This post is timed with Inktober. The first part is a review of waterproof pens and inks suitable for sketching and using watercolor over, including a few affordable fountain pens. I do a lot of ink wash painting/sketching with non-waterproof fountain pen inks. I’ve been asked a few times about this, in the second part I’ll give some examples and share tips on that process. I love fountain pen ink, and find it to be a versatile and portable medium. All one really needs is a fountain pen and a waterbrush for a portable ink and wash sketch kit.
Some people know this, for those that aren’t aware- the bold text is hyperlinked to products and pages. If you click on them it will take you to sites. All photos can be clicked on to enlarge them.
There are a lot of links in this post to various sites and sources. I am not associated with any of them, nor did I receive products in exchange for a review. There are many retailers out there, shop around. Places I like to shop for ink and pen purchases:
As may be suspected, or maybe expected- this is a long post, lots of pics. If you are into fountain pen ink, the blog site mentioned at the end is the best part! Tons of info out there about pens for sketchers, these are the supplies that I have used. Most of these options I consider to be affordable, and they are sold at many different local and online retailers.
The first three brands are in a category-disposable pens good for sketching that use waterproof and archival ink. All of them are sold singly or in sets with different size and tip options.
Copic Multiliner. The SP Series is refillable. So smooth. They also come with a couple of different brush tip options. And in sets with Copic Markers- like this Start Sketching Drawing Set or these Doodle Packs, and various other package options.
Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens– these are India Ink and available in many colors, tip variation, singly, and in sets. The brush sets come in 12, 24, 48, 60, and 90- shop around for a good price, because there could be a little sticker shock. Places like Dick Blick sell them open stock (individually). My local art store sells multi tip sets. EDIT: After this posted a few people reported that they have had problems with these pens bleeding after the ink dries and wet media is applied- please see the comments section for what they had to say.
Sakura Pigma Micron/Brush/Graphic, Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pen FB. These come in the largest variety of tip sizes and shapes, but fewer colors. My local art store sells these in sets and open stock.
Out of all of them, my least favorite is the Sakura Pigma- gasp! This is a favorite for a lot of people. In my experience they dry out way faster than Copic or Pitt Pens and the tips aren’t as smooth and nice. I like the Copic Multiliner best. All brands come in multiple colors, but the Pitt Pens come in the largest color variety. I prefer the Copic Sepia color over the Pitt Pen Sepia color, which is a darker brown.
An example of line variation between the pens/brands. I had an 08 Pigma Micron, but it dried up and I thew it out, so no line example for that size.
Below are different types of refillable brush tip and fountain pens. There are so many options out there, especially when it comes to fountain pens. These are a few that are simple and affordable. I did a few line/writing samples. I love pens, but my handwriting is nothing to write home about, so nothing fancy.
Zig Cartoonist Brush Pen No. 22– water-resistant and lightfast. A replacement fill is sold. I like this pen a lot, the ink is very black, not completely waterproof, but close. Around $7. Good for line variation and filling in.
Platinum Carbon Desk Fountain Pen and Platinum Carbon Inks– an inexpensive favorite of a lot of sketchers. I love this pen. Writes the first time every time. Around $10. Makes a fine line. I have a package of cartridges that I use with this pen, the ink is waterproof. There is a little metal ball in the end of the cartridge, so I’m not sure about refilling the cartridge, haven’t tried it yet.
Pilot Desk Pen– very similar to the Platinum listed above- around $10. Makes a fine line. I keep and refill the ink cartridge (info on that below). I’ve had a good experience with all other Pilot fountain pens, they are reliable. But between the two types shown here, the Platinum has worked better for me.
I’m mentioning the Sailor Fude De Mannen because it is popular with sketchers, but I have never used one. Just over $10. Line variation possible.
Line examples of the above pens. Zig black is a noticeably deeper black than the Pentel.
A few other inexpensive fountain pens:
Lamy Safari or AL-star Fountain Pens- Safari usually go for just over $20, and sometimes an Al-star too, depending on the color. Safari is a plastic body, Al-star is aluminum, nibs and the rest are the same on both pens. They range from around $20-$40 depending on where you shop, and they come in a lot of colors. Special color editions come out every year. Cartridge converter sold separately, it comes with one non waterproof ink cartridge. They are reliable and the nibs are super easy to change out, here’s a link on how to do that. Liz Steel uses a Lamy Joy for sketching, I believe with a 1.1mm stub nib. Here’s a link to her page and what all she sketches with. When researching for this post I came across the “The Liz Steel Package Set” from Goulet Pens for $41. Lamy Joy comes with a chisel point (aka stub) nib, and is a little bit of a longer and tapered pen body than the other two. They use the same converter and ink cartridges. The Safari or Al-star models can also be outfitted with a stub nib, or the Joy can fit non stub options.
