Pens and Ink Recommendations

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  • Hi everyone, new here ! I’m very happy I found this community of sketchers / watercolorists…

    I’m running into a problem where my pen inks are bleeding with washes, resulting in blurrier lines. I’m using a mix of copic and derwent graphic pens, various sizes, and brush with winsor and newton india ink. I’m quite certain it’s the derwent that’s bleeding as I use them the most. What do you all use or recommend ?

    I’ve never tried Winsor Newton India Ink, but it is usually waterproof, so I suspect you are correct about the Derwent.  Pigma Micron pens are waterproof.  Zebra Pen Zensations Technical pens are also. Your paper can make a difference.  Depending on how quickly it absorbs the ink, it can take a while to dry so even if it is waterproof, if you start painting over it too soon, it will smear.  I usually wait at least 10-15 minutes before painting over any ink, just to make sure it is fully cured.

    Hi Erich, Sandra’s right, microns are probably the most popular. I also use Uniball vision fine and micro pens.

    Here’s another idea though. I find that after painting over my micron lines they then need sharpening up so what a friend of mine (Tracey Fletcher King) does is use a watercolor pencil to draw out her drawings. She usually uses an ivory or cream or buff/flesh color (depending on how good your eyesight is, lol) then when she paints her painting, the watercolor pencil just disappears (unlike pencil lines). Then at the end, after everything is dry, she can us any ink to add interest and movement. I think it’s a brilliant plan and idea (I would recommend Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils, they’re awesome.

    Jennifer, good tip with the pencils.  I’ll have to give that a try!

    @jennifer-mclean @sandra-strait Thank you for your feedback! Might give the watercolor pencil technique a try. I remember using pigma microns in my illustration classes and didn’t like them for some reason.. but that was 10 years ago before i started using ink.. i’ll give them another shot or try the zebra sensations.  Many thanks!

    A lot of people don’t like the Pigma Microns.  Part of it is that sometimes the ink doesn’t flow well. Some people feel it is because they aren’t stored properly or that the tips are too delicate. With a heavy hand, they can get clogged or develop spots on the tip where the ink won’t flow.  I’ve had mixed experience with them.  They work more often than they don’t, and when they do, they’re nice enough that I put with the occasional bad one.

    I haven’t heard of this sort of problem with the Zensations, but they are a fairly new release so that might change.

    I’ve used various pens, including dip pens, but my current favourites are all refillable technical pens (with whatever ink you want). Look for fast-drying waterproof inks, as even though there are a quite a few waterproof inks, they’re still prone to smudge/bleed a bit if not completely dry before using watercolour over them.

    The brand I always go to is rOtring Isograph technical pens. You can get some really fine points and I’ve totally stopped using Sigma Microns in favor of these lovelies! They take a bit more TLC (as if you don’t use them often enough, ink can dry up and clog and they do require cleaning), but the fact you can keep refilling them with whatever ink you want and also reduce waste are major pluses.

    Lamy Joy with a fine or extra-fine nib is another favourite.

    I am wanting to try some acrylic inks as well with a dip pen one of these days.



    Ooooh you guys are all so new-school (that is a joke!)

    Fountain pens are the way to go — I dumped my Staedler’s once I tried a fountain pen.  Disposable pens basically are expensive — and they go to the dump.  Imagine hundreds of disposables piling up.  I am going to give you a few amazing fountain pens to look for (see this old post which is still valid: ), but one thing I will recommend, is that you buy only from good companies.  Trying to go cheap and find deals (a dollar or two) often results in no product support if the pen arrives broken or is not working well.  Ditto pen shows until you know a bit — I was taken by a dealer for a pen that cost about $20 for $125 (though I love it) and then actually rooked by a known pen guy.  In the USA I recommend (the best, and they have a wonderful page Fountain Pen 101 on newbie info that is excellent:; or (free shipping at $25 and that is nice, though Goulet has reasonable shipping).  I buy from both, and both stand behind product.

    Goulet also does ink samples, which allow you to sample without buying at $13-25/bottle.

    My recommendations (and a bit more with pics in the post):

    For a newbie who wants no fuss, cartridge, absolute waterproof ink, buy a fine or medium point Platinum Carbon pen with cartridges.  I abused mine heavily in the beginning and wow did it work well.  I seem to occasionally have to replace them every few years but I used them every single day so many miles.  If you get one that doesn’t work return it!  They are so great.  Jet pens only has the fine point at this time:

    I don’t prefer to use Platinum Carbon ink in my other pens; some do.  There is a bit of a “carbon” shine to the ink.  Still, it is amazing to draw with… don’t leave the top off!

    If you want a second recommendation then I say buy the Lamy Joy set from Goulet, with the DeAtramentis Document Black ink.  This set is an amazing deal — two nibs, one calligraphy and the other fine, and a converter.  If you don’t have a place to buy a syringe to fill the pens (which I find less messy), buy it from Goulet.

    I do not recommend Noodler’s ink for waterproof issues.  Many have good luck with it — until they don’t.  I am one of them.  Noodler’s is tempermental and smears on SOME papers.  Major brands… So pass on it for waterproof.

    In all cases I always try a new ink on a new paper.  Let it dry before hitting it with water.

    I never bought a plastic disposable pen after stepping into Fountain Pens unless it was a white Uniball 153 or a Winks metallic pen!  Green!


    I’ve tried fountain pens and refillable technical pens and I was never able to keep them from clogging, though I swear I cleaned them the way I was supposed to.  The other problem I have is gremlins.  Pens (and other things) disappear constantly.  They always re-appear later, but only if I no longer need them.

    That said, I may have to try the Platinum Carbon and see how long I can keep it going or safe from gremlins.

    I‘ve been using black Sailor nanoink in my Lamy al stars with extra fine nibs since summer without problems.

    Nice about the Lamys is, I’m not really emotionally attached to them and I can take them apart completely for cleaning – after every fifth filling or so.

    Currently I’m also trying rose red pigment ink from platinum but it seems to bleed a bit into the paper.


    These are (I suspect) a knock off. However the price is exceptionally cheap. Might be worth a look?


    I was looking at those on the Amazon USA.  If I decide to buy, I’ll go with one of Kate’s suggestions.  I’d rather pay a little more and be sure I’m getting what I want to get.  If the pocketbook were tighter though, I might go with this one.

    Rod (and Sandra) that is the right pen — it should be the extra fine (which is fine).  I don’t think buying from Amazon is the worst… but I’ve been burned on eBay.

    Sandra you should try my Platinum when we meet….

    @erich I’ve had no issues with the Derwent Grafik pen in gray (though the black does seem to have a tendency to smear when water is applied). I frequently use Microns, and don’t tend to have issues with them, unless I go over them repeatedly with water, or if I use a thicker size — like the #1 or brush tip. Prismacolor liners are slightly more waterproof than Microns, and Copic liners seem to be a bit more waterproof than Prismacolor. I also use the Pentel pigment ink brush pen (extra fine) without noticeable smearing (though I usually wait at least several minutes before painting over it with watercolor).

    I keep some SuperFine Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens in different colors as well as two fountain pens–a Pilot Penmanship with Noodler’s Lexington Gray and a Platinum Carbon Desk Pen with the Carbon ink cartridges. The Penmanship is VERY Fine, so perfect for hatching and Lex Gray is the only Noodler’s bulletproof ink that works well for me with watercolor.

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