Which are best? Pencils or pens?
The answer to this question is both! It really depends on what you want to do. Because the marks they make are so different they can be used in different circumstances and to achieve different results. Many people are a bit scared of using pens for the first time because you can't erase any mistakes, but I find this actually brings a freedom to my work, and the drawing doesn't become too precious or stilted. Try it for yourslf and see!
In the sections below you will find some ways of getting the best out of your pencils and pens.
Shading with a pencil
Pencils are great for capturing the moment, and a sketch like this one can be drawn in a matter of minutes. I used two different pencils here, a 2B for the initial line drawing and the lighter shading, and a 6B for the darker shading.
Note how the fence posts change from being dark against the white house to light against the dark tree on the right. This counterchange is an important part of keeping the picture interesting and varied. Try and do this in your sketches and paintings.
Detailed sketching with a pencil
Pencils can be used in a variety of ways to create all the texture you need.
In this study I needed to produce the effects of shiny black shoes, a cotton dress, and the wicker chair, and all of this was achieved just by using the pencil in different ways.
I used a 2B pencil for most of the picture,with a 6B for the black shoes, and I blended, rubbed, pressed harder or softer, made short stabbing marks or drew long gentle lines to make all the variety of textures.
Click on the picture to see the details in a full size image.
Line drawing with a fine pen
This sketch of Edinburgh Castle was made almost entirely with expressive lines. See how just a simple line can suggest rocks or tres or buildings, even tufts of grass on the rocky outcrops. You can try and draw these things as they are or invent a 'shorthand' version for your own reference.
Click on the picture to see a larger version.
Texture marks with a fine pen
Fine ink pens can be used in many ways to create a host of different textural marks. In this sketch I used lines for roof tops, dots for the roughcast rendering on the walls, squiggles for vegetation and hatching for shaded or dark areas.
Click on the picture to see a full size image.
Using water soluble ink and a wet brush
Find out how to make sketches like this with ink and water by clicking on the picture.
Using pen and wash
You can add colour to your ink drawing to create beautiful sketches. Find out more by clicking on the picture.
Marker pens and felt pens for quick tonal sketches
You can very quickly capture something of the tonal contrasts in a scene using large marker pens or felt pens. This sketch took about twenty seconds to draw, and although it is rough, it does capture the essence of the scene. Being restricted to just black and white does make you reduce the landscape to it's very basics, which is an interesting exercise in itself!