Platinum Preppy fountain pen- this pen runs about $4. Sold singly or in a set of seven for around $25 with different non-waterproof ink colors. The cap color is the ink color. These can be converted to an eye dropper pen with an O ring and silicone grease. What this means is filling the body of the pen with ink without using a cartridge or converter. The ink capacity is huge. Here is a link to a 5:12 minute video on converting a Preppy to an eye dropper pen.
Line variation examples:
As a general rule, an F (fine) nib on a Japanese pen will write a noticeably finer line compared with a German F nib.
There are many other brands from inexpensive to higher priced pens out there that can also be converted into an eye dropper pen with using a little silicone grease. One of which are the affordable Noodler’s pens, their Ahab– around $23 and Nib Creaper– around $16. I switched the flex nib out for a nice Goulet Pens #6 1.5mm stub nib. That nib size is suitable for writing, but not very suitable for sketching. I really like the Goulet Nib, they come in a range of sizes. I use the converter the pen came with. It has a huge ink capacity if converted to an eye dropper. Noodler’s pens come in a few different models, including a brush tip, pictured above. To my knowledge, this is not eye dropper convertible. I’ve had some trouble getting the brush tip pen clean. This brand of pen is good for people who like to tinker around, they are made to be taken apart and adjusted- here is a 12:26 minute video on adjusting the nib and feed. Here is an 11:27 minute video on how to fill an Ahab model, and how to convert it into an eye dropper pen. Always a good idea to clean and flush a new pen before use.
A few waterproof fountain pen and/or dip pen inks:
FYI- I dilute the bottom part of all my ink swatches with water before the ink dries. Parker Quink Permanent Black or Blue-Black fountain pen inks- I love Quink Black, but I’ve used it for painting more than writing or sketching with it. Platinum Carbon Inks– I like these the best for sketching and use the Black and Sepia. Charlie also uses the Sepia in his sketches.
De Atramentis Document fountain pen inks- permanent, waterproof and comes in a wide variety of colors, some are very bright. I had this ink in the Pilot Desk Pen, but had to wet the nib every time to get it to flow. I’ve had this happen with the Platinum Sepia ink in that pen too. Might work differently in a different pen.
It’s not a great idea to let pigment inks sit in a fountain pen for an extended period of time. They can dry out and it can lead to clogging, the pen will need to be thoroughly cleaned. The Platinum Carbon pen has always worked, and I’ve never cleaned it. It’s been my experience that any ink in a Lamy or Noodler’s pen will dry out and evaporate fast. There one week, gone a few weeks later. Some pens are like that more than others.
Another option for using fountain pen ink and other inks is a dip pen and nib.
Don’t let the word “Comic” deter you. Nothing funny about these and they work great for serious sketching. A lot of comic illustrators use them.
I also like this Brause 361 Steno Blue Pumpkin Calligraphy Pen Nib – Fine Point
There are lots of different holders, and nibs out there to try. Both of these holders will hold just about any nib. Inserting nibs and removing them is easy.
It’s a good idea to scrub new dip pen nibs off with a toothbrush and mild soapy water prior to use to remove the factory residue.
For the curios, those other things in the top left picture are a ruling pen and a pot of FineTec gold watercolor, see this post for that info.
Dip pens can be used with Higgins Black Magic drawing ink, it’s waterproof and fade resistant. Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Ink is waterproof, lightfast, archival and comes in a lot of colors. FW Acrylic, Liquitex Ink! acrylic inks, or any other drawing type of inks are also good with dip pens. Rinse/wipe nibs off often for good flow and rinse off and dry immediately after use. Do not put these inks in a fountain pen. Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay says it can be used in a fountain pen, but I would only try it in a cheapy. Most of these also say they can be used with a technical pen– double check this though.
I’m not going into a complete expiation of the ins and outs of fountain pens (FP), the post would be even larger, and there is info out there from FP experts. I’ve added in some helpful links. If you have questions ask in the comments- I’m happy to answer them, or do your own research- there is a lot of information out there.
A few key points. A must for venturing into fountain pens and ink – a blunt tipped syringe. This is handy to refill or transfer ink into a pen, converter or cartridge, and to suck ink up from a low supply in a bottle or ink sample vial, or measure for mixing inks. Here is a link to a 12:07 video about it’s usefulness. If you don’t want to buy a cartridge converter for the FP- save the ink cartridge that it came with after the ink is used up and refill it using bottled ink and a syringe. Or suck the cartridge ink out if you don’t like it, clean it, and refill it with what you like. I’ve never had a FP come with a waterproof ink cartridge other than the Platinum Carbon Desk Pen mentioned above. The majority of FP ink is not waterproof. Here is a link to the waterproof inks that Goulet Pens sells. In addition to what I mentioned above, Noodler’s brand ink has a few, you’ll see those included in the Goulet link.
