Fine liner vs dip pen; inking your drawings

Do you want nice beautiful dark lines in your drawing? Then maybe you would like to use a dip pen or a fine liner!

More and more people like to ink their drawings before working with them further. Inking means going over a pencil sketch with ink. This can make it easier to colour in with markers or watercolours afterwards. It can also be great for having a comic book effect or work on contrast and values in your work.

Which of the two will you be using for your next project?

This has been used for years but it is great now for combining with for example Copic markers.

You can ink a drawing with many different techniques and tools.

For pure line drawing that I am going to colour in afterwards (or have coloured in and am inking over the colour) I like two kinds of tools; Fine liners and dip pens.

Both have their own advantages. For anyone who is curious about inking and what tools to use.

ink and tools

Fine liners

Fine liners are basically very thin felt tip markers. They come in many variations both water based and alcohol based. The best fine liners  are smudge proof,  waterproof and don’t dry out to quick.

Another thing to look for is a good tip on the pen that are sturdy and which won’t; bend, break, fray or split.

Some people swear by one brand of fine-liners but there are many great brands out there.

Some of the best-known ones are the Copic multi-liners. Since I never used them I have no idea if these are superior but I heard they were quite good.

Personally, I like to use the uni pin ones a lot. They don’t dry out too quickly and the 0,05 is amazing for details.

They’re also a lot less expensive than the Copic multi-liners.

Dip pens

Dips pens are a little bit more classic. The great thing about dip pens is that they are cheap and you can buy a different kind of tips. A good tip won’t rust, bent beyond repair or split if treated right.

One of the cons is that you will have to buy the ink separately but this is often not very expensive and will last you a long time.

Plus, you can use the same ink for ink washes to create value in your piece easily

Another great thing about dip pens is that there are a lot of different nibs available.  This gives you the option to have one holder and different nibs giving your tool a lot of different options.

You have broader nibs, nibs that hold more colour and more fine nibs.

different kind of nibs

You also have the special types like ones made out of feathers or bamboo. These all come with their own effect and skill set to acquire.


The biggest difference between the two is probably the effect the will give you. Fine liners are generally a lot easier for neat straight lines.

bunny in fineliner

Like this bunny made with fine liners. My lines are quite neat and not very sketchy (you could still get those though). 

You can get these with dip pens but it will cost you some more effort. They are however great when your want to add some line weight to your lines because it happens almost automatically.

So while it is harder to work neater it is easier to get a lively drawing and a more dynamic feel to it.

Drawing made with dip-pens, however, need to dry before you can colour them. The ink flow is a lot heavier and uncontrolled. Fineliners only give a little ink of at a time and the ink almost instantly dries in the paper.


Another thing to consider is that dip-pens cost more effort to learn anyway. Getting even lines might take some time. I had the luck that I was forced to work with them in high school. (And I thoroughly cursed them already back then.)

Starting with the dipping. Your dip pen has a little hole in the tip. When you dip your pen you want that to stay clear otherwise you will have ink blots. Loading your pens to full will result in inkblots, working too fast will result in ink blotting, breathing might end in ink blots.

The best thing to do is practise a lot and you will get a feel for how much ink you need and how far to dip.

Some other side notes;

  • When using a dip pen, you can scratch the paper if you aren’t careful.

  • Don’t wash your pens with water unless you dry them thoroughly or they will never be used again.

  • Fineliners can dry out when you leave the cap off so don’t do that.

So overall you might even say that fine-liners and dip pens are different mediums altogether. Trying both out is a great way to get to know which you really like better. Personally, I just like both for different kind of effects.


The secret weapon

 There is one more thing I need to share. Maybe some of you already know about this one but what if you want the quick drying effect of the fine-liners, the line-weight of the pen and ink and the effect of using a brush?

Then you want a brush pen.

Brush pens come in all kind of sizes and kind. A very known one is the pentel brush pen. It has great ink and the brush is quite flexible. Since I don’t live in America/the UK, however, I pay a lot for such a brush pen.

That is why I prefer using the Fabercastell Pitt artist pen in Big. This one is basically more a felt tip, but the amount of control you have is amazing.

The things you want to look for when buying a brush pen are the kind of tip you want; hairy, more bendable or more like a felt tip.

The second thing to watch for is the kind of ink it contains. Most artist pens will have waterproof non-smudge ink. But doing a little research never hurts anyone.

So overall this are all your options and I hope you find something you like.

Let me know what your favourite is out of all of these or if you don’t use any of them?

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7 Responses to “Fine liner vs dip pen; inking your drawings

  • I used to draw with Ball Point pens. I always wanted to reach out and draw a lot more using different pens. But I never really experimented. This was seriously helpful. I always wanted to know the difference between the two.

    • artsbysofie
      6 years ago

      Hi, Mary! I am so glad this helped! I think ball point pens can be great as well. I never really used them before but it is a great idea. Thank you for reading!


  • Thank you for showing the difference between a fine liner and a dip pen when inking your drawings. I’ve wanted to get into this kind of stuff for a while now and I finally have my own pen so I’m excited to start! It’s good to know about the different brands of fine-liners you recommend, as well as the different nibs for dip pens.

  • I love technical pens! I used to use the Micron Sakura or Copic Fineliners but then I discovered technical pens and fell in love. What I love most about them is that they have the smallest nip ever! (Seriously, the smallest nib you will ever find). I love detail, so I use it quite a bit. I do like how fast the ink dries as well.
    I just read about one artist that uses dip pens to illustrate anything organic, and everything else he uses technical pens. So it got me curious on dip pens, thus I found your article. Thanks for the explanation!

    • artsbysofie
      6 years ago

      I would love to try those. They sound amazing. Unfortunately all the favourite ones are super expensive to ship to the Netherlands so I need to find one that I can actually buy here. I would love to hear which artist got you interested in dip pens. Thank you for dropping by! ~ Sofie

  • I never thought about dip pen. Next time I will draw with this, thanks for your great helping.

  • Dip pens are a LOT better then technical pens. You can actually sketch with dip pens like pencils. It feels way more organic than fine liners. Kind of how ballpoints feel dead compared to fine liners. Well fine liners feel dead compared to dip pens. Another thing to remember is that dip pens feel NOTHING like fountain pens. Fountain pens are slippery and annoying. They can give a smooth non-feedbacky feeling. Dip pens feel the exact opposite. I prefer to sketch in dip now over pencils or charcoal.

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