8 Best Architecture Pens for Drawing and Sketching

Written by Laura Walker / Fact checked by Leilani Carroll

best architecture pens

Now that most illustrators, architects, and designers use digital tools, I’m always reminded of Australian Architect Glenn Murcutt’s words: “The hand can discover before the eye sees.” Essentially, the process of freehand sketching allows one to explore and refine ideas before rendering them in software.

Based on my experience, I like to use the best architecture pens to avoid smearing, skipping, or bleeding ink. If you want to buy a set for yourself, here are the features to look for:

Pen type

Architects typically use fountain pens and fineliners for technical drawings. Many prefer the former option since its nibs are more hardwearing compared to the felt tips found in fineliners. Unfortunately, fountain pens’ nibs require constant cleaning. If you don’t have time for that, then fineliner pens might be better.

Nibs

Draftsmen take advantage of different line weights to show depth and perspective or establish a focal point in a drawing. Thus, micro liner pen sets offer tips in a variety of shapes and sizes. After all, the nibs influence the thickness of the line, or “line weight.”
Therefore, when building a collection of pens for architects, it is good to have a mix of fine, medium, bold, and brush nibs.

Ink quality

If the ink takes time to dry, you risk smudging it. If it skips, you will have to go over the lines you draw to fill those gaps. The lesson here is that investing in drafting pens with inks that flow continuously and dry fast can help you accomplish the task more efficiently.

3 Premium-Rated Picks

SAKURA Pigma

No. of pens: 6

Nib type: Fineliner

Ink formula: Archival pigment-based ink

Tombow 62038

No. of pens: 2

Nib type: Hard brush and soft brush

Ink formula: Water-based ink

STAEDTLER 308 SB6P

No. of pens: 6

Nib type: Fineliner

Ink formula: Lightfast and waterproof ink

8 Top-rated Architecture Pens

1. SAKURA Pigma Micron Fineliner Pens

  • No. of pens: 6
  • Nib type: Fineliner
  • Point sizes: micron 005 (0.20 mm), 01 (0.25 mm), 02 (0.30 mm), 03 (0.35 mm), 05 (0.45 mm), and 08 (0.50 mm)
  • Ink formula: Archival pigment-based ink
Check price on Amazon

An invention of a century-old Japanese company called Sakura, the Pigma Micron is the gold standard for waterproof and archival pens. It’s not surprising that these fineliners became the go-to writing implements for various professionals, including scientists, archivists, illustrators, designers, and of course, architects.

What I love about this brand the most is that the color of their inks is highly opaque and well-saturated. In the last couple of years that I have been using this set of six pens for drawing and writing, the quality has been consistent.

As far as performance is concerned, I like that the ink flows smoothly and dries instantly to prevent smearing. Thus, it is perfect for creating mixed-media illustrations. When I write in my notebook, the ink does not bleed through the other pages. It’s also impressive that the pigment ink doesn’t fade even when exposed to intense UV rays.

Although sets include more pens, this pack of six offers a good mix of nib sizes, including micron 005, 01, 02, 03, 05, and 08. The finer tip sizes are excellent for detail work, while the thicker ones are useful for creating the focal point of my illustrations. The problem with these professional pens is that I always need to go easy on my grip because their nibs are prone to fraying.

PROS
  • Suitable for various professionals
  • Can create mixed-media illustrations
  • Does not bleed through the other pages
  • Fade-resistant and quick-drying ink
  • Offers a good mix of nib sizes (ranging from micron 005 to 08)
CONS
  • Nibs are prone to fraying

2. Tombow 62038 Fudenosuke Brush Pen

  • No. of pens: 2
  • Nib type: Hard brush and soft brush
  • Point sizes: Varies
  • Ink formula: Water-based ink
Check price on Amazon

Although the Fudenosuke brush pens are more popular among calligraphers and comic book artists, it has its place in the world of architecture. I like this set as it comes with a hard brush and a soft one.

Typically, I find the two included pens suitable for freehand sketching foliage and other decorative elements. Their pressure sensitivity enables me to control my strokes with ease. The only difference is that the soft brush creates bolder lines compared to the hard brush. Either way, both are particularly handy for coloring large surfaces.

Aside from that, their jet-black inks make them good pens for inking line drawings. I never have to create layers of ink just to ensure that the color appears opaque. Moreover, they dry quickly and do not smudge when coming into contact with moisture.

