After my positive experience with the Seawhite of Brighton Starter Sketchbook, I decided to take the Seawhite Artist’s Travel Journal out for a test drive. This is their best effort to replicate a better Moleskine Artist’s Sketchbook and they did it. First of all, its a true A5 size. Second, on Amazon, its priced at $12.50. Third, the paper is 130 gsm cartridge paper. And it has 128 pages.
While the Moleskine Artist’s Sketchbook claims to have heavier weight paper, it repels most liquid media making it entirely unusable for me since I like to add watercolor to my sketches. So… after quite liking the 140 gsm paper in the Starter Sketchbook, I was willing to accept a slightly lighter “cartridge paper” to have a light water-receptive paper for sketching at a reasonable price.
The Seawhite Artist’s Travel Journal cover is a slightly flexible hard cover like the Moleskines and the rounded corners too. Its not a stiff cover which makes it firm enough to support your writing or drawing but not overly stiff. I have other sketchbooks with stiff covers and square corners that could double as weapons. The Seawhite Artist’s Travel Journal also has a sewn binding and will lay flat with a little training.
The paper in the Artist’s Travel Journal is a warm white which is quite pleasant compared to the bright white of the Starter Sketchbook. I immediately went to it with pen and ink and watercolor and while the paper did waffle a little bit, it did not resist the paint nor did it pill. WIN.
I tested an assortment of fountain pens with good luck as well, though the paper did absorb the ink a bit more than Rhodia or other paper more specifically designed for writing. I didn’t have any issues with splining or feathering except with a rollerball and then only very minorly. Felt tip and fine tipped fountain pens behaved well on the paper making it a good book for art journaling, mixed media and dry sketching with light wash or ink. Its definitely not watercolor paper but it can withstand a little bit of water and wet media. Enough to be a big step up from the Moleskine Sketchbook.
The Seawhite Artist’s Travel Journal includes a ribbon bookmark and a gusseted pocket in the back for scraps and momentos as well so all the details are still there. And there’s the vertical elastic. To the untrained eye, no one will know its not a Moleskine unless you tell them. And I would because this book is just better.
I did a second round of testing because I was feeling it… and with ink, watercolor and colored pencil, I was still thrilled with the overall performance of the paper. Yes, I got a little waffle after it dried but nothing terrible, all things considered. I slapped the elastic around the cover after everything was dry and hopefully that will help flatten things out over time.
And in my second round of pen tests, I added in more everyday pens like Fineliners, a Pilot G2, some gel pens and a Pilot Precise. I guess I was worried I was feeling too cocky about the sketchbook being good for me but maybe not right for someone else.
Now, I feel fairly confident that if you’re looking for something MORE than just writing paper — that you want more than a Leuchtturm 1917 or Rhodia Webbie because you want to sketch or do some pen and ink or markers or watercolor, the Seawhite Artist’s Travel Journal is a good option. Its not the top tier. Its the everyday sketcher. Its a notebook that doesn’t make me feel like I’m messing up the “good notebook”. Its a “work” book. It good enough to get the bones of a sketch or idea down, capture my everyday adventures and get banged around in my bag. Does that make any kind of sense?
On the neverending hunt for the “perfect paper” for a notebook or sketchbook, I will try just about anything I stumble across on the internet. One such find is the Seawhite of Brighton A5 Starter Sketchbook set which I found on Amazon. The small set of three A5 booklets with simple black covers and 40 pages of 140gsm (approx. 80lb) “cartridge paper” were too good an option to pass up. First, they fit perfectly into my Chic Sparrow Creme Deluxe A5 Black Beauty Traveler’s Notebook cover. “A sketchbook in my planner/notebook kit? Yes, please!” And second, the paper was listed to be heavy enough weight to withstand ink and light washes which is my sweet spot for day-to-day sketchbook needs. So I invested the whopping $10.95 for the set and waited impatiently for the books to arrive.
From the exterior, the booklets feel like Moleskine Cahier or other small cardstock cover cahier. The black cardstock cover is not super heavyweight but is enough to provide protection and add some stability to the paper inside. The paper itself is a crisp bright white and the weight seemed like a good option for pen and ink with enough tooth for pencil and other materials.
I did a little research to determine what exactly “cartridge paper” is, a term not familiar to most folks in the US. Cartridge paper is a heavyweight paper originally used for making gun cartridges and later used by artists and printmakers and they kept the term. Its often compared to Bristol board though maybe not quite as thick. So, in the future, if you hear the term “cartridge paper” you have an idea that the paper is meant to be a bit more upscale than standard copier paper even though it doesn’t sound like it.
Because of the small size of the sketchbook, I was actually able to basically use a whole book before writing up a review rather than just a few small pen tests so I feel like I got a particularly good feel for the paper. In standard writing tests, I didn’t discover any problems. Gel pens, felt tips and fountain pens all seemed well-behaved with minimal bleeding or showthrough. If you like to use a wide nib pen and don’t mind blank pages (you can always use a guide sheet to keep those lines straight!), the Seawhite of Brighton paper might be a nice addition to your stationery cupboard.
Viewed from the reverse of the writing sample, the only show through was the Pilot Envelope pen and a bit of the panda drawing but it was not enough to keep me from drawing on the back side of the page later.
What I really wanted to test was when I introduced more art making tools like watercolor, ink, and colored pencil, which are my favorite portable media. What I came to discover is that “light wash” was the key with watercolor or the paper did start to buckle a little bit but it did not pill. So, by the time I had filled the booklet, the paper was a little waffly but there was not any bleeding of color through to the reverse from the watercolors or anything like that. Just potential puddle spots because the paper waffled a little bit.
