As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thanks for your support! 

Plot Party is coming up (Nov 8-12), and the second prompt for the five day pen plot art challenge is “multiple line widths!” What does that mean exactly?! Whether you use one pen or multiple pens to accomplish, let’s look at some inspiring examples from some of my favorite pen plot artists!

Pilot Parallel Pen: Varying Line Width With Just One Pen

The Pilot Parallel Pen is a unique italic calligraphy pen (refillable!) that can also be used for pen plotting.

Example artwork by Con Ryan (on Instagram @conryan.design)

This pen is different from most calligraphy pens in that the nib is made from two plates which allows ink to flow evenly across the entire length of the nib. That means you can create broad strokes, but you can also use the corner to create a thinner line.

For the multiple line widths prompt, that means you can create thin and thick sections in one line!

Example artwork by Targz (on Instagram @targz)

Targz advises running the Pilot Parallel pen slowly, and filling the ink cartridge with watercolor. Overlapping your lines with different colored inks when plotting can create additional colors where the inks overlap!

Con Ryan was kind enough to share additional tips for those who might want to try out the Pilot Parallel pen for Plot Party:

  • Make sure your paper can handle a lot of ink without warping if you are using a bigger nib pen
  • The drawing surface needs to be as level as possible to keep the full width of the nib in constant contact with the paper
  • There will probably always be some pen skipping… so best to embrace it
  • Smoother papers (such as Yupo) means a lot less pen skipping
  • Mounting the pen so that the nib is parallel to the body of the plotter will ensure better contact with the paper
  • Changing the angle of the nib to the paper will create more experimental results
  • Don’t be afraid to refill the ink cartridges with your own choice of ink
  • The pen nib can be disassembled for thorough cleaning

For more info on using Pilot Parallel Pens (including maintaining and cleaning these pens), check out this in-depth guide by Jake Rainis.

While the Pilot Parallel Pen is a unique and refillable calligraphy pen, there are other calligraphy pens you can try too, just search for calligraphy or chisel tip pens.

Example pen plot drawn with a disposable calligraphy pen by Deniz (on Instagram @ojelibalon)

Disposable pen options include:

Use More than One Pen!

Contrast thick and thin lines by using two different pens, such as this work by George Henry Rowe created with both a thick brush pen, and a fineliner pen.

Example pen plot by George Henry Rowe (on Instagram @georgehenryrowe)

Or this metallic pen plot by Giulia Cosco made with a white pen and gold powder.

Example pen plot by Giulia Cosco (on Instagram @maenade.art)

Or overlap marker and metallic pens, such as this work by Michelle Chandra.

Example artwork by Michelle Chandra (on Instagram @dirtalleydesign)

Keep in mind when using different sized pens, it may be tricky to register your lines when swapping out pens! Embrace the misregistration, or try and use pens with similar pen barrel sizes.

Many pen companies offer pens of different line thicknesses and nib types in the same lineup such as:

Fake It Until You Make It: Hatch Fill Shading and Line Spacing

To create areas in your design of different widths, try a little hatch fill shading! Such as this work by Licia He, painted with an AxiDraw pen plotter and watercolor paint.

Example art by Licia He (on Instagram @blahblahpaperblah)

Another example of using hatch fill shading is this colorful pen plot by Paul Rickards.

Example pen plot by Paul Rickards (on Instagram @rolandjuno)

Or, instead of hatch fill shading, vary line spacing to create denser areas such as this work by Cezar Mocan.

Example pen plot by Cezar Mocan (on Instagram @moving.drawing)

In a similar vein is this work by Adam Spannbauer where increasing noise in the center creates denser line spacing. Plotted with a white gelly roll pen on black paper!

Example pen plot by Adam Spannbauer (on Instagram @thespanningset)

Brush Pen: Variation through Pressure

Brush pens can also create interesting line variation and texture, especially if the plotting surface isn’t flat!

Work by Daniela Krohnert (also @daniela_kroehnert on IG!)

Daniela Krohnert let a piece of paper dry curled after a light rain shower and then plotted 42 straight lines with a Faber Castell Artist Pitt Pen with a soft brush tip.

Multiple Lines Width Tips Recap

  • Create thick and thin segments in one line with a calligraphy pen
  • Contrast thick and thin lines by using multiple pens in one plot
  • Fake line width variation with hatch fill shading or through line spacing
  • Use a brush pen and varying pressure to create line width variation

Images in this post were used with permission by Con Ryan (@conryan.design), Targz (@targz), Deniz (@ojelibalon), George Henry Rowe (@georgehenryrowe), Giulia Cosco (@maenade.art), Michelle Chandra (@dirtalleydesign), Licia He (@blahblahpaperblah), Paul Rickards (@rolandjuno), Cezar Mocan (@moving.drawing), Adam Spannbauer (@thespanningset), and Daniela Krohnert (@daniela_kroehnert).

New to pen plotting?! Interested in making your own pen plot art?! Take 10% off an AxiDraw pen plotter and accessories with discount code DIRTALLEY10 when you buy directly from Evil Mad Scientist, the makers of the AxiDraw!

About the Author

Michelle Chandra studied art, design and code at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. Her work has been featured in many publications including Gizmodo, the Washington Post and Engadget. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @dirtalleydesign.