5 Tips to find your best ballpoint pen for drawing!

5 Tips to find your best ballpoint pen for drawing!

This morning, I arrived 1 hour early to the Consulate of France.
I walked around to kill time and I found a pen shop!
Let’s test some pens to look for one with good comfort and that will bring higher results in drawings for your sketchbook!


5 good practice to choose the best ballpoint pen for you.

There are so many ballpoint pens out there. I could recommend some of my favorites for industrial design sketching, however, a good choice of pen depends also if you have a “heavy wrist”.

Heavy wrist: A tendency to draw too dark.

Ballpoint pen, gel pen, felt pens, color markers, permanent markers, pencils, mechanical pencils… so many to choose from. Make this place your drawing playground!

TIP 1| Draw something real

The draft paper at the art shops for people to test pens never has any drawings inside. We often see a few hatching and little writings of random words. I believe artists and designers don’t test the pens the right way.

Red pencil sharpener
  • Choose a ballpoint pen and draw something.
  • Use it in real conditions: draw perspective lines, curves, shadows, line weight, light reflection…
  • If you wonder what to draw, simply look around you.
    I choose this cute red pencil sharpener.
Drawing of the pencil sharpener

TIP 2| The best pen doesn’t blob

  • Many ballpoint pens start to blob after drawing with it for a while.
  • Choose one that doesn’t blob after many strokes.
  • If it blobs early, avoid it or you will keep cleaning your nib all the time. Plus getting stains on your drawing and hand palm.
The inking is sharp. It was a pleasure to draw with.
However, its ability to bold is weak.
(That is maybe a good choice for whom sketch with a heavy wrist)

TIP 3| Look for a wide pressure sensitivity

  • Find a ballpoint pen that offers a wide range of contrast from very light to dark.
  • When we draw with a ballpoint pen in design sketching, we do not aim to erase. Starting a sketch light is important.
  • Test your pen with plenty of construction lines for example.
The pressure sensitivity is essential in design sketching

TIP 4| Get a retractable nib

  • How many pen cap have you ever lost?
  • How many clothes, bags, pencil cases… have you stained by a pen with a missing cap?
  • How many times your pen rolled and dropped on the floor?
  • To avoid all these inconveniences, I recommend a retractable pen.
  • It is optional, but it is great to sketch on the go!
    (Example: Urban sketching or doodle note-taking)
Make sure the nib doesn’t get back in without your willingness.
(I bought a “Pentel Wow” that keeps doing it every 2 to 5 minutes.
It is quite irritating. I didn’t expect that from a branded pen.)

TIP 5| Consider cheap ballpoint pen

This non branded ballpoint pen cost 5000VND (Vietnamese dong) = USD$0.22 only. Ballpoint pen technology is now a commodity:

  • You can find great pens for cheap
    (but also expensive ones with lower quality or defaults.)
  • Don’t judge a pen by its price or look.
    But by your own test and experience.
  • The simple design of pens is often the best.
5000VND (Vietnamese dong) = USD$0.22

Extra shopping time!

I couldn’t resist to adopt a few more pens and pencils.

A flashy pink graphite pencil STAEDTLER 2B was calling me.
So I tested it drawing Doraemon as I did for the pencil sharpener. 🙂

Drawing the blue cat with no ear.

I felt this black pencil and eraser are so cool together!
The lead is thicker and allow more variety of thickness.

It cost me in total 58500VND = USD$2.5
My new pen companions and I go back home.

Next time you go to a pen shop, draw something, and feel free to send me your drawings by email at choutac@thedesignsketchbook.com :).

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About The Author


Hello! My name is Chou-Tac. I am a Product Designer from France. If the sketching methods I’ve acquired aid me in my life and in my industrial design career, I believe that they can also help you reach your design goal as a student or professional. My aim to help you all along with your design projects and journey. Anytime, feel free to leave a comment in the blog or send me an email at choutac@thedesignsketchbook.com : )

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