You get used to putting down a bold mark, and it really allows your own personal, expressive drawing style to filter through.
I choose to draw with fineliner pens (often just called ‘drawing pens’ or ‘artist pens’) but there are other pen types that might suit your personal drawing style better…
So we’ll look briefly, together, at a few different options.
And then take a look at the different techniques you might use for drawing in pen and how drawing with a pen differs from drawing with pencils…
Different Pens for Drawing
Drawing with Biros
I’ve included biros here as I’m still quite a fan of just picking up whatever drawing implement you have closest and just getting drawing… sometimes, just why make it more complicated than it needs to be!
I’ve done lots of drawing in biro and even in lined notebooks, and it really doesn’t matter…
What counts is that you’re practising your drawing, making marks, and developing your own personal way of seeing things. And actually, biro is perfect for this.
Biro art has been displayed in the same exhibition as my own art in our local museum – so there’s no need for anyone to get stuffy about drawing in biro!
If you get to like drawing with biro, look out for different nib thicknesses and different colour biro inks that can make a difference to how your drawing looks.
I really enjoy drawing in blue biro, for some reason – other colour biros, not so much.
So just experiment with biro drawing and see how it feels for you.
Drawing with Fineliner Pens
This is, I think, the most common type of artist drawing pen – almost like a thin felt pen in a deep true black.
Other colours are also available – I have a sepia set that are quite nice to draw with too.
The nib and the drawing line (the line you draw) are both fine, as the name suggests. So this type of pen is particularly suitable for detailed work.
Different nib sizes are available – the smaller number means a finer (smaller) nib size and corresponding drawing line.
Sizes usually range from 0.03 or 0.05 – for the very finest line, use for very small detail – up to 0.8 for the thickest line.
Take care to look carefully between sizes 0.03 or 0.05 (both very fine/thin nib sizes) and 0.3 or 0.5 (medium thickness) as you can be caught out quite easily.
The fineness (smallness) of the line relates to the size of the nib.
If you’re just starting, I recommend 0.5 or 0.6 nib size which is quite easy to draw with and gives a strong line.
It’s nice to get a set of three or five different nib sizes and experiment with different line thicknesses, especially within the same drawing.
Drawing pen makes I like:
All the above pens are waterproof or water resistant. This is something to look out for when choosing your drawing pen if you’d like to use it with other mediums which might be water soluble, such as water colours, water colour pencils, inks, or markers.
I also use the Stabilo Point 88 fineliners which come in a wide range of colours. They’re great for adding detailed colour to any drawing or you could make line drawings in a variety of colours. These pens are water soluble.
Drawing with Brush-tipped pens
These are great pens if you like a bolder and expressive line and the greater variety of line widths that you can achieve with the flexible, bush-like nib.
It can add a lot of personality to your drawing and allow you to ‘colour’ or ‘infill’ larger areas of ink with ease, providing a good solid colour.
The black is a deep black – just as black as the fineliners (compared with the rather faded effect of a black biro, for example).
If you’re used to painting and would like to experiment more with drawing, then these brush-tipped drawing pens are a great place to start.
Drawing with a Calligraphy Pen
I really love drawing with a calligraphy pen for something a little different.
Drawing with a calligraphy pen or calligraphy nib gives you the opportunity to experiment with varying your line width as you draw, which can give your drawing a lot of character and individual personal style.
You can draw with a writing calligraphy pen, but I personally prefer the Faber-Castell PITT calligraphy pen or soft chisel nib (SC). This gives you a similar sensation to drawing with a fineliner or brush-tipped pen but with the chisel nib…
Twist your hand a little as you draw to experiment with how your line thickness can undulate and give your drawing more personality.
Drawing with Dip Pens
These are the traditional pen and ink type of drawing or calligraphy pen where you dip a metal pen nib into a bottle of ink and then draw.
I have drawn with dip pens but it does take some practice to dip just the right amount so that your pen nib holds enough ink for you to make a decent length of line but not so much that it splodges everywhere.
It may take some practice to use, but if you get going with it, you can really have some fun with varying the widths of your line in the way you twist or turn your hand as you draw (just like the calligraphy pen above).
You can also try out a whole range of different coloured inks if you’d like to add colour to your drawings…
Or use watered-down inks with a brush to lay down softer and lighter areas of inks first, and when dry use your dip pen over the top to add fine detail (remember, adding water to your drawn line will smudge it!).
How to Draw in Pen
When we use drawing pens, our main drawing method is line.
Compare this with pencils, when we can take advantage of the softer consistency and create a variety of tones and textures with shading techniques.
Because we’re drawing, now, with lines, we give our drawing form, shadow, detail, texture, and even personality through the different types of marks that we make on the page.
More about that in the Start Drawing – Learn to Draw PDF free mini-course or my full Essential Drawing Skills self-study course.
We can really develop our own particular drawing style when we draw with pen as we have to say everything through the variety of lines and marks we make on the page.
And there’s no erasing mistakes! So no possibility to get caught up in perfectionism which is the enemy of creative and personal art!
We also, usually, choose to draw in just the one colour – we don’t have the range of grey tones available to us like in the different pencil grades. We can use our marks to create lighter and darker areas when we draw instead.
Or we can create dramatic black and white drawings that contrast the white page with black areas – brush pens or calligraphy pens where you can get larger deep black areas can be great for this sort of style.
How You Hold It
You can experiment with your personal drawing style by holding your pen differently…
If you’d like to experiment with different ways and styles of drawing, I’d love for you to join me in my Start Drawing Your Way Essential Drawing Skills online course.
Different ways of drawing suit different pen types better and give different looks - which will you choose?
Drawing Pens & Mixed Media
You can also choose to use your drawing pens with other mediums to add different textures or colours.
Drawing pens seem to work particularly well with:
For coloured pencils and pencils/graphite it’s best to draw with your pen first, as sometimes drawing pen won’t go well over the waxy surface of coloured pencils or the softer graphite grades.
If you’re making work for display, think about the light-fast qualities of any drawing pens you choose. Check the manufacturer’s notes about each product and it should tell you if it’s light fast or archival quality (ie won’t fade after a short time).
If you’re just making drawings for your personal portfolio or development and aren’t so concerned about long-term colour fastness or fading, this likely isn’t something worth worrying about - so make your pen choice by what feels nice to use and fits your budget.
If you want to learn to draw with creative exercises drawing in pen, pencil, and charcoal learning to express your own natural drawing style, I think my Essential Drawing Skills course will help – check it out here…
Or learn more about colour and composition in my Confident Colour & Composition course for artists…
You can also download this blog post as a PDF for free (along with other free drawing resources) at this page...
Want more help with your drawing?
If you've enjoyed this information but want more drawing help and practical drawing exercises to develop the skills, techniques and creativity you need, please join me for my Essential Drawing Skills course - work through all the creative exercises (self-study) and learn to draw.
If this sounds good, find out all about it here...
Want more help with your colour and composition?
Would you love to feel more confident about using colour in your art? How about creating compositions that look balanced and show your art off to its best?
In my short self-study ‘Confident Colour & Composition’ course, we’ll look at colour theory for artists, how to use it practically in your art, understanding the ‘rules’ of colour and composition and how to break the rules and work intuitively too…
If this sounds like something you’d like, you can find out more here…
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