Tag: art supplies

Review: Marvy LePlume II Brush Markers

Guest review by Tina Koyama

Before I got heavily into colored pencils, watercolor brush pens were my coloring medium of choice. It’s hard to resist the huge range of intense, saturated colors many of them come in. Tombow Dual-Brush Pens were my gateway drug, and I managed to acquire quite a few of the line’s 96 colors before I discovered Kuretake Zig Clean Color Real Brush Pens. I decided that the “real” brush tips on the Kuretake pens were more variable and expressive, and they were my favorite for a long time (and yes, I acquired quite a few of those, too).

Eventually colored pencils suited my urban sketching needs better than markers, so except for black brush pens, I haven’t been using markers as much. Recently, though, I discovered Marvy LePlume II Double-Sided Watercolor Markers – and good golly, they come in an unbelievable 109 colors! Even more than the Tombows! Resistance was futile. I did, however, manage to resist getting all 109. In fact, my general tendency is to pick out all the brightest, most garish colors in any set, but I wanted to limit myself to about a dozen, so I showed some restraint and chose a relatively cohesive, subdued (for me) palette. I also got a blender pen.

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Scribble and Wash Test

My initial scribbles were done on Canson 98-pound mixed media paper, which is sized for wet media. On the right I used the blender pen to test the wash properties and found the marks to be a bit scratchy looking – the blender brush pen’s strokes are apparent. On the left I used a Kuretake waterbrush and prefer the more watercolor-like effect of its wetter brush.

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I have to say that I didn’t use the fine end of the two-sided Marvy LePlume pens except to write the color names and numbers on the left side of the page. The fine end is a firm tip suitable for writing and drawing, but not for coloring. When I’m coloring, I prefer the softer brush tip of the larger end, which is made of a compressed, slightly flexy material (not hairs). Like all brush pens, you can adjust the size of the mark the brush makes by changing the angle relative to the paper. I found it easy to color in larger areas quickly by using the broad side of the brush tip held at a sharp angle to the page.

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Stillman & Birn Zeta Test

The next test was more fun. I’ve seen many adult coloring books lately with beautiful abstract patterns. To test out the markers’ blending properties, I did something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time: I made my own coloring book page. I did the line work first with a waterproof Sakura Pigma Micron pen in a Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook.

I’ve successfully used 180-pound S&B Zeta paper with traditional watercolors, so I assume the surface is sized for wet media. I tried to make gradient effects with single colors as well as with two or three shades, but they didn’t blend as well as I thought they would. On the Zeta paper, I found the blending effect to be better with the blender pen than the waterbrush, but when I scrubbed more to increase the blending, the Zeta’s surface started to pill a bit.

4-coloring-book-page-in-stillman-birn-zeta

Canson Mixed Media Test

I did a third test using Canson 98-pound mixed media paper (the same kind used for the scribble/wash test). This time I thought the Marvy LePlumes blended much more easily and with less scrubbing whether I was using water or the blender pen. The blender pen still shows brush strokes more than the waterbrush, but they are not necessarily objectionable – just a slightly different effect. It’s a matter of personal preference, but I like the look of these markers and their blending qualities better on the toothy Canson paper than the smooth Zeta paper. I’m not sure whether it’s the texture or sizing or both, but as usual, the particular paper used with a pen makes a big difference in the effect.

I know that brush markers are popular among coloring book enthusiasts, and I’ve sometimes wondered whether the types of paper coloring books are published on are suitable for wet markers like these (let alone blending their colors with a waterbrush). If you’re planning to use them in coloring books, I’d buy just a few pens and test them out before investing in all 109 colors (which is the kind of crazy thing I’d be likely to do without testing first).

One thing to be aware of is that some Marvy LePlume colors are much juicier than others, and when I pulled the caps off, they actually spattered ink on the page (I circled the spatters on the S&B Zeta page).

