The best Pens & Pencils for Designers, Artists & Creatives

Despite what we may think, for someone who works in a creative space, no piece of tech will replace a quality pen for quick sketches of ideas and projects. 

The problem is, like many other product landscapes, the options that are available when it comes to a good pen  are almost endless and can cause headaches and confusion trying to find the best one for your type of work.

With that in mind, we wanted to build a guide for designers, artists & illustrators to the best pens available, including the best pens for drawing, writing, calligraphy and more.

But before you can start sketching your next big idea that will change the world, knowing what to look for and things to consider for each product is important.

So let’s start there shall we?

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What To Look For When Buying Pens

If you’ve ever stopped by your local office supply store and strolled down either the pen aisle, the number of choices available to you is staggering. It is no wonder that many creatives will go through pen after pen until they find the best one for them. So…

What’s the best pen for a designer?

Below we list the best pens for drawing and also the best pen for writing, the best pen for sketching, the best pen for calligraphy, as well as the best pencil overall, with advice on how the choose the write (pun) pen for you.

How to choose the right pen for you

In 1621, English author Edward Rober Burton coined the famous phrase;

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”

While Edward was talking about how the written word can be more powerful than direct violence, for some creatives, the right pen can be like having Excalibur in their hand. But before you start trying to remove a pen from a stone, consider these qualities to look for first.


Finding a pen labeled as an archival pen are pens that contain links which aren’t going to fade or lighten over time. These can be the best choice for artists who want their work to last as long as possible, especially if you’re selling your drawings.


The worst thing that can happen to any piece of work, whether it’s a work of art or just a simple sketch of a groundbreaking idea is to have it fade over time. A faded image could affect the readability of it and can cause unneeded headaches or stress if your big idea can’t be discerned anymore.


While for some creatives, smudging a sketch can give it detail and a better overall look, for many who are looking to record information from phone numbers to contract details, pens with inks that smudge can possibly make a big impact on your life. What if you started a contract with a new client but can’t call them because the ink in the pen you used smudged before you let it dry?


As a species, we humans are a clumsy bunch. Even if you think that you aren’t, you’ve had a moment where you’ve accidentally knocked over your drink or dropped something in a puddle. Owning a pen that is waterproof will keep the ink from running if you happen to spill your drink during a meeting or if your cat just “happens” to jump up on the table and knocks a glass over.


Inks that bleed through the paper that you are using can come off as unprofessional and if it bleeds through badly enough, can make your work look sloppy. Buying a pen that doesn’t use inks which will bleed through will help keep your work neat and contained to the paper you’ve put it on.

Pigment Ink

If you’re looking for a drawing pen, it will typically either come with pigment ink or dye ink. Pigment ink will last longer as well as retain colors better than dye ink will.

The Best Pens for Designers, Artists & Creatives in 2020

When we started to look around and gather information for our list, we realized that there are a lot of options out there and we needed some help. For our recommendations for the best pens in 2020, we actually reached out to the JUST Creative Facebook group to see what actual pens artists use. 

Click on any of the links below to get more information on a certain product, or if you’re feeling a bit adventurous, keep reading for more information.

The Best Pens for Creatives in 2020

To some, a pen and notebook go together like peanut butter and jelly or ketchup and french fries. Essentially made for one another. The best pens feel like an extension of your hand and the perfect writing surface for all of your ideas. 

We wanted to shine a light on those that even in their simplicity, a pen can make a world of difference for someone who works in a creative field. 

So if you’re ready, let’s read ahead a bit.

rOtring  Isograph Technical Drawing Pen Set

The best high precision pen set for technical drawings & flawless lines. 

Rotring Technical pens

The rOtring Isograph Technical Drawing Pen is a high precision technical pen designed to provide you with flawless lines. With its ergonomic barrel, the Isograph pen achieves an ideal weight balance, allowing you to work for long hours without discomfort or fatigue. The wear-resistant, hard chrome-plated thin tip is perfect for exquisite detail work in drawing, drafting and technical writing. No matter what you’re working on, the superior design and high quality construction of the Isograph pen enables you to be technically perfect, every time.

This set comes in 3 weights (.1, .3, .5), but does not include the ink so don’t forget to bundle the item with ink when purchasing.

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rOtring S0699370 Isograph Technical Drawing Pens, Set, 3-Pen College Set (.20-.50 mm)

  • 3 pen set of high precision technical pens with refillable ink reservoirs is perfect for College level students
  • Push on sleeve provides easy access to ink helix and fast cleaning; Color coded barrel indicates line width
  • Refillable ink reservoir is ideal for frequent drawers; Fill from ink bottles available in multiple colors; Ink not included
  • Wear resistant, hard chrome plated thin tip allows exquisite detail work; Nib is crafted from stainless steel; Not for any use on skin, including tattoos

Sakura Pigma Graphic 1 Pen

The best overall pen for designers & creatives (especially for sketching, line art & lettering)

Sakura of America 1.0mm Bullet Point Fade-Resistant Graphic Pens

To some, Graphic 1 from Sakura is the best sketching pen available on the market today. Combining water-based and pigment-based inks, the Pigma effortlessly delivers bold, consistent lines as well as the excellent transferral of colors.

With a pen tip that glides smoothly and a consistent stream of ink allows any artist to create both expressive lines and marks with ease. The affordable price makes it an easy choice to add to any kit without busting a budget.

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Stablio 0.3mm Fine Liner Pen

The most comfortable & durable pen for everyday use

Stabilo Sensor Fineliner

The preferred choice of Jacob Cass, the owner of this blog, the Stablio 0.3mm. Stabilo’s Fine Liner helps those who spend a lot of time writing freehand by featuring a micro-cushioning “sensor” tech to improve the comfort of using the pen for extended periods of time. A durable fine liner pen, the tip is encased in metal which improves the durability and also makes it a good choice to use with a ruler.

