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12 Best Gel Pens for Drawing & Journaling in 2024

Whether you’re a bullet journal fanatic or an artist, it can be crazy difficult to find the best gel pens for drawing. We’ve personally seen pens dry out quickly, plague us with inconsistent ink flow, and hurt our hands for lack of ergonomic design.

But not you, friend! Because we’ve collected all of the best gel pens for drawing in one place…and we’re not stingy with our intel!

What Makes Gel Pens Ideal for Drawing

When you’re reaching for the perfect tool to bring your artwork to life, gel pens stand out as your best option due to a few distinct characteristics. They promise vibrant outputs, precision lines, and a comfortable drawing experience.

Variety of Colors

Wide Range of Colors: Gel pens come in a spectacular array of colors, including countless shades of standard colors, pastels, and even neons. A wide range of colors allows you to add depth and dimension to your drawings that can elevate your creations from good to stunning.

Vibrant Colors and Ink Flow

Vibrant Colors and Smooth Ink Flow: One of the characteristics that set gel pens apart is their intensely vibrant colors. 

The gel ink’s consistency ensures a steady ink flow, so you can expect a smooth, uninterrupted stroke every time. This is crucial when you’re working on intricate details and don’t want to be held back by skipping or dragging.

Comfortable Grip and Nib Sizes

Comfort and Precision: The comfortable grip of the best pens is designed to reduce hand fatigue during prolonged drawing sessions. 

Also, with a variety of nib sizes available, from fine to bold, you can select a pen that complements your drawing style. Whether you need crisp, thin lines or bold, thick ones, a gel pen has you covered.

Choosing the Right Gel Pen for Your Artwork

When selecting the best gel pens for drawing, you’ll want to consider the types available and their features, as well as how they stack up to ballpoint pens and rollerball pens. We don’t mean to sound dramatic, but your choice can greatly influence the quality and creativity of your pieces.

Understanding Gel Pen Types

Gel pens come in various nib sizes, from fine to broad, and an array of ink types, such as glitter, neon, and pastel. 

For detailed work, choose a gel pen with a fine tip, which allows for precise lines. For bolder, more vibrant creations, broad tips with opaque gel ink are your best option to make your art stand out.

Regardless of nib size, it’s always a great option to select a favorite pen that boasts archival quality ink for longevity.

Comparison with Ballpoint Pens, Rollerball Pens, & Other Types of Pens

Ballpoint pens are known for their reliability and long-lasting ink. However, gel pens provide a smoother application compared to ballpoint pens, which require more pressure and can tire your hand during lengthy drawing sessions. 

Rollerball pens offer a wider color palette and often feature more dynamic inks than gel pens. They supply a wetter line and a more fluid writing experience, which might not always be suitable for artists.

We love how our friends at summed it up: “Because gel ink uses gel as well as water, it’s thicker and more prone to skipping than rollerball ink. For the utmost in smoothness, opt for rollerball ink. For vivid color, go for gel. And for instant dry and a tactile feel of ink on paper, good ol’ ballpoint is a good idea.”

Best Gel Pen Features for Artists

When looking for a favorite pen for your art, prioritize these features:

  • Quick-drying ink to prevent smudging
  • A comfortable grip for lengthy drawing sessions
  • Consistent ink flow for even application and uniform lines
  • Acid-free ink to ensure your artwork will last a long time

Remember to also consider the pen’s ergonomics and feedback on paper, as these factors can enhance your overall drawing experience.

The Zebra Sarasa Dry is a personal favorite among artists for its quick-drying ink. A significantly faster drying time is a major advantage. 

The Best Gel Pens for Color Variety

When you’re looking for the best drawing experience, having gel pens that offer a wide range of colors can significantly enhance your creative projects.

The Importance of a Wide Range of Colors

Having a variety of colors at your disposal is essential for adding depth and vibrancy to your artwork. Different colors allow you to shade, blend, and highlight with precision, bringing your drawings to life. 

The right colored gel pen can make the difference between flat, monochromatic images and rich, multi-dimensional art.

Top Picks for Rainbow Hues

For a rainbow of colors, the Shuttle Art set of gel pens stands out as a top pick with its neon glitter, metallic, and pastel options, giving you the freedom to experiment with 180 colors. 

Similarly noteworthy is the Sakura Gelly Roll Classic color range, widely appreciated for its variety of finishes and bold hues that cater to every colorist’s needs. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned artist, these top pick gel pens provide a robust palette for your artwork.

Perfecting Fine Details with Gel Pens

When it comes to bringing out the fine details in your artwork, the right gel pen can make all the difference. You’ll want to carefully choose one with a suitable nib size to ensure precision and control.

