Link Love: The Gift Guides Cometh

Link Love: The Gift Guides Cometh

I can’t believe its the middle of November already and holiday music is being played in stores and holiday decorations are being hung. It also means that Gift Guides are starting to be published, including the all-important stationery and pen-related gift guides. Oh, and if you’re knit-inclined Mason-Dixon Knitting is hosting a Giftalong knitting challenge because we all love a good challenge to inspire us, right?

Gift Guides:



Notebooks & Paper:

Art & Creativity:

[Oak Hollow Mittens from Paper Tiger]

Other Interesting Things:

[Christmas Envelope Decorating from Think.Make.Share]


Pen Review: Pentel GlideWrite Ballpoint Pens

Review by Laura Cameron

I’m always open to trying new ballpoint and gel ink pens and Pentel‘s GlideWrite (Office Depot, $13.99 for a pack of 10) pens are sort of a combination of both! 

The GlideWrite pens have medium point (1.0 mm) ball point tips in a white plastic barrel with a rubberized grip. They boast that they are retractable (true) and refillable (unverified, I was unable to find refill packages listed at retailers nor at Pentel). GlideWrites are available in black, blue or assorted colors.

To me, the most interesting feature about the GlideWrite pens is that apparently they use a mix of gel and ballpoint inks for a smoother flow. This creates a low viscosity ink designed to reduce buildup in your pen, while also creating a smudge resistant ink. My impressions on this are mixed.

The pens do write very smoothly to my touch and the ink is light and smudge resistant. I didn’t find any globs of ink on any colors the way you sometimes can in ballpoint pens. I didn’t FEEL anything in my writing, but if I look at the words I wrote close up, I still see the characteristic skips of the ballpoint pen in my lines. I tried to get a close-up of the Light Blue ink in which it was most obvious.

Overall, I didn’t think these were a bad pen if you’re looking for a few fun colors in ballpoint pens, and they do seem to perform better than some of the standard ballpoint pens. But if it were my money, I think I’d end up buying the PaperMate InkJoy Gels ahead of these. I realize comparing ballpoints to gel pens is kind of comparing apples to oranges (and Pentel has gel pen offerings) but I know I’d reach for the InkJoy Gels first over the GlideWrites. The InkJoy Gels are also quite a bit more expensive (Jetpens, $23.50 for a pack of 14) but I prefer the experience and the writing they produce.

DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were provided free of charge by Pentel of America for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Pen Review: Marvy Le Pen Flex Brush Pens (6-Color Set in Jewel Colors)

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a young girl discovered her first truly unusual pen. It was the Marvy Le Pen. I was probably in grade school and along with hunting for Hello Kitty stuff, I found the exotic Le Pen. In the meantime, I’ve found many other pens that perform better and last longer than the Le Pen but I always have a soft spot for these. For the most part, their color range has not changed since my grade school days. The tips of the fiber tip pens still wear out quickly and the original Le Pen only come in one tip size. So I was pretty delighted to hear that Marvy had created a new product in the Le Pen line: the Flex Brush.

Marvy Le Pen Flex Brush Pen - Jewel - 6 Color Set

I got the Le Pen Flex Brush in the 6-pen Set of Jewel Tone Colors ($9.75). These were always my favorite colors when I went shopping for the original Le Pens as a kid and I think of them as Le Pen’s signature colors. The set includes: amethyst (lavender), burgundy, magenta, navy, Oriental Blue, and teal.

The 6-pen set come in a rigid plastic case with a flip lid that doubles as a stand for the pens making it easier to access the pens while working. The clips lock into the case with a click.

The easiest way to discern the Flex pens from regular Le Pens are two ways: the foil stamped “Flex” on the barrel and the end cap is a translucent version of the color rather than opaque. The pen width, length and clip are otherwise identical to the original.

Marvy Le Pen Flex Brush Pen - Jewel - 6 Color Set

The fiber tips are a conical shape encased in plastic. The “flex tips” are not particularly long like a brush tip. They are more like a soft bullet tip. According to the description on the package, they are “rubberized brush tips”.

Marvy Le Pen Flex Brush Pen - Jewel - 6 Color Set

While the package describes the colors as “vivid” the characteristic I associate most with these Jewel colors are rich. The colors are also a little unusual for markers and felt-tipped pens sold in mass market channels. Oriental Blue has always been one of my favorite colors in the Le Pen color line-up. In watercolor, it would be called Prussian Blue which is also one of my favorite colors. The burgundy always looks like red to me but that’s fine.

