I'm talking about real pens, not software!

I love drawing with Sharpies except that I often smear the lines with my sweaty wrists! What's a similar black drawing pen/marker (felt tip or otherwise) that dries to a non-smearable state much faster (like within milliseconds)?

I would imagine that the type of paper used is a factor here too. What kinds of paper are best for instant-drying of pen ink?

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    It's been a long time since I got dirty with markers, but I'd suggest hitting up your local art store and grabbing a few pads of marker paper and try out a range of different markers there. Drawing implement preferences are a very personal things.
    – DA01
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 4:41
  • Sharpies are indelible markers. If you sweat washes up the ink, you must be an alien. Joking aside, beware of the solvents: they are usually toxic. Even the seemingly innocuous alcohol-based designers markers used to cause breathing and even liver problems after long-term (read: career) use.
    – horatio
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 15:44
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    @horatio I've met a few alcohol-based designers in my time... on a serious note though, thanks for the advice, I sometimes wondered if there could be health problems from such things and had no idea there were known cases of it Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 19:52
  • @horatio sharpies may be indelible but if the ink has not yet fully dried and you swipe it with a sweaty wrist you are going to smear it. sharpies put down a lot of ink and it does not dry as quickly as some other inks. even the smudge glove solution suggested below may not prevent smearing a sharpie all of the time. Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 17:08

3 Answers 3


Paper, qualities and types, is a rabbit-hole that is very deep. Be warned. A high quality coated paper designed for ink-jet printers would take inks very well to reduce or eliminate the possibility of smearing while still keeping the lines crisp. Uncoated paper would absorb inks very well also, but would tend to bleed at the edges. Heavier paper in general would be a benefit to you.

Most inks that are very thin viscosity are going to dry faster than the gel style inks. A factor to look at as well is how much ink you are putting down per area of paper. Even very absorbent paper will only be able to soak in so much ink. The amount of ink laid down by the pen or marker would be determined by the the tip, ink thickness, and possibly pressure you press with. I do not know or have a ton of experience in this area.

In no particular order here are some writing and drawing utensils I really like:

I do have a bias for smaller finer tips, and many of the options above may be too fine for your tastes and/or applications.

If you are re-introducing a liquid solvent to the paper after the ink has dried via your sweaty wrists it may be impossible to keep from smearing. An alternative that many take to when using graphite which could possibly help you is putting a piece of scratch paper under your hand. This could also be a piece of felt or other cloth which may be less likely to cling to your hand, which bothers me a lot. This intermediary surface would hamper the sweat from reaching the drawing surface and smearing the ink.


If you're happy with the pens you use and simply want to avoid sweaty-hand related smudging, you might have a use for those 'smudge guard' gloves they make for use with graphics tablets.

They're designed to stop hand smudges without getting in the way of using a pen, and I don't see any reason why they wouldn't work as well for real pens as for digital ones.

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I always thought they seemed a bit silly/excessive for their intended use of avoiding smudges on screens/graphics tablets when using a digital pen (could just be because I never really get that problem for some reason), but this seems like a legitimate case where they might really help: they'll be dry, and even if it turns out that the excess ink problem isn't caused by sweat or skin-grease, I imagine they would absorb excess ink before they smudge it.

The advantage over looking for a type of faster-drying pens is, you don't need to change pens from a type you know you like to a type that might not suit you so well.

Search for 'tablet glove' to find them. Also, 'SmudgeGuard' seems to be one common brand name.

Or you could probably get similar results by taking a pair of scissors to an old glove :-)

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    Add some sparkles and you have a half Michael Jackson glove. :) Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 14:14
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    @LaurenIpsum :) I always thought there was something unsettling about the way these look... now I know why... Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 14:20
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    There is something unsettling about how it looks but it has nothing to do with sparkles or Michael Jackson. Dude looks like he has half a hand! Our heuristics cannot find what that appears to be in previously encountered inputs and so starts throwing errors. Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 15:12
  • My smudge gloves are quite possibly the cheapest, most beneficial tools I have.
    – Scott
    Commented Nov 20, 2014 at 17:21

I constantly have smudge issues because I'm left-handed so even basic writing tasks look very dirty due to smudging.

It sounds like you're looking more for a marker-type pen, but I'd like to comment on a needle-tip gel pen that I've found that I haven't been able to smudge. Which is great if you enjoy sketching with thin pens.

I went to a store that sold an incredible number of pens and started testing them and instantly wiping my hands over it. Most of them smudged (even other needle-point pens). I ended up going with the Pentel Energel 0.35mm ballpoint pen. I tried over and over again to smudge it but I wasn't able to. It seems rather pricey on Amazon (probably because it's Japanese-made) and when I bought it in person it was cheaper, but I'm very happy with it and I wouldn't mind paying the higher price to ensure I don't smudge.

To be clear, I understand it's not perhaps the more "artsy" answer but I wanted to provide the answer because I'm sure there's many more lefties suffering in their day-to-day writing and what not. If anyone else knows of any other smudge-free pens I'd be happy to add them to this post or just convert my post into a wiki.

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