Do you love creating art with art pens? Whether you are a full-time artist or a dedicated hobbyist, art is your passion, and when inspiration strikes there is no holding you back.
The Importance of finding the right pen
Unless, of course, your art supplies have other ideas! Nothing is more frustrating to a creative person than picking up a pen to draw your latest masterpiece and finding it has run dry.
When the muse descends and your artistic juices are flowing freely, you have to be able to rely on your pens flowing freely too. Not so freely that they blotch all over your beautiful drawing and cover your hands in ink, of course; but not so sparingly that your lines are scratchy and broken.
The road to amazing artwork is littered with damaged nibs, frayed brush tips, clogged-up technical pens, and dried-out ink reservoirs.
You need immediacy when you are expressing the vision in your mind, and the reliability of your equipment is paramount. You want pens that will translate your ideas onto the page accurately, with color and depth that will remain the same, not fade over time.
But, with so many different types and brands of art pens available, choosing the best ones for your project can be a daunting task.
For Newbies and Seasoned Users
Regardless of whether you are just starting out and don't want to make costly mistakes, or a seasoned user looking for the perfect tool for a specific job, you’ll need some help finding the right art pens.
To assist you in your search, we have scoured the virtual shelves and picked our top five art pen sets. We’ve also put together a super useful buyer’s guide that’s packed with information on what to look out for when you’re making your decision.
OUR TOP PICK
These double-ended art pens from highly-regarded makers Tombow present the best of both worlds. At one end is a flexible brush tip, for both fine and bold strokes and washes.
At the other end is a fine bullet tip to give consistent, clean lines for more detailed work.
The uses for these pens are only limited by the imagination as they are perfect for coloring, fine art, line drawings, cartoons, lettering, and more.
The pack contains nine colored pens and one colorless blender pen, which can be used to streak, graduate or seamlessly blend colors together. Blending will not stain the tips either, as they are self-cleaning and need only a quick wipe on some scrap paper to remove any transferred color.
The durable nylon fibers of the brush tip mean it holds its shape even after extensive use, while the fine bullet tip is firm and strong for line work and intricate detailing.
The vibrant water-based inks are non-bleeding, strong, and vibrant. This makes them ideal for bold and uniform coloring, but they can also be mixed with water using a paintbrush or to create watercolor effects and paler washes.
The “Bright” pack contains a zingy selection of shades (Hot Pink, Orange, Chartreuse, Willow Green, Purple, Rubine Red, Process Yellow, Reflex Blue, and Imperial Purple), but the pens come in many different hues, packaged together in complementary collections.
- Smooth, consistent flow of ink - perfect when you need a reliable stroke
- Long-lasting and durable - won’t easily break while you’re drawing
- Suitable for broad strokes and fine detail - ideal for a variety of art projects
- Acid-free and odorless - won’t damage your paper or create an unpleasant smell when in use
- Small packs with limited palette - may not be suitable for anybody looking for a huge range of colors
This set of 26 pens is made up of 12 basic colors (including black and white) with 0.7mm fine tips, 12 metallic colors with 3mm round tips, and an extra black and white with 3mm round tips.
The pen reservoirs are filled with water-based acrylic paint that flows freely, once you have given an initial shake and primed the tips on scrap paper, making them both easy and pleasurable to use.
The high pigment paint is pushed through to the tip via a pump-valve system which means you can complete your art and craft projects without fear of the pens running dry.
It is also fast-drying and waterproof, so colors can be applied on top of each other very quickly. Odorless and non-toxic, the acrylic paint conforms to MSDS standards.
Perfect for all types of craftwork as well as fine art, these markers can be used on many surfaces such as glass, plastic, stone, wood, metal, ceramic, and fabric, as well as paper and card. Once they are dry they are smudge-proof and will remain on most surfaces indefinitely, even after washing.
These versatile pens are suitable for all manner of art and craft projects, and would quickly become an indispensable asset and a boon to anyone's creative pursuits.