As for the flexibility of the tips, it’s enough to be interesting but not awe-inspiring. I suspect the tips will wear down quickly to a blunt, less defined shape like a Sharpie marker making these pens useful for filling in color at best. Because of their short length, the thick-to-thin ratio was not very dramatic to begin with.

The pens did make me nostalgic for the regular fiber-tipped Le Pens, however. Maybe my inner grade schooler will just need to pull out a Hello Kitty notebook and some Le Pens this week.

DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were provided free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

My Inktober 2019 Follow-Up

My Inktober 2019 Follow-Up

I mentioned earlier that my Inktober this year did not follow any of the rules that I set for myself in the previous years. For two years, I did alphabets and started at A and worked methodically to Z. Last year, I followed along with Lisa Congdon’s 31 Day challenge on Creativebug which allowed me to put ink on paper without having to plan too much while also traveling to New York and Canada.

Inktober 2019 - Quartz

I wanted to draw my alphabet of favorite things but once I started it, I didn’t do them in any particular order. I also discovered that it was hard to think of anything for some letters and many things for other letters. So, my whole plan started to break down. Then, I wasn’t always happy with a drawing. So, I would redraw it. And redraw it. And redraw it. So, I got behind.

Inktober 2019 - Guitars

And, of course, things happened in October that made it hard to keep my focus. We lost a beloved pet. Friends lost pets. Friends lost jobs. It became important to be present for the people in my life, both two-legged and four-legged and get a couple days behind on Inktober.

Inktober 2019 - Turntables

As much as I wanted to share my drawings along the way, I often finished them and rolled into bed. Sometimes, the artwork was still wet and I closed the cover of my sketchbook to discover in the morning that I had smeared the drawing.

Inktober 2019 - Purses

I started my Inktober with a small set of Copic markers, my trusty Platinum Carbon Desk Pen and a red drawing pencil and eraser. As the project progressed, I realized that the limited color palette was starting to bum me out.

Inktober 2019 - Yarn

Inktober 2019 - Vintage

Some of the Copics were starting to dry out. They were the same set of colors I used in my first Inktober back in 2016.

Inktober 2019 - Shoes

Inktober 2019 - S'mores

Inktober 2019 - Mini Cooper

I broke completely and got out my watercolor set. The Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook I have been using does not love watercolor like I had hoped. I look forward to going back to the Alpha (medium grain) which behaves a bit better to water.


Inktober 2019 - World's Fair

The addition of more color definitely made the last push through a handful of drawings more enjoyable. I did discover that I use a lot of warm and cool yellow as both pans were basically empty.

Inktober 2019 - Hot Sauce

I love love love Payne’s Grey. If I don’t have it in my palette, I will mix it myself: equal parts ultramarine and burnt sienna.  The cap on the Red Hot bottle and the ground is made from homemade Payne’s Grey. Thanks, William Payne, you little trickster!

Inktober 2019 - Moka Pots

I didn’t scan in all the pages I painted. Some were just bad. But that’s the great thing about the internet. We get to edit. But we can also be a cautionary tale.

Inktober 2019 - Lipstick

This last piece was one that got damaged as a result of closing my sketchbook before the paint was dry. It’s probably possible to Photoshop out the mistakes but I’d just as soon repaint it. I like the concept enough to redo it. I’d also like to attempt the lettering again. I found some great vintage resources online.

Inktober is always a learning experience. I think the first week was particularly rocky for me. I haven’t done much drawing this year outside of work which is shameful. If I stick with a regular regiment of drawing, then doing Inktober won’t be as difficult next year. Having a plan, even if you diverge from it, is a good thing. As long as you don’t spend hours every day looking for reference images. Like any project, the more work you can do upfront, the better. Having reference images is not cheating. Make friends pose for you, get a mirror, take reference photos of yourself or google reference images. You have a year to come up with a plan for next year. And nobody says you have to follow the official Inktober rules or prompts.

