Category: Pencil Review

Review: Blackwing Point Guard

Blackwing Point Guard

I received my Blackwing Point Guard in the mail last week. As a subscriber to the Blackwing Editions, I only had to pay shipping to receive it so I was willing to try it out, even though I had already heard through the blog phone tree that it wasn’t worth it. Curiosity killed the cat and cost me $3 in shipping and a trip to the PO Box.

The first thing I noticed is that its heavier than any other pencil cap I own. Not like brass-heavy just more substantial, and larger than any of the other pencil caps. Since Blackwing pencils are already exponentially larger than pens and other pencils, sticking a Point Guard on one makes it almost impossible to get it to fit into any pencil or pen case. Euphamistically, its friggin’ huge.

It also does not fit onto the pencil very far. In the photo above, I aligned the cap with the marks on the pencil to show exactly how far the cap fit onto the pencil. I know some people can get a pretty long point on their pencil but that still leaves an awful lot of clearance at the end.

Blackwing Point Guard

Shown above, the Point Guard appears with a Sun-Star plastic pencil cap, a generic aluminum pencil cap and a Kutsuwa Stad Aluminum Pencil Cap. I also chose a selection of pencils to test all the pencil caps to see which worked with the most pencils.

Blackwing Point Guard

I chose common favorites beyond the Palomino Blackwings like the Prospector, Tombow, Mitsubishi, CDT, General’s Cedar Pointe, Natajar, Faber-Castell Grip 2001 (for its triangular shape), and the Mitsubishi Colour Pencil (its a round barrel and slightly wider) to get a range.

Blackwing Point Guard

My experience with the Point Guard mirrored many other’s. I found it very difficult to actually get it on to a Blackwing Pearl. I practically had to wrench it on. It sort of broke my heart a little to do it knowing I was marring the paint to do it. I really like Pearls.  But for you, I did it. And here’s the proof. Yep. It marked it up. And I had to wrench the Point Guard off again. I mean I looked ridiculous trying to pull the cap off. I can’t imagine trying to pull that cap off in a  meeting. I looked like I was wrestling a candy cane out of the mouth a rigor moritised-earthworm. It was not pretty. In a public place, I would have inevitably lost purchase on one or the other and let them fly across the room.  Hence, the need to bring in the other pencil caps for comparison. Were they all this difficult to use? Or did they all fall off?

Blackwing Point Guard

So I started testing the other pencil caps like the transparent plastic Sun-Star and the aluminum caps.Between the plastic Sun-Star caps and the aluminum caps, I was able to cap and shake test all of the pencils shown above and easily remove the caps without endangering those around me. They fit snugly but not TOO snugly. Mostly, these caps keep the points of your pencils from poking you or your carrying case or from the lead breaking in transit. Some of the caps fit better than others with some pencils but clearly the price points are drastically better so its easier to have an assortment of Sun-Star and Kutsuwa Pencil Caps on hand than it is to have more than one Point Guard.

The aluminum caps have slits up the side to make it possible for them to fit wider hex and round barrel pencils more easily. Of course, this means its also possible to stretch the aluminum out so that they no longer fit snugly around a standard hex pencil and wouldn’t pass Blackwing’s rigorous “3-shake test”.  But you can find two 8-packs of aluminum Kutsuwa Stad Pencil Caps on Amazon for under $9 so you can outfit an entire dozen of pencils and then some for the cost of ONE Point Guard.

Blackwing Point Guard

The bottomline: Don’t waste your hard earned pencil funds on the Point Guard. Buy an assortment of these other pencil caps instead or do a search on JetPens for Pencil Caps or ask at your favorite shop or web site for other pencil cap recommendations. I appreciate that Blackwing tried to innovate the pencil cap but in this instance, it just didn’t work.

Review: BigiDesign Ti Arto The Ultimate Refill Friendly Pen

BigiDesign TiArto

The BigiDesign Ti Arto Pen is touted as the most refill friendly pen and when it was announced on Kickstarter last year, I was all in from the moment they said go. As the queen of refill hacking, the idea of having a pen capable of accepting 200+ refills without having to do any manipulation, adding spacers or doing any other kind of hoodoo is my idea of the perfect pen. BigiDesign built the Ti Arto out of titanium and uses a clamping mechanism reminiscent of the locking chuck on your favorite power drill to clamp down and hold your refills in place. Freakin’ brilliant, if you ask me. The rear of the pen has a step down which allows the cap to be posted and seated lower on the pen, making it comfortable and well-balanced.

