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Best Art Journaling Pens, Pencils, and Markers

Updated on July 24, 2012

The best pens for adding writing to your art journal - no drying or skipping!

Art journaling - the melding of mixed media collage art with traditional journal-keeping - inherently calls for an arsenal of writing tools. There are two major considerations when choosing pens or markers for writing in your art journal.

First, you'll want a nice variety of colors and styles to express the moods and emotions you are trying to capture in your journal. Consider the difference between writing fine line cursive light blue paint marker or scrawling big block letters in bright red. There is also something to be said for having more or less control over your letters - sometimes smudging or blurring creates the right mood, but you'll also want more control other times.

Secondly, you want something that will hold up to writing on many types of paper as well as over acrylic paints and many other media. This is surprisingly difficult to find - very often you will find that your pen is formulated only for certain uses, usually just plain paper. Many will bond with acrylic paints, even after the paint is dry, and over time ruin your pen tip. Others just tend to skip be finicky to work with.

Creating a mood with art journal pens
Creating a mood with art journal pens

Creating a mood with you pens and markers

As in the example mentioned above, you see how these two pages create a very different feeling even though they are the same words. The one on the right was created using a fine-point Sharpie water-based poster paint pen in fluorescent blue. The one on the left is written with a Crimson Red Prismacolor colored pencil. As you can probably see in the photo, it has already smudged a bit, creating a messier more uncontrolled look, which can be very beneficial depending on the mood you are trying to create.

For more ideas on how to use fonts and stylistic choices to influence the mood of your page, I highly recommend the book Journal Revolution. There are lots of great suggestions on this subject and other art journaling concepts.

Journal Revolution: Rise Up & Create! Art Journals, Personal Manifestos and Other Artistic Insurrections
Journal Revolution: Rise Up & Create! Art Journals, Personal Manifestos and Other Artistic Insurrections

Check out pages 28 and 29 in Amazon's LOOK INSIDE feature to get a taste of the authors' info on art journaling font choices.


Sharpie Water-Based Extra Fine Paint Markers

My favorite markers for art journaling are Sharpie's water-based poster paint pens, hands-down. They write on any surface I've ever tried, even gesso. These pens take a beating and keep on writing. They also come in a huge variety of colors including pastels and fluorescent. With four different tip sizes (extra fine, fine, medium, and extra bold) there is incredible versatility to these journaling markers. They are quick drying, acid-free, fade- and water-resistant and won't bleed through paper (with the exception of tissue paper an other very lightweight papers.) I really can't say enough about them; if I had to stick with one pen it would be these.

Marvy Uchida Decocolor Fine Point Paint Markers

Thankfully, I don't have to stick with just those, because DecoColor Paint Markers by Marvy Uchida are my very close runners-up. For about a year or so, it was impossible to find the Sharpie post pens in stores, and I was very glad to have these as back up. They do have a solvent smell to them though, with is really my only major complaint. From time to time I've bought a dud that just never works right, and they take somewhat less abuse than the Sharpies but all in all they are tough little suckers. The advantage to these over the Sharpies is mainly that you can get a glossy finish depending on the writing surface. When writing directly on to found papers such as book pages I find it's a very matter finish, but when used on a painted surface or magazine or scrapbook papers it usually has a nice gloss to it. They also write more smoothly - that is, they tend to glide on the paper a bit more. The Sharpies never skip, but there is a scratchier feel to it as the tip moves across the paper. With DecoColors they practically skate across your page - but be careful, this can lead smudges. The writing will dry quickly but not instantly. As with any marker, I encourage you to play around with them and get a feel for it. These markers also come in a fun variety of colors, and three point sizes - extra fine, fine, and broad. Personally I use the extra fine most, the fine occasionally, and the broad almost never - it's too broad for my tastes.

Some pages call for a freer, more organic look that can smudge and smear either for artistic effect to obscure your writing for the sake of privacy. A regular #2 pencil will work great for this, and is readily available, but if you want a broader range a basic set of artists pencils will give you tons of room to play. You can use the graphite or charcoal pencils to get bolder or finer lines, darker or lighter, smudgier or more protected lines.

For a similar effect in color, I like a soft lead pencil such as Prismacolors. I used to avoid them because the point was constantly breaking, but I discovered that an electric pencil sharpener makes a huge difference. Just using a cheap battery-powered one seems to really improve the life of my sharpened points. Also, the Scholar series is specially designed to protect against breakage - though they lack the Premier's silky-smooth writing experience.

And if I need a bolder line, I also like to use crayons. This can be tricky because pasting or writing over the waxy surface of crayon marks can be difficult, but the advantage is that painting over crayon can produce some gorgeous resist effects. My favorite crayons, Gel FX by Crayola (not to be confused with Metallic FX), are discontinued and very hard to find. They were specially designed for writing on black paper, as you would with a gel pen, so they write very smoothly and have a more opaque look that other crayons. If you ever see these at a discount store or on offer at eBay grab them! Otherwise, regular Crayolas make excellent ammunition for your art journaling arsenal.

What is your favorite art journaling pen or marker?

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      creativechic 4 years ago

      I've been looking for pens I can use to paint over acrylic paint I guess paint markers will have to do the trick, great lens though keeping this in my bookmarks and I so gotta get an electric pencil sharpener for I'm a prismacolor nut!!

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thanks for the info! I killed my last 2 markers in one day:( One was a Sharpie but not the kind you mentioned. Someone mentioned Faber-Castell and it didn't last a minute :( So I will try these you mentioned !

    • GeekGirl1 profile image

      GeekGirl1 6 years ago

      Great lens! Nice things are always said about material written but no attention is given to the instruments. Great job!