Pen Review: Pentel Artist Brush Sign Pen

Pen Review: Pentel Artist Brush Sign Pen

When I first saw the package of Pentel Artist Brush Sign Pens I thought to myself, “I need another set of brush pens like I need a hole in my head.” Let’s just say I have purchased just about every brush pen on the market at one point or another thinking it would be the key to unlocking either brush pen lettering or watercolor/marker pen drawing. Needless to say, pens won’t make me a better artist. Sure, some tools might inspire us to practice more or might be more conducive to our particular drawing or writing style but after almost ten years of publicly testing pens, it’s about time I figured this out, right?

But I digress..

The Pentel Artist Brush Sign Pen is a, for lack of a better turn-of-phrase, wolf in sheep’s clothing. The original Sign Pen is a very unassuming bullet tip fiber-tipped marker. The Artist Brush Sign Pen is a WHOLE OTHER beast.

I received the 6-color set to try and was struck by the colors included in the set. Usually, a 6-color set will feature standard colors like red, blue, green, purple, black and either orange or pink but the Pentel Artist Brush Sign Pens mixed it all up and included grey, yellow ochre,  and sky blue with the more expected orange, violet and pink. But no black or true blue or green. I’m not complaining. I find the choice fascinating.

Pentel Artist Brush Pen tip

Each pen in the set features  long slender, extra fine polymer fiber brush hairs. Tina reviewed the black model earlier this year for drawing and compared it to several other brush pens for drawing. The close-up above makes the bristles seem huge but the photo below will provide more sense of scale. What I wanted you to see is that the bristles are individual strands in the above image.

The bristles are firm with a lot of snap back. If you’ve used other bristle-based brush markers or natural fiber brushes you may have experienced some that are slow to spring back. The Pentel Artist Brush Sign Pens are different. The quick spring back makes them easier to use for anyone new to brush lettering because the brush returns more quickly to a perfect point.

Pentel Artist Brush Pen writing samples

The firmer brush tip also means that the range of thicks to thins is epic. With a light touch, the thin lines can be extremely fine and with firm pressure, the thick lines can be super wide and lay down a lot of ink.

Ignore the “5 min” note above. I forgot to wet test the ink. So, look at the photo below. The grey and yellow ochre were fairly water resistant. The sky blue is not water resistant at all and the orange did not fair well either. The purple and pink showed some resistance but bled a good deal when wet.

Pentel Artist Brush Wet Test

These brush pens are not watercolor pens like the Winsor & Newton Watercolor brush pens , Akashiya Sai Watercolor Pens or Tombow Dual Brush Pens. The inks will not blend or flow like watercolor but the Pentel Artist Brush Sign Pens have their own merits. The extra fine tips with firm bristle tips make them worth the investment and the unique colors are a nice break from the standard assortment sets.


DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were provided free of charge by Pentel of America for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Ink Review: Sailor Studio 670

Ink Review: Sailor Studio 670

Great news! Now everyone who hates using a phone to order Sailor Studio inks is now free to order the same inks online! No more talking to people or refraining from a purchase because you have lost your voice. This also helps the middle of the night ink cravings – no need to wait until morning. Night owls rejoice.

11/8/19 UPDATE: I have just been informed by Dromgoole’s that they are offering free shipping at $35 until the end of the year! Two bottles of Sailor Studio qualify for this free shipping.

Sailor Studio 670

My newest Sailor Studio ink is 670. My usual choices in Sailor Studio lines are in the 100, 200, or 300 inks – the lighter, almost pastel inks. I’ve strayed up to a 400 series ink, but that was a bit unusual and outside of my confort zone. But 400 series inks are quite beautiful as well! So I decided to push my comfort zone to the max and select an ink from the 600 series. Scary.

From the outside of the bottle, Sailor Studio looks like a vibrant yellow with green thoughts.

Sailor Studio 670

But these hints can be misleading.

Sailor Studio 670

Once opened, the ink looks quite yellow, less green even than the lable. In larger pools, it can look brown. But this is not how the ink looks on swatch cards. The color here, especially in writing, is a green tinged by yellow and can shade into a greenish-brown.

Sailor Studio 670

SailorStudio670 swatch comparison

In writing, Sailor Studio 670 is close to Platinum Classic Citrus Black.

Sailor Studio 670 writing sample

When I first swabbed Sailor Studio 670, I was struck by the color. It is pickle juice. Not ordinary pickle juice, either. It is the exact color of the pickle juice in the jars of sweet pickles that my grandmother used to serve during Christmas each year when the entire extended family would get together and stay for the week at her house. Nearly 20 people packed into a house. For a week. With this many people, the pickles were store brand and had juice colored almost a neon yellow-green.

