An inventory of my current stable of pens. They are all waterproof and under $10. Each drawing was done with the corresponding pen.


Dip pen: I love to write with this pen. It’s a little scratchy and there’s something very organic and wild about dipping it in ink. I never know entirely how the pen will react, whether it will stammer or buck and so it makes me draw in a very particular way. It’s my favorite thing for ‘calligraphy’ and turns any writing into a decorative element. I’ve saved a lot of boring drawings by scrawling with it. I’ve used various cheap nibs; this one is the most expressive. I hate italic nibs and think they should only be used by people who really know what they are doing. Otherwise, you look like some fancy 8th grader.

pen-pigment03Staedler Pigment liner 03 – Roz recommended this pen to me and I like it a lot, The line isn’t perfect like a technical pen but it’s reliable and consistent. The flow is smooth but not luscious and the nib responds to pressure so you can vary the line thickness somewhat. 03 is the right gauge for me most of the time.

pen-pigment07Staedler Pigment liner 07 – There’s also an 05 but I tend not to use inbetweens. This pen is good when I want to loosen myself up and draw big and chunky. My only complaint about pigment liners, in fact all technical markers of this type, is that if I hold the pen at too extreme an angle to the page, it rubs the metal part of the nib and causes the line to suddenly thin down and skip. That’s of ten a good indication that I’m drawing too fast and should pay more attention to what I’m seeing.

pen-rotringRotring Rapidoliner: I am really in love with this pen these days and I never would of thunk it. I first tried Rapidographs when I was a teenager but they always clogged and leaked and were a pain to fill. I was forever dismantling the nibs and washing them in the sink and finding ink blots on my shirts. This pen is perfect. My nib is the finest they make and the pen just won’t clog or skip. The guts are disposable, for $4 you get a fresh new nib and supply of Indian ink. I have been drawing with this pen every day for two months and am still on my original cartridge. The pen’s feeling is ultra smooth, a little creamy and a little brittle, like icing on a cupcake. The best $10 I ever spent.


Faber- Castell PITT – The best brush markers, hand down, far more robust, consistent and black than Sakura. I like the whole PITT series, including the pens. Waterproof, Indian Ink, highly lightfast and most of the colors are quite good. They’re just being introduced so you can get them at incredible prices. I bought a set of 24 for a little over $30.


Sakura Pigma Micron: D.Price first turned me on to these pens and I used them exclusively for years. They come in sizes 005 to 08 and are archival. The point is a little hard and the pens aren’t terribly robust. I think I strayed from my exclusive relationship with Sakuras for tiny reasons: the type on the pens wears down over time and it can become hard to tell at a glance what the size of a pen is as they all look alike, I wrap mine in tape to preserves the numbers. I still use them but have diversified.

Penstix: this pen’s nib is plastic and yet it has a fine feel. The ink is a little less opaque and ultra black but it’s nice to draw with, almost crayon like sometimes. I get in the mood for it and tend to use it for a week at a time then it gets lost in my pen box.

pen-artistsGrumbacher Artist pen. This little hypodermic syringe is ultra sharp and precise, the finest point I know. It’s a 25 like the Rapidoliner but it seems frailer and more spidery. This pen makes me draw teeny details and endless crosshatching. The design is awful — the cap won’t go on the weird sticklike barrel and the pen can, after time, leak a bit. They’re hard to find but I hoard them when I can find them. About $6 and last for ages.