Unlike charcoal, pastels and graphite pencils, pens often have a narrow, inflexible nib and don’t always flow as easily as those other drawing mediums. This means that, if you are already accustomed to softer mediums, you may need to adjust your drawing style to suit. New artists, however, might take to this art form easily.

For instance, if you are using a marker pen or felt tip pen, you may quickly find that the amount of ink on your paper decreases with extended use, creating inconsistent lines or that applying strong pressure causes a build up of ink on the paper.

As a child, you may remember making holes in paper due to holding your felt tip pen down for too long? If so, you’ll understand just how hard it is to create a masterpiece using ink as a medium. And, with no way of erasing such mistakes, this makes pen art all the more challenging.

With pens, you are forced to be much more deliberate with your marks than if you were drawing in pencils or crayons. You can't just rub out the marks that you don't like, so you are naturally more careful and considerate of the lines that make it onto your surface. Learning how to draw using a pen or ink in general is not easy, precision is necessary. Using various pen types, for example, ballpoint and fountain pens can produce very different results.

Felt Tip Drawing

There’s no getting away from it, most of the time felt tip drawings just end up looking like a page from a children’s colouring book! But what if you could get some inspiration from other users if this medium to help you to produce something great and unique?

Take a look at Holly Wales' lessons on how to draw anything and everything using felt tip pens.

Felt tips require more deliberate markings than other mediums.
Do your felt tip drawings look like a child's work or would you refer to it as 'contemporary'? Photo credit: pedrosimoes7 on Visual Hunt

When it comes to drawing with pens, there are endless options offered by numerous manufacturers - more so even than pastel or chalks. So which brand do you choose? With pen art, line quality is paramount. The line quality, or thickness and thinness, should ideally be varied. Felt tips pens are also great tool for adding colour and producing more contemporary patterns.

As with most things, the best choice of pen for you will come down to personal preference. There is no use looking at others' drawings for this kind of advice or asking cashiers in art shops, This is something you will have to work out for yourself. Thankfully, this isn't a hard task; pens in all varieties are normally available at most corner shops and there are a huge variety of pen sets to test versatility but also consider how pens feel in your hand; the grip is often the deciding factor.

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Drawing With Marker Pens

While drawing with marker pens is similar in a way to using a smaller felt tip pen, there is one big obvious difference - the size. As such, marker pens are better used in larger scale, perhaps looser or rougher sketches than those requiring delicate or precise lines.

One positive to marker pens is that, depending on which brand you opt for, you can use it on far more surfaces. This means that, instead of being restricted to just paper or card, you could create pieces of art on wood, metal and many more materials.


Many artists use pens as their preferred art medium.
Grab whatever pen you can find in the pot, almost anything can be used to make art with! Photo credit: my little red suitcase on Visualhunt.

Rolling It Out With Rollerball Pens

Rollerball pens, as with biros, don’t offer as much flexibility as felt tip or marker pens but what they do offer is consistency.

So long as you have plenty of ink (which you can normally see through a transparent casing) then you can almost guarantee that each stroke will look similar to the one before it if the pen is held in the same position. The only thing that applying pressure might do, especially if onto ordinary printing paper, is tear a hole in the surface. It's harder to vary your lines and draw lightly, as you can when drawing with charcoal.

This medium, therefore, can be quite slow so you really have to know what you want to be drawing and will usually produce lines much slower than using gliding pens like the above options. All of this could impact on or restrict your creative flow. Draw a small image to begin with and build it up over time; you'll find that this is a good way for beginners to start this style of drawing.

Biro Sketches

Last but not least, biro sketches are a fantastic way of learning to draw, but can also allow you to produce some very attractive drawings.

A very talented artist as well as DJ, presenter, and novelist, Fearne Cotton illustrates her recent book release with various small biro sketches.

The multitalented celebrity mum often posts similar sketches on her Instagram account which she confirms help her to get the ideas out of her head and onto paper quickly.

A lot of artists would only use a biro if that was all they had at reach when an idea came to mind, but Cotton seems to take lots of enjoyment from the medium and clearly places value on the rawness it offers.

Biro pens are a great medium for those wanting to draw precise lines.
This artist has used a biro to create a detailed and imaginative drawing. Photo credit: joncandy on Visualhunt.

A Final Note On Pen Art

Don't be intimidated by pens; even though they leave more or less a permanent mark, it doesn't mean that you can't start over if you really want to. Despite being unworkable after application, at least it is a low-cost form of art enabling you to just reach for another sheet of paper in the pad when you have had enough of one drawing.

If you were working with oil paints on a canvas, for example, you might not be so quick to start on a new, expensive canvas or board (remember that oil paints take a long time to dry so it wouldn't be as simple as painting over the top of your existing work!)

Pens are generally associated with the world of writing and literature, and less so with the visual arts. Just think of it like this, by using any type of pen in art, you are merely substituting the written word for a visual representation.

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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.