As unappetizing as those pickles sound now that I’m an adult (they were wonderful when I was about 8), Sailor Studio 670 is actually quite nice to use in writing. The shading is pleasant with colors from light pickle juice to a seaweed green.

Sailor Studio 670 vs Sailor Studio 370

Another Sailor Studio ink that I have reviewed, Sailor Studio 370, lacks the strong yellow component found in Sailor Studio 670.

Sailor Studio 670 vs Sailor Studio 370

In writing, the colors of Sailor Studio strongly depend on lighting. Bright light brings out the yellow while lower light shows the ink as closer to green. Below are the same “Pickle Juice” words in different lighting.


Sailor Studio 670

In large swatches, Sailor Studio 670 shows more tones of green with brown haloing. Even a small bit of silver sheen.

Sailor Studio 670 swatch

I’m enjoying this ink – it is a perfect match for my Pelikan Honey and White Tortoise Shell pen, even with an extra-fine nib. I wouldn’t choose 670 as my only ink, but in combination with other colors, I love the contrast this adds to my journal.

Remember, the main barrier of ordering Sailor Studio inks has now been removed. Head to Dromgoole’s site now to order online!


  • Paper: Musubi Tomoe River Refill ($30-35 USD)
  • Pen: Pelikan Honey and White Tortoise Shell M400, EF nib
  • Ink:  Sailor Studio 670 (aka Pickle Juice) ($18 for 20mL)
  • Swatch Cards: Col-o-ring ink testing cards ($10 for 100 card pack)

DISCLAIMER: The ink included in this review was provided for free by Dromgoole’s for the purpose of review; all other materials were purchased by me. Please see the About page for more details.

Pen Review: Signo RT1 vs Signo Needle

Pen Review: Signo RT1 vs Signo Needle

Inktober lead me back to some of the “old classics”. I got out drawing fineliner pens and fine gel pens that I enjoy using for drawing. That lead me back to an old favorite which is the Uni Signo 0.38. Much has been written elsewhere about this excellent gel pen but I don’t think I’ve ever written about this classic pen. So, I thought I’d use this as an opportunity to compare the Signo RT1 (UMN-155) ($2.85) and the Signo Needle (UM-151ND) ($3.30).

Uni Signo RT vs Signo Needle

The RT1 (Retractable) is, as it’s moniker suggests, a retractable version of the the regular Signo DX and features the classic, conical shaped tip but it’s housed in a  wider barrel, quick-click retracable pen. The barrel is wrapped from the tip to halfway up the barrel in a grippy rubber and then smoothly transitions into a smooth plastic barrel. It features a built-in clip and the knock mechanism is a wide, flat button on the top of the pen giving you plenty of fidget space to click to your heart’s content.

The Needle is the same pen barrel design as the DX line. The barrel is a clear plastic with a rubberized grip section with divots and then the silver, metal cone that tapers to its unique needle tip.

Uni Signo RT vs Signo Needle

This close-up photo above shows the difference in the tip designs. The Needle is on the left, the RT1 is on the right.

Uni Signo RT vs Signo Needle

In writing and drawing tests, I had a hard time telling the difference between the two in terms of actual ink-on-paper coverage. The Needle gives a little more clearance from the paper so that I could see around the lines I’d previously made without the pen tip blocking my view. The RT1, however, with its slightly wider, grippier barrel was very comfortable in the hand and made me want to hold onto it. In the end, even though the tips were the same diameter, the RT1 seemed to lay down a bit heavier application of ink and the Needle seemed better suited for fine, detail work.

Once again, I did not wait long enough to test the waterproofiness. I only waited a couple minutes and got some smearing when I applied a water brush to the inks. I tried again this morning and the inks did not budge. I even went over the writing and the drawings and nothing happened except that I made the paper “taco” (that’s my husband’s official printer term for what happens to paper when it starts to bend).

My final note is that the capped Needle is not going to leak in a pocket or bag if stored closed. The RT1, with its easy-to-knock knock could accidentally be left open and leak if that’s a consideration.

Do I favor one of these over the other? No. I like them both. A lot.


DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were provided free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.