Richard Binder’s site has a ton of info on fountain pens. Many thanks to Teri Casper for passing this along. This link is to his section about nibs, but there is tons of other info. Goulet Pens has a lot of helpful videos.
Now we come to the artistic application part.
I love watercolor. Anyone that follows this blog is going – pfft, yeah, no kidding! But what I love almost as much, is ink. I often use ink like watercolor, mostly fountain pen inks, but also sumi, Daniel Smith walnut or anything considered ink. A little fountain pen ink goes a long way! A word of caution about using ink and brush wash- I don’t use my regular “nice” watercolor brushes. I feel the ink travels up the bristles and ferrule a lot and can be difficult to rinse it all out. I have inexpensive brushes, which I use for ink painting. Or a waterbrush, but sometimes those are too wet.
Here are a few examples that are all fountain pen ink, they show the versatility and vibrancy of the medium. The journals are Stillman & Birn Alpha & Epsilon Series, some of the inks used were Parker Quink Black and Daimine Golden Sands. The small rectangles are Fabriano Artistico 140lb cold press watercolor paper with Noodler’s American Aristocracy on the left, J. Herbin Caroube de Chypre on the right.
Fountain pen ink does strange and interesting things when diluted with water and/or applying household bleach. One of my favorite things to do is to put ink on a paper towel, apply a few drops or a spritz of water, and see what separates out. If it is interesting, I know it will be excellent for painting with because all those subtle, or not so subtle, colors will come out in the wash. The example below is Noodler’s American Aristocracy. Look up pictures of ink chromatography if you have an interest in this.
With these cherries, I scribbled and drew with the TWSBI Diamond 580 F nib fountain pen, and then used a wet brush over that. This also allowed me to use what ink transferred into the brush to paint other cherries without drawing with the pen again. The black and gold are sumi ink, and the cherries were done with Sailor Jentle Oku-Yama in a Hobonichi Techo Planner.
When doing ink wash/painting with non-waterproof fountain pen ink, I often dip the tip of the brush into the nib feed or breather hole in the top nib to get a little extra ink to do the wash with. The nib could be slow to start after doing this. If I need more ink, I will take the converter out and dip my brush into that and replace it into the pen when I am done. I also use the bottle or sample container to dip into with a brush, or I give a gentle shake and use the liquid that’s in the lid. When doing these things, I make sure that the brush is clean and not contaminating the ink with other ink or media, or a bunch of water. FP ink is very concentrated, so it doesn’t take much. I also dilute it with water to varying degrees in a mixing palette. Rules are limiting beliefs- be free, be unruly, express yourself fully. There is no right or wrong way- experiment!
There are two places I’ve been getting fountain pen ink sample vials from- Vanness 1938– very generous samples, and Goulet Pens. They range from $1.30 to $2.70 per vial, depending on the ink and the retailer. Both sell different brands from each other, and a wide variety of inks in individual and packaged samples. They are also family owned small businesses, another reason I like to shop with them. There are probably other retailers that sell samples. Other ink ideas I’m throwing out there- recently I’ve been excited about Callifolio, Robert Oster and KWZ inks. To date, my favorite writing color is Pilot Iroshizuku Ina-ho, it looks great in a Leuchtturm 1917 journal and anything else it’s been used it in/on.
The best part that I mentioned in the beginning.
A master at the ink wash art form is Nick Stewart, his blog is Quink and Bleach. First painting below is one of his original pieces that I’m lucky to have- I’m pretty sure he only used two inks on this, look at all the variation. The unusual sky color is Noodler’s Rome is Burning. On the other piece of his I believe only one ink was used. He has some amazing ink art, and ink swatch experimentation on his blog. I really appreciate his blog, I’ve found it to be a special and unique offering. I didn’t include a lot of ink swatches because if you want to see a plethora of fantastic inks swatches, Nick’s blog is the place!
Whew! The end…finally ;)
You and your artistic expression are important! These posts are for you! Happy sketching and painting!
Supply posts are every other Saturday.
I can be found on Instagram- @jessicaseacrest, where all my creative outlets are entertained, and sometimes telling signs of what will be reviewed next can be found.
All previous review posts can be found under “Reviews” on the menu or click here. Doodlewash has a Facebook group called World Watercolor Group. Huge variety of folks from all over, and a wide variety of painting styles and skill levels. The group is large and growing everyday! We have a lot of fun over there, and there are many kind and helpful people in the group. If you haven’t already, please join in and share your watercolor creations!