Artist pens: Fineliners, Brush Pens and Alcohol Markers

Artist pens: Fineliners, Brush Pens and Alcohol Markers

Technical pens and markers have been staples of the graphic artists toolbox for years now and even with the advent of the age of digital design the demand for top quality pens has not waned in the slightest. Artist quality pens are broken up into three broad categories that include Fineliners, Brush Pens and Alcohol Markers. Each of these are adjacent to the other and are frequently found sharing the same pencil case space as they compliment the strengths and make up for the weaknesses of each other.

Fineliners first and foremost are precision pens used for drawing and writing and see frequent use with illustrators for inking in the linework of pencil sketches and for architects to make clean consistent lines on plans. They feature a plastic or tough fibre tip and come in a selection of nib widths so can replicate line size consistently which is important in some of their uses. The ink is often permanent and waterproof and will be stated on the side of the pens barrel if they are, this means they work well when painting with watercolours as the ink will not bleed or run.

Image from Wikipedia

Brush pens fall into similar role as the Fineliner and will often feature the same kinds of ink but where they differ is instead of a nib, they have a brush which will either be a flexible felt brush style tip, or a synthetic nylon bristle tip which imitates using a paint brush. Brush pens allow for a greater variance in lines and lend themselves to a looser, more relaxed approach than fineliners but can still be used with great precision by the steady of hand. They also make short work of blocking out large areas with ink, a task that takes much longer when you only have a small nib.

Lastly Alcohol Markers were largely superseded in the graphics and design industry when things went largely digital but still find massive appeal in the illustration and craft market most notably in Japan where they are popular among Manga artists for colouring covers and colour pages. Alcohol markers dry with a smooth flat finish and can be blended or layered to create smooth transitions between colours when working quickly with the still wet ink. Most alcohol markers feature larger pen barrels than fineliners to account for the ink reservoir inside the pen and tend to feature two tips in some combination of a finer point for detail work, a fibre brush tip or a chisel tip.

There are two kinds of ink most commonly found in artists pens today which include pigment ink and dye ink. In the simplest terms the key differences between the two are that pigments are not soluble in water and create opaque inks (like the Indian ink common in fineliners), and dyes are soluble in water and are largely transparent and as such lend to layering well (such as the alcohol-based ink in markers). The most common pigment black ink is the water-based Indian ink, a very opaque, strong non-fading lightfast black ink which has strong resistance to water once dried. Traditionally the ink is made with black soot and modern inks still use carbon black as a base.

The quick drying alcohol inks in alcohol markers use a dye for their colour and are immediately intense and shift little in colour once dry. These inks can be blended for effect whilst wet or layered when dry to build gradients. They are waterproof once dry but lack the lightfastness of pigments due to their translucency and if left exposed to direct sunlight over prolonged periods of time they will fade in vibrancy. 

There are many companies in the world making pens of the highest quality for use by artists worldwide and we stock a broad range of brands that encompass fineliners, brush pens and alcohol markers.

We have collated a list below of specifications based on ink type, lightfastness (permanent, moderate and weak), waterproofness and styles of pen tips so you know where they fall on the pen/marker spectrum.

 

Faber Castell – Pitt Drawing Pen & Pitt Brush Pen
Ink: Pigment
Lightfastness: Permanent
Waterproof: Yes
Style: XS (0.1mm) S (0.3mm) F (0.5mm) M (0.7mm), *B (brush) *SB (soft brush) C (chisel) SC (soft chisel) 1.5mm (bullet nib) & *Big Brush
*soft fibre brush

 

Staedtler – Pigment Liners
Ink: Pigment
Waterproof: Yes
Lightfastness: Permanent
Style: 0.05mm, 0.1mm, 0.2mm, 0.3mm, 0.4mm, 0.5mm, 0.6mm, 0.7mm, 0.8mm, 1mm, 1.2mm, 0.3 – 2mm Chisel

 

Uni-ball – Uni Pin Fine Line
Ink: Pigment
Waterproof: Yes
Lightfastness: Permanent
Style: 0.05mm, 0.1mm, 0.2mm, 0.3mm, 0.4mm, 0.5mm, 0.6mm, 0.7mm, 0.8mm, Brush (plastic fibre)

 

Sakura – Pigma Micron Fineliners & Pigma Brush Pens
Ink: Pigment
Waterproof: Yes
Lightfastness: Permanent
Style: 0.03mm 0.05mm, 0.1mm, 0.2mm, 0.3mm, 0.4mm, 0.5mm, 0.8mm, 1mm, 1.2mm Brush (soft fibre brush)

 

Pentel – Pocket Brush
Ink: Pigment
Waterproof: Yes
Lightfastness: Permanent
Style: Nylon bristle brush tip

 

Pentel – Colour Brush Pen
Ink: Pigment
Waterproof: No
Lightfastness: Moderate
Style: Nylon bristle brush tip

 

Winsor & Newton – Winsor & Newton Fineliner
Ink: Pigment
Waterproof: Yes
Lightfastness: Permanent
Style: 0.1mm, 0.3mm, 0.5mm, 0.8mm, 1.0mm

 

Winsor & Newton – Promarker & Promarker Brush
Ink: Alcohol dye
Waterproof: Yes
Lightfastness: Moderate
Style: fibre bullet nib & chisel tip (promarker), fibre brush tip & chisel tip (promarker brush) 

 

Copic – Multiliner SP Pen
Ink: Pigment
Waterproof: Yes
Lightfastness: Permanent
Style: 0.03mm, 0.05mm, 0.1mm, 0.2mm, 0.25mm, 0.3mm, 0.35mm, 0.5mm, 0.7mm, Brush (fibre brush tip)

 

Copic – Copic Ciao Marker
Ink: Alcohol dye
Waterproof: Yes
Lightfastness: Moderate
Style: Fibre brush tip & chisel tip

 

Dewent – Line Marker
Ink: Pigment
Waterproof: Yes
Lightfastness: Permanent
Style: 0.05mm, 0.1mm, 0.2mm, 0.3mm, 0.5mm, 0.8mm

Paul Worrall
Paul Worrall


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