Meanwhile, the barrels are constructed from recycled polypropylene plastic, which makes them environmentally friendly. Their body also features an ergonomic thumb grip, ensuring users can get a comfortable yet solid grip on the pens.

However, it took me a while to realize that ‘WS-BH’ stands for hard brush and ‘WS-BS’ stands for soft brush, so I can imagine how confusing they can be for first-time users. Plus, most of the writing on the pen is in Japanese, making it hard to understand for anyone who doesn’t speak the language.

PROS
  • Comes with a hard brush and a soft brush
  • Suitable for freehand sketching foliage and other decorative elements
  • Soft brush creates bolder lines compared to the hard brush
  • Handy for coloring large surfaces
  • Good pens for inking line drawings
CONS
  • The writing on the pen’s label may not be easily understood

3. STAEDTLER 308 SB6P Pigment Liner

  • No. of pens: 6
  • Nib type: Fineliner
  • Point sizes: 0.05 mm, 0.1 mm, 0.2 mm, 0.3 mm, 0.5 mm, and 0.8 mm
  • Ink formula: Lightfast and waterproof ink
Check price on Amazon

The reason I got this set was due to how its plastic pen case can turn into a pen holder. Apart from that, the fineliners are airplane safe, which means no leaking inks during flight. Having brought this set everywhere as I travel for months, I’m here to confirm that the pens are still in good shape and they write pretty well.

We know that Staedtler is known for numerous cool pen designs. But what I love specifically about these technical pens is that they feature longer metal tip holders to prevent smudging when drawing a line with a ruler or T-square.

What’s more, these pens’ felt tips can withstand everyday use. I’m amazed by how crisp the lines I make with these fineliners are, despite having used them for several months.

In addition, the selection of point sizes enables me to create bold and thin lines to emphasize an object or add depth to my illustrations. To be specific, the set offers up to 6 size options: 0.05, 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.5, and 0.8 mm.

In addition to its archival quality, I like that the inks are never skipped or smeared. I never had problems pairing these pens with alcohol-based markers. However, I noticed that watercolors lift the inks a bit.

PROS
  • Comes with a plastic case that can be used as a pen holder
  • Do not leak ink if brought onto planes
  • Features longer metal tip holders to prevent smudging when used with a ruler
  • Includes 6 nib size options for creating lines of various thickness
  • The inks never skipped nor smear
CONS
  • Watercolors may lift the inks a bit

4. Lamy Safari Fountain Pen

  • No. of pens: 1
  • Nib type: Black-coated steel nib
  • Point sizes: Fine
  • Ink formula: Lamy T10 Blue Cartridge included in the package
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Even though many people no longer use fountain pens for illustration, I know many artists who do, and most of them recommend Lamy’s Safari series.

For starters, Lamy steel nibs are far more durable than felt-tipped technical pens. While this set came with a fine-point tip, I have the option to replace it with the broader ones or the specialty nibs that I bought separately. Rest assured; these tips can all move across the paper smoothly without a hint of scratchiness.

In my view, this fountain pen is the perfect example of how one can incorporate aesthetics into a utilitarian design. Built from durable ABS plastic, it is black from top to bottom, resulting in a sleek and clean aesthetic.

Plus, the triangular shape of the barrel’s grip reduces the fatigue on my hands, especially when I’m sketching for long hours.

That said, maintaining a fountain pen is quite a handful. As the ink reservoir is small, I need to refill it every five to seven days. Apart from that, the ink that comes with the set is not waterproof, so I’d have to buy a separate pigment-based ink. Nevertheless, these are the minor tradeoffs that I can overlook.

PROS
  • Durable steel nibs that can outlast felt-tipped technical pens
  • The tip can be replaced with broader or specialty nibs
  • Can glide smoothly across the paper with no hint of scratchy feelings
  • The triangular shape of the barrel’s grip reduces the fatigue on the hands
  • Beautiful pen barrel construction
CONS
  • Needs frequent ink refilling
  • The ink that comes with the set is not waterproof

5. Copic MLB2 Multiliner Set B-2

  • No. of pens: 9
  • Nib type: Fineliner and brush tips
  • Point sizes: 0.03 mm, 0.05 mm, 0.1 mm, 0.3 mm, 0.5 mm, 0.8 mm, 1.0 mm, BS (Brush Small), and BM (Brush Medium)
  • Ink formula: Archival pigment-based ink
Check price on Amazon

Initially, I bought this pack of pens since the tech pens’ inks are compatible with my collection of Copic Sketch and Ciao markers. Its fast-drying archival inks enable me to apply alcohol-based markers without worrying about smudges. At the same time, it offers the ‘darkest’ black shade that does not discolor when I draw on top of it.

