let's talk about : pens and ink

Pen and wash paintings - which pens and ink to use

Over the last year a number of people have been asking me all sorts of questions about my materials, my process and my techniques. So I'm starting a series of blog posts that will hopefully shed some light on my watercolour painting techniques. You'll be able to find them all under the tab at the top of the page called 'Tips and Techniques'.

Updated January 2021


I use Lamy Safari fountain pens. I switched to fountain pens a number of years ago, because I am quite heavy on my pen nib when I draw and I used to go through felt tip pens like crazy. At first a fountain pen seemed like a big expense, but when I added up the dollars for several good quality felt tip pens every couple of months, I quickly realised a fountain pen is not only less waste, but cheaper too.

I also like how a fountain pen changed my drawing style. You hold a fountain pen at a different angle to a felt tip pen and much looser. This, for me, gives a much nicer, freer line than I can get with a felt tip pen. Fountain pens also flow much faster than a felt tip pen, which adds even more to the looser line.

I chose Lamy Safari pens because they are economical, readily available and because the nibs are interchangeable. I first bought one pen with 2 nibs (a F and B) and changed out the nibs for each drawing. This is easy to do, but even so, after a year it got to be a bit of a pain. So a year later, I splashed out, and I bought a second pen. So I carried 2 pens, one F and one B. This also has the advantage that I always have a backup pen if I run out of ink in one. Then a couple of years later I bought yet another pen with an EF nib to go with my little hiking sketchbook, where a fine nib just seems a tad too thick (my hiking kit is here).

In New Zealand I buy my pens, nibs and ink convertors from Inkt (www.inkt.co.nz)


Because I do my drawing before adding the watercolour I use a waterproof ink. After a lot of research I settled in De Atramentis document ink.

I am totally happy with this ink. It flows well, it dries super fast, it doesn't bleed on the paper (I've used it on many, many, types of paper) and doesn't bleed or smudge when I apply the watercolour wash over it.

Manufacturers of fountain pens will tell you not to use a waterproof, permanent ink in your pen as it will damage your pen over time. I have had the white pen in the picture above for about 8 years now and it is still perfect. I do flush the pen completely with clean water until it runs clear every single time I need to refill with ink. That's all the maintenance I do. However, I must say, that I use my pens all the time and the ink has never dried in them. If you only use your pen occasionally you might have issues and have to resort to a more thorough cleaning process when you get your pen out.

In New Zealand I buy my ink from Pen Classics (www.penclassics.nz)

Marker Pens

In 2020 I added a number of Posca markers to my kit. I use the fine, bullet tip points and a white, red, yellow, green and blue. I use these to add tiny details at the end of the sketch. Particularly the white. In the studio I would use masking fluid and paint in these tiny details at the end. When painting outside I find that masking fluid is usually not practical, so adding in highlights with a marker pen suits my process better.


We're talking about pens and inks, but I thought I should add that several years ago I bought a Lamy Safari mechanical pencil to replace the cheap one I had. I love the weight and feel of the Lamy Safari's, they feel very comfortable in my hand, so it made sense to use the pencil as well. Mechanical pencils are super convenient and are always sharp and the leads don't break and you can carry lots of spare lead for minimal weight. For outside sketching, convenience always wins!


In the picture above...

  • Green Lamy Safari with M nib with a mix of yellow ochre and black ink to make a nice brown. This is the pen and ink I use the most.
  • White Lamy Safari with B nib, yellow ochre ink
  • Red Lamy Safari with EF nib, black ink
  • All my fountains pens have Lamy ink convertors for easy refilling
  • Pink Lamy Safari mechanical pencil
  • De Atramentis Document Ink, black

Until next time!
If you have any burning questions about my materials or process, please pop them in the comments below or find me on Facebook or Instagram.


  1. Thanks for the info Renee. I really appreciate you sharing your research!


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