Once limited to dip pens and, by the 1960s, to beautiful but finicky refillable pens (like the Rapidograph) or cartridge pens (like the Staedtler Mars), artists, architects, and illustrators can now choose from a wide range of disposable drawing pens. Although these days most drafting is done on computers, drawing pens are more popular than ever for sketching, cartooning, and even taking class notes. These disposable tools come in a variety of nib sizes, from an ultrafine .03 millimeter to a bold 1.5 millimeter—usually indicated by a number on the top of the cap or the side of the pen. They also come in different shapes, including needle-point (on technical drawing pens), bullet, chisel, and brush. Depending on the nib, drawing pens can deliver a perfectly uniform line or approximate the characterful effects produced by dip pens and calligraphers’ brushes. Our picks below will help you find the right set of disposable black drawing pens for your needs.
1. Sakura Pigma Micron Pen Set
Designed in the early 1980s as an inexpensive delivery system for their patented pigment-based ink, Sakura’s Pigma Micron pen, with its familiar beige barrel and gear-shaped top, remains the best-quality technical pen in its class. Permanent, fade resistant, chemically stable, bleed free, and run-proof once dry, Sakura’s archival-quality Pigma ink makes the Micron the go-to tool not only for artists, but for anyone concerned with preserving their work. Like most technical drawing pens, especially those with super-fine tips, Pigma Microns are somewhat delicate. Fortunately, Sakura’s website contains a wealth of useful advice on how to use and care for your pens, including instructions for switching out a bent nib for a usable one from an empty cartridge. This set comes with three pens, each with a different fine to medium-fine tip size: 0.1mm, 0.3mm, and 0.5mm.
2. Prismacolor Premier Illustration Markers
Though beloved for its vivid colorful pens (it’s in the name, after all), Prismacolor delivers an excellent black pen you shouldn’t sleep on. Each is loaded with a dye-based alcohol ink that doesn’t feather and dries almost instantly to a bold, smear-resistant mark, so you can work uninterrupted. The stark lines are also water-resistant, which means you can combine them with watercolors—and the black remains vivid under light layers of paint. Each marker is nicely weighted and has a sturdy tip that releases a consistent flow of permanent ink. This set comes with five pens in different sizes, from an ultrafine tip for the smallest of details to a chunkier tip for everyday writing.
3. Staedtler Assorted Pigment Liners, 8-Piece Set
Filled with pigment-based ink, the Staedtler Pigment Liner produces a smooth, dark line that’s waterproof, fade resistant, and acid free. While you’ll pay more for it than for pens of similar quality, it might be just the right pen for you, with the great advantage of having a long metal tip that makes it easy to use with raised inking rulers to avoid smearing. Another big plus: Though it’s not recommended, you can leave these pens uncapped for up to 18 hours without their drying out—great for the forgetful, or for artists working with multiple pens at once. This set features seven needle-tipped pens in assorted sizes, as well as one chisel-tip pen, and comes in a nifty stand-up box that doubles as a pen holder.
4. Marvy Uchida LePen Fine Line Markers
Behold LePen, a longtime favorite of pen geeks. Unlike our other choices, this super-slim, fine-line marker comes in only one weight (0.3 millimeters in technical-pen speak). However, if you’re a writer who gets attached to a particular kind of pen, or a draftsman who needs only one line width for your work, this just might become your new favorite implement. The midrange nib size is useful for writing and drawing, but be warned—the ink, though a strong black, is not waterproof. This pack contains four pens.
5. Copic Multiliners, Set of 9
The Copic Multiliner is the best technical drawing pen you can buy without upgrading to a refillable pen or one with a replaceable cartridge and nib (although Copic makes these too!). With its smooth action, crisp line, and waterproof, bleed-proof, pigment-based ink, it’s the top choice for fine artists, manga and comic book artists, and designers, illustrators, and draftspeople. Most important, the ink in the Copic Multiliner is alcohol-based, rather than water-based; because it is faster drying, it will not pill or soak paper. It is also compatible with the inks in Copic color markers—once set, lines won’t bleed when you color over them with non-water-based markers. Like all technical pens, the Copic Multiliner needs to be handled with care, but treat it nicely and it will love you back. This set comes with seven needle-tip pens in a range of sizes, plus two pens with brush tips for versatile mark-making.