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We have decided to dedicate this article to the humble fineliner and take you on a journey of discovery regarding how fineliners work, their popular uses, and how to choose the best one for you.
What is a fineliner?
Fineliners are pens with plastic or fine fibre needle-point tips that generally use water-based ink but sometimes use oil-based. Tips come in various thicknesses but are all relatively thin — hence the name ‘fineliner’. The tips vary in size from 0.03mm to 1mm.
However, always check each product page carefully when it comes to tip size as some fineliner manufacturers use a different sizing system whereby the pen might say 0.8 on the lid but have a 0.5mm tip size!
Another note on tips: they are usually quite long and covered by plastic or metal. This is to protect the pen from regular use with a ruler.
The majority of fineliners have black ink, but coloured liners are also available. These pens lend themselves well to adding colour to drawings, bullet journaling, and plenty of other projects as outlined later in the article.
Most fineliner pens are disposable, although there are now a few refillable versions on the market for those wanting to be more eco-friendly. These tend to be produced by luxury brands. An example is this Graf von Faber-Castell Timitio fineliner:
Tips for using fineliners
When using a fine liner, you mustn’t apply too much pressure.
The tip has been designed so that it can be used easily at various natural writing angles without the need for additional pressure.
To press down while writing or drawing with this type of pen is to risk damage to the tip — such as fraying.
Popular uses for fineliners
Fineliners are popular for a wide variety of applications.
Many people enjoy writing with a fineliner pen as it offers a thin, crisp line of cursive and a unique feel.
This type of pen suits all handwriting styles and can even help to make ‘messy’ handwriting more legible as it allows for more space inside and around each letter.
Not only this but fineliners can be helpful for those who tend to struggle with smudging, thanks to their fast-drying ink.
However, fineliners were designed for the art world — for sketching, drawing and graphic design, to name but a few popular uses.
Sketching and drawing
To choose to sketch with a fineliner pen is to decide to accept your mistakes as you make them and move on.
Whereas, when sketching with a pencil, one might keep erasing sections and redrawing them, a fineliner offers an entirely different experience. Using a fine liner for drawing in this way often results in a sketch full of character.
These pens are also perfect for comic book creation. You might like to sketch in pencil first to get it just right, then go over it in pen.
Finerliners lend themselves perfectly to the field of graphic design and architecture because they work wonderfully with a ruler.
Ideal for all types of journaling, fineliner pens provide neat lines for creating layouts, illustrations, colour-coding, and clear handwriting.
Which fineliner should you use?
For most uses, a fineliner with water-based ink is best. This is because the lines are more controlled, and there’s less chance of bleeding. However, if you’re buying a fineliner in order to write or draw on photographs and similar glossy materials, then oil-based would be your best bet.
For a basic yet brilliant fineliner, you can’t go wrong with the Staedtler Pigment Liner fineliner, available in a choice of 12 tip widths. Its ink is, as you may expect, pigment ink, which is indelible, waterproof and lightfast.