Last edited 24 Feb 2021


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Rotring is the brand name of a type of pen for technical drawing widely used throughout much of the 20th century by architects, designers, and engineers before the advent of computer aided design. It is capable of fine precision, drawing consistent lines – as long as it is well cared for.

The classic Rotring pens were easily distinguished by their dark red barrels, narrow steel tubes in place of a conventional nib, and their use of Rotring-branded cartridge ink, making refilling a quick, clean process compared to old-fashioned methods. The pens were sometimes referred to as rapidographs, a name which came from the pen of the same name introduced by the company in the 1950s.

The Rotring company was founded in Germany in 1928 under the name Tintenkuli Handels GmbH. When it subsequently changed its name in the 1970s, it took the German term for the red ring that was placed around the pen’s barrel: rot ring.

Although such technical pens had been available in the US, they were not, initially, widely available in Europe, but Rotring’s success meant that its name eventually came to be associated with the pen type globally. Companies such as Staedtler also made similar pens which were sometimes slightly cheaper.

Rotring continues to make technical pens. However, the company’s once widespread popularity has diminished thanks to the introduction in the 1990s of computer-aided design (CAD) and the associated mechanised drafting.

Other technical pens made by the company include the Isograph. The Art Pen, while not a technical pen, has a traditional-style nib and was designed for freehand drawing and sketching. Fineline pens and propelling pencils complete the company’s line-up, along with tools to assist drafting, such as set squares, rulers, protractors and so on.

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