I realized today I’ve never really written a post about all the many different kinds of pens you can use for Art Journaling and my favorites. We must make amends! So today I thought I’d give you a run-down on every pen I’ve ever tried, what I like about it, and what I use it for!
First: The Best Pen for Art Journaling Is The One You Have!
While some pens of course are better for different things, ANY pen is always better than no pen, and so if all you have is a ball point pen that really truly does work great! Don’t worry about having the “right” pens or even using “fancy pens”!
The pens I’m sharing on this list by no means are something you need to have to enjoy art journaling! However, if you want to try something new, are sick of your pens running out too soon, struggling to find what pens write on paint, or maybe just want to know what kinds of options are out there, this post is for you!
Best All-Purpose Every Day Pen for Everything: Pilot G2 07 Pens
Hands down, this is seriously the best pen you could use for nearly everything. I learned about them while standing in the pen aisle at a Walmart about 14 years ago, trying to decide which pens would be best for art journaling and totally overwhelmed by all the options + prices.
“I don’t know which one to get!” I lamented. And then, as if by magic, like an angel, a guy appeared out of nowhere, handed me a pack of Pilot G2 pens and said, “These ones are my favorite. They write nice and last forever! They’re cheap, too!”
The guy was right: they really do last forever! I’m still on the same box I bought a year ago, and I write at least 5-6 pages, maybe 4000+ words a day, on paper. If you write a LOT like I do, want something simple you can just toss in your purse or keep in your nightstand, or just have for drawing or doodling, or writing over paint, let your kids + husband use without worrying they’ll destroy it or ANYTHING honestly, this is the pen to get!
Pilot G-2 07 pens are gel pens, and they are retractable, which means you don’t have to worry about lids or caps or any of that – you just click and go!
The writing is very fast and smooth. One drawback is they do smear if they get wet or if you write too fast – but sometimes that’s actually a plus in art journaling, especially if you’re traveling + wanted to smear the ink to use as paint rather than packing a separate set of watercolors or messier paint pens.
I use these pens for literally everything. The only thing they aren’t good for is if you tried to use them for something where what you really need is a marker and a not a pen, like writing names on plastic cups at a party or something like that.
You can get them cheap just about anywhere, and they are so economical if you go through a lot of pens like I do. I also just recently learned they are completely refillable!
Rather than spending $$$ on new pens and throwing the old ones away, you can just get the refills!
Best White Ink Pens: Uniball + Sakura Tie
Pilot G2 has a white ink pen, but it’s not available at most stores where I shop + buy pens + I’ve already got a big supply of white ink pens so I haven’t tried for myself yet. I am sure I will try it eventually + report back on my findings, but for now we can confidently recommend my two favorites: The Uni-ball Signo Gel Pen and the Sakura Gel Pen.
They don’t show up right away when you use them, but after a few minutes they look great. I really think white ink makes such a difference in art journal pages, like when I used it in my various videos like the Mixed Media Daffodils.
I use Sakura more often that Uni-Ball, but mostly because they are cheaper + just more readily available in stores where I live.
Best Waterproof + Doodling Pen: Micron
When I do any kind of doodling and drawing (like Zentangle) or even in my artwork series of stories without words and my watercolor doodle cities, Micron is my #1 choice of a felt tip pen that is completely waterproof and doesn’t smudge easily.
Zentanglers like Micron 01 pens, but I actually prefer the 02 and 03 for most of my drawing. Actually, a variety pack like this one is your best option cause you can try them all!
The downside of Micron pens is they tend to dry out quickly, and if you are the kind of person who presses down on a pen with too much pressure, the tip will bend + be harder to draw with. I think this is why I like the 02 and 03 pens better, it’s not as fine of a tip! But there are times that 01 is great too!
I actually keep all of my Micron pens pretty well-locked up at my house simply because my dear, dear hubby Ray, as much as I love him, is not the kind of person who can use a Micron pen lol. He ruins them almost the second he tries to write anything with them. He’s also not allowed anywhere near my favorite bookbinding tape! Or my scissors.
However, I always let him use the next pen on my list though, which are Sharpie markers.
Sharpie Will Always Have a Special Place in My Heart: How I Met My Husband
I have always loved Sharpie markers, ever since I was a really little kid. They were the “not allowed to have” pens that my mom was terrified to let me or my brothers use as kids because they were permanent and so hard to clean out of clothes, or carpeting, or the walls and all of that.
My Dad would bring them home from work + I’d always keep my own secret stash of them, carefully locked up so my little brothers wouldn’t get a hold of them and so my mom wouldn’t know I had them either!
As I got older, Sharpies became a staple in my high school life – I used them for everything from school projects to just scribbling + doodling in my notebooks while daydreaming in class. Whenever my one friend and I would make plans, I made it a point to always “Sharpie” her in, not just pencil her in.
Fast forward to when I met my husband in 2003. We were both working at Home Depot at the time and they gave us Sharpie markers to use for making signs or writing stuff for customers and whatever else. Obviously, in any kind of retail store, pens get lost and stolen fast, people say they want to borrow them + you never get them back!
I was especially protective of my Sharpie markers at work, especially because Sharpies already had some sort of strange significance to me for keeping them out of reach from people who didn’t respect what they were, so when the nice, kinda cute guy from the millwork department asked if I had one he could borrow mine, I was reluctant. Could I trust him?
