Fountain Pens vs Technical Pens for Drawing

This article looks at the pros and cons of drawing with fountain pens and technical pens.

When I started drawing, I used technical pens because they were marketed as drawing pens. I didn't know much about fountain pens and thought they were just classy writing instruments. Years later, I discovered that people also use fountain pens for drawing.

So today, I'm going to share with you what I have learned over the years about fountain pens and technical pens. Hopefully, this article will help you find the right type of pen.


Main characteristic for technical pens is the ability to create lines with consistent width (thickness). The pens are sold at different line widths and you can purchase whichever width you like. The ink used is usually pigmented, which means the ink is archival and does fade with time. The ink is also waterproof when dry so they work well with other media.

Technical pens are created for precision drawing. Architects may draw with them because the pens offer different line widths to convey different information in their drawings. Illustrators may use them because they prefer the consistent and predictable lines. Mixed media artists can also use them because the ink is resistant to lifting when used with other media.

Technical pens use needle tips. This allows the artist to see the area and lines beneath the tip very clearly. The tips can be metal tips or felt tips. Metal tips are usually found on refillable technical pens while felt tips are found mostly on disposable ones. Metal tips obviously last longer but I find that they can be slightly scratchy on paper compared to felt tips. Felt tips are smoother on paper but they can wear out fast especially if you draw on rougher paper. Once the felt tip wears out, it may not be able to maintain its consistent width.

If you want to get a refillable technical pen, get one that you can refill with ink bottles because that is more economical in the long run. Examples include Rotring Isograph and Rapidograph. Some technical pens also use disposable ink cartridges. Examples include Copic SP Multiliners. The cost of buying disposable ink cartridges will add up and in my opinion usually not worth the money. A bottle of ink is more affordable and can be used to refilled many times.

Price range of disposable pens are lower than refillable ones (which can cost several times more).

I tend to use disposable pens when I am overseas because I do not want the hassle of bringing ink and refilling. When working outdoors, you can bring backup pens so that you always have a working pen to fall back on.

Refillable pens do need maintenance so that they do not clog. Pigmented inks can clog the pens when they dry. This happens when the pen is not capped properly or the pen hasn't been used for a long time. If I use my pens daily, I usually clean them when I am not using them for the next few days, or for longer period of time.

I want to talk a bit more about the Copic SP Multiliner because it uses disposable cartridges. Prices of those ink cartridges are very close to their normal Copic Multiliners so it does not really make sense to get the Copic SP. Also, the felt tip will wear out so you have to spend extra to replace the tip also.

It's just more economical to buy a disposable Copic Multiliner than get their so called refillable Copic SP. This is one refillable technical pen that has no advantage over the disposable version.

For an extensive multiliner comparison, visit


Main characteristics of fountain pens are the wide selection of nibs, inks and body design available.

The standard nibs like Extra Fine (EF), Fine (F), Medium (M) and Broad (B) are also capable of producing consistent line widths. However, you do not get as many choices in widths compared to technical pens, which have many steps between 0.01 all the way up to 1.0.

Some fountain pen nibs can produce lines of varying thickness. Examples include flexible nibs, calligraphy nibs and specialty nibs.

The line thickness you can get on flexible nibs depend on the amount of pressure you apply. They are good for calligraphy and drawing. Some examples of flexible nibs that I have include the Namiki Falcon, Pilot Falcon, Noodler's Konrad and Ahab.

Lines produced by calligraphy nibs and specialty nibs depends on how you hold the pen. Some of the calligraphy nibs I have include the Pilot Parallel Pens, Platinum Music Nib, Duke 551 with Fude (bent) nib, Sailor's Zoom, Cross Emperor and Cross Music Emperor.

Most common fountain inks are dyed based ink which not waterproof and may fade under light with time. The fading of ink is gradual and can be an issue if you need your work to be archival.

There are fountain pen inks that are waterproof as well, such as Noodler's Bulletproof Black, Sailor KiwaGuro, De Atramentis Archive. I personally use Noodler's Bulletproof Black which is a nice waterproof ink but its performance can be affected by the paper. When you want to use waterproof ink in fountain pens, make sure to read the ink bottle label and see if that ink is safe for use in fountain pens. When you open up ink bottles and see tiny dried ink bits, those are the types of inks to avoid using in fountain pens. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to clean the pen when it gets choked by dried ink.

Most fountain pens can be fitted with ink converter so you can refill with your own ink. Some fountain pens have built-in ink converters. If your fountain pen uses those disposable ink cartridges, I suggest you replace with ink converter so that it's more economical in the long run, and you have the advantage of choosing whatever ink you like to use.

Price range of fountain pens is wide. There are China-made fountain pens selling for less than $10 on eBay, Hero or Duke. They may not be the prettiest but still functional. Specialty nib pens cost more. Luxury brands cost more as well. There are so many options for you to choose from. Pilot, Lamy and Platinum make affordable entry level pens as well as expensive ones.


Get the pen for the type of work you do.

If you need consistent line widths, it might be more appropriate to get technical pens. My recommendation for refillable ones would be Rotring Isograph, and for disposable ones, Rotring Tikky.

If you want a pen to write and draw with, perhaps a fountain pen is a better choice. Start with a good budget pen before exploring the more expensive ones. My recommendations would be the Lamy Safari and Pilot Metropolitan.

If you want to create expressive characteristic lines, you can consider specialty nibs. More affordable specialty nibs include flexible nibs, calligraphy nibs and Fude nibs. My recommendations are Duke 209, Noodler's Ahab and Noodler's Konrad.

Every artist have their own preference so it is difficult for me to recommend the perfect one for you. The pen that I like may not be one that you like. Sometimes you may have to try out many pens before you can find the one you like. Go to pen shops to try out, borrow from your friends, check out video reviews on Youtube. There are lots of useful resources available today for technical and fountain pens.

I hope this article is useful. May you find your favourite pen.

If you use fountain pens or technical pens for drawing, let me know which ones are your favourites.



It's true the Copic SP

It's true the Copic SP Multiliner refills are expensive, but I just love the metal barrel. I've started refilling them myself by dripping a small amount of Platinum carbon ink into the cartridge once it starts to dry out (they're filled with a foam that the ink soaks into). I've found it works well, and doesn't seem to need much ink added in either, I last refilled my Copic at the start of the year and it's still going. I did notice the nib became wetter and the line heavier, but that may have been in comparison to a low ink cartridge, or I need to put a fresh nib in it, as they do wear down.

A great pen, but yes, the refill system is crazy really, and so wasteful.

Can you recommend a fountain

Can you recommend a fountain pen with ~ 1mm writing with that is easy to use for taking notes?

I also am trying to find WHITE or OPAQUE inks for fountain pens. Can you recommend? Do they even exist?

Thank you

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