Gel Pens for Intricate Artwork

Discovering the best pens for the fine details of your art projects is essential. 

For fine details that demand crisp lines and vivid colors, the Pilot Hi-Tec-C Gel Pen stands out as the best option with its 0.25 mm tip. 

Its precise tip size coupled with smooth ink flow ensures that even the smallest elements of your art are captured beautifully. The importance of a reliable gel pen for detailed art cannot be overstated—they can add that finishing touch that brings your work to life.

Choosing the Best Nib Size for Detail Work

The nib size of your gel pen is critical for detail work. Here is a quick guide on nib sizes:

  • Ultra Fine Nibs (0.25 mm – 0.3 mm): Perfect for extremely detailed work and very fine lines.
  • Fine Nibs (0.4 mm – 0.5 mm): A good balance between precision and versatility for everyday art.
  • Medium Nibs (0.6 mm – 0.7 mm): Best for bold lines that still require a level of control and detail.

The Zebra Sarasa Grand Gel Pen with its quick-drying ink is an excellent option for those who prefer little to no smudge in their work, especially if you’re working with speed or layering different colors. Your choice will depend on your specific need for detail versus expression in your art.

Longevity and Durability in Gel Pens

When you are picking out gel pens for drawing, you’ll want to ensure they can endure drawing for a long time without running out and that the ink maintains its quality over time.

Gel Pens That Last a Long Time

For drawing that goes the distance, consider gel pens renowned for their longevity. 

Pilot G2 pens are widely respected for their lasting power, so much so that they are touted as America’s best-selling gel pen, and provide good value with their refillable design. Their gel ink is specifically engineered for prolonged use, making them a top pick for artists who spend long periods of time working on their craft.

Ink Durability and Resistance

Ink quality is paramount when it’s about your art standing the test of time. Black pens that boast resistance to smudging, water, and fading are indispensable. 

The Uni-Ball Signo UM-151 receives high marks for its smooth, pigment-based ink that dries quickly and endures a long time without deteriorating, making them a solid option for your artwork’s longevity. With ink durability, you’re not only creating with ease but also ensuring your work remains pristine and bold, even years later.

The Top Gel Pens for Black Paper

When it comes to drawing on black paper, regular pens just won’t do. You need gel pens that pop with high visibility and contrast, typically white and bright colors that can make your artwork stand out.

Why White Gel Pens and Bright Gel Pens Shine on Dark Surfaces

White gel pens and a bright colored gel pen are game-changers on black paper. 

White gel pens offer stark contrast, turning your black canvas into a vibrant piece of art. Meanwhile, bright gel pens provide a fluorescent-like effect that is nothing short of stunning.

  • White Gel Pens: Provide high visibility and stark contrast.
  • Bright Gel Pens: Offer luminous bright colors for striking effects on dark backgrounds.

Our Favorite Picks for Black Paper

Let’s dive into our favorite picks that are sure to become your go-to:

  1. Sakura Gelly Rolls: These pens (our personal favorite!) glide effortlessly on black paper, leaving behind a trail of creamy color that’s ideal for intricate designs.
  2. Uni-ball Signo Broad UM-153: The Uni-ball Signo is a top pick for a favorite pen experience. Its ink stands out boldly on dark surfaces and is a must-have for any artist’s toolkit.
  3. Pentel Hybrid Gel Grip DX: This pen has a comfortable grip and its ink is rich and vibrant, a great option when working on dark paper for extended periods.

Remember to give these gel pens brief dry times to ensure the brightest possible mark with minimal smudging.

The Best Option For Your Bank Account

Finding the best gel pens for drawing doesn’t have to empty your wallet. Here, you’ll discover the types of pens that deliver vibrant colors and a smooth writing experience, all while delivering a good value to keep your budget in check.

Affordable Quality Gel Pens

If you’re looking for good value gel pens that offer quality without the high price tag, the Zebra Sarasa Dry gel pen is a great option. With its quick-drying ink formula, you can sketch without fear of smears.

The 0.7mm tip provides precision that is ideal for detailed work. A 12-pack can often be found for less than $15, making it a great option for students and artists alike.

Good Value Without Sacrificing Color or Comfort

When you crave a variety of hues without spending a lot, Gelly Rolls are an artist’s staple.

Their range of different colors, glitters, and metallic shades opens up a world of creativity for your projects. The comfortable grip and consistent ink flow mean you can draw for hours without discomfort, so you don’t have to sacrifice good value for high quality.

