Best Pens and Inks for Painting/Highlighting Over

One of the biggest issues I have seen in the journaling world is people struggling to find a pen that won’t smudge. Many artists want to watercolor in their notebooks, and many people who are hyper-organized (like myself) want to color code their notes with highlighters. The biggest problem with this, is most pens and inks will smudge if you try to put anything on top of them. Over the last two years I have tried everything under the sun, and I’m excited to share that I have found four different things that work, and they work REALLY well. Two are markers, one is a fountain pen, and the final is an ink. Here I go!

Sakura Pigma Micron 71UJH0APqNL._SL1500_.jpg

Pro: Most anyone who has ever been into art probably recognized these markers. They are some of the best you can find for good quality fine-liners. You can generally find them in packs of 6 at any art-supply store, or of course, on amazon . They come in a wide variety of sizes, as fine as .15mm and as thick as .50mm or even brush pens. The ink is pigment based, making it archival and waterproof. It does not feather or bleed on pretty much any kind of paper, and dries quickly. It’s almost impossible to smudge.

Con: There are two issues with these markers that I have found in my years of using them. The first is well known: the tips of these markers break pretty easily. Because the nib sizes can be so small, if you use just the right amount of pressure, the nib will break or squash back into the pen, making the marker useless. The second issue is one that is less known, but that has caused me significant problems: erasers life micron ink. For anyone who likes to draw first in pencil, this can be very frustrating.


Copic Multiliner SP


Pro: I discovered these pens just a few months ago and they have been a godsend. They are very similar to micron, with a few key exceptions. First, is the nibs. While they are fairly similar to micron (with the same feel and sizes), they are interchangeable, and so is the ink cartridge on the inside. This way, if you do have any problems with the nib, it’s a lot easier to replace and you don’t need to buy an entirely new pen. The second is the ink, which is alcohol-based, is eraser friendly – ie it does not lift when you erase over it (to remove pencil marks beneath the black).

Cons: These are definitely on the more expensive side, and while the nibs are replaceable, they also come at a cost. You can purchase them here.


Rotring Rapidograph Technical Drawing Pen


Pros: These lesser known German fountain pens are incredible. The nibs on them are made of a fine, stainless steel wire, making them incredibly precise. The ink they come with is also archival, waterproof, and probably my all-time favorite. Because the nibs are so fine, the ink dries quickly too! You can buy the pens on amazon. Refills come in cartridges, (though if you prefer manually refilling your fountain pens, there is a version called the Rotring Isograph that is the same pen with that capability).

Cons: While the nib on these is pretty incredible, it’s also very fragile. You can purchase replacement nibs, but because they are made of steel and specific to these pens, they are not cheap or easy to find in stores. The second known issue is if you tighten the cap on the body of the pen just a little too tight, you run the risk of cracking the barrel of the pen (which is made of plastic).


Platinum Carbon Black Ink


Pros: Platinum’s Carbon Black ink is made with particles of carbon, meaning it is extremely pigmented. Once this ink dried, it is extremely dark, waterproof, and doesn’t feather. This is definitely my go-to for drawing with fountain pens, as the ink is pretty much indestructible once it dries.

Cons: Because of the carbon particles in the ink, you have to be careful which pens you put it into. It has a tendency to clog up some fountain pens, so I recommend not putting it in anything very expensive. Currently I have it in my Pilot Metropolitan (arguably one of the best writing fountain pens on the lower end, just shy of $15) and it works wonders!


There you have it! I hope this helps 🙂

1 thought on “Best Pens and Inks for Painting/Highlighting Over”

  1. When I was writing hours per day I used Pelikan Fount India. Very dense black. I don’t know if it has pigmentation but you should not let it dry out in your pen. Don’t know about waterproof properties.


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