I used the book to do a lot of color tests with some new watercolor sets that I’ll do lengthier reviews about in the future but it was nice to have a small book to keep all the swatches together and be able to flip back and forth and see color depth and granulation differences quickly and easily.
I still prefer a little bit heavier weight paper in general for my mixed media sketching but its the trade-off point between cost, portability and need. Some days, I’m just scratching out ideas, doodles and color chips and I don’t necessarily need 200gsm watercolor paper for that. The Seawhite of Brighton 140gsm paper is definitely a step up from the standard paper found in most black art sketchbooks in US art supply store that is usually closer to 65-70lb (96gms+) and much less conducive to any sort of wet media like ink or watercolor or even juicy markers.
To that, I’d like to add my own personal experiences, though I don’t have nearly Liz’s experience and authority from the drawing perspecitve.However, if you are hoping to do more drawing and sketching with your fountain pens or wanting to purchase (or set aside) a pen in your collection specifically for drawing, these are my recommendations. You don’t need all of these, one or two will more than suit. You may want to have one filled with a waterproof ink and one with a water soluble ink or one with black ink and one with brown or blue ink or your favorite color for sketching.
What I’ve discovered is that a lot of the best sketching fountain pens are not necessarily the most expensive fountain pens. You may already have several of these in your collection that have been set aside as your collection has expanded and repurposing these pens as “sketching pens” may give them new life and new purpose, and you, a new hobby.
Pens Platinum Carbon Desk Pen (or Sailor Desk Pen)
The Platinum Carbon Desk Pen ($9.60) is available with a super, fine Japanese nib and ships with one cartridge of Platinum Carbon Black ink which is waterproof. I used my PCDP almost daily and it took almost six months to run through the first cartridge. Because of the fine nib, it uses ink very economically. I even used it to fill in areas, write notes, doodle and sketch but since the lines are so fine, the cartridges last a long time. So, this sub-$10 investment will last you quite awhile.
Because of the fineness of the nib, the pen performs on almost any paper stock from lightweight sketching paper to heavier weight watercolor paper without a lot of feathering or bleeding issues. I occasionally ran into issues on toothy paper as the fine nib can pick up fibers in the tines. This causes some momentary clogging but a wipe with a tissue will usually remove the fibers. This usually only happens on cold press watercolor paper, at which point its best to switch to a felt tip pen or wider nib that is less likely to catch on the fibers.
The PCDP was designed to accommodate the waterproof ink and its a budget-priced pen so if it did get clogged beyond repair, it would not be the end of the world. So far, mine’s been a little trooper and it really is the one pen that is almost always in my bag.
The longer length of the pen is a little challenging for portability but I’ve seen that some people have trimmed down the length a bit and filled in the end with epoxy or putty. The cap was not designed to be a long term solution so its an aesthetic mismatch but the functionality of this pen outweighs its looks.
I also have a Sailor Desk Pen which is similar in design with a weird, peachy cap that doesn’t match as well but was also designed to be used with Sailor’s Nano permanent inks. The Sailor Desk Pen is harder to find these days but if you already have one and were wondering what to use it for, it would make a great sketching pen. Sailor Nano cartridges are available packs of 12 ($10) in UltraBlack and Blue-Black which could potentially last you six years if you draw as often as I do, maybe only three years if you’re more prolific. Or you could buy a whole 50 ml bottle of the Nano Ink for $33 just be sure to grab a converter too ($8.25) because Sailor also uses a proprietary cartridge and converter system.
The Rotring ArtPen ($21+) was one of the first modern fountain pens I ever bought. I found it in an art supply store and used it for years before I knew that there were other options available. I just kept going back and buying the Rotring black cartridges and using the pen to draw and write with until it ran dry. I still have it and I still fill it regularly since it takes standard European cartridges and converters. I’ve filled it with both water soluble and permanent inks, I’ve let it sit for months so inks dried in it and then soaked it for days to try to resuscitate it. It has continued to survive for decades now. It has proven much heartier and durable than all the Rapidographs and Isographs I’ve had put together.
It has the same long tapered shape as the PCDP so it has that arty “paint brush” feeling. Mine has the EF nib making it great for sketching and probably is responsible for starting me on my love affair with fine nib pens but its available with a variety of nib sizes including calligraphy nibs.
The cap has a firm click to close it and was actually designed to be capped unlike the PCDP and the Sailor Desk Pen so while its a bit more expensive, its a fully thought-out pen. The Rotring is probably the most universally usable option since it take standard European cartridges and/or converters and the nib sizes are based on the European measurements with the widest range of nib sizes available of all the options I’ve listed.
The last option on my list of traditional fountain pens is the Lamy Joy ($28) available in white and black. It too has the long tapered shape of a paint brush but can only be purchased with a calligraphy nib (1.1mm, 1.5mm or 1.9mm) initially so it you like the look and feel of a classic Lamy Safari but would like to have a long, tapered shape for sketching, you’ll have to purchase a separate nib (approx $11) making the Lamy Joy the most expensive option.
Lamy also requires either proprietary ink cartridges (none of Lamy’s inks are waterproof) or a Lamy LZ24 converter ($4.70) in order to use bottled inks. If you’re like me, you have a stash of Lamy Safari fountain pens and can probably liberate a converter but if you’re planning to use waterproof inks in your Joy, you may want to be sure not to mix the converter you use with the Joy with the one you use with your Lamy 2000 with the 14K gold nib… just in case.