5a-marvy-leplume-ii-with-blender-pen-on-canson-98-lb 5b-marvy-leplume-ii-with-water-on-canson-98-lb-mixed-media-paper

Tombow Comparison

I didn’t intend this to be a head-to-head comparison review, but since I just happen to have a good supply of the afore-mentioned Tombow Dual Brush Pens, I decided to do a mini-test of their blending qualities on Canson paper, just for kicks. The Tombows are comparable in that they also have a broad brush end and a fine, hard-tip end. With a waterbrush, Tombow ink makes an almost seamless wash that looks very much like watercolor. With the Tombow blender, blending gradient colors was a bit easier to do and showed fewer brush strokes.

6-tombow-dual-brush-pens-on-canson-98-lb

Final Thoughts

While I found no fault with the Marvy LePlumes, they didn’t distinguish themselves much from other similar markers I’ve used, and I think I prefer the Tombows when color blending. (What a relief – now I won’t have to run out and get the rest of the LePlume colors!) They did remind me, though, of how much fun it is to use watercolor brush markers, and I’m going to get them out more often again.

tina-koyamaTina Koyama is an urban sketcher in Seattle. Her blog is Fueled by Clouds & Coffee, and you can follow her on Instagram as Miatagrrl.


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.

Podcast: Art Supply Posse #28

This week, Art Supply Posse broadcasts without me. And it is the start of the new (and improved version) of Art Supply Posse). Heather is joined by her new co-host, Kathy Campbell. They reflect on 2016 and plan their artistic ambitions for 2017. This is the last episode of 2016; Art Supply Posse will return on January 11th.

Moving forward, I will no longer be a weekly contributor to the show in order to spend more time here on the blog and pursuing creative pursuits and maybe, just maybe… sleeping. I am so thankful for the opportunity and support from everyone who has listened to the show and wish success and  continued support to Heather and Kathy as they move forward.

To listen to the episode and see the full show notes, visit the web site here.

Podcast: Art Supply Posse #27 Mike Hawthorne

Comic book artist, family man and all-around good guy Mike Hawthorne kept Heather and I laughing with his wit and wisdom this week on Art Supply Posse #27. Mike illustrates the wonderfully bawdy Marvel comic book Deadpool  and our conversation may also include some PG-13 language. (You’ve been warned.)

All pertinent links and shownotes on Art Supply Posse.

Poe Dameron Artwork by Mike Hawthorne from his cover process post.

Brush Pens, Part 3: Waterproof Bristle Tips

waterproof-bristle-pens

Guest review by Tina Koyama

Within the brush pen series (Part 1: Waterproof Felt Tips and Part 2: Water-Soluble Felt Tips), the type of pens I’m reviewing today are probably the ones I use most often – hairy, bristle-tip brush pens containing waterproof ink. Designed to simulate sumi brush pens used for traditional Asian calligraphy, the bristle-tipped pens take a little more practice to manipulate compared to their felt tip counterparts, but the line variation they impart can be very expressive. If you are used to handling paint brushes with ink, these will feel familiar.

As a general rule, bristle tips last longer than felt tips without mushing down from pressure, and their flexibility gives the widest range of marks. For example, I’ve been using the same Kuretake No. 13 Fountain Brush Pen for several years now, and its synthetic brush is still going strong. When I eventually upgraded to a sable hair Kuretake No. 40, thinking it would be even better than the 13, I have to say I was disappointed. The brush performs well, but it doesn’t seem to warrant the price difference compared to the No. 13. In fact, I find that the No. 40’s tip spreads out when pressure is applied and doesn’t pull back into a sharp point when the pressure is released the way the 13 does. I have to roll it against the paper to get the point back. Maybe a painter accustomed to handling natural hair brushes would have better results from it.

Kuretake No. 40 Weasel Hair Brush on Domtar Earth Choice Paper in the Field Notes Lunacy Edition
Kuretake No. 40 Weasel Hair Brush on Domtar Earth Choice Paper in the Field Notes Lunacy Edition
Pentel Suki on 140lb watercolor paper
Pentel Suki on 140lb watercolor paper

All the other brush pens reviewed here have similar synthetic bristle tips to the Kuretake No. 13 without much distinction. The exceptions are the Pentel Tsumi Tip (labeled FL2U on my chart) and the Pentel Suki Tip (FL2V) Brush Pens, both of which are capable of producing particularly thin lines at their very points. See the man wearing headphones that I sketched with the Pentel Suki? I was able to make that very thin line defining his nostril with the tip – it might have been a single hair! You have to hold the brush nearly vertical to the page to get that hairline, so it’s a bit tricky, but it has a beautiful range.

