These are the top 5 readily available pens and pencils. If you walk into any big box retailer in the US you are pretty likely to find these pencils and pens. I include art and craft stores like AC Moore and Michaels in my list of big box stores.
- USA Gold Naturals. These make a nice dark line and have a soft smooth core. They are slightly more narrow than most pencils, but it’s not noticeable. The unfinished cedar is really good looking and feels nice. Also, relatively inexpensive.
- Staedtler Norica. Staples regularly has these one sale, $5 for 36 pencils. This is another pencil that makes a dark line and sports a nice smooth core. This would have been my pencil of choice in high school if it had been around. The black paint is matte and well done.
- Staedtler Wopex. Extruded and questionably ecological. The neon wopexen are simply awesome. Super bright colors that look like Staedtler poured a highlighter onto each and every pencil. Also if you area fan of neon purple or blue- wowza. The great thing about the Wopex is that when you write in a pocket notebook it doesn’t smudge much at all. I do with it had a darker line, but I can forgive the lightness of line for its minimal smudging.
- Staedtler Mars Lumograph. Available at most art supply stores, in Michaels, AC Moore, and many other places. The Lumograph is a fantastic pencil for sketching. There is a reason that these bright blue pencils are ubiquitous around University Art departments. The price is right and they perform well.
- Faber Castell Design 3800. Again, these pencils are relatively inexpensive and perform well. The familiar dark and light green crackle pattern is distinctive and a call out to it’s long history of being the Venus Design pencil. One of my all time favorite pencils to draw with. All grades are smooth and perform.
- Zebra Sarasa. Any size of the Zebra Sarasa is a great sketching and doodling pen. It out performs the Pilot G2 every single time. it writes without skipping. It dries to a water resistant/ water proof line. So I can go over the line with watercolors and not worry about my colors being muddied. Available just about anywhere and Staples regularly has sales on the 10 and 12-packs during back to school sales. I generally carry one of these everywhere with me.
- Uni-Ball Signo. Like the Sarasa the gel ink of the Signo is waterproof and the pens just writes. I like the .5 and .7 generally found in US stores but I also like the less available smaller tips too. Again, a lot of the big box stores have big sales on these during back-to-school times. I saw them on sale at my local Walgreens.
- Bic 4-color Multi Pen. This is a pretty crappy pen, except for the fact that it’s a classic and is awesome for sketching on the go. In your hand there are 4 colors- black, red, blue and green. The knock on these is smooth and works until it breaks. You can still find the classic blue and white pen but they have come out with metallic and new colors. A great pen for sketching on the go.
- Faber Castell Pitt Pens. These can be found just about anywhere. You can get a 4-pack, a single, or multicolored packages. They aren’t cheap but they make lines, ink flows well, it’s light-fast and waterproof. Great for sketching on the go. their large brush tip is a divine tool.
- Pentel Hybrid Technica. These pens are all over the place. AC Moore, Michael’s, and in the better Walmart art aisles. S far as fine tipped pens go, these are the finest you’ll find in a store in the US. Anything finer and you have to go online. Sadly I’ve not found refills for them, but you can buy just one size on a blister card.
Big box stores where I’ve purchased some of these pens and pencils: Michael’s, AC Moore, Target, Walmart, Staples