Rapidograph Pen

Photo of a Rapidograph pen and inkThe Rapidigraph remains a favorite pen of artists, designers, architects, and even cartoonists.

Rapidograph fine technical pens offer unmatched detail, creative control and precision artistry. 


Even after centuries, the advent of photography and computer aided design, the classic pen-and-ink “look” continues to please the eye, 

From Leonardo to modern artists, fine ink drawing still says “precision.”

See below what a talented Rapidograph architectural artist can accomplish.

Drawing of a house using a Rapidograph

Credit: Jack Waller Design 

The feel of the Rapidograph technical pen in your hand is a simple pleasure: a precision instrument with a power for unmatched detail.  

This will sound odd.  That precision makes any piece of paper seem bigger.  You get the expansive feeling that you can add any detail or text notation you wish.

Rapidograph pens offer a range of tips (technically known as “nibs”) with increasing precision, from to 1.2 mm (size 4) down to 0.13 mm (size 6×0).  I like the .5 mm.

Need some more inspiration?  Check out the use of pen and ink stippling in these incredible Ink Art drawings at the site of professional fishing and nature artist Terry G. Yes, some are still available for purchase.

Created by the hand and mind of a human, a pen and ink drawing can offer artistic and instructive detail not possible with a photograph.

Among the brands of technical pens for ink art and design, the Rapidograph remains a favorite despite some of its well known quirks.

Cons of the Rapidograph:

Higher maintenance.  You fill this fine instrument from a bottle of ink.

Leave a Rapidograph in a drawer for months?  Don’t expect to pick it up and start drawing or writing, although Terry G. says his pens can sit unused for well over a month. 

The Rapidograph can use special waterproof ink.  Since the nib is so fine, it requires more muss and fuss than a ballpoint.  

The tough steel nib is like a hypodermic needle, delivering a super fine line of ink.  That makes it more prone to clogging as the nib becomes more precise.  

Pros of the Rapidograph:

  • Incredible detail
  • Ability to write tiny letters, including notes in the margins of books
  • A different relationship with paper — hard to believe until you try one
  • Comparatively inexpensive for a high-end technical pen 

My experience:  I started using a Rapidograph in class to take very fine notes and make small, detailed drawings.  Although I used the waterproof ink, I learned to keep my nib clean and the ink flowing.  I took copious notes on a single page and wrote neatly in book margins.

Frankly, I found the Rapidograph just more fun to use than a regular pen!  

Recommendation:  Start out with a single Rapidograph pen (the .50 mm (size 1) is popular).  See how you like it.  Get to know the feel and the peculiarities of the superfine nib.  You can use either the special waterproof ink (works on mylar but more prone to clogging) or any ink you like.

photo of a Rapidograph internal parts

Manufactured by Koh-I-Noor, a company named for the famous diamondliterally “Mountain of Light” in Persian, these amazing technical pens are true gems of engineering.  

As mentioned, the Koh-I-Noor fine nib is higher maintenance than a rough and tumble ballpoint.  Ever have a fountain pen?  Similar but with a super narrow tip, the finer the tip, the greater need for cleaning, especially with the waterproof ink.  

Sooner or later, you will want to clean your Rapidograph by investing two bucks in cleaning solution, Koh-I-Noor Rapido-Eze Pen Cleaner 2 oz. jar

Once you’ve tried a Rapidograph, is a whole set for you?  Some architectural drawing classes require that each student own a set.

Equipped with (or just considering) a technical ink pen, get started with some reader-acclaimed pen and ink drawing lessons.

The book’s author Claudia Nice says, “Of all the styles and brands of technical pens available, my favorite is the Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph.” (p.10, First Steps Drawing in Pen & Ink)

Don’t just doodle, see what you can do in technical pen and ink!

Not ready for a full set?  Consider a 3-pen slim pack set of Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph technical pens.

Have you ever used one of these amazing technical pens?  What was your impression?

About AstroGremlin

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17 Responses to Rapidograph Pen

  1. Rose Webster says:

    This pen reminds me of a type I used in high school – it had small refillable tubes of ink that you loaded into it. It had a fountain pen point. Our teachers hated them because if a page were to get wet, the ink would run. (Not a bad way to hide shoddy math calculations, though, better than ‘my dog ate my homework.’)

    Only you Astro G could keep me awake until 2:20 am . .

    Gonna ZZzzzz (will start you on the experiment lens tomorrow).
    Rose (aka sousababy)

    • AstroGremlin says:

      Hey, just noticed this comment, Rose. I remember those “cartridge” pens, a requirement oddly enough, even though you’re absolutely write about the ink. Rapidograph ink is waterproof and writes on mylar, a commonly used surface for the mapmaker who introduced me to these pens.
      AstroGremlin recently posted..Even More Forgotten SuperherosMy Profile

      • Rose Webster says:

        Hmmm, waterproof is good – just hope the pen doesn’t explode or leak. Hey, but it’s a great way to revive the retro geek (or geekette) look using a pen protector. Perhaps you should add that product to this page, Astro G . .

        Stay Green,
        Rose (aka sousababy)

        More shameless self-promotion: http://www.squidoo.com/top-10-things

  2. Matt Harvath says:

    That is a cool pen. Too bad it couldn’t help me draw better. I am the worst artist in the world!
    Matt Harvath recently posted..Hello Kitty Condom HolderMy Profile

  3. Reena Gupta says:

    Dependability and high performance make Rapidograph technical pens the first choice among artists, designers, drafters, architects, and hobbyists. Rapidograph pens provide uninterrupted, productive drawing time.

  4. Aaran says:

    Here we have a saying … “The tools make the worksman” ! Must be a great writing accessory! Thank you
    Aaran recently posted..Famous Abstract ExpressionistsMy Profile

  5. Kundan Bhardwaj says:

    The sketch in the picture is that hand drawn. It seems like a computer made as it is perfect. Great !
    Kundan Bhardwaj recently posted..The Bad Piggies Game from Rovio Entertainment follows Angry Birds LengendMy Profile

  6. Emma Simpson says:

    These pens look great and you’ve really got me wanting one now after what I’ve read above. They look pretty cool in the pictures you’ve posted too, far more interesting than some of the regular pens I use.

  7. Christian says:

    I’m using one all the time in my line of work (Maritime Navigation)
    Its accurate and with the waterproof ink its just perfect in every condition and allows me to do hard, detailed navigation map work.
    Christian recently posted..Must-Have Features Of An Excellent AppMy Profile

  8. Leo from Accountant Salary says:

    It’s interesting that despite the proliferation of drawing programs, many artists still prefer doing things the old-fashioned way — such as with this Rapidograph pen. I’m not an artist but can appreciate how the small nib can allow for intricate details.
    Leo recently posted..Accountant Salary by CityMy Profile

  9. AstroGremlin says:

    Hey Christian, thanks for the comment. I was surprised how inexpensive they are these days. My first Rapidograph had the bulbous barrel and came from a map making office.
    AstroGremlin recently posted..Rapidograph PenMy Profile

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