Here’s something to consider if you travel: I carry all my usual sketch gear with me when I fly. Although I’ve heard various warnings, usually related to leaking fountain pens, the only time I’ve ever had any kind of leakage problem was with reservoir-type brush pens such as the Pentel Tsumi and Suki and the Kuretake Zig Cartoonist Brush Pen No. 22. They are prone to making a huge mess! This goes for driving to high altitudes, too, not just while flying. Believe me, I only made that mistake once! Wrap carefully if you plan to take them with you.

Bristle Brush Pens Waterproof Tests
Bristle Brush Pens Waterproof Tests

Ink Color & Permanence

As before, water tests were done on 98-pound Canson mixed media paper. Most of the inks are waterproof as soon as they dry, within a minute or so. The exceptions are the Pentel Tsumi and Suki, which remain water-soluble for quite some time. Two weeks later I tested again, and they were permanent. I started using both the Pentel Tsumi and Suki pens as if they were water-soluble inks, washing lines for shading. I wouldn’t use them with watercolors or even with a gel pen, however, since those products would become muddy when mixed with the inks. If you’re planning to wait a while before painting, however, these inks could be considered waterproof also.

Those two Pentels were also the only ones containing inks that looked slightly gray to me compared to the true black of the others.

Waterproof Bristle Pen Tests in Field Notes
Waterproof Bristle Pen Tests in Field Notes

All inks behaved well, as expected, on Field Notes 60-pound Finch Opaque Smooth paper. The only spot that bled through slightly was where I had made an especially thick line with the Kuretake No. 40 (containing Platinum Carbon Black ink).

Field Notes Brush Pen Bristle tests from the reverse side
Field Notes Brush Pen Bristle tests from the reverse side

Refillability

It’s important to note that the Kuretake No. 13, Kuretake No. 40 and Pentel Kirari Pocket Brush Pen can all be refilled just like fountain pens. They come with waterproof ink cartridges when purchased, but you can install a converter or simply syringe-refill the used cartridges with whatever ink you want. My favorite waterproof fountain pen ink is Platinum Carbon Black (*Editor’s Note: Mine too!), which puts out an especially rich, black line in all of these refillable pens. I have a second Kuretake No. 13 that I fill with water-soluble Diamine Chocolate Brown ink. So although I’ve classified these pens as waterproof, the type of ink used is up to you. (However, I recommend sticking with one type of ink per pen, since the brushes are difficult to clean.) Since the bristles have proven to last a long time, their refillable quality makes these pens a particularly good value.

The Kuretake Zig No. 22, the Pentel Tsumi and the Pentel Suki can all be refilled with proprietary cartridges. (Actually, the cartridges look like they can be refilled with fountain pen ink too, though I haven’t tried it.)

Bimoji Brush Pen on 140lb watercolor paper
Bimoji Brush Pen on 140lb watercolor paper

That makes the Kuretake Bimoji (medium), J. Herbin CreaPen Pinceau and Copic Gasenfude the only disposable pens in this bunch. I try to avoid pens that must be tossed after their inks are gone, so that puts these otherwise good brush pens at a disadvantage. A couple of things to note: For some reason, the J. Herbin CreaPen ran dry after only a short time, despite being stored horizontally. And the Copic Gasenfude, despite bearing the Copic name, contains ink that is nothing like the alcohol-based markers most people think of when they see the name Copic! This is very important to me, as I can’t stand stinky markers.

Kuretake No. 22 with Gelly Roll on 70lb French PopTone in the Field Notes Sweet Tooth Edition
Kuretake No. 22 with Gelly Roll on 70lb French PopTone in the Field Notes Sweet Tooth Edition

Final Impressions

If you’ve read my other reviews, you know I get cranky about caps that don’t post as expected. In this group, only the Kuretake Bimoji has a cap that must be reversed to post (and yes, it still annoys me). All other caps posted properly and securely.

