Ever walk into an art supply store and wonder what all the different kinds of pens and pencils are for? Is there a “correct” one to write with? What’s the best pen for lefties? Watch our simple video guide to the best uses for ballpoints, gel pens, and roller ball pens.
Ballpoints are good for everyday writing. They don’t smear much, so they’re the best choice for left-handers. Use a finer tip for smaller writing.
Roller ball pens flow more easily and take less pressure, but that makes them smear more easily. They’re better for less absorbent materials, like shiny card stock.
Gel pens are in between those two. Because they flow more easily than ballpoints, they can use more pigments, so they’re available in more colours.
Felt-tip pens flow even more easily, making them ideal for marking pressure-sensitive surfaces like CDs.
Wood pencils are great for drawing and sketching. Choose based on hardness (use this scale); the harder the pencil, the lighter its mark. (Medium hardness is called “HB,” which usually equates to a #2 pencil.)
Mechanical pencils are great for writing, but their thin tip makes them bad for drawing. If your lead keeps breaking, try a wider lead, .7mm or up.
Of course, an artist can adapt any of these tools to surprising uses. Check out Trent Morse’s book of ballpoint art to see a tool stretched to its limits.