manic monday – sketching utensils

A while back my friend Brinn penned a post about pens. And recently my other friend Bob Borson penned a post about sketchbooks. Recently I also penned a post about the connected path between brain and paper for architects. All of this penning got me thinking about pens and sketching. What are the best pens, pencils, and markers for architects and sketching?

For me one of the most critical qualities to look for in any sketching instrument is LINE. Is the line uniform? Is it easy to control? Can I change the quality of the line with pressure or angle? In the case of pencils, will the line get chunky and smudge if I use too much force? Or will it be barely visible on the page?

I went through my bag and grabbed a few of the pens and markers that I keep constantly on hand for sketching, writing, drawing, whatever and did this little sketch to demonstrate the various qualities of line that most architects will work with.

The chosen sketching utensil for any artist, more often than not, can be almost as unique as the artist. At the end of the day, as architects and designers, whatever you sketch with should feel comfortable; it should just feel right. But ultimately, what you sketch with is not nearly as important as the simple act of sketching. They say a photographer is only as good as his last photo, or a writer on as good as his last book. Well, an architect is only as good as his/her ability to translate ideas into discernible reality on paper.

4 thoughts on “manic monday – sketching utensils

  1. Jeremiah, for me my “pen” is the computer. As an engineer, I never received much education in drawing. There was a short couple of classes in the Intro to Engineering course, and from there it was what my father taught me. However, when CAD came out, I started taking courses upon courses in drawing with CAD. From that and a lot of practice I learned how to spit out drawings on the computer.

    However, using CAD you miss the physical implement like the pen or pencil to do the drawing. In the drafting I did, I would totally get involved in the drawing and time would disappear. With CAD, I don’t get that. A day of drawing on the computer wears me out, and there isn’t the great feeling of satisfaction I got with having a pencil in hand (my father didn’t let me use a pen).

    I have started recently drawing in 3d, and it seems to have come full circle. As I create the drawing, I see the 3d model start to appear, and again I feel connected. The time passes quickly, and now I am back to being one with the medium. As an engineer, my art is the structure, and while it may not be physically attractive to others, the structure to me is a thing of beauty, and drawing it in 3d allows me to see that in a way that 2d CAD doesn’t.


    • George,
      Great comments! Thank you!
      I think that, perhaps, it’s easier for an engineer to create 100% with the computer because you’re dealing much more with hard and fast “truths” more so than the architects you help. That’s not to say there isn’t an art to structural design, and I agree with you 100% that the structure of a building is something very beautiful indeed. Especially when well designed in conjunction with the architectural aesthetic. Perhaps soon technology will evolve fully to virtual reality enabling architects and engineers to coordinate and consult in a true virtual model to create monumental works of architecture.

    • For some reason I have never been comfortable sketching with pencil – any kind of pencil. I know this because I’ve tried them all, every type of lead from 4H to 4B, charcoal…it just doesn’t feel right. Pen on the other hand has always felt good and right. I always have one on me. Pencils are for shading, not drawing, in my book. 🙂
      Thanks, Lee!

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