Innovative Gel Pen Technologies

Gel pen technology has seen some exciting advancements over the last few years, particularly in the realm of drying times and erasability. These innovations offer you a smooth writing experience without the wait or worry of mistakes.

Sarasa Dry and Quick Drying Inks

We hate to sound like a broken record but the Sarasa Dry gel pen stands out in the market, featuring a swift drying time that’s engineered for those who can’t afford to pause for ink to set. This pen uses an ink formulated to dry approximately 85% faster than traditional gel inks, leveraging DRYJELL technology for faster dry times.

This innovation significantly reduces the chance of smearing and is ideal for left-handed writers. If quick-drying ink is vital for your art or note-taking, the Zebra Sarasa Dry may be your best choice.

Best Erasable Gel Pen: A New Frontier

Imagine being able to erase a gel pen just like a pencil. It’s a great thing and the best erasable gel pen options achieve this!

Their unique ink formula, often water-based gel combined with rubber-like polymers such as xanthan gum, allows the ink to be lifted from the page. While these pens don’t offer dry times quite as fast as Zebra’s Sarasa Dry, they offer you the flexibility to correct errors without leaving a trace.

For a combination of erasability and vibrant color, explore options that deliver both practicality and creative freedom, like Pilot’s FriXion Clicker Erasable Gel Pens.

Gel Pen Accessories and Maintenance

Keeping your gel pens performing at their best involves knowing how to care for them properly and choosing the right refills for refillable models.

Caring for Your Gel Pens

To extend the life of your gel pens, including specialized styles like fountain pens, proper care is key:

  • Storage: Always store your pens with the tip facing down to avoid ink separation and drying out.
  • Cleaning: Occasionally wipe the tip with a damp cloth to remove any dried ink or debris.
  • Usage: Avoid dropping your pens to prevent damage to the tip and ink flow system.

The Right Refills for Your Favorite Gel Pens

When your Uni-ball Signo or Pentel EnerGel starts running low on ink, it’s essential to pick the right refill.

For Uni-ball Signo pens, opt for refills that match the pen’s model number to ensure compatibility. Meanwhile, Pentel EnerGel refills come in different colors and sizes, so you can customize your writing experience.

Always check:

  • Tip size: It’s a great thing to select the same tip size as your original pen to maintain the line width you’re accustomed to.
  • Ink color: Stick with the same color or experiment with new hues to expand your palette.
Pen ModelRefill TypeTip Sizes AvailableInk Colors
Uni-ball SignoUMR-1, UMR-83, UMR-850.38mm, 0.5mm, 0.7mm, 1.0mmBlack, Blue, Red
Pentel EnerGelLR7, LR100.5mm, 0.7mmMultiple including Black, Blue, Red

Creative Techniques with Gel Pens

Gel pens are a dynamic tool in your art arsenal, offering vibrant colors and unique blending opportunities. Let’s explore how to maximize their potential and compare them with paint markers for your projects.

Layering and Blending with Gel Pens

Gel pens allow you to layer different colors to produce rich and vivid results. To start, choose pens with a variety of colors to give you a wider range of options.

With a colored gel pen, apply a light base layer and gradually increase the pressure for deeper saturation. By overlaying complementary colors, you can blend shades seamlessly, a technique especially effective on thicker paper that prevents ink seepage.

Gel Pens Versus Paint Markers and Brush Pens

While gel pens are praised for their precise application, paint markers offer a different kind of punch with their opacity and coverage.

Brush pens have flexible tips made from either natural hair or synthetic fibers that mimic the qualities of a paintbrush. This is particularly useful for calligraphy, lettering, and illustration, where line variation is desirable.

To compare:

  • Gel Pens:
    • Work best for detailed work.
    • Provide a wide range of colors in shimmering, metallic, or pastel hues.
    • Allow for intricate layering and subtle blending.
  • Paint Markers:
    • Are optimal for bold lines and filling larger areas.
    • Stand out for their use on various surfaces beyond paper.
    • Usually have fewer color options compared to colored pens.
  • Brush Pens:
    • Dynamic strokes can mimic the effects of traditional painting techniques.
    • Can be blended with water or other inks to create gradients and other effects.
    • Not as effective as gels pens on dark or black paper.

Choosing between gel pens, paint markers, and brush pens depends on the effect you’re after. But hey…why not use all three in your artwork for a full spectrum experience? We’re just saying…

12 Best Gel Pens for Drawing & Journaling in 2024

So…now that you know all of the best gel pens for drawing, which will you go with? And why?

Be sure to share your thoughts with us in the comments. Happy drawing!

Disclosure: While all opinions are our own, we are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and other affiliate advertising programs, designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites, at no additional cost to you.

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