- Multi-surface use - can be used on glass, plastic, wood, stone, fabric, and more
- Good assortment of colors and two tip sizes - perfect for getting greater detail on a variety of projects
- Fast-drying and waterproof - colors can be overlapped without smudging
- Odorless and non-toxic - conforms to MSDS standards
- May wash or scratch off some surfaces in time - however, this isn’t a common complaint
The classic, much-loved chisel-tipped Sharpie, supplied here in a pack of eight juicy colors (blue, turquoise, green, lime, orange, red, purple, and black).
The generous supply of ink is quick-drying and resistant to both smears and fading, making it ideal for writing, drawing, coloring and endless other art and craft uses in the home, class, or studio.
Having a chisel tip allows for both broad strokes and fine lines, making the pens ideal for traditional styles of calligraphy, as well as the big sweeping strokes of contemporary lettering on posters and graphic art.
The bold colors are permanent on almost any surface and really pack a punch with their brilliance and depth, while the chunky oval shape and free-flowing ink make the pens a pleasure to hold and use. These pens are also available in different color-themed packs. The ink is waterproof and AP certified.
- Versatile chisel-tipped shape - achieve broad strokes and fine lines without switching pens
- Long-lasting and free-flowing - great value for money and won’t cause frustrating color-fade while you’re drawing
- Bold and vibrant colors - perfect for creating eye-catching designs
- Reliable household brand - a well-known brand that is renowned for creating high-quality products
- Permanent on most surfaces - ideal for use across a variety of art materials
- Limited palette - doesn’t include certain colors, such as yellow, which may restrict your creativity
- Not odorless - have a strong smell that some people may not like
This package represents excellent value, with an excellent selection of beautiful colors. The description of “122 Pack” is slightly misleading, though.
The pack does include the small coloring book and black PU storage and carrying case (both of which are nice features, by the way) while the remaining 120 items are made up of 60 pens and 60 refills.
However, this pack is still a bargain buy and consists of 17 metallic colors, 10 glitter, 11 pastels, 12 neon, 6 rainbow, and 4 classics, each one with a refill.
The ballpoint tips are 0.8mm – 1.0mm, allowing for smooth flow of the gel, and each pen has a Comfort Grip feature making them easier to hold, even for long periods. The high-quality and quick-drying ink glides onto the surface smoothly and evenly, giving outstanding depth of color and brightness.
Perfect for fine line drawing, intricate detailing, and delicate strokes, the glossy texture of the gel also allows for sleek coloring of larger areas with no loss of pigment.
Having different finishes, such as the metallic and glitter effects, means you can create an endless variety of appealing designs for many art and craft projects.
- Large selection of colors and finishes - gives you the ability to work creatively across a variety of projects
- Smooth-flowing and long-lasting gel - no risk of interrupted strokes or color-fade
- Carry case storage included - perfect for keeping everything neat and organized
- Full set of refills - gives you extra value for money
- Easy to use
- Colors occasionally not as expected - there can be a slight difference between the color of the pen’s lid and the color on the page
This set is something rather special. It’s suitable as a practical implementation for an enthusiastic calligrapher or to give as a beautiful gift.
Nicely presented in either a black or gold box, there are two pretty glass pens with spiral nibs that draw up plenty of ink, meaning less frequent dipping.
t in the box's foam insert, and the full set includes two pens, 24 inks, a cleaning cup, and a pen holder.
The sturdy little ink pots each contain 7ml of non-toxic, non-carbon inks in a beautiful array of colors, with screw top lids for cleanliness and secure storage.
Old-Fashioned Calligraphic Styles
While the pens don't have a broad traditional nib used for old-fashioned calligraphic styles, the beauty of having separate ink pots means they can be used with other pens if desired.
The smooth action and high degree of user control also allow the pens to be used for different artistic pursuits, especially Japanese style painting, line and wash drawings, and fine sketching.