Well, he persisted, promised he would return it, and even coyly asked for my phone number, in case he didn’t get it back to me in time before I left for the day.
Well, he did return the Sharpie marker as promised, and still to this day 15+ years later fulfills every promise he’s ever made to me. We started dating officially in 2005 + got married in 2007 – He’s my permanent, forever guy. Needless to say, Sharpies will always have a place in my heart!
An important note: If you do use a Sharpie marker for any kind of art journaling, it’s very important that you let the paint fully dry for at least 1 day before you try to use it, even if you do use a heat gun to speed up the drying process. It’s annoying, but they just don’t do well on any kind of surface that might still be a little tacky.
Still, for things like block by block journaling, where I pre-paint my backgrounds for art journaling on the go or when I want to be able to art journal without all the creative supplies out, Sharpies are perfect for that!
They are also relatively inexpensive, so if someone borrows one + doesn’t give it back, you can always replace it without too much hassle.
Dip Ink Pens
Sometimes known as quill pens, dipping pens, or even just calligraphy pens, these are not something you’d use every day, and they are especially not portable at all, but I use them in my art ALL THE TIME and love the results!
They take some practice to get the hang of and there’s a lot of different styles of pen nibs + even a whole range of inks you could try out. Goldspot pens, which is a small business out New Jersey, sells some absolutely beautiful dip pens – they were even kind enough to send me one of their beautiful J. Herbin glass pens to try. It writes like a dream!
If you want to learn more about using dip pens, check out my post on Tips for Writing With Dip Pens and Using in Art Journaling.
The Best Fountain Pens for Art Journaling
After using dip pens for awhile, I started thinking about how I could enjoy writing with the same kind of pen nib/tip while on the go without all the mess. This led me down the path of learning about all the different kinds of fountain pens out there.
Fountain pens sort of have a huge learning curve when it comes to changing out cartridges or refilling the ink (And every pen brand and style is a bit different!) – but I do think they are a great option if you love doing more “fancy work” while out + about and don’t want to worry about the mess of bringing a bottle of ink to dip into.
After talking to the rep at Goldspot about how much I didn’t really like the Pilot Metropolitan as much as I had hoped, they sent me a Narwhal pen to try and I have to say I’m impressed with it!
Uni Posca Markers
Lastly, but not leastly, I must give a shout-out to glass artist Felicia Borges and thank her for introducing me to Uni Posca paint markers nearly over a decade ago!
These markers write on anything and everything. I am not a huge fan of the super fine, but I love them for nearly everything else, especially the white and black ink ones. They are paint markers, so you have to shake them up quite a bit and learn a little bit about how that works, but they write on literally everything + they can also be smeared or used as paint when you’re traveling.
Of course, there are zillions more pens – and I can say I’ve definitely tried + used a wide variety of them!
Some others you might like:
Rose Art Kid’s Markers: People don’t believe it until they try it, but I really feel like these write better on acrylic paint than Crayola markers and sometimes even better than Sharpies! Super economical and your inner artist kid self will have fun playing with them!
Papermate Pens: I personally hate how papermate pens feel in my hand, although so many people I know do like them. They also make a great felt tip marker – I just don’t like how they feel. The InkJoy pens are too square + fat for my taste. That being said, I recently found one of their erasable pens in a drawer from when my kiddo was in the 4th grade 11 years ago – and that sucker STILL writes. So I will attest the quality is there if you like how they feel! Everybody is different, so I’m listing these as an option for you.
Ole Reliable: Any Kind of Bic Ball Point Pen: Perhaps possibly the most generic pen in the world, If you stretch your creativity you can make some very awesome art! We’ve had a few different artists in our artjournalist Facebook group share their ball point pen creations and I’m impressed with them every single time!
Truthfully: My Favorite Pen
My favorite pen isn’t one you can easily buy in a store, although you certainly can buy them if you wanted to.
It writes terribly, prone to skipping and feels far worse in your hand than an Ink Joy pen, but it’s an important pen to me and I have to include it on this list. If you know, you know.
For those who don’t know, it’s called a No-Shank Super Flex Pen. They’re mostly found in institutional settings, where traditional pens could be a danger to patients/residents, visitors, and staff as most traditional pens are sharp and pointed.
It’s a terrible pen as far as pens go, but…as their description on the pen states, “Writes in 87 languages, spells the most difficult words correctly and solves math problems.”
I think that sums it all up in a nutshell, which is if you’re ever in one those sh%^&% situations where you would even know what no-shank pen is, you’ll be sure to have tons of gratitude that at least you have that, cause a pen just might just be the thing that helps you get through all of it.
It’s my experience with that pen that makes me all that much more appreciative and thankful of all the other pens on this list! (Especially the Sharpie marker, and oh how i love dip pens + fountain pens…but practically, a Pilot g2 will last you forever for the best value + a nice writing experience, it’s the pen I reach for the most often!)
All right. I think we have covered every pen I can possibly think of here, so it’s safe to say I think we have made amends and finally have a post here that is officially about every pen you might ever want to use or think about using in art journaling.
Are there others? Of course. These are just the ones I use + love after DECADES of writing with pretty much every pen that exists.
If you have a pen you love, tell me about it. And if you have a love story about pens or an experience you’d like to share with a difference in your life a pen has made, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!