TiArto Posted

Everything else about the pen is simple and understated. The clip is smooth with the “Ti” etched into it. There are subtle rubber rings in key spots to help the cap seat and stay locked tight. It doesn’t look all that dissimilar to their Ti Post design but that’s okay. It’s the inner workings of this pen that are what I was excited about. And the clean lines of the design are good so there was no reason to mess with that anyway. I do prefer how the pen looks when its posted over when its capped however.

TiArto Cap

TiArto Refills

But the true test of this pen was could I really fit all the endless refills I had in my stash into the pen? I took a handful of the refills from my copious collection to represent the various sizes and configurations and put the pen through its paces. The nice thing about the locking mechanism is that if you prefer your refill to sit in a certain position, you can adjust it just “so” by  tilting the pen and refill at a downward angle while twisting the chuck closed with the refill extended to your preferred length until the  chuck is tight. If you want it to extend a little more or a little less, just loosen the chuck and shimmy the refill in or out to your preference and re-tighten until you are satisfied.

It might take a few tries to get your your technique down but after you do it a couple times and try writing, you’ll find your sweet spot and you’ll be off.

tiarto-1

As you can see, I tested gel, ballpoint, rollerball and fineliners of varying widths and colors all in the span of an afternoon.

tiarto-2

I even went to wide ballpoints and needlepoint tips. I went so far as to put a Cross mechanical pencil insert in, just to prove a point, though advancing the pencil leads would prove to be a bit cumbersome. However, if you found a pencil with a knock mechanism… could be kind of fun!

TiArto Writing Samples

Here are all the writing samples from the pen refills shown above. Obviously, this is not 200+ but it certainly shows the range and potential of the Ti Arto. I’m curious if all the refills I tested are actually on the BigiDesign list? The simple news is that ANY refill on my Epic Refill Guide will fit in this pen… and then some. So… that’s good news, right?


I bought this pen with my own money and was not compensated in any way for this review. All opinions are my own.

Announcing: Baron Fig Archer Pencils

Baron Fig Archer Pencils

It’s not everyday that a company unveils a new pencil. Today, Baron Fig announced its new Archer Pencil. Or should I say “rolled” out its new pencil since they are packaged in a matte charcoal paperboard tube? Inside, are snuggled a dozen hexagonal graphite painted pencils with a charcoal tipped ends.

Baron Fig Archer Pencils

Discreetly stamped in white foil is the Baron Fig bran name and a monoline arrow on the opposite side on the barrel of the pencil just below the the black dipped end. Very nicely designed and very simply branded. The paperboard tube doubles as storage for your pencils much like the tins of yore but with a modern Apple/21st-century twist.

Baron Fig Archer Pencils

Baron Fig Archer Pencils

Baron Fig Archer Pencils Writing Sample

I sharpened the pencils with a 2-step, long-point sharpener and the HB lead had no problem holding the point and keeping a nice point for the duration of my test writing. The Archer is a lighter pencil than a Blackwing since it doesn’t have the large ferrule and eraser on the end so I found it light in the hand and easy to balance. The lead is lighter and harder than the Blackwings as well but that means its a bit less smudgy too. I even did some heavy scrbbing tests after I photographed the writing sample just to verify my instincts, and the Archer really did maintain a god crisp point even after scrubbing a good chunky of graphite on the page.

I’d compare the Archer to one of my favorites, the Faber-Castell Grip 2001 HB, in terms of hardness but the wood is a bit weightier. It smells good too. Yes, I sniffed it. This is a full-service blog.

I really like these pencils but I am biased because I like pencils that are HB, a bit on the harder side without erasers and are well-designed. The price is right and the packaging and design is SPOT-ON.

The Archer is available in a tube of one dozen for $15. You can order today and pencils will start shipping on 10/20.


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Baron Fig for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Pencil Review: Pilot Color Eno Mechanical Colored Pencils

Pilot Color Eno Colored PencilsPilot Color Eno Colored Pencils Title

I was very curious about the Pilot Color Eno Mechanical Pencils ($2.75 each) so I bought all eight colors. The are 0.7mm colored pencils in mechanical pencil form and they are supposed to be erasable in the same vein as the Col-Erase but in mechanical pencils which means that pencil sharpeners would not be needed. So, I thought these would be worth a try. Each pencil is $2.75 each and there are replacement colored leads ($1.65 per tube) in the original formula and newer Neox leads ($3.30 per tube) as well and there are replaceable erasers too. ($1.65 per pack of 5)

img_9954-1

Because the leads are 0.7mm, you can get a fine line but there are some sacrifices.  If you press too hard on the fine 0.7mm lead, it will snap. But with some of the lighter colors like the yellow, you can’t really see the color unless you bear down on it. Some of the other colors, like the blue, is just too hard and scratchy. You can’t get a rich, creamy color like you can with other colored pencils because the lead had to be formulated such to hold together in such a fine diameter. So, yeah… sacrifices.

