Update! Watch the video of how I created the Mineral Mountain sketch above with ink and watercolor.

I love sketching with ink and watercolor and want to share a few of my favorite tools with you. I typically prefer waterproof pens, as they don’t smudge (like a pencil) and I can apply watercolor washes over them without bleeding. Whenever possible, I use refillable pens to avoid adding waste to landfills. The downside is they’re often more prone to clogging or exploding from changes in altitude, pressure (plane flights, hikes/drives over mountain passes), or neglect. For these reasons, I have a collection of disposable pens I use primarily when traveling or in the backcountry.


My current refillable waterproof pens are the Pentel Brush pen and my 0.35 Rapidograph technical pen. The brush pen has a flexible synthetic tip that can create energetic calligraphic marks, as well as beautiful broken dry brush lines. It also hasn’t leaked on me! I recently carried it around the North Cascades (where I completed the above sketch) without problems. Update: see my video demo of the above painting. The Rapidograph is my hands-down favorite sketching pen. It’s not for everyone, but I love the needle point and scratchy sound it makes on the paper. I’ve used smaller points in the past, but found them even more prone to clogging and damage.

Copper Mountain Fire Lookout, 5" x 7" ink and watercolor field sketch
Copper Mountain Fire Lookout, 5″ x 7″ ink, watercolor, and gouache field sketch, completed with a Micron or Sharpie

When I don’t want the worry of a refillable pen, I use the Pigma Microns or my Sharpie Pen. The Microns come in a variety of sizes, though they have fragile tips. The Sharpie only comes in one size, but it’s more durable with long lasting ink which is why I include it in the Art Toolkit.

Sketching Copper Ridge Fire Lookout, photo by Darin Reid
Sketching Copper Ridge Fire Lookout, Photo by Darin Reid