I recently purchased a Joy and replaced the calligraphy nib with an EF steel nib and filled it with Platinum Sepia Pigment ink. I purchased the still-available, limited edition white model from last year but its also available in black with a red clip or a slightly higher priced black with aluminum cap.
I had not been a great lover of the Safari in the past. Its a good solid pen but not one that made my heart palpitate. The Joy, however, touches me on another level. I think the longer length gives it better balance and weight in the hand making it feel a bit more substantial and using it more like a drawing tool than a writing pen made me less bothered by the grooved grip. I find the Joy more comfortable to draw with than I’ve ever found the Safari to write with. I may go back to the Safaris and consider them as drawing pens at this point. Honestly, I haven’t touched another pen since I started using the Joy. I want to buy another one just to have two different ink colors loaded up simultaneously. I have never felt this way about a Safari before. I am a changed woman.
Inks Platinum Inks
Platinum Carbon Ink has become my go-to ink for permanent black ink I’ve been using my PCDP almost every day for six months and found the Carbon ink to be a well-behaved, dark black. I had little issues with it drying in the pen, even with the fine nib and it being tossed around in my bag, used on all sorts of paper stocks from copier paper to toothy cold press watercolor paper. I had more issues with the pen getting jammed with paper fibers on toothy papers over waxy pencil or other materials than I did with the ink drying in the pen. I’ve gone ahead and purchased a bottle of Platinum Pigmented Sepia ink which is also permanent and I think will make a lovely alternative to black for drawing. As mentioned earlier, Sailor’s Nano Inks are an excellent alternative as well if you are looking for cartridges to match a Sailor pen or find a good deal on the Nano black bottled ink.
DeAtramentis Document Inks Liz Steel is very fond of DeAtramentis Document Inks for the range of colors available and she has had great success with flow in some of the less expensive pens using the DeAtramentis Document inks so they are definitely worth a look. Jane Blundell has some amazing mixing charts using DeAtramentis Documents Inks that make me want ALL THE COLORS. I’m hoping to try some of them out and pick up a few bottles when I’m in Atlanta.
Several other brands make permanent inks worth experimenting with if you have some around. Diamine has their Registrars ink and Noodlers has several Bulletproof inks. Though I’ve read through some blogs that have found the Noodler’s inks to be troublesome in some instances for drawing. But if you’ve got some, why not give them a whirl?
Any water soluble fountain pen inks
For everyday sketching, any standard (water soluble) fountain pen ink will work on just about any drawing paper. Most sketchbook paper starts at about 60lb and should handle a F or XF fountain pen nib loaded with just about any fountain pen ink just fine. On slightly heavier mixed media papers like Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media, Moleskine Watercolor Sketchbook or similar paper that is labelled for ink, light washes or mixed media, you can add a little water to your drawing and move some of the water soluble ink around to create some wonderful watercolor-like effects without a lot of tools. Citizen Sketcher has some amazing examples of this in action and totally makes me want to try this myself.
I was super excited to try the new Winsor & Newton Watercolor markers ($4.50 per marker, 6-color set for $27 and 12-color set for $51). I have loved the Sai Watercolor Markers so much I basically have two sets: one for work and one for home so I was definitely ready to try a different brand. It was time to get professional!
Physically, these are chunky pens, comparable in size to a Design marker or other larger professional marker. They are smooth cylinders but the bullet cap on one end has a notch to keep the pens from rolling off the table. It’s recommended to keep these markers stored flat to keep the ink inside evenly distributed between the tips so I’d recommend if you are inclined to own a set of six or more, to keep them in a pencil or cigar box to keep them flat and less inclined from rolling away.
The advantage of the Winsor & Newton line of Watercolor markers is:
The markers have two tips: a fine bullet tip on one end and a flexible brush tip on the other.
Most of the colors are true lightfast watercolors in marker form. I found this chart on the W&N site. Since the marker colors are numbered on the cap to align with the professional watercolors, all of the markers receive either an AA or A rating for lightfastness. By W&N’s ratings that is “permanent or extremely permanent color”. I enjoy using the Sai watercolor brushes for sketchbooks but I do not know the lightfastness and therefore do not use them in artwork or pieces that might be exposed to light nor would I recommend them to other people for work that might be displayed.
The W&N watercolor marker colors are super pigmented which means they can be blended and toned with water or blended with each other to give a wider range of color options.
The pigment colors in the markers are the same as those used in W&N watercolors so the markers can be mixed with the paints and vice versa. The colors will blend, mix and combine seamlessly.
The brush tip end is definitely my favorite. It is great for brush lettering styles and painting. Its a great way to get some quick marks on paper for making art on the go. You can even touch the tip of a waterbrush to the tip of the marker to lift color from the marker and transfer it to the waterbrush for softer color and a more washy, color effect.
I tested the Winsor & Newton Watercolor markers on Strathmore 500 mixed media sketchbook paper . The first swatch on the left is straight from the marker brush tip, the next swatch is one stroke with the brush tip. I let is dry for a minute or so and then I went back with a paintbrush loaded with water to see how much I could move the paint around. As you can see, some colors moved more than others. The hearts were done by touching a waterbrush to the marker tip and transferring the color to the waterbrush for a lighter color. The final dot was done by dabbing one dot of color from the marker onto a wet water circle for a wet-on-wet effect.