Of course, I eventually discovered other fineliner brands that go well with a wide array of mediums. So why am I recommending the Multiliner Set B-2 to you? Well, their inks can resist the rubbing of the eraser. Using them to outline or ink my illustrations is more efficient as it eliminates the need to retrace faded lines after erasing the pencil lines.

Another reason I like this set is that it provides a good range of thin, medium, broad, and brush nibs. It’s great for sketching precise technical drawings and writing text legibly.

Sadly, the brushes are a bit rigid, unlike the alcohol markers’ brushes. Moreover, the product’s price tag is a bit too steep compared to its competitors.

PROS
  • Compatible with alcohol-based markers without worrying about smudges
  • Offers the ‘darkest’ black shade that is fade-resistant
  • The ink does not get lifted if users rub an eraser over it
  • Provides a good range of thin, medium, broad, and brush nibs
  • Great for sketching precise technical drawings and writing legible text
CONS
  • The brushes are a bit rigid
  • The product’s price tag is a bit steep

6. Pandafly 807A-10 Black Fineliner Pen Set

  • No. of pens: 9 assorted
  • Nib type: Fineliner and brush tips
  • Point sizes: 005 (00.2mm), 01 (0.25mm), 02 (0.3mm), 03 (0.35mm), 04 (0.4mm), 05 (0.45mm), 06 (0.5mm), 08 (0.6mm), 10 (1.0mm), 1 Soft Brush tip
  • Ink formula: Archival pigment-based ink
Check price on Amazon

Normally, I would reserve my fancy art supplies for commissioned or portfolio-worthy pieces and hesitate to use them for drafts. But Pandafly’s affordable set removes that “pressure of performing well.” I can explore ideas, journal, or write meeting notes freely without worrying about wasting ink.

In one set, I get a 2.5 mm brush pen and nine fineliners with different point sizes, ranging from 0.2 mm to 0.5 mm. Based on my observation, the felt nibs can take a beating and maintain their shape well despite heavy usage. On the other hand, the pen’s lightweight body rests comfortably in my hands.

Meanwhile, the ink is both smooth-flowing and fast-drying. As such, I can draw long lines without having to deal with bleeding, skipping, or smearing. I’m confident that my artwork will not fade or discolor, thanks to the archival formula.

Overall, this pen set’s quality can match the high-end brand. However, the catch is that its black ink appears dark gray on paper and the brush nib is way too firm.

PROS
  • An affordable set for beginners and artists on a tight budget
  • Durable and long-lasting felt nibs
  • The pen’s lightweight body makes writing and drawing more comfortable
  • Can draw long lines without bleeding, skipping, or smearing
  • Artwork will not fade or discolor thanks to the archival formula
CONS
  • Its black ink appears dark gray on paper
  • The brush nib is a little too firm

7. PILOT 11001 Razor Point Marker Pen

  • No. of pens: 12
  • Nib type: Fineliner
  • Point sizes: 0.30 mm
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The Pilot Razor Point Marker Pen is one of the writing implements that have been around for decades. I’ve been using them long enough to know that their ink and nibs have always been consistent in quality.

Supported by a metal nib holder, the pen’s extra fine tip creates crisp 0.3 mm lines that make my handwriting look nicer. At the same time, I like to utilize it as a pen for sketching technical illustrations where precision is of utmost importance.

Even the pen’s black plastic body, cap, and metal clip show that this product has been around for a long time—an indication of the brand’s experience and reputation in the industry. Needless to say, it is comfortable to grip and easy to wield. Since I have many uses for the pen, I’m glad that it is sold in a pack of twelve at an affordable price.

Based on my tests, I can confirm that the ink produces a rich black color and it flows continuously. Left-handed folks will be happy to know it dries within seconds to prevent smudging.

My only problem is that the packaging does not say what type of ink it has. I wish the manufacturer had informed the consumers whether the ink is archival so that we know when and where to use these pens. Aside from that, the tips get ragged after a couple of months.