Reviewing bristle-tip pens right after all the felt-tipped brush pens drove home an important point: Bristles are far more durable and able to withstand pressure while continually bouncing back compared to felt tips. It occurs to me that this is the reason most of the felt-tipped brush pens are disposable – the tips wouldn’t last beyond the initial ink, even if they could be refilled.

For my money, that makes the refillable fountain-pen type brush pens the best value as well as the hardiest performers. However, they make a very different type of mark from the felt tipped pens and require more control, so value isn’t the only factor to consider. Personally, I carry at least one bristle tip and one felt tip at all times because I like the variety of marks each type offers me.

There’s only one part left in this series – bristle-tip brush pens containing water-soluble inks. That group contains a huge variety of form factors! Stay tuned.


tina-koyamaTina Koyama is an urban sketcher in Seattle. Her blog is Fueled by Clouds & Coffee, and you can follow her on Instagram as Miatagrrl.

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.

Podcast: Art Supply Posse #26 All Up In A Bind

This week on Art Supply Posse, Heather and I spend the episode trying to describe bookbinding basics using hand gestures and rattling tools you can’t see. So we’ve got lots of links to videos to help illustrate our points. We also talk about the best basic tools for bookbinding like paper, string and pointy things. All super technical. Show notes are available here.

Brush Pens, Part 2: Water-Soluble Felt Tips

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Guest review by Tina Koyama.

In part 1 of the brush pen series, I covered felt-tipped waterproof pens. This review is about 11 brush pens with similar compressed-fiber tips but containing water-soluble black inks.

In general, I’d say the tips behaved in the same ways as their waterproof-ink counterparts of comparable size. One of my goals with this series is to find pens that don’t mush down from my heavy-handed abuse, and as it turned out, I didn’t find any in this category with the slimmer felt tips that did tend to flatten in the waterproof group. Most in this review have either a relatively stout bullet-shaped felt tip or a small, firm plastic or rubber tip, and both styles stand up well to my heavy hand. However, the points of the broad end of the Tombow ABT Dual Brush Pen and the Sakura Koi Coloring Brush did flatten after a relatively short while, which surprised me because they look sturdy.

Sakura Koi on Field Notes Lunacy
Sakura Koi on Field Notes Lunacy

The pens that are the most resilient tend to make a strange squeaky sound with slight pressure, such as the two Zebra pens (both double-sided and single-sided), the Kuretake No. 55 Double-Sided Brush Pen and the Kuretake No. 33 Brush Pen. Perhaps the squeakiness is related to the type of material they are made of. I know that’s not a very helpful characteristic if you haven’t bought and used the pen yet, but for me the squeak is a good indication that the tip will last. I’ve been using the four named above for a good while, and they are all still pointy and going strong.

Both the Sakura Koi and the Winsor & Newton Watercolor Marker have tips that are a bit too broad for my uses. Even held vertically, I couldn’t get a fine enough point for detailed work (and since the Koi started mushing down quickly, its tip got even flatter). On the other hand, when held at a sharp angle to the paper, the Winsor & Newton marker makes a very wide swath of ink that covers a lot quickly. For that reason, I enjoy using it at life drawing practice with larger paper.

Winsor & Newton Watercolor Marker on 140lb watercolor paper
Winsor & Newton Watercolor Marker on 140lb watercolor paper

Ink Color & Solubility

Now, on to the inks. My favorite way to use brush pens containing water-soluble ink is to make a line drawing and then use water to wash the line slightly for shading, and I usually don’t add color afterwards. So the quality of the washed line is important to me.

water-test-1 water-test-2

One interesting thing I learned from comparing these pens was how variable the term water-soluble can be – and how long water-solubility lasts. To test solubility, I made a scribbly line on Canson 98-pound mixed–media paper. Within a minute, I ran a waterbrush through the line to see how much it dissolved. (Those water marks are shown on the right side of my test sheets close to the names of the pens.) Although all the inks are roughly the same shade of black when applied to white paper, some look very different after being washed with water. Often the wash is much bluer, and in a few cases turns brownish. The Kuretake No. 14 Pocket Brush and the Pentel Fude Touch Brush Sign Pen both washed with such pale smears that I don’t really consider them water-soluble for my purposes (yet neither is described as being waterproof by JetPens). If I’m going to wash a line for shading, I want the shading to be rich and strong, which is the case for most of the other pens. The Sakura Koi, the Tombow and the Zebra pens all washed to particularly dark shades.

