Getting Started: Good Pens For Beginners, Part 1

There are zillions of pens to choose from out there. In the photo above are, from left to right: Sakura Micron, Copic Multiliner SP, Pilot Precise V5 EF, Pilot V Razor Point EF, Platinum Preppy fountain pen, Sakura Gelly Roll, Mitsubishi uni-ball Signo; below from front to back: Pilot Extra Fine fountain pen, Platinum Carbon Desk Fountain Pen, EF Nib. These are what I currently use.

What works best can vary greatly depending on the sketcher and what they’re trying to do. I’ve picked these as good beginner pens because I’ve used them all and they are also affordable. I’ve included two white ones for those of you who might want to dive into working on toned paper.

The Micron and the Copic are “technical pens”, so called because the nibs are an exact size and the line width is consistent from start to finish, no blobbing, so they are suitable for technical illustration.
For me, environmental considerations play a roll in my choices. The Sakuras are disposables and the barrel is plastic. The Copics have a aluminum barrel and can be refilled. The nibs can also be replaced so, to me they are more environmentally friendly.

I drew these sunflowers from our garden with a Copic Multiliner SP 0.1 pen. Derwent water soluble colored pencils provided the colors. I did this as part of a Facebook group, Sketch With Me!, weekend sketching event.

The next two from Pilot are general purpose “office” pens. The Precise V5 is a rollerball. The V Razor Point holds a special formula liquid ink. There’s even a clear space below the cap for checking ink level.

Above are two of my pen try-out pages. I used a wirebound 8.5 x 10″ Strathmore Windpower Drawing sketchbook. I used a variety of photos I’ve taken, looking for interesting shapes and strong value contrast.

The blue Platinum Preppy is a great entry level fountain pen for both writing and sketching. It has a medium nib and can be used with both cartridges and a refillable converter that lets you use your choice of bottled fountain pen ink. Very good quality for the price and it comes in an array of barrel colors.Next are the two white pens, which I chose based on reviews from JetPens (more on them and other suppliers in a future post). I wanted one that was quite opaque and one that was more transparent. The Gelly Roll is the finer and less opaque pen. The Signo has a thicker line with a paint-like opacity

I drew this short-tailed weasel for the 2018 Inktober event. I used the both the Signo and the Gelly Roll for the white. The black is drawn with a Gillott #404 and Perle Noire ink in a Strathmore Toned Tan sketchbook. All the work for Inktober, (a drawing a day, five days a week, for a month) was done from photos I’ve taken over the years.

Finally we come to the fountain pens. My goal when shopping for a few to try was to get as fine a nib as I could. I can happily recommend the Rotring Art Pen for a medium nib even though it’s sold as an EF (extra fine), although it’s not part of my regular kit. The ink for it comes in cartridges.

The two that go with me everywhere are the Pilot Penmenship and the Platinum Carbon. Both have a wonderfully fine line. The nibs aren’t flexible so the width can’t be varied.

Platinum Carbon Ink pen on Strathmore 300 vellum bristol.
Pilot EF fountain pen, Prismacolor white pencil, Strathmore Toned Tan sketchbook.

So there you have it, my recommendations for pens that will get you started in sketching. If you have a favorite that you think would work for beginners or if anyone has any questions, post them in the comments!

Top photo of pens: From left to right: Sakura Micron, Copic Multiliner SP, Pilot Precise V5 EF, Pilot V Razor Point EF, Platinum Preppy fountain pen, Sakura Gelly Roll, Mitsubishi uni-ball Signo; below from front to back: Pilot Extra Fine fountain pen, Platinum Carbon Desk Fountain Pen, EF Nib

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