Felt Tip Pens

Felt tip pens are like a favourite old pair of comfortable sneakers for me. I’ve been using them since I was a teenager when they probably only came in 2 thicknesses and about three colours. I’ve always felt that because I spent more time drawing with these types of pens as well as biros, instead of pencils, my skills developed a lot faster and made me a more confident drawer.

When I was young I was influenced a lot by comic book art and I always wanted to recreate their perfect linework. Little did I know what they used and all the different stages involved including penciling in first!! But I went about it my way and strove for that same perfection in my drawings.

I like black pens because they look a lot crisper than pencil. The inability to rub out an incorrect line forced me to always think a little harder about every line I put down. Not that I didn’t make mistakes, I made heaps, but I would just start a new drawing, again and again and again until I got it right.


I use black Artlines, particularly 0.4 but I also use 0.6 for commercial illustration, like tv storyboards or ‘scamps’. In that capacity I tend to outline the object in the thicker pen, and use the thinner one for detail. Felt tip pens are one of the cheaper drawing pens too, and when you go through them like I do…. I have tried some with a more definite point but they tend to scratch into the paper rather than glide over it.

Ages ago I remember seeing an article (didn’t actually read it) where an artist used a non-permanent pen to sketch with and added tone by brushing his ink work with water. It was simple, inventive and very effective. So about ten years later I tried it out. I used this style with my Urban Sketches contributions (click here for my Urban Sketches work). If anyone likes this style I recommend you give it a go as its also a lot of fun. The best tip is to use a fresh pen, the “staler” a pen is the less wash you’ll get out of it. One would also think you need to add more linework to areas that appear quite dark, but with a fresh enough pen, you get so much ink coming away with the water it’s unneccessary. It also looks a lot nicer too and has this 3-dimensional feel to it.

Permanent Pens


I’ve started a project which requires a permanent felt tip pen. There is a lot of inking involved and I will also go over it with watercolour paints, so the inking has to show through the colour as well. Initially I started using Micron Pigma pens, as it seemed to be the professional choice for a lot of comic illustrators. It’s saturation was a lot denser than some other brands I tried, but one thing I didn’t care for is that it feels a bit scratchy on the paper. The felt tips are really stiff and as the pens were slowly drying up I had to hold them at a 90˚ angle to get the best results from them.


I happened to borrow a friend’s Pitt Pen and was really impressed by them. They felt like an Artline – a softer nib, with some flexibility and good saturation. When I found out that they were permanent and contained Indian Ink I was over the moon. They come in a variety of sizes, although not sold locally as singles, but are designed to accommodate comic art inking. So at the moment I’m loving them, and hope the completed project benefits from  them.

Pitt Pen example

For more of my work using Artline pens, click on the links below.

Sculpture Tour
Square Travel Book
Urban Sketches 2012

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