and the metal tip can withstand an absent-minded writer. In general, the Ohto Graphic Liners are perfect for accompanying travelers, journalists, grad students, and researchers in the field. Use the 0.05 mm pen for intricate outlines in a map, or data points in a graph. Save the 1.0 mm powerhouse for quickly shading dark areas of a chart, or adding emphasis to a particular topic.
Although graphic drawing pens can be used for taking notes, journaling, outlining sketches, and comic / manga illustration, the line doesn’t stop there. They’re frequently used for greeting cards, wedding invitations, scrapbooking, and all sorts of miscellaneous crafts. Typographic sketches are often outlined with a black drawing pen, then digitized from there. Drawing pens can also be used in conjunction with blendable alcohol-based markers for concept art, fashion sketches, and book illustrations.
There’s very little that a good drawing pen can’t accomplish, given a little patience and a steady hand. Check out all the options in our Drawing Pens Selection Guide, and look out for new comic papers, pens, inks, and nibs in our Comic / Manga Pens section!
What do you use your drawing pens for?
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