Selecting Pens and Markers for your Art

Jingle Bells! Jingle Bells! Jingle all the way! Yay! Christmas is coming! And with Christmas comes creativity. I see such amazing Art and Craft ideas on social media. There is so much one can make and do. It is also the time for Gifts. What is the best gift for an Artist? Yes! Art Material. I did a post on Pencils and Pastels earlier. Based on that many friends asked me to do one on Pens and Markers.

We usually refer to Pens and Markers by the name of the brand. That makes it difficult to do a post without mentioning any of the names. In every country there is a particular brand that is popular and widely used by all Artists from that Country. Ink Artists, Illustrators, Manga Artists, Architects, Interior Designers, Fashion Designers, Calligraphers, Students, Crafters and maybe more – All of them use Pens and Markers for their rendering.

If you have read my previous post you would know that this is an all you want to know information post and not a product review or an endorsement post. I was thinking about how to do this post without sounding repetitive? So I thought it would be best to do this in a Q&A format. I have tried my best to answer all the questions that I think can pop up while buying Pens and Markers. In case you have more questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments.

Pens and Markers
The different nibs of Pens and Markers

These are some of my Pens and Markers I arranged to click a picture.

1. Are Pens and Markers different? Hmm, well actually not. They are called Pens or Felt Pens or Sketch Pens or Markers – different names in different countries. They are all Pens available in colours, black, white, glitter and neon shades. The terms are used interchangeably. Like I said we usually call them by the brand name and not as Pens or Markers.

2. Do we get Artist Quality and Student Quality? Technically Yes! But they aren’t really labelled as such. Pens positioned as Artist Pens are Artist quality while the regular ones are Student quality. The pigment, colour and finish for an Artist Pen is better. We also get Industrial Grade Markers. This determines the price points.

3. What mediums are used? We get Oil Based, Water Based, Alcohol Based Pens and Markers. There are Gel Pens, Permanent Ink Pens, Waterproof Ink Pens, Washable Ink and Water Soluble Ink Pens and Markers. The Ink Technology and Ink is different in all of these. That is why two Pens of different brands – both with Waterproof Inks will give different results.

4. Individual or Set? If you are trying a new brand for the first time, it is best to buy different pens individually and try them out. They have testers kept with papers to try them at all stores. I even try the fresh pack Pen before buying to check the nib and ink. The manufacturing dates, import dates and other details are not clearly visible on single pieces. This makes it better to buy them in a set. The drawback is we are not allowed to open a set and try it out. It makes complete sense to buy individual pens to try and once you short list and select which brand you want, it is better to buy them in a set.

5. Which brands are good? I have tried Pens by almost all the well known brands. All of them are good. Brand Loyalty is very strong for Pens and Markers. I have understood that each Pen has Ink that works very well for a purpose. Depending on your use and Artwork you would have to select Pens that suit you by the Trial and Error method. The Art store usually stocks more of the popular ones and of course you know why. Further your location will play a big factor in your selection. Not all brands are available in all countries. Sometimes the Pens that are being imported regularly go out of stock or are priced too high.

6. What do they mean by the numbers on the Pens? The numbers indicate the nib size: for example 01 means a nib for drawing a 1mm thick line while 03 means a nib with 3mm thick line. We also get accented nibs, brush nibs, round nibs and felt nibs. As mentioned above the construction material of the nib and the ink is different in all pens. Further some brands use the numbers for colour coding. We also get dual tip Markers – meaning two different usable nibs on both sides top and bottom.

All in all, it is best to try different Pens on the Paper, carry your own page if you like where you have tried various Pens and buy the ones you think will work best for your work. I have already explained where and how to use each of the mediums in the previous post. Like, if you want the colours to blend: use the watercolour ones while if you don’t want the ink running, best to use the permanent waterproof ink Pens. Even in a simple brush nib Pen we get a lot of variety.

Scribbles Art
My scribbles trying out Pens in rough

The sponge of a brush tip Pen is different by all brands. I usually select a Pen with a medium hardness brush nib. I would like it to turn with pressure but not fray resulting the sponge in tatters. Constantly applying too much pressure on the Pens with very hard nibs can result in sore hands. That is what I meant when I said select Pens that one feels is most comfortable using.

Another important thing to see and note is how the Ink spreads on different papers. Do we get a smooth finish line or a dented one? Does the Ink bleed and spread or create blots and spots? When we apply two strokes next to each other – does the Ink mix or create patches? Does the Ink dry fast when applied or takes hours to dry? Artists would note all this. It makes a difference to their Artwork.

These are all small points but important to check before buying. Many times Art stores mix old and new pens when stocked in the individual Pens section. These pens are expensive and nobody wants to waste money buying a damaged nib or dried up ink Pen or Marker. It takes me at least 15-20mins selecting my Pens even when I know the brands. Last but not the least I compare prices and check for discounts if I buy more pieces. I run out of pens in about three to six months depending on how many Artworks I made. The Inks dry up after about three to five years, if kept lying around.

That lists about all the points I can think of that will help you make an informed purchase decision for the Pens and Markers. Ah! That’s too much. Give me one name and one set – if that is your buying style, I suggest pick any standard well known brand with other Stationery or Art Supplies and buy a set of their Markers. You can’t go wrong. It’s the same for students. However if Art and Craft is your passion, hobby or profession – the choice is yours! Have an Arty Weekend!

Special Tip: Always check the Cap is tightly closed before you put away your Pens and Markers after Use.

Published by #artistniralimehta

Nirali is an Artist doing Art and Illustrations both hand drawn as well as digital. She is a trained professional with good work experience in her field. She masters various art styles and has shops on Etsy, Redbubble, Society6 all three by the same name ‘NMartworks’

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