Pilot Color Eno Colored Pencils: Good Colors

Based on my experiments, I wouldn’t recommend getting ALL the colors. I’d recommend getting the “animator’s friends” which would be the soft blue (AKA non-photo or non-repro blue) and red (which is similar to the beloved Col-Erase Vermillion or Carmine Red favored by animators). I would recommend, if you like thes ecolors, to then upgrade to the Neox leads though.

I also like the violet and pink pencils for sketching. The violet is actually quite dark and smooth and, conversely, the pink is pretty light. I liked the pink so much, I actually upgraded the lead to the Neox which doesn’t seem to wear down quite as fast. I burned through three of the standard pink leads in about a week.

Pilot Color Eno Colored Pencils Pink Jelly Fish

Pilot Color Eno Colored Pencils Cyan Dragonfly

Above are some quick sketches using the Pink Neox and the standard soft blue leads.

Pilot Color Eno Colored Pencils: Not So Good Colors

The colors I wouldn’t recommend are the yellow and the blue. The yellow was just too light to be useful and the blue was the hardest lead of the lot. Maybe I got a dud lead but it was super scratchy and uncooperative. I just couldn’t get it to lay down any color. I might try the Neox lead for the blue pencil to see if I have better luck because the stock lead did not do me any favors. I found the orange and green to be acceptable but not colors I’d race out to buy again.

Pilot Color Eno Colored Pencils: Worst Color

As for the erasability, I’d not recommend the erasers anymore than I do the erasers on Col-Erase. They do erase a bit but its by no means a complete success. They are just OK. I would recommend trying other erasers like a foam or plastic eraser for better success. The nice thing is that the pencils are not super smudgey like graphite and that their erasable tendencies mean that if you use these as part of a base drawing for a painting or inked artwork, you can choose a color that might coordinate with your overall color palette so that it will blend in and disappear as color is added where graphite might gray your colors.

For sketching in meetings, the Pilot Color ENO mechanical pencils are a lot less intrusive to use rather than being the d-bag who brings in the handheld sharpener and leaves a pile of shavings on the table. They also make it easier to have a good portable kit for travel as the pipe for the lead is fully retractable into the plastic barrel so it will not be damaged in transport.

Note: These pencils were tested on the Block Bitacora spiral-top 90gsm bond paper made by Minerva from Peru. Acquired in one of the many kits received from Rad + Hungry.


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Pilot Color Eno Colored Pencils

Pencil Review: Blackwing Colors Coloring Pencils 12-Color Set

Blackwing Colors

I know there was a lot of hullaballoo about the Blackwing Volumes release this summer of the #56 Joe DiMaggio release. But then just a week or two later, they very quietly released their Blackwing Colors Coloring Pencils collection (set of 12 in presentation box for $19.95) and I couldn’t click the Buy It Now button fast enough.

Blackwing Colors

The set includes 12 colored pencils, produced in Japan. Each pencil is hexagonal and the barrel is completely painted in the color of the lead color (thank you!). The end cap is metallic silver and the logo name is imprinted in metallic silver on each pencil though the color name is not. This no-color-name isn’t a huge issue in a same 12-color set but in low light it can be a bit hard to tell the brown, purple and black pencils apart. Also, it suggests that there aren’t plans for more colors where it might be helpful to clarify between various tones and hues which is a disappointment. But maybe if there is really good feedback and response, other editions will be produced and more colors will be added with names stamped on the pencils for clarity.

From a purely presentation standpoint, these pencils, like all Blackwing products, are flawless. The finish on the pencils is beautiful and silky. The hex shape feels good in the hand. The cedar wood gives them and almost wood chime-like sound when they clink together in my hand. For looks alone, its worth it to have a set of these pencils. They cost the same as a box of Palomino Blackwing 602s, so what are you waiting for? The rest of the review can wait until you place your order…. go on.