I found out, after I did my samples, that the markers can be rubbed into a non-porous dish like a white plastic, ceramic plate or mixing tray and then mixed or thinned with water to create additional colors and values. I’ve been playing around with this to get a wider, more complex range of hues and make the markers a fun way to play.
Even though the photo above shows a palette of pan watercolors, all the color was actually done with W&N watercolor brush markers, I just forgot when I took the photo. Oops!
The W&N watercolor brush markers are an interesting addition to any art kit. I wouldn’t say that they would ever replace or usurp my pan sets but I like carrying one or two colors with me for line work or quick sketching. They are definitely good for travel and portability.
TO ENTER: Leave a comment below and tell me your favorite watercolor paper or brushes to use If you’re new to watercolor, tell me your dream set-up. One entry per person.
FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Tuesday, April 5, 2016. All entries must be submitted at wellappointeddesk.com, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Wednesday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your real email address in the comment form (not in the comment!) so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. If winner does not respond within 30 days, I will draw a new giveaway winner. Shipping via USPS first class is covered. Additional shipping options or insurance will have to be paid by the winner. We are generous but we’re not made of money. US readers only this time.
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.
First, as far as I know, there is no podcast but I think someone should remedy that situation ASAP. And then invite me to come talk about stuff regularly. Let’s nerd out about watercolor paper, water soluble markers and acrylic high flow paint!
As for blogs, there are lots of options out there, some more current than others and some tailored towards more specific types of art making than others.
If you’re into watercolor/street/travel/portable painting, then definitely check out ParkaBlogs. He keeps an extensive set of reviews of watercolor pan palettes, sketchbook reviews, book reviews and lots of videos. Extremely extensive. Another great resource for travel/life/street painting is Liz Steel. Again, she focuses on a lot of portable supplies but she has a penchant for fountain pens and inks so she’s definitely “our people”.
Roz Wound Up is a great resource for an assortment of supplies for travel/portable drawing and sketching materials. She has a great list of links to people she likes along the lower lefthand side of the blog as well which is worth a click through.
Rob’s Art Supply Reviews has not been updated in awhile but he has a lot of standard materials listed like pastels, Neocolor crayons and papers that are still entirely relevant and available. Broke For Art on Tumblr used to be quite active but its got more Q&A nowadays. There’s still a lot of good content to peruse though if you’re on the hunt for something in particular.
Fellow pen bloggers Biffy Beans and Inkophile both keep tags for their art supplies reviews so they are good resources for some products as well. I have a tag for art supplies as well for any occasion when I review something that leans more “art supply” than everyday writing or office supply.
And of course, there are tons of videos on YouTube to peruse as well if there’s a specific product you are considering someone may have made a video trying it out. Don’t forget that sometimes Amazon reviews, or reviews on individual online art supply shops can also be helpful. Good luck and leave a comment if there’s a specific product you’re looking for information about.
Upon request, I decided to come clean about one of my other obsessions: travel watercolor sets. I’ve been compiling sets for about a year, not including super budget (sub-$20) sets, and have included the picture above as proof of my collection addiction. I just love watching the colors bead off a brush onto paper. And those little individually-wrapped pans of watercolors are like candies to me. I can’t resist them.
However, I sort of hit the “watercolor set overload” this fall and I didn’t do much with them for a couple months. Then a couple weeks ago I got a wild hair and bought a new set. Why? Buying a new travel set of watercolors is not unlike buying a new fountain pen, and sometimes its just the pick-me-up I need to get me back into the habit of using the ones I already have. I bought a relatively inexpensive Van Gogh 12-color set (approx. $25 from my local Blick art supply shop).
The Van Gogh set comes in a locking, white plastic box that is about 4×6″ in size and maybe an 1.5″ thick. Its a bit larger than the more commonly used Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketchers Pocket Box but what I discovered once I started using the Van Gogh kit was that it contained, not one but, two layers of mixing trays.
The paintbrush that comes with the kit is a pointed #6 synthetic travel brush which I originally dismissed as likely to be an inferior freebie brush but it turned out to be a very good little brush. The point is quite good and makes it easy to get a good crisp edge. Also the end of the brush can be used to wrench out the mixing tray to reveal the open well below.
The end of the brush can also be used to wrench out the individual pans of watercolor should you wish to remove them or need to replace them. That alone is reason to keep the brush, even if you are not inclined to use it for painting. I ended up loving how much water it held and how fine a point it has maintained. I’ll be curious to see how long it lasts.
In swatching the paint colors I was quite pleased to see how clean and vibrant all the colors were. The twelve colors included really are quite sufficient for most painting needs. I love that the set includes an opaque white for mixing and adding highlights. I know adding white to watercolor is heresy but sometimes its the shortest distance to the color I want. I also love that the set includes Payne’s Gray instead of a black.
Towards the bottom of my swatching, I did some color mixing in an effort to test how cleanly the Van Gogh paints would mix and what range of other colors I could get. I was actually quite pleased at how easily I was able to make many of the colors, often mixing just two colors together. I do plan to do further practicing with mixing and color theory but I think the nicest thing about the Van Gogh set was that it is not overwhelming. I like trying to mix my own colors and the Van Gogh set does the mixing nicely.
After doing some successful painting with the Van Gogh set, I was ready to pull out the whole mess of watercolors again to see what else I have and figure out if less is more or if more is more.
