Top 7 Sketching pens of the year!

If you also like to do some pen shopping, you may have gathered a lot, and you may wonder how to choose. There is no ultimate perfect pen. It’s all about your own sensitivity and the effect you are looking for. David Philips, reader of the blog showed me some illustration he did with a twig. 🙂

Below I share with you my personal impression from a Product designer point of view.

TEST: Ballpoint pen and Gel pen

  • MUJI 0.25: One of the thinnest pen I ever tried. Great flow.
  • Zeebra Z-1 S 0.7: The black ink is deep.
  • Pilot Frixion Ball 0.25: Erasable ink. Awful to draw with. Doesn’t slide well on paper. The ink is grey. I use it for some detailing only.
  • Pilot Frixion Ball 0.5: So promising, but disappointing for sketching (great for writing). The pen pressure is awful. The ink is grey.
  • Pilot G-Tec-C 0.4: Awesome! The perfect size of pen and tip. Nice flow of ink. The black is deep.
  • Pilot Green Techpoint 5: I didn’t felt comfortable with that pen. I couldn’t draw with it with a light hand.

If you want to know some tricks about the ballpoint pen, you may have a look at Tips you should know about ballpoint Pen.

INK TEST: Markers and Felt pen

Markers and Felt Pen

From top to bottom:

  • 1- Papermate FLAIR M: Classic pen that competes with Pentel
  • 2- Stabilo Stylist: Great with color markers (popular among Product designers). Note that the tip is fragile and tends to reduce quite fast.
  • 3- Pilot Twin marker: I mostly use the thin tip. Good quality, but the ink reserve doesn’t last very long.
  • 4- Sharpie Permanent Marker Ultra-thin point: The size of the tip is in between both tip of the Pilot twin marker. Just nice.
  • 5- Artline Calligraphy pen: I bought this pen for playing with the line weight. I prefer using a brush.
  • 6- Kuretake: The tip reacts like a brush. It bends slightly with pressure. Love it! However, it dries very slow, and I tend to make a lot of stains with my palm hand. (bought at Tokyu Hands).

My collection of toys

My toys

Just a picture of my pen collection. Honestly, I don’t even use a quarter of it. Most are “toys” that I often get bored with then reuse them days or months later. However, testing new pens is how I discovered amazing ones!

Top 7 pen of the year: WINNERS 🙂

From left to right:

  • 1- The Frixion Ball Slim 0.38: I use it for details sometimes as the nib is so thin!
  • 2- Kuretake, from Fudegokochi: Love it !! This brand is not easy to find I guess. Wonder if the pilot pr other established brand do something similar.
  • 3- Sharpie Permanent marker Ultra fine point: Nice flow, good pen pressure sensitivity
  • 4- Pilot G-Tec-C, Maica 0.4: Nice and constant flow, good pressure sensitivity for a gel pen. I love the tip size slightly thinner than the standard 0.5.
  • 5- Stabilo Stylist: A classic with thin felt pen. Great for drawing on layout paper. It doesn’t bleed when you use markers (Pantone, Touchliit, Promarker…) with it.
  • 6- Papermate FLAIR M: This felt pen is more reliable than markers. The medium-size tip is very smooth.
  • 7- Pilot Parallel Pen (Bought at Tokyu Hands): Prize of the most weirdo pen! 🙂

That’s my Discovery of the year!


I love to try new things, new styles with them just for fun.
However, in the end, I stick to the basics using pens such as the Paper Mate, Pilot Twin markers, Stabilo stylist, and any ballpoint pen to draw.

Only the Kuretake is an option I may use in the long term.

Note: If you are a beginner, I do not recommend you guys to play around too long. To get started, trying many new pens will be a great motivation booster.
However, you got to stop looking for the ultimate best pen, or it will just distract you and slow down your progress. Ok?

As soon as you find a nice pen, stick to it. Once again, I recommend the basic ballpoint pen such as the BIC Cristal, Papermate.

Then, you could even buy a pack of them on Amazon!
Meanwhile, let me give you some drawing tips with a ballpoint pen.

How about you?
What’s your favorite pen for Design sketching?

About The Author


Hello! 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 is to help you all along with your design projects and journey! Leave a comment in the blog or send me an email at : ) Chou-Tac


  • David blunt

    Reply Reply August 22, 2018

    I just started using bic ballpoint pens to draw. What kind of pens or paper produce the best photorealistic effects?

  • ShopArchitect

    Reply Reply July 4, 2017

    This is a great gilmpse into the various benifits of different sketching tools. We’ve also made a list of the best pens for architects that you might enjoy as well.

  • johnnyru

    Reply Reply January 22, 2015

    I am new at sketching with a pen so most of this year has been spent finding the right pen for me. I have gone through dozens of pens and my favorite so far has been the Zebra F-701. I love the stainless steel barrel, it gives the pen a nice weight. Also I love the the ball point, I think 0.7 is best for me and the ink flows well and evenly. I also dab it on a napkin every once in a while just in case.

    Two other pens that are worth mentioning. One is the Zebra Z-Grip Flight which has a 1.2mm point and writes super smooth but sometimes the ink globs up. Also its lightweight, I prefer a heavier pen. This pen is great for writing or doing lettering, maybe even bold detail lines but I’ve not used it for that. The other is the Pilot Precise V7RT which has a fine point (also come in extra fine), writing is super smooth and rarely globs up. It weighs a bit more than the Z-Grip flight and is acceptable to me. A great pen for doing linework and lettering. Both pens also look great.

    As much as I like these, I have just not been able to sketch well with either. I just have been control of my line weight with the F-701. Maybe it’s because of the type of ink but I am not sure.

    I am still a novice so there is lots for me to learn. I love the blog and read it all the time. Thanks and keep up the great work!

    • Chou-Tac Chung

      Reply Reply January 24, 2015

      Hello John,

      Thank you for sharing your discoveries.
      I checked your pen reference on Google, the Zebra F-701 looks really nice for a Ballpoint pen :).
      It’s normal that you can better control your line weight with the Zebra better than the Pilot Precise V7RT. The pilot is a gel pen, so the ink flow much faster than a ballpoint pen, and take a bit longer to dry.

      May I recommend you to carry on with the Zebra at start playing with the pen pressure. Buy a couple of them, and draw only with this pen. You can put one in your bag, and one in your pocket to get ready to draw anywhere, anytime. Use it for writing and drawing as well. That pen will be your best friend ahah.

      Sometime you can switch to the Gel pen, you should see your lines naturally get better as well.

      Enjoy !

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