Pens and inks

“Always carry a pen. Everyone’s idea of the perfect pen is different.” Danny Gregory.

This is another area where the choice is huge and very personal. I don’t enjoy using felt-tips or most fibre tips due to the feel of the nibs, the gradual deterioration of the tips, and the quality of the ink they use. I also like to be able to draw a very thin line, and it took a while to find fountain pens with very fine nibs. Japanese nibs tend to be thinner, so I bought a Hero 329 (the green one that’s clearly a rip-off of the Parker 51 with a hooded nib) and a Pilot 78g (the black one writing in grey ink), both fairly cheap online. I got mine from 

I’ve also got 2 trusty Lamy Safaris, built like tanks; one with a ‘Broad’ nib, great for fat lines, and which reverses to make a fairly fine line when needed, and one with an ‘Extra Fine’ nib (the blue one below).

For more information than any sane person could need on this subject have a look at



Inks: The choice here is more limitted as the inks you use have to be waterproof if you’re going to add watercolour washes, but they can’t be indian inks as these kill fountain pens.

I use Platinum Carbon Ink (the squat bottle on the left) and have now fallen heavily for Lexington Grey (the tall one in the middle – hard to get in the UK) made by Noodlers; this ink dilutes beautifully and is great in water-brushes for layered drawing and subtle shading. The other ink is Chinese sumi ink; very cheap and great for dip-pens, brushes, and messing about with. It works really well with water, diluting to lovely soft, warm greys.



I also use these. From the top:

  • Water-brush filled with Chinese sumi ink, a luscious black. Can give a very or very fine broad line, but takes a while to learn to make these lines consistent and controllable. See Russ Stutler’s website for more on using brushes for sketching (
  • Edding marker pen which can bleed through thinner papers, but gives a very consistent thick line. See for great use of these.
  • Sharpie, like the Edding above.
  • Imm Sakura Pigma pen. Felt-tip, but fairly thick and doesn’t bleed through.
  • Faber Broadpen, strong nib, good range of colours, but a bit thin.
  • Faber Pitt artist’s pen. Good ink, waterproof, but the felt ‘brush’ nib feels odd and doesn’t last long on watercolour paper.


4 Responses to Pens and inks

  1. Col South says:

    Have you ever tried the Pilot V5, or V7 for slightly broader line? Although classed as a rollerball, they have a stylus like nib and don’t feel like a rollerball – more like a fountain pen.

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