One of the questions I get all the time is, “What type of pen should I use for my art?” With a variety of pen types on the market it can be a difficult decision when first trying to find the pen for you. A good pen should provide a nice line, work with the pressure of your hand, and be something that allows your drawing style to come out in your work.
I remember one of my first lessons in art. I was taking a pen and ink class at a local art school. I was really into pen and ink drawing and found a course that focused in just that. I never was in love with pencil or charcoal. Being left handed meant that smudging was part of my art and it felt like I was erasing my art as fast as I created it. Draw a line, smudge it with my left hand, redraw it, smudge again, you get the picture or not the picture. Charcoal was the same thing and that also caused me to move through my charcoal and pastel phase pretty quickly. When I found pens it didn’t smudge as much and since I was a cartoon fan anyway it gave me the look many of my heroes had in their work. When I took the pen and ink class I was drawing with a fairly big nib of around .09. The instructor kept telling me it was too big a pen for the work I was doing and wanted me to use a smaller pen. But that pen size felt good to me and to this day 20 years later I still use a .08 as my default pen size.
Which pens should you choose for your artwork?
This is a personal decision and much of it depends whether working in a studio, at the kitchen table, or in location in the field.
They don’t make the feathers on them anymore but essentially the dip pen you would use with liquid ink and comes in a variety of nib sizes. You can change the nibs and get a variety of lines by adding pressure when drawing your lines.
Enclosed Nib Pens
Enclosed Nib Pens come in different sizes but you can’t change the nibs. You buy different sizes as the pen is inside the barrel much like a traditional pen so it is great for travelling with or using them where you need to pack up quickly or keep an area clean like your kitchen table.
There are many different styles of coloured pens and nibs in the market and I would urge you to try different styles to experiment what works best for you.
When buying pens I suggest buying a few sizes as opposed to buying a full set. If buying sizes try a .01, 05, 08, and 1 or 2. The pen manufacturer doesn’t matter too much, but you do want a pen that feels good in your hand. Often many artists will put a piece of tape or pen holder item on the barrel of the pen to get a proper fit for their hand. A walk down the pen aisle in your favourite art store will give you ideas for your art. Enjoy.
Looking for an art class?
In Person Classes – Try the Oakville Art Society
About the Author
Brice Outridge is a professional artist from Burlington Ontario. His main focus is on cartoons and caricatures although lives drawing nature in a tight pen and ink technique. You can learn more about Bruce and his work at www.bruceoutridgeproductions.com