So I spent some time swatching out every pan and palette of watercolor that I had to see what I had. I have an array of Daniel Smith, Sennelier, Winsor & Newton (pan and tube) and Winsor & Newton Cotman (student grade). I also did some research online about what more experienced artists recommend for we are more novice with watercolors. In the end, I’ve decided to put the Sennelier paints aside for the moment as the colors tend to be darker and, when I swatched the colors, they looked almost opaque and a little streaky sometimes which I think would frustrate me as I’m painting, especially being as new to watercolor as I am. The Daniel Smiths, while lovely, are a little funky (some have sparkle or will dry two different colors so they are probably a bit too experimental) so I shelved most of those colors for later as well.
In the end, I pulled out a few of the additional Winsor & Newton colors like the Opera Rose, Permanent Magenta, Turquoise, Cobalt Blue, Green Gold, and Burnt Sienna plus a black, and a couple Daniel Smiths and made my “supplemental palette” to have some additional colors to play with. I’ll probably keep these on my desk to experiment with in the coming weeks and depend mostly on my Van Gogh palette to get me practicing with color mixing. I have gotten so spoiled working on the computer over the years that I feel I’ve forgotten a lot of my color mixing and color theory skills. But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to mix that Opera Rose.
If you’re considering a foray into watercolor painting, I think the Van Gogh set is a great option. The combination of good colors, a good assortment of palettes and a good brush make it a perfect starter set.
After going off the deep end last year about Magic Pencils, I pretty much bought every variation I could find of the multicolor lead pencils. I’m just fascinated with this sort of pencil. One of the items I purchased was the 24-Color set of Koh-I-Noor Tri-Tone Colored Pencils ($29.47 on Amazon). Each of 23 pencils in the set features three different colors of colored pencil “lead” to create a tonal effect and then there is one blender pencil in the set to help blend the colors into a more subtle tonal variation, should you prefer to do that.
The set comes in a nice tin though I tend to put all my pencils into jars immediately and either recycle the tins or store them because I find that art supplies that stay in tins don’t ever get used.
I thought this pencil set would be particularly appealing for coloring and sketching as it would provide a lot of color variation in a small set.
The pencils included a nice array of colors with a few shades of blues, greens, reds, yellows, oranges and some unusual ones with names like “ember,” “summer storm,” and “volcano.”
The pencils are not as soft and blendable as my go-to Prismacolor Premier but if you’re looking for a fun little set to travel with or to share with your kids, this might make a good addition to your collection. We keep ours on the kitchen table for doodling, notes and random scribbles.
I recently discovered that Leuchtturm1917 makes a sketchbook notebook with 180gsm paper. I am sure this is to compete with Moleskine’s sketchbook line but since many people find Leuchtturm1917 to be superior, I wanted to test their sketchbook out for myself. I purchased the A5 sized hardcover in classic black on Amazon.
The sketchbook version of the Leuchtturm1917 notebook features all the same details that the standard notebooks include like the ribbon bookmark, the horizontal elastic closure, the gusseted pocket in the back and a place on the front flyleaf for your contact information. The corners are rounded like the regular notebooks too which is not a feature usually found in artists’ sketchbooks.
Inside, the paper is bright white and smooth with just a little tooth. My first experiments included attempting to rub a lot of watercolor into the paper which was more than it could handle and the fibers started to pill. The paper was good and absorbent though, unlike the Moleskine sketchbook paper, and the inks and liquids stayed put and did not bead up or bleed. It’s actually nice paper, its just not sized for watercolors or a lot of heavy wet rubbing.
I played with fine nib felt pens and the lines stayed fine and crisp. Watercolor brush pens were well-behaved too. So then I went crazy.
I tested out a whole page of pencils: Magic pencils and watercolor pencils and even added more water. The paper took water fine as long as I didn’t try to grind it into the paper.
I took out all my brush pens and discovered more than a few of them had started to dry out but the Leuchtturm1917 180gsm paper handled the ink like a champ. Fat pens, skinny pens, wet pens, dry pens… it didn’t care.
Fountain pens, you ask? Loved them. Inks sat up on the paper and the colors were crisp and clear. This paper would be great for ink sampling since you could test both swabs and in pen on the same paper without it curling or warping, all in a neat book.
I even had fun playing with my massive assortment of gel pens. The inks dried in a reasonable amount of time on the paper, even some of those finicky Gelly Rolls and the colors look great on the bright white.
I kept playing with all my felt tip pens too, from wide brush style to fine Microns and they all performed equally well on the paper.
The Fountain Pen page is even on the reverse side of one of the other writing samples so you know there was no issue with bleed through or show through. So while the book is a bit more expensive than the regular Leuchtturm1917 notebooks, you will definitely be able to use both sides of the paper no matter what tools you plan to use.
The sketchbook pages are not numbered like the notebooks but I think that’s okay. In fact, I’d rather not have page numbers in the way of my drawings, especially if I might end up scanning the art in for a finished piece.
All in all, I really like the quality of the paper in the Leuchtturm1917 sketchbook and I like that it is so much more opaque than the regular paper. There’s only 96 pages in the sketchbook compared to the 249 pages in the plain notebook but being able to genuinely use both sides of the paper or work across a spread is a big plus.
A couple of months ago, I got the Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolor 18-color set and I really liked them so I set about acquiring the remaining 18 colors to have the full 36 color range available. Luckily, JetPens sells individual full pans of the Gansai Tambi Watercolors for $2.50-$3 (depending on the color) so I was able to slowly add the additional colors. It was a bit more expensive than purchasing the full 36-color set but it tends to be sold out more often than not so buying the individual pans seemed like the only way to complete my set in the next year. So that’s what I did. Even so, $3 for a full pan is still much less expensive than many other brands of watercolors.
