The Art of the Rapidograph

The Rapidograph gives artists the ability to draw and design with precision. It can also be a frustrating and unforgiving tool to use since it clogs easy and can leave ink blots on the artwork that you spent hours on. Beautiful artwork can be created with this tool, but it needs a lot of TLC, keeping the tip clean and it also requires much patience from the artist. However the payoff is worth it.

As a kid my mom did a lot of Rapidograph work. I recall the “oh shits” coming from her art studio, which usually meant the pen clogged or blotted ink. This was before Photoshop when you could scan in your artwork and fix up the mistakes!





Shown are a few of the samples from a card line she had. She had them printed on parchment paper and she sold her cards in card shops.

A bit of history on the Rapidograph
A “rapidograph” pen is a trademarked name for one type of technical pen. Technical pens use either a refillable ink reservoir or a replaceable ink cartridge.

The pen’s design feature tubes of ink that are filled with a Pasteur pipette or from a narrow spout on a special bottle of ink. Such pens frequently came in sets of various sizes, and several pen points which were installed into the holders that also contained a filled fountain, which in turn would be screwed into a handle. The construction and number of parts varied depending on the company, and the parts were not cross-compatible in most cases. Some later designs (like the Staedtler MarsMatic700) had especially designed channels to allow better air flow in between the wall of the external grip and the point assembly. This made ink flow more reliable. The general drawback of this group of pens is that they have to be frequently and carefully cleaned to remove all ink from the tubing, otherwise it would set and could not be removed.

While the Rapidograph style of pen is still widely used by artists, the use of computer-aided design (CAD) has largely replaced the need for manual drafting. Also, the development of felt-tip, ink-based pens have provided cheaper, lower-maintenance disposable tools that sell much better than traditional technical pens.

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