While the pen uses non-archival inks, which may detract some, the affordable price and ink that won’t bleed will keep those working in creative fields coming back to this pen each and every time. 

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STABILO Sensor” Fineliner – Black

  • Metal encased fineliner nib with a spring so tip does not bend, break or disappear;
  • Relaxed feeling whilst writing;
  • Excellent writing comfort, even under pressure!;
  • Well suited for use with a ruler;
  • Line width 0.3mm;


Blackwing 602 Pencil

Blackwing’s quality make this the best pencil for sketching and drawing

Blackwing 602

When you mention a pencil to an average person, they might think you’re about to take a final exam but for those who may be an illustrator or graphic artist, the right pencil can not only feel perfect in your hand but create perfect lines from light to dark.

The Blackwing 602 is one of these pencils. With its strong core, a designer can get many different tones out of the pencil from dark, crisp lines with normal pressure to seriously darker lines with more pressure applied to the pencil tip. If you’ve never used a Blackwing pencil before, it could become the last one you ever own. That’s how loyal some proponents of this pencil brand are.

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Palomino Blackwing 602-12 Count

  • PENCILS WITH HERITAGE – First created in the 1930’s, Blackwing built a cult following that included John Steinbeck and Chuck Jones, who proudly used Blackwings to create Bugs Bunny and many other…
  • PERFECT FOR WRITERS AND EVERYDAY USE – With our firm and smooth Japanese graphite core, Blackwing 602 pencils are perfect for writers, musicians, and everyday users. Use when you want a steady,…
  • UNIQUE ICONIC DESIGN – Blackwing’s unique and iconic rectangular erasers are synonymous with quality. Each of our pencils features a specially designed ferrule, allowing you to extend or replace…
  • COMMITMENT TO QUALITY – Blackwing 602 pencils are made with the finest materials in the world, including Genuine Incense-cedar from California and premium Japanese graphite.
  • HOW WE GIVE BACK – A portion of the sales from all Blackwing products benefit the Blackwing Foundation, which funds and develops arts and music education at the K-12 level. Your purchase helps…

Faber-Castell Art Grip Aquarelle Colored Pencil Set

The best coloring pencils for creatives


Recommended by one of the members in our Facebook group, the Art Grip Aquarelle Pencils from Faber-Castell come with a unique, triangular barrel which helps anyone using them grip them better. With an oil core, they have great intensity control and can be a really good option to use in intricate areas.

Like many other colored pencils, the Aquarelle pencils can take a bit of work to get on the paper but once they are, will provide a lot of color for their size.

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Faber-Castell Art GRIP Aquarelle Watercolor Pencil Set, Tin of 24 Pencils

  • QUALITY WATERCOLOR PENCILS – Turn your drawing into a painting with watercolor pencils! Art GRIP Aquarelle Pencils feature 3.3 mm highly pigmented leads that are acid free, fade resistant and made…
  • 24 COLORS IN REUSABLE TIN – Includes 24 brilliant colors that are fully water soluble.
  • ERGONOMIC DESIGN – Art GRIP pencils are triangular shaped so they will not roll off your workspace! Soft grip dots are designed to give more control and comfort when drawing.
  • BREAK RESISTANT LEADS – Faber-Castell Colored Pencils are SV-bonded the entire length of the barrel resulting in easy sharpening and longer lasting art materials.
  • FABER-CASTELL QUALITY ART MATERIALS – See your artwork come to life with the absolute best quality art materials. Faber-Castell has produced quality art materials since 1761.

Pentel XGFKP/FP10-A Brush Pen

The best pen for cartoons, calligraphy and oriental artwork


While the XGFKP/FP10-A Brush Pen from Pentel is designed specifically for use with cartoons, calligraphy, and oriental artwork, the light pen can be a great option for fine detail as well as graceful lines with its soft, flexible nib.

While more of a niche pen due to its brushed nature, graphic designers or even illustrators may find good uses for the pen to add a finishing touch to some of their work or to even add more black to areas where the color depth isn’t what they were trying to achieve.

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Platinum Carbon Pen DP-800S Extra Fine

The best fountain style pen for sketching- great for varying line thickness

Platinum Carbon Desk Fountain Pen, Super Fine

If you are an illustrator who is looking for a pen designed specifically for sketching but also comes with a classic style found in antique fountain pens then look no further than the Platinum Carbon Pen DP-800S Extra Fine pen with an ultra-fine nib which isn’t rounded off, allowing you to create both thick and thin lines with ease.

While many illustrators may like to use a dip pen, the Platinum is a great option on the go creating great expressive lines. However, it works best with smoother paper and isn’t really a pen that you should use with rougher paper.

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MoMa MUJI gel ink pen

The best gel pen for a fine line and smooth flow

MUJI Gel Ink Ball Point Pen

Gel pens can be a dime a dozen at many office supply stores. This means that when you find a good one, even if it comes all the way from Japan, you grab it right away. The MoMa MUJI gel ink pen has a 0.38mm tip that creates a thin line with a consistent flow and even better, doesn’t run when it gets wet.

Many artists choose these for their line work because when it comes time to color with watercolor, the blacks that the pen can lay down won’t reactivate with the water and run. While they can be a little pricey, take our advice, these are worth it.

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Choosing the Best Pen for Your Needs

Finding the best pen can take time and effort. Going through different pens that feels like an extension of your hand is difficult, which is why you may see people with cups full of pens.

We hope that our list of the Best Pens for Designers, Artists & Illustrators in 2020 helped to give you some ideas so you can avoid that fate but if you have a favorite pen that isn’t on our list, let us know in the comments below!

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