Pens for AxiDraw

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Pen choices for AxiDraw

The pen holder on the 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.

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.


Felt-tipped permanent markers look good and colorful, but have a disadvantage in that their tip is not 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.

Some fountain pens that we have enjoyed using with the AxiDraw

  • 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."
  • 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 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

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

  • 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 that we have enjoyed using with the AxiDraw

  • Sharpie Ultra Fine Point -- our preferred choice for colorful, filled in plots. Inexpensive, long lasting, and available in a huge range of colors.

Additional resources

  • 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.