Pavneet Sembhi

In a world of lines and squiggles


Let's Talk Pens

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So the question I get most is: What pens do you use? I have found some pens are better at certain things than others. The pen is so important to your illustration because it does so much more than bringing your idea to life.

With the right pen for you, you can work quickly, easily and achieve the exact linework you want. You also want to consider factors like the flow of the ink, the way it feels on the paper, the intensity of the colour, the lifetime of the nib. Paper also makes a MASSIVE difference to how the ink comes out. And ultimately it depends on what works for you. 

Here are some pen sets that I use often with my own pros and cons of each one. I have only really discussed black pens as most of my illustrations are black and white and these are my thoughts in relation to the types of illustrations I do. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to leave a comment at the bottom and I will get back to you. 

Sakura Pigma Micron

My go to pen is the Sakura Pigma Micron Drawing Pen. I now buy the 005's separately but a good place to start is this 6 pen set.


  • The black ink is so very black! It is the "blackest" ink I have found
  • The ink flow is great and it never smudges
  • You can create a variety of strokes with it so perfect for shading
  • It comes in a variety of sizes: 0.05, 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.5, 0.8 - 005 is the best for details
  • Best for artistic illustrations that do not need to be really crisp and clean
  • Good for Moleskines and sketchbooks


  • The smooth ink flow doesn't last long so the lines get less crisp quite quickly = getting through pens quickly 


These are the pens I tend use to use when drawing tattoo commissions.


  • Lines are clean and consistent 
  • It has a good range of thicker nibbed pens: XS, S, F, M, B and C 
  • The B pen (broad) is really great for filling black areas, it is really pigmented and is my favourite pen to use for this purpose


  • Shading is more difficult with these pens
  • XS is still not small enough to create the details you can with the 005 Pigma Micron 
  • Not ideal on Moleskine paper
  • For some reason I just do not enjoy creating freeflowing illustrations with these pens 


Although this is not their intended use, I use these pens for planning and sketching ideas. 


  • A lot of ink flows out of these pens, makes it really easy to quickly sketch and draw 
  • Even and fluid ink makes it great for getting a very animated feel to illustrations, ideal for a comic/cartoon sort of look 
  • Waterproof so good if you are adding watercolour on top 
  • Range of sizes: 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 07 & 08


  • Biggest con is that there is SO much ink that it can smudge very easily so I do not use it for final designs
  • The ink is not very black and is more of a dark grey 
  • Can bleed a lot on the wrong paper such as moleskines 
  • Definitely not the best pens for my style of illustration that requires absolute precision 


These pens are a good mix of the Pigma Micron and Faber-Castell. I use these mainly for commissioned projects requiring precise lines that will eventually be used as a graphic or on a product.


  • Crisp lines so easy to edit digitally e.g. for use on products or converting to vectors
  • Perfect for geometric and graphic designs 
  • Last a long time and very reliable 
  • The biggest range of sizes: 0.05, 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.6, 0.7, 0.8 1.0 & 1.2
  • Good for inking over pencil sketches and outlines


  • Does not easily facilitate artistic illustrations 
  • Not ideal for shading or adding depth to illustrations 
  • The black is not as black as the Pigma Micron and Faber Castell pens 
  • Nib has bent on a few occasions (but maybe I am just heavy handed!)
  • Have had some smudging issues with these pens 


So that is how I have found these four brands of pens. I have tried lots of other pens over the years and these are the ones I always return to. If you have any other pens you want advice on then please feel free to leave a comment and I will let you know if I have used them. 

If you are looking to invest in some pens but do not know where to start I would recommend buying around a 01/S of the types you are considering and testing them out to see how they work for you before committing to a whole set. Let me know your thoughts and I hope this helps!