Kuretake 33 on Field Notes Lunacy
Kuretake 33 on Field Notes Lunacy

Long-term Ink Permanence

The big surprise came a couple of weeks after I made the test sheets. Experimenting with a drawing I’d done earlier, I realized that the ink that had washed previously was now permanent. Curious, I went back to the test sheets and made a new waterbrush mark (shown on the left side of the test sheets) on each of the original lines. Most still responded in the same way as before, but the Zebra Double-Sided Brush Pen, the Kuretake No. 55, the two Kuretake Fudegokochi pens (regular and super-fine) and the Pentel Fude Touch Brush Sign Pen all diminished in solubility. In fact, the two Fudegokochi and Pentel pens were essentially waterproof after the passage of those weeks, showing no solubility at all.

Since I generally finish a sketch in one sitting and wash lines immediately after making them, the delayed permanence is not a factor I would consider as long as I knew an ink was soluble to begin with. But if you make a line drawing first and continue working on it quite a bit later, it’s something to consider. And the delay might be a favorable feature if you want your work to be insoluble for the long run.

Zebra double sided pen on 98lb mixed media paper
Zebra double sided pen on 98lb mixed media paper

All inks behaved well and showed no feathering or significant bleed-through on Field Notes 60-pound Finch Opaque Smooth paper. Even though I know this Field Notes paper is not intended for wet media and has performed poorly with water in the past, just for kicks, I put water on the test lines. As expected, the beautiful washes I got on the 98-pound paper were nearly non-existent on the 60-pound Finch. (My experience with other Field Notes papers is that this difference is primarily due to the sizing on the paper’s surface, not the weight. For example, I get satisfactory washes on Domtar Earth Choice 60-pound paper found in the Field Notes Lunacy edition.) However, even where water was applied, only the Winsor Newton ink bled through.

Field Notes Test
Field Notes Test
Reverse side of Field Notes #1
Reverse side of Field Notes #1
Reverse side of Field Notes #2
Reverse side of Field Notes #2

Although I tested only black inks in this review series, it should be noted that the Tombow, Sakura Koi, Pentel Fude Touch Brush Sign Pens and Winsor Newton markers all come in a zillion colors, and their water-soluble qualities make them ideal for blending like watercolors.

As with the waterproof felt-tip pens, I experienced the same crankiness with some caps that have to be reversed before they can be posted! This time the guilty parties are the Kuretake No. 55 and Kuretake No. 33 (which will both most likely suffer an early demise because I keep inadvertently jamming their tips into the wrong end of the caps when I replace them after posting).

Kuretake No. 55 double sided on Stillman & Birn Alpha
Kuretake No. 55 double sided on Stillman & Birn Alpha

Final Impressions

My favorites from this group? Despite that cranky cap, the double-sided Kuretake No. 55 is my overall fave because the two distinctly different tip sizes offer a remarkably wide range of marks in one convenient pen – important for an urban sketcher like me who carries her studio in her bag. (Conversely, the two tips on the double-sided Zebra and double-sized Winsor Newton are too similar to offer the same range.) Its ink washes beautifully, and the Kuretake No. 55’s notably squeaky tip is also standing up well to my firm pressure. For richness in wash color as well as a good range in line width, I also like both the single- and double-sided Zebras and the Kuretake No. 33.

tina-koyamaTina Koyama is an urban sketcher in Seattle. Her blog is Fueled by Clouds & Coffee, and you can follow her on Instagram as Miatagrrl.


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.