I placed the new colors in the lid of the original 18-colors box and tried to align the colors in the same spectrum as the original palette with the metallics at the bottom. Without the paper dividers like the original set, the pans slide around a bit but I’m thinking I might get a little OCD and make cardboard dividers for the lid to make the whole set-up a bit more stable.
You’ll see that, of all the individual pans I ordered, only one yellow was damaged in shipping. It shattered but it still works just fine. I think if I wet it really well I should be able to get it to sort of mold back into the pan but it doesn’t really bother me that much.
I swatched all the colors in the order in which they appear in the palette on two pages of an A5 140gsm Seawhite of Brighton softcover sketchbook paper.I love the Pale Aqua though it is definitely a more opaque color than a traditional watercolor. The Dark Pink is definitely more of a warm purple color when applied thickly which provides a wider range of violet colors. The Deep Violet is also a lovely addition to the palette as its a very deep, rich indigo violet. I was also very happy to add the dark brown to the palette as it added a deep neutral to an otherwise candy-colored palette of colors.
The metallics are a lot of fun. The silver mixes well with the other colors to create a range of metallics and the two shades of gold will be good for details and lettering.
I am definitely glad I have the full 36 colors because who doesn’t want ALL THE COLORS?
Overall, I find the Gansai Tambi paints to be a strange hybrid of traditional watercolor paints and a more opaque gouache paint. I can pick a good deal of paint and create an almost opaque color or thin with water for a more traditional watercolor look.
The prices for the Gansai Tambi paints is incredibly reasonable for the large pans, beautiful presentation and decent range of colors available for the prices. However, if what you are looking for is a traditional transparent watercolor than I recommend trying the Winsor & Newton Cotman set instead. While the set is not as broad, I think the colors will blend more easily to create a wider range and are more transparent. Also, the Gansai Tambi pans are definitely NOT a portable set. Between the paperboard box and the large size of the box, this set is definitely something to keep on your desk but is not convenient if you are looking for a set to use for traveling and/or urban street sketching.
If you like the idea of having both gouache-like painting abilities and watercolor effect, than the Gansai Tambi paints are a great option and the large pans make it much easier to use larger brushes. Because the sets come in cardboard boxes, you’ll have to devise your own mixing trays for blending colors and thinning the paint but an old plate or pan will work if you don’t want to invest in a watercolor mixing tray.
Yasutomo Niji Pearlescent Watercolor 21-Color Set ($5.25) was a total impulse purchase. The price point was so low and sometimes I’m just a crow and require something shiny. Besides, I love watercolor sets. I knew this was not going to be the end-all be-all of watercolor sets because no watercolor set that sells for under $6 is going to rival the Daniel Smith tube paints I have which can sometimes cost $30 per itty bitty tube and are made from grinding up the horns of unicorns. Okay, not really but some are actually made from real ground-up gemstones so they might as well be unicorns. So, anyway… back to the 21-color pearlescent set from Yasumoto.
The set comes in a lovely plastic box which makes it perfectly portable and fine to share with your favorite junior artists. There is a slot to store your favorite brush in the case so you can keep it in the kit. I suspect my niece and I may one day paint many a My Little Pony with these.
I aligned my swatches with the colors in the pan so you can get a good idea how vivid the colors appear in the pans versus how they look when they are applied to paper. I used my Strathmore multimedia sketchbook for swatching and a Princeton Neptune synthetic squirrel #8 round paintbrush from Blick. I wet each color first before I swatched to give the pans time to rehydrate. However, the colors were still quite a bit lighter when I swatched them. They were quite luminescent though with lots of sparkle.
Overall, there seemed to be a lot of beachy colors: shell, sand, earthones and sea hues. There were not a lot of bright, fantasy colors. Everything was very subtle. The colors are quite pretty but they do not paint as bright as they appear in the palette.
The rinse water also had a lot of sparkle in it too so be warned not to cross-contaminate your rinse water with other paints.
In the end, I suspect I will use the Yasutomo Pearleascent colors as an accent with more vivid watercolors rather than as a standalone set. But its a fun little set and would definitely be a nice addition for the paint hoarders out there.
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.
The Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pens, available in SB, MB and BB, were something I discovered in a very roundabout way. I was reading Lisa Condon’s blog again and she was talking about more of the tools she liked yo use. I started clicking on links and next thing I knew, voila! I had these in my cart. They are longer than a standard Micron pen, more like a paint brush length and a bit more expensive at $3.90 each but the ink is fade resistant, archival and waterproof and I think the tips are a superior quality to the standard Pigma brush line so I think the upcharge is worth it.
The tips of the pens are felt/foam/whatever-it-is and it is the springiest version of this material that I’ve ever experienced. Even with pressure, the points and edges spring back into shape quickly and easily. Making them fun to use and they keep their brush point shape. The point retention seems really good too though I’ve only used them for about a week so time will be the real determining factor here but so far, so good.
