How to Sketch With Pen: Helpful Exercises and Tips

Pens come in all shapes, sizes, colors and weights. If you go to the art supply store, you’ll probably see a myriad of pens to choose from. This might seem daunting, but getting to know this tool is valuable. They’re portable and easy to use virtually anywhere.

Today, we’ll look at some tips for how to sketch with pen.

finished sketch 1

Becoming a pen hoarder isn’t hard. I didn’t have to look very far in my house, and I came up with a bunch of different brands and weights. And, I wasn’t familiar with most of them. What kind of line were they going to make? What color are they? Rather than be surprised, I started my sketching with a quick and easy exercise.

Make a pen study

Different types of pens

It’s no fun starting a drawing and realizing that your pen is totally wrong for you. Maybe it’s dried out, or the tip is too thick. Before you begin drawing, take all the utensils that you’re interested in using and make a “chart” on a scrap piece of paper. Just a few quick marks will give you an idea of the types of lines that a pen will make.

Pen Chart

Some marks were unexpected, and I quickly found a couple of favorite pens. I loved the feeling of the Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen with a brush tip. With it, I can easily vary weights by applying more or less pressure. I didn’t like the Micron .20mm pen – it was just too thin for me. But, if you like very fine lines, I’d recommend it.

Start with the big details

Animal planter

I’m drawing my favorite plant and planter. With all of my sketching, I find that it’s easier to work from general to fine. After all, you don’t want to spend all your time crafting small details that are later covered by shading.


First, I did a very quick pencil sketch so that I have my proportions correct. I didn’t shade or anything like that — just a quick contour line drawing. Alternatively, you can have a spontaneous, gestural look to your work by sketching only with pen. This method isn’t very forgiving, though — no erasing — so if you’re not comfortable with that, I’d recommend using a pencil first.


I worked with three different pens in my drawing: a Faber-Castell brush, Staedtler Fineliner and a Copic .25mm. These will give me a variation in line weight and will make my sketch visually interesting to look at it.

Use your favorite techniques… or try something new!


Sketching is both a great time to experiment or refine a technique. There are many different ways to draw with pen, including hatching, cross hatching and stippling. You can use one or all of them. I worked with a combination of hatching and cross hatching to define my form.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect!


The great thing about sketching in pen is that you can put a sketchbook in your bag, take it with you when you travel, or easily pick it up when you’re bored. These drawings aren’t going to be perfect, but remember to have fun! You’re honing your skills for when you’d like to complete a more polished work of art.



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