Pens for AxiDraw

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Pen choices for AxiDraw[edit]

The pen holder on the AxiDraw fits pens up to ⅝ inch (16 mm) in diameter. The maximum recommended pen weight is 1.6 oz (45 g). The design is such that the pen rests on the surface by its own weight. That allows it to ride over surfaces that are textured or otherwise uneven, however it also means that the pen holder does not apply significant downward pressure. (An XL Pen Clip is available as well, which fits pens up to 1 inch (25.4 mm) in diameter.)

Good choices for pens to use include fountain pens, permanent markers, liquid-ink rollerball pens, technical pens, automatic pencils (particularly with soft lead), small-bodied whiteboard markers and other writing and drawing instruments that do not require significant downward pressure. While we will refer to writing and drawing instruments as “pens” to be concise, other instruments such as automatic pencils, chalk, charcoal, and brushes can also work well in many cases.

Ball point pens (and perhaps certain other writing instruments) that require a substantial amount of downward pressure to operate may work inconsistently because of that requirement. If you want to use traditional ball point pens, consider getting the brushless servo upgrade (available here) which comes with a spring kit to provide downward force.


Felt-tipped permanent markers look good and colorful, but have a disadvantage in that their tip is made of soft fiber, that will wear down. We have found that felt-tip permanent markers have a surprisingly short life when writing on (for example) cardboard boxes, because the tip tends to wear down. Metal-tipped pens, such as fountain pens, roller balls, and technical pens will have a much longer life. (Not infinite, but lasting a remarkably long time.)

To increase the longevity of your pens, reduce the amount of pressure, write on smoother surfaces, and write at more gentle speeds. One way to reduce the amount of pressure applied is to leave the cap of your pen off when you are writing.

Fountain pens that we have enjoyed using with the AxiDraw[edit]

Most fountain pens work very well in the AxiDraw. If you haven't used fountain pens before, you might want to look at this guide from JetPens that talks about their basic usage.

  • Lamy Safari, with medium or fine nib. We really can't say enough about how good this pen is-- and it works wonderfully in the AxiDraw. Extraordinarily consistent ink flow at a variety of speeds; never seems to jam or clog. With blue ink, really shouts "this was written with a fountain pen." The Lamy tips are somewhat broader than those from other manufacturers. The extra-fine tip is comparable in width to the Pilot with medium nib.
  • Pilot Metropolitan, medium nib. Also readily available, with a clean neat line. After spending many hours writing demo files with this and the Lamy, we find that the Pilot is excellent, but very slightly less reliable in terms of consistent ink flow. We tend to see slightly more variation in ink flow as a function of writing speed -- an artifact that occurs when writing by hand as well. Seems to "dry out" a little more readily than we would like.
  • Rotring ArtPen. Not quite as perfectly consistent as the Lamy or Pilot, but also gives excellent character.

Some liquid-ink roller ball pens that we have enjoyed using with the AxiDraw[edit]

  • Pilot Precise V5 -- our preferred choice for precision multicolor plots. Most (and the ones in the brightest colors) are disposable. However, there is also a variant available that is refillable.

Permanent markers[edit]

  • Sharpie Ultra Fine Point -- our preferred choice for colorful, filled in plots. Inexpensive, long lasting, and available in a huge range of colors.
  • Sharpie Fine Point -- The "regular" conical-tip Sharpie marker. We have used these for marking boxes. One caution is that felt-tip pens like these can wear down over time -- going from conical point to flat point, and gradually ruining the tip and ink flow.
  • Uni Posca Paint Markers -- vivid, opaque ink that can write on a variety of surfaces. Available in a range of tip sizes and colors. The ink is water-based, non-toxic, lightfast, and waterproof. These require shaking and tip pressure to activate, and write consistently while ink is flowing. They may dry out during long plots and require reactivation.

Technical pens[edit]

Technical pens are essentially fountain pens with cylindrical, metal tips. They are held vertically against the paper (not at 45° to the paper). These provide an excellent, precise alternative to both fountain and felt-tip pens.

  • Rapidograph -- The most famous brand of technical pens. Manufactured by either Rotring or Koh-i-noor.
  • Staedtler technical pens are also common.

Gel pens[edit]

Many gel pens have an opaque ink that works well for plotting on dark papers. Gel pens may skip on certain paper textures. A trick for gel pens is to duplicate all paths and reverse them, so that each path is plotted in both directions to make a consistently opaque line.

  • Sakura Gelly Rolls -- Come in a wide variety of colors include white, UV active fluorescents, and even glitter.
  • Uniball Signo Gel
  • Pilot G2
  • Pentel (various gel styles)

Additional pens and resources[edit]

  • Pen Choices for EggBot. (Another set of resources that we have documented. Most of the information there is relevant for use on the AxiDraw as well.)
  • Pigma Micron Ink Pens are recommended by many of our customers