Blackwing Colors Comparison

Okay, now that you’ve ordered some, what can you expect in terms of quality? The Blackwing Colors are SOFT, creamy colored pencils. I put these pencils up next to Derwent Coloursoft and Prismacolor Premiers and in terms of color and softness, they were right on par. One notable thing about the Blackwing Colors set is that rather than include a white pencil as the last color, they chose to include metallic silver instead. While I find this to be a fun add, if you plan to do any blending, you may want to go out and purchase a white, cream or colorless blender from Prismacolor or Coloursoft to add to your set to help with blending and burnishing.

I did contact Palomino to ask if the pencils were wax- or oil-based colored pencils but I did not get a reply back. Based on this side-by-side comparison with two other wax-based colored pencils, I’d guess that the Blackwing Colors are wax-based but its just a guess. If anyone here’s a definitive, please leave a note in the comments.

As with Prismas and Colorsofts, on textured stocks the Blackwing Colors would wear down quickly because the leads are soft. They did sharpen very easily. I used a Staedtler sharpener which gave a fairly sharp point which is not always recommended for soft colored pencils. I got a little crumbling at the tip because the point was so fine, not unlike an over-sharpened Prisma, but the point of the Blackwing Colors did not break.

Blackwing Colors Comparison Close-Up

I was testing the pencils on Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook paper which has a bit of tooth to it which is why the paper is still showing through on all the color swatches. Later in the day I switched to testing in my current daily notebook (my new Quo Vadis Forum refillable with blank refill, review soon!) which has very smooth paper which is not normally conducive to pencils and the Blackwing Colors worked great. This was a surprising turn of events for me.

Blackwing Colors Drawing

 

blending

I wanted to include what the pencils looked like with examples of blending and burnishing so I did some real quick examples this morning and shot them with my iPhone. The colors aren’t as clean as the other images but you can at least see the effects that can be achieved. I used the red and blue pencil to blend and create purple. Then used the red, pink and orange to blend a lovely sunrise effect. And finally, I blended the bright grass green and yellow together to create some lime-y hues.  They all blend well, actually better in person than they look in the photo. And they will also blend well with Prismas, Colorsofts, Derwent Artists and other wax-based pencils. The little bit of smudging you see was from me running my hand over the loose particles rather than blowing them off. The pencils don’t actually smduge.

burnishing

As for burnishing, I applied a heavy burnishing of white Prismacolor over the background of my drawing and it worked beautifully with the Blackwing Colors creating a more impressionistic look and softening the overall pencil marks. So, the Blackwing Colors are burnish-friendly.

I am absolutely thrilled I purchased the Blackwing Colors colored pencils. They are leaps and bounds better than the Palomino Colors. They are currently only available in the set of 12 so if you burn through one particular color like I seem to be doing with the red and blue pencils, you may want to refer to my Coloursoft and Primsacolor comparisons for open stock replacements. They will certainly not be as pretty a pencil but they are comparable on the inside. Hopefully, Blackwing will get the hint and offer open stock soon as well as more color options. I want turquoise, parma violet and some ochres ASAP!

Pencil Review: Uni Arterase Colored Pencils 12-color Set

Uni ArtErase Colored Pencils

The Uni ArtErase 12-color Colored Pencil Set ($33) is considerably more expensive than the Prismacolor Col-Erase set I reviewed a couple weeks ago but when I saw it, I knew I had to try them. Uni Mitsubishi makes such amazingly high-quality graphite pencils and I love their red/blue pencils that it seemed worth considering the possibility that their erasable colored pencils might be worth the investment.

First of all, the ArtErase pencils come in a lovely tin box compared with the paperboard box that the Prismacolor Col-Erase were packaged. Not that I want a lot of fancy packaging, nor am I inclined to keep my pencils in a tin, but from the standpoint of the pencils being protected in transport and, having a useful and potentially reusable box, clearly Uni has the lead here. Uni also included a foam/plastic eraser in a hard plastic sleeve with the set which, while being only a couple dollars additional investment, is also a mark in their favor. And, it actually works. As opposed to the useless pink erasers on the end of the Col-Erase pencils, which are so useless I don’t think I even mentioned them in my review of the Col-Erase at all. I think those pink eraser top erasers are included on the Col-Erase pencils  are for decorative purposes only.