- Selection of beautiful colors - perfect for all of your creative needs
- Large capacity nibs - allows you to draw up more ink at once so you don’t have to stop and refill as regularly
- Good user control - comfortable to handle and gives you the control you need for fine-detailed work
- Suitable for lettering and artwork - ideal for using across a variety of projects
- Exquisite design and presentation - a beautiful set of pens that make an ideal collection of your art materials or a fantastic gift
- Inks may feather and bleed on some papers - this could limit what materials you work with
- Opening ink pots can be messy - so you’ll need to take extra care not to accidentally spill
Best Art Pens Buying Guide
When you are looking for that perfect art pen, whether you are starting from scratch or updating and replacing your existing supply, you will be faced with an overwhelming selection of options from which to make your choice. The old needle-in-a-haystack simile would not be putting it too strongly!
Focus on Features
In order to wade through the myriad of products available, you need to focus on a few specific features and narrow down your search. Think about how you will be using your art pens predominantly; a fine artist who loves to blend and achieve watercolor effects, for example, will need a different pen to a more graphic design-oriented creative.
Some artists will require an array of different art pens for various projects, while others may need one style of pen but a good assortment of colors.
Consider also on what surfaces you intend to use your art pens. If you mainly work on paper, card, or even canvas your choice of the perfect pen will likely be very different to someone who produces designs and illustrations on ceramics, wood, or fabric.
Once you have decided on the main functions and uses you want from your new pens, you are getting closer to finding the right ones for you.
Pens for Sketching And Drawing
Pencils, crayons, charcoal, conte sticks, chalk. There are numerous mediums from which to create sketches and drawings, but what if you want the clean lines, vibrancy, and colorfastness that only comes from a pen?
You will need a fine tip and fast-drying ink that does not bleed or smudge so that shading and cross-hatching retain their clarity and do not end up a woolly mess.
Unless you are planning to draw on unusual surfaces, you can choose freely between acrylic or simple water-based ink or paint; both will work well on paper or card, and many will be suitable for use on canvas. (Remember, however, that not all tips will work well on canvas and will need a smooth surface.)
Acrylic pens will give you a slightly more opaque finish, but provided you choose a reputable brand both will have strong pigment.
Gel pens are a good choice for sketching and drawing as their flow is smooth and consistent, the colors are clear and bright, and the tips are very fine. Alternatively, fine-tipped acrylic paint pens will work well but may be more prone to smudging when working quickly.
Pens for Graphic Design
For poster art, pop art, and graphic design, you are going to want a pen capable of producing broad strokes and block color, as well as finer lines and symbols. You will probably be including lettering within many of your artistic creations, so a variable tip with good control is a must.
A wedge-shaped pen, such as the chisel-tipped Sharpie, will provide the thick-and-thin qualities you require, as will a brush pen that has a flexible tip.
The former is fixed and its width is predetermined if you are not confident about your pressure control or want a reliably uniform line; the latter relies upon your own dexterity and skill to produce the shape you want to achieve but does allow for a more natural-looking sweep to curved shapes.
Either of these options, however, will give good solid color and speedy coverage, and both come in a vast array of colors.
Pens for Cartoonists and Illustrators
If you work mainly in black and white, the choice of pens for a cartoonist or illustrator might appear almost limitless, but this can be both a blessing and a curse. Depending on the style of your work, you will probably want a fairly fine tip, although some cartoonists favor a looser, broad-stroke approach.
Most importantly, you will need a pen with ink that doesn't feather or bleed on the page, as this can ruin a fine-lined illustration or a cartoon's cross-hatching.
While a reasonable result can be achieved with a simple ballpoint pen, a fine nylon-tipped marker will give a more professional finish, and lends itself to any necessary shading or blocking in.
What are the best pens for artists?
There is no single overall best pen that will suit all artists, but for each style of art, there are a number of excellent choices from renowned art supply manufacturers.
Finding the perfect pen means focusing on how you will use it and for what style of art or craft. Check out our buyer’s guide above for our top choices in each category.
Who makes the best art pens?
There are many good brands of art pen available and each has their own particular strengths. The right choice for each individual artist will depend on exactly how they want the pen to perform.
Which art pens are best for beginners?
Art pens are generally not expensive, so the best advice to a novice artist is to purchase a selection of different types of art pens and try them out on a few projects.
You don't need a huge array of colors to discover the best pen or pens for your style, and once you know what works for you, you can use our reviews above to help you find the best products.