PROS
  • Features an extra fine tip that creates crisp 0.3 mm lines
  • Comfortable to grip and easy to wield
  • Sold in a pack of twelve at an affordable price
  • Produces a rich black color
  • The ink dries within seconds to prevent smudging
CONS
  • No clear specification as to the ink’s type
  • The tips degrade after a couple of months

8. Prismacolor Premier Fine Line Marker

  • No. of pens: 12
  • Nib type: Fineliner
  • Point sizes: Micron 005, 01, 03, 05, and 08
  • Ink formula: Acid-free pigment ink
Check price on Amazon

Prismacolor is best known for its pastel, colored pencils, and blending markers. When I learned that they also manufacture fineliners, I decided to get this pack of five and put each one to the test to see if that near-perfect consumer rating holds any weight.

Offering fine, medium, and bold point sizes, the set provides everything I need to sketch illustrations that feature different perspectives. Even as the tips slide on my paper, I find that controlling the pens is a breeze owing to their lightweight and easy-to-hold bodies. Not to mention, the nibs can retain their shapes even when I apply pressure.

Despite being cheaper than their competitor, the pens’ inks are both lightfast and smooth-flowing. As a result, these drawing instruments create a deep black shade on the paper. Because of that, I don’t have to waste time retracing the lines.

My only gripe with these pens is that they bleed into the colored alcohol-based. However, they are excellent with colored pencils or black-and-white drawings. Another thing is that the brand did not include the line weight in millimeters alongside number codes like “005” or “01”. First-time users may not know what those digits mean.

PROS
  • Provide tips of different sizes to sketch illustrations with varying perspective
  • The pens are designed for easy handling
  • Durable nibs that can retain their shapes well
  • Lightfast and smooth-flowing ink
  • Deep and opaque ink eliminates the need for retracing lines
CONS
  • Will bleed if used with alcohol-based pens
  • Does not include the line weight in millimeters alongside number codes like “005” or “01”

Factors to Consider When Buying Architecture Pens

Factors-to-consider-when-buying-architecture-pens

Archival vs. Regular Ink

Illustrations made with archival ink can last decades without fading or damaging the paper. By contrast, inks from ballpoint pens are more prone to discoloration. Consequently, artists use archival inks on acid-free paper products to help preserve their work. Of course, most archival pens are a bit more expensive than regular ones. If you have not decided on the “final piece” and are still exploring ideas, ordinary pens will suffice.

Compatibility with other mediums

Besides using pencils and pens for line art, artists and architects apply paint or colored markers to complete the illustrations. I’m sure you are familiar with the process and the problems that come with it.

For instance, rubbing the eraser to remove the pencil markings would lift the ink. Meanwhile, exposing the sketch to moisture from watercolor, gouache, or acrylics can smear the lines. It takes a lot of trial and error to figure out which markers perform better with the other mediums. The good news is that there’s a shortcut: Read the reviews like mine to know whether the set of architectural drawing pens you are using is compatible with all tools that you intend to use.

Architect fountain pen vs. technical pen

As the name indicates, technical pens are made to help artists and designers create precise technical drawings. These tools come in two types: A refillable technical pen and a disposable one. Both of them are available in a wide variety of point sizes.

  • Refillable fountain pens offer plenty of nibs and ink refills, and since their nibs are made of steel, you will never have to deal with “frayed tips.” However, they are pricier than most tech pens and require more preventive maintenance.
    Another aspect to consider is that fountain pens are typically used with dye-based inks, which are not waterproof and archival. Of course, you can buy fade- and water-resistant pigment-based inks, but you have to clean your fountain pens more regularly than you would with dye-based inks.
  • Disposable technical pens, on the other hand, usually feature archival ink in the first place. They need no maintenance and do not clog, but their tips tend to fray after a few months of use, especially if you apply too much pressure.

Ergonomics

Always pay close attention to the pen design and make sure it’s ergonomic enough to minimize hand strain.

When buying pens and pencils for architects, note that each ergonomic writing implement is designed differently. You need to try a couple of options to see which one is more comfortable for you.

Pricing

The upfront cost of a refillable pen is usually heftier compared to disposable ones. If you think long-term, however, you will likely spend less since you will only be purchasing refills. It is even cheaper with fountain pens because their nibs are replaceable.

But as mentioned earlier, disposable options’ affordability makes them the perfect pens for architecture students on a budget.

Conclusion

Whether you are working or studying architecture, you need reliable tools that can translate your creative ideas into sketches that your clients, co-workers, or professors can understand.

Investing in the best architecture pens is not about showing off. Rather, it is also about ensuring you can deliver precise and stylish illustrations without facing the hassle of redoing your work due to smearing and bleeding inks.

5/5 - (3 votes)
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