Unconventional Inking Tools

In the past, I’ve talked about the various tools that are commonly used for inking comics. I’ve brought up dipping pens, technical drawing pens, and the brush in their use for inking comics.

These aren’t the only tools used. Since I’ve been hanging out with a lot of the alternative and small press comics crowd, I’ve seen a lot of unconventional inking tools used.

Other types of pens

There are other type of pens used for inking comics and some of these are frequently used. Let’s start with the fountain pen. The fountain pen (shown as the topmost in the photo) is a mechanical style pen that blends elements of the technical pen with the dipping pen. Intended for handwriting and especially the art of calligraphy, the fountain pen uses cartridges of ink and can make all kinds of strokes not unlike that of some nibs. Some cartoonists out there have used fountain pens. In fact, it’s been said that Art Spiegelman drew his best known work Maus using a fountain pen on typing paper.

Unfortunately, when it comes to inking comics, the fountain pen can be VERY fickle. These pens can clog up very easy. It’s not too difficult to clean though – water should usually do and a bit of pen cleaner for good measure should help out too. Another problem with the fountain pen is that the ink is NOT waterproof. If you plan to use this with standard waterproof ink or water-soluble paints (gouache, watercolor, etc), this ink could very well bleed.

Why read indie comics? page 9An example of the fountain pen in action can be seen here.  This is a page from my work “Why Read Indie Comics?”  Shown in the fourth installment, this drawing is a homage to my favorite painter Paul Klee and his painting Head of Man Going Senile.  Here you can see the wide variety of lines I got from a fountain pen.  Normally this is not one of the tools I use for inking comics.  Like with my 2.0mm Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph, I treat the fountain pen as a maverick.  It will only see use for certain occasions or special effects.


Another one of the unconventional inking tools used is the ballpoint pen. Yes, you read that right. The humble ballpoint pen you use for writing that note or shopping list is used by some in the small press for drawing comics. That can be a problem though. Ballpoint pens usually can’t reproduce well. They can also get sticky messes of ink at their tips after prolonged use.

There’s also pigment markers. These are very common tools used by many out there. While some traditionalists disdain the pigment marker, others swear by it. The late Gil Kane made use of markers in his work. Both Neal Adams and Mike Mignola use markers too. There are many different brands out there. The most popular ones are Pigma Micron, made by the Japanese company Sakura. I have a few of those that I use for other things. Other brands are numerous and include Faber Castell, Staedtler Mars, Itoya, Prismacolor, and so on. Be sure though to research these brands carefully and ask for other opinions on them. Some give a black line while others give more of a bluish-black color. Some are waterproof while others (like Itoya Finepoint) can be non-waterproof.

When I mention “markers” for inking comics, the first thing that comes to your mind may be permanent markers like Sharpie. Approach permanent markers with caution. These can not only bleed but they may not be archival and can fade or change color over time.

These are but a few of the miscellaneous tools used for inking comics. If you’re starting out, it can help to try out different tools to see which one(s) work best. While the traditional sable brush, nibs, and tech pens are useful, there’s nothing wrong with checking out unconventional inking tools.

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About Max West

I am a freelance artist and the creator of Sunnyville Stories, an independent slice-of-life comics series.
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5 Responses to Unconventional Inking Tools

  1. eric says:

    …you forgot to include the pogo stylus for iPad (LOL)

    • Max West says:

      Thanks for commenting. To be honest, digital tools are beyond the scope of this post. Since I work traditionally, I don’t know much about computer tools like specific tablets, special styluses or the many programs out there.

      • Misty says:

        You know that you could save a lot by investing in digital , right?

        I find traditional material to be much too expensive.

        • Max West says:

          I like the feel of traditional tools – you don’t get that tangibility with digital tools. But that’s just my take on it.

  2. eric says:

    …you forgot to mention the pogo stylus (like the one I use for the iPad) LOL

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