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I’ve tried out a lot of black pens over the last few years and the first thing I learned was that I would always opt for a fineliner over a biro.

Biros are less forgiving of any small bumps on your work surface and fine liners give a smoother finish. See image below:

Up until the end of 2019, I would have told you that any fineliner would do for me. I mostly used Wilko fineliners as they are inexpensive, work well and who doesn’t like an excuse for little peruse around Wilkos?

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that fine liners are designed to draw fine lines with.

This means that they’re great for writing and creating the outlines of your drawings. They’re not very useful if you want to great thicker lines and/or shade in larger areas of black. This meant that, up until the end of 2019, my standard pen combo would be a black fineliner, a fine black sharpie and something to colour with. Below is a good example of this – the heading and subheadings were written with a Shapie and the smaller text was written with a finerliner.

Sharpies are wonderful in a lot of ways BUT if you are writing in a notebook and/or on thinner paper they are likely to bleed through the paper. This became a frequently problem for me – I would only be able to use every other page in my notebooks so I played around and had a brief fling with the Pilot V Sign Pen Liquid Ink 2.0 mm Tip.

I temporarily loved this pen – it writes so smoothly. Drawing with it felt like sliding a beautiful black line across ice. Our love affair didn’t last very long. This pen stays wet for ages so my notes became smudge central. Then, to add insult to injury, this pen does not like other colours being added on top of it. When I was colouring in my doodles the beautiful black marks I’d made went EVERYWHERE. So…I would only recommend this pen if:

1. You’d like to make black and white sketchnotes, or

2. you’re happy to colour in your sketchnotes with pencils/crayons, and

3. you’re not someone who usually smudges your work.


After falling out with the Pilot V Sign, I kept experimenting and discovered the mighty Staedtler Lumocolor Black Fine Permanent Marker. This is my current love affair.

Don’t get me wrong, the Staedtler is not perfect and bleed through does still happen with it… so I may keep looking around. Having said that, I love using this pen so much that it’s forced me to leave my notebooks behind and go for thicker paper.


The Staedtler is smooth to write and draw with. It’s fine enough to create clear and crisp lines and yet it’s also easy to colour small areas in with. Unless I want to shade large areas of black, I rarely need to use my Sharpie. Which is great because the less pen-swapping I have to do, the faster I can sketchnote.

If that wasn’t enough, the Staedtler is also waterproof and smudge resistant. This means I get less marks on the side of my hand (from leaning on wet ink) AND it’s a lot easier to add colour without the black ink bleeding into it.

In summary, if you are looking to invest in a new black pen for your sketchnotes, I’d recommend the Staedtler Lumocolor Black Fine Permanent Marker.



**Please be aware that this post is not sponsored in any way. They are the personal opinion of Mandy Johnson. Some of the links used are affiliate links therefore Sketchnotes UK will get commission from any sales made as a result of clicking on these links.

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