Graphic Pens for All Your Linework Needs

While a painting or drawing doesn’t always need linework, it makes defining certain elements and focusing on your chosen subject easier. Adjusting just the thickness or shape of your lines can majorly affect the mood and style of your art. 

With this in mind, we’ll take a closer look at Etchr’s Black Graphic Pen collection and see what secrets it offers within its nibs.

More Than Enough

Most people have used a pen but what sets a graphic pen apart from other types is that they are much more similar to a marker. They are smooth to write or draw with, and they come in many more shapes and sizes. 

With the Etchr collection, I’ve “swatched” all 16 different pens. They all use water based pigment ink and the nibs fall into three different categories: round tips, chisel tips, and brush tips. 

Round tips are your typical graphic pen in that they draw consistent, even lines no matter how you hold them. Think of them as your workhorse pens, good for technical drawings or getting precise strokes with the same line thickness.

You can also treat them similarly to a pencil, as the stiff nib pretty much means there’s no line variation. This lack of line variation means that graphic pens come in different sizes (no matter the brand) to allow for consistent strokes.

The Etchr set comes in round-tipped pens from 005 to 10, with 10 being the thickest.

Chisel tips are like a traditional calligraphy or marker pen – thicker, but with an angled edge, so it’s shaped exactly like its name!

You can get great calligraphy lines out of the chisel tips and in two thicknesses depending on whether you’re using the whole edge or just the pointed part of the nib.

Last but not least are the brush tips. While some brush-tipped pens have bristles (like a paintbrush), most are like Etchr’s pens, made of felt formed into a brush shape. The shaped felt gives the pens much more durability and control, as no errant bristles are poking out the sides.

It also means these tips are flexible and can give a wider and more graduated variety of line thickness depending on how hard you press. They’re great for modern calligraphy but require a little more finesse because using this nib is more similar to painting rather than drawing your lines.

Bonus tip: A big plus to Etchr’s graphic pen set is that they’re waterproof and fade proof! You can paint over them without having to worry about smudging your linework. However, not all graphic pens are waterproof, so make sure to check the label and test the pens beforehand.

Creating Your Line Style

I’ll show you how the different types of graphic pens can produce different styles.

The regular round tips are probably the most standard and versatile in creating whatever look or style you wish to achieve. You can do a sketchier style, like what you’d typically draw with a pencil, or you can do something as precise as drawing a blueprint. 

Round tips are pretty much the “default” pen type, so with them, you’re working more on your pen strokes than you are with the line thickness. For example, you can use a smooth or a shaky line, many broken lines or one continuous line, and lines or dots! The possibilities are endless.

The chisel tips are a bit more esoteric than the other two. I always think they’re best for something like Gothic calligraphy writing, but you can experiment drawing with them to see how they work! My experiment yielded something I would describe as “text-like art”.

Another good use for chisel tips is to block in larger areas of black. Using a round tip will take too long, and using a brush tip would wear it down too quickly. 

Finally, the brush-tipped pens are great for something that looks slightly different and emphasises the importance of line thickness. For example, I followed Leslie Parsons’ live demo on drawing Japanese storefronts, and the lines here give the drawing much more character and depth than if I had just used a round-tipped pen.

Brush tips also have a bit of a calligraphic feel to them, but the lines seem to be more organic and free-flowing, as they’re not as confined to a certain thickness.

Final Tips and Tricks

I think many new artists shy away from graphic pens because of the idea of how permanent and prominent an inked line looks, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

The good thing is that graphic pens can be used on most kinds of paper, even cheap printing paper, which is a great way to practice. Remember to switch back to watercolour paper if you’re planning to paint the sketch later.

Some last tips I can offer are to try not to push down too hard on the thinner nibs, as they will bend (I learned that the hard way!), and to use them on smoother papers, so they don’t wear out too quickly.

They’re generally pretty durable, though, so don’t be afraid to experiment with them! They will last a long time, too, as long as you recap them after each use.

I hope you have fun with your graphic pens! And make sure to use them a lot, not just during Inktober. Need a quick tutorial on where to get started? We've got a great post on Fineliner Art for Beginners!

If learning through watching videos is more your style, we've got lots of classes that focus on sketching with fineliners!

Do you like drawing with graphic pens? What is your preferred line style? Have you tried all the different types of graphic pens? Let us know in the comments below! If you have tried the Etchr Graphic pens, let us know your thoughts on them as well. 

If you’re interested in getting more tips, tricks, and general advice about creating art, subscribe to our email newsletter. You’ll be kept up to date with our latest product releases and flash sales, too!

Nicola Tsoi is a practising graphic designer and illustrator based in Hong Kong. She likes to watch birds do funny things, search for stories, and bake up a storm during her downtime. She keeps a pet sourdough starter named Doughy. 
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