The ArtErase pencils are absolutely beautiful as pencil objects alone. I’ve come to expect this from top-tier Japanese brands but it should be mentioned, especially in contrast to the Col-Erase. The finish on each of the ArtErase pencils is lacquer smooth with perfect foil stamping, gold foil rings and a sparkly metallic, gold-dipped end that gives it a clean, sophisticated finish. The core of each pencil is thicker than the Col-Erase though I do not have a caliper to provide specific measurements. The ArtErase pencils have the look and feel of a Faber-Castell Polychromos rather than a Prismacolor Verithin, if that helps give you a better idea.

Uni ArtErase Colored Pencils

Once applied to paper (in this case, a Stillman and Birn Alpha sketchbook paper) it becomes clear how rich and creamy the leads on the pencils really are. They are much softer and creamier than Col-Erase pencils of comparable color. It’s most notable with the black pencils. The ArtErase black is considerably darker and inkier in color than the black Col-Erase. Where some Col-Erase pencils can feel scratchy on paper, the ArtErase pencils feel velvety. Even with how smooth and buttery the ArtErase pencils are, the only colors I could smudge with my finger was the black, brown and red. I could smudge the same colors in the Col-Erase plus the blue. The water solubility tests were also pretty comparable though the ArtErase, since the colors were richer, were prone to a bit more color spreading when wet.

Overall, the ArtErase pencils are richer, creamier and more luscious colored pencils when compared to the Col-Erase. They erase a little bit better than the Col-Erase and have softer, thicker leads. They are a bit more water soluble and are about as smudgeable as the Col-Erase. But the ArtErase are considerably more expensive. Presently, I have only found them through JetPens in the 12-color set so should you find that you like a few colors in particular, there are not open stock sources to replenish those. That said, the ArtErase are not at all scratchy like the Col-Erase and generally perform more like traditional artist’s grade colored pencils than the Col-Erase.

If you’re looking for an alternative for base drawings for animation, storyboarding, preliminary artwork or even everyday sketching and artwork, I think these pencils are far more versatile than the Col-Erase even with the more limited color range and the lack of open stock options. But they are more expensive. Buy once, cry once?


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Pencil Review: Prismacolor Col-Erase 24-Color Set

Prismacolor Col-Erase Pencils

While researching other artist’s recommended drawing tools, I found several who recommended Prismacolor Col-Erase and since I tend to favor the Prismacolor Premiers but had never used the Col-Erase, I thought I’d see what the appeal was.

Most artists mention a preference for the Col-Erase, not because they actually erase very well but because they do not smudge so the lines they put down stay where they put them and the lines are light enough that if they ink over them, when they photocopy or scan their artwork, the original pencil marks don’t usually show up if they use a light color like light blue or non-photo blue.

Prismacolor Col-Erase Pencils writing sample

Generally speaking, I found the pencils to be very smooth to use while they also maintained a point quite well in use. Some colors were harder and required a little but more pressure to show up than others. For example, the Carmine Red was much softer than the Vermillion. Why? I don’t know. But for laying some underlying sketches, these pencils didn’t smudge like a graphite pencil does.

With a standard white plastic eraser like a Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser, I was able to erase some of the marks but not all of them. The eraser included on each pencil is a pink rubber eraser which worked abysmally. Its purpose was clearly to look classic only.

The pencil marks made by Col-Erase are also water soluble so if you plan to use the pencils in combination with watercolors, the marks will move but depending on the colors you choose, it could enhance your artwork rather than muddy it like graphite might.

The Col-Erase pencil marks did not smudge as much as graphite. Certain colors were more prone to smudging like the black, dark blue and brown but the lighter colors did not smudge without serious effort or a burnishing tool.

Prismacolor Col-Erase Pencil Sketch

These little drawing were done along the margin of the page after I did the eraser tests so the heads are no bigger than small coins so the sharp points of the Col-Erase pencils do allow for fine details and quick doodling.

Did I mention that the 24-color box I purchased was acquired on Amazon for $10.96? Cheap. Hard to resist at that price. Its actually cheaper to purchase the whole box than to buy these open stock. Most art supply stores sell these individually for about $1 or more per pencil. Even Dick Blick sells the 24-pencil set for $11.50.

If you’ve never tried the Prismacolor Col-Erase pencils, the price point is low enough that a box of 24 is well within most pen-and-pencil addicts’ range. Their good point retention and loyalty by the comics illustrations and animation industry should be reason enough to peak your curiosity.

Once again, CJ is hard at work. This time, as a photo assistant. She's holding my light bounce... but not very well. She decided it made a better car bed.
Once again, CJ is hard at work. This time, as a photo assistant. She’s holding my light bounce… but not very well. She decided it made a better car bed.

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