These were so fun to draw with the range of line widths, even with the finest tip size was quite dramatic. The BB was big! If you like to work large or want to do something like calligraphic graffiti, this would be a great pen for it. Such fun. In my waterproof test, I had no issues with water but when I added the Sakura Koi Coloring Brush pens over the watered wet ink, I did get some running of the colors. I don’t know if this was a reaction from the ink in the Coloring Brush pens or the combination of the water, Professional Brush pen and Coloring Brush pens. That said, the Professional Brush pens were not affected by the water at all but did get some color travel with the other markers so you may want to do some experiments before using these pens on artwork just in case there are any other fugitive color reactions. My next experiments will probably be with actual watercolor paints and the Sakura Pigma Professional Brush pens. I think that would look great if the colors don’t bleed.
Overall, I love the Sakura Pigma Professional Brush pens and I look forward to seeing the longevity of the tips. So springy, I hope they last a long time!
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.
The pens are felt-tipped and shaped like a paint brush tip. The colors are bright, clean and vivid and are water soluble so they will blend together easily allowing the 12-color set to extend itself into a wider range of colors by blending the colors together.
If you do blend the colors together, be sure to have a piece of scratch paper handy because the colors will migrate from pen to pen and you’ll want to clean off any color transfer that might occur in the process though this can also create some interesting an unexpected results. Just be prepared.
The set comes in a plastic sleeve but I prefer to dump out all my pens immediately into a pen case or a cup so they are handy and accessible. If they are all locked away in a protective sleeve, I find they don’t get used which is a waste. Rolling around on my desk, I wrote notes, doodled, colored and generally just enjoyed the bright vivid colors all week which was welcomed in the bleak January days I have to say!
The black pen in the set is also water soluble so I would not recommend using it as an outliner and then trying to go back and fill in with colors as the black will migrate. The word “KOI” on my sample has darker colors because the black started to creep into the center. If you want to do outlining in black brush pen and then use the Sakura Pigma Professional Brush pens instead which are permanent and then add color with the Koi Coloring Brush Pens.
I think these pens might spend a little time out with our coloring books this week and see how it plays there. I’d also like to add in a little light water brush to lighten the colors a bit and help to blend so that the colors will play even more like watercolor. I did try a water brush after photographing the samples and the colors do continue to blend even several hours later so these will definitely be lots of fun to play with. A very clean, portable way to use watercolors on the go! And, wow! Are the colors ever bright and clean and juicy!
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.
Several months ago, I purchased a set of Mitsubishi No. 850 Colored Pencils from Fresh Stock Japan. It was the 24 color set which is reasonably priced at $22 for the pack. The set includes gold and silver metallic as well as an opaque white plus an array of standard colors. The barrels are smooth round and fit into a standard sharpener. The barrels are beautifully foil stamped and the paint on each pencil is stunning. The set is in a plastic case, slid into a paperboard sleeve. The packaging is perfectly Japanese.
The Mitsubishi pencil leads are soft but not quite as soft as Prismacolor Premier pencils. The Mitsubishi pencils seem to be a standard wax pencil that blends pretty nicely on smooth stock for the price point but are not quite “artist quality”. I’d qualify them as a good starter set — more like a student-grade. Most of the colors are opaque enough to show over dark paper. I tested the colors over black gesso to test this range which is a nice added feature.
The color range is pretty broad for a 24-color set though I would have liked an additional bright pink/fuchsia and a true violet or purple in the set instead of one of the blues which are quite similar or one of the reds which are also quite similar. Overall though, with some blending, I was able to get a good range of color from the set for less than $25.
I tested the pencils in drawing on Strathmore Series 500 Mixed Media sketchbook paper which is quite toothy, 100% cotton and the Mitsubishi pencils did not blend as well as Prismacolor Premier or Derwent Artists. I was able to layer Sharpie Pen and Platinum Carbon Pen over the pencil for mixed media doodles so I think on smoother paper, the pencils really do perform nicely. But they don’t soften into the tooth of paper as easily as softer Prismacolors.
Alternately, in a smooth adult coloring book like my new Posh Coloring Book: Happy Doodles for Fun & Relaxation by Flora Chang, the Mitsubishi Colored Pencils were perfect! The smooth paper let the pencils easily blend and mix and the colors really popped. If you’re looking for pencils to pair with a coloring book, the Mitsubishi are a good set to combine and Flora’s coloring book is full of such fun drawings (and I’m only a little bit biased because she works with me!).
So, for doodling, light sketching and coloring, the Mitsubishi colored pencils are a good starter set. For mixed media art-making where you will be doing a lot of textural blending, I’d hold out for a slightly pricier set like Prismacolor Premier or Derwent Coloursoft.
First, I promise this is the last set of Staedtler Triplus Finerliner markers I will review because I have them all now. I couldn’t resist. That said, the Nature Set of Staedtler Triplus Fineliners ($7.50) are probably my favorite set. It could be because they are the most seasonally appropriate here in the autumnal continental US right now. The set features Green Earth, Warm Sepia, Tuscan Red, Gray, Carmine and Mauve (which looks more like plum to me but I never think anyone names colors properly anyway). The gray in this set is actually a totally usable gray, unlike the silver gray in the Pastel set which is too pale to be usable for writing.
Actually, I found all the colors in this set usable for writing and there is enough variation in color to create visual interest in note-taking to be interesting without being jarring. Sophisticated palette appropriate for nature sketches or just because.
The Staedtler Triplus Fineliners feature the slim 0.3mm felt tip point, water soluble ink, triangular barrels, and ink designed to be able to be uncapped for long periods of time without drying out. The set comes in the fold-over plastic travel case which is sturdy and easy to use.
Now, if Staedtler would just make a set of these markers with waterproof ink , I would be the happiest person in the world. But overall, these are wonderful and if you are not trying to combine them with watercolor or other water soluble pens or brushes, I recommend them with my highest praise.
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
A few weeks ago I saw a post on Instagram where a calligrapher was doing some amazing lettering on black paper and laying off to the side was the distinctive undulating line on the marker of the Crayola wedge marker but the marker was black. Why had I never seen one of these markers before and how was the ink standing up all opaque on black paper?!?!? I must know what this is and I must know now!!!!! Since I have access to the source that the Crayola catalog, I went hunting and discovered that the marker was a Crayola Gel Markers and I toddled myself down to our corporate store ASAP and purchased a package to test them out myself.
There are only eight colors available in the set: a black that looks more dark grey than black, red, pink, yellow, purple, blue (aqua), green and white. While the color range is not super broad, the conical tip provides a range of line variation and they are actually a lot more opaque than I expected. The white is actually clear and dries white so it works best if used slowly so you can keep track of your strokes but all the other pens leave visible lines as you write. Going over the white lines will also create a more opaque white which was nice.
As with all Crayola products, the pens are washable (which means they are water-soluble) and non-toxic (they may not taste great but you can lick them if you want to) so you can share these pens with your kids and they are also extremely reasonable priced. I believe I purchased my set for about $5 or $6 but I’m sure you can find them in a big box store for less.
I think these would be great fun to use with coloring books or on construction paper and a fun way to practice calligraphy, address envelopes or generally spice up an already burgeoning pen collection without breaking the bank. Go forth and scribble!
While this post can be qualified as “plugging the firm” I purchased these with my own money and all the opinions expressed here are my own and are no way influenced by my place of employment.
In the same way that I love pens and pencils, I also love watercolors and watercolor sets. So I was really excited when JetPens started stocking the Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolor Palette sets. The sets are available in a 12-color box ($17), and 18-color box ($23.50) and a 24-color box ($29). I got the 18-color set which is a lovely set. The set comes in a green, fabric covered box (almost like a chocolate sampler box in size and shape) with gold foil lettering on the cover. Inside, are extra large pans of watercolor paints.
Like all watercolors, you really need to swatch the colors to see what the colors will look like. In my swatches, you can see that the colors offer an array of three reds, an orange, a yellow, a yellow ochre, three shades of green, a turquoise, four shades of blue, a violet, black, white and a burnt sienna. This is a great assortment of colors that can be mixed to create even more colors. The most unusual color in the palette is the cornflower blue which is not usually a color I see in basic watercolor sets. I need to play with the colors a bit more to see how they mix and blend but the colors are all bright and vivid.
The individual pans of color are loose in the box so they can be removed and rearranged as you’re using them. The Gansai Tambi have some of the largest pans I’ve ever seen in a watercolor set. Most starter sets feature what is called a “half-pan” which is about the size of a cellophane wrapped caramel (my husband says “like a mini marshmallow”). The Gansai Tambi pans are about 1″ x 2.5″ – which is substantially larger, so you get a lot more room to swirl your brush and can dip a much larger brush into the pan without accidentally picking up other colors. The downside is that the Gansai Tambi box is that its not particularly portable. Its definitely a desk-sized set of watercolors. It also does not have any built-in mixing areas so you may want to add a mixing dish (something like this might work) to your supplies if you are using your Gansai Tambi set regularly.
The Gansai Tambi paints are described as “traditional Japanese watercolors” and, in use, they do seem a little different from other watercolors I’ve used. If you’re new to watercolor, what I can say is that the colors are slightly more opaque than other watercolor paints – not as much as gouache (which is a type of watercolor paint used mostly be designers and illustrators that can be very opaque and very matte in finish). The Gansai Tambi watercolors will dry with a slight shine to the paint if applied heavily.
In an effort to get a better feel about the difference between the Ganasi Tambi watercolors and other watercolors, I decided to find similar colors in my stash and do a side-by-side comparison. I used an array of Winsor & Newton, Sennelier and Daniel Smith watercolors, both tube and pan colors to make a close match. The swatches on the left are the :regular” watercolors and the swatches on the right are the Gansi Tambi set. Does this help show how the Gansai Tambi are a bit more opaque? I noticed it most with the black (#20 on the Gansai Tambi palette) which on the left is a lighter grey rather than a deep, solid black. I’m not saying one is better or worse, just different. And in being different, it makes the Gansai Tambi set a good investment for me. Its not just “more of the same” with this set of watercolors.
I marked my other watercolor samples as SEN for Sennelier, DS for Daniel Smith and W&N for Winsor & Newton. Overall, there is a lighter hue with the other watercolors than the Gansai Tambi. I couldn’t really match the #34, my closest option was W&N Opera Rose which is practically fluorescent.
The colors were quite similar with the exception of the #61 sky blue, I substituted it with one of Daniel Smith’s PrimaTek paint with a mica chip in it to be as funky as the pale sky blue.
The last comparison I did was with the opaque white. Most watercolorists don’t use a white but a lot of designers and illustrators will add opaque white as a final detail or touch up. I compared the W&N Titanium White with Gansai Tambi white. I laid down a layer of black gesso to see how opaque these whites are. The Gansai Tambi is a nice white but the W&N Titanium White is much more opaque, especially when dry.
Now, this comparison is probably largely unfair because a lot of my professional grade watercolors cost over $10 per pan or tube. So, two pans or tubes cost the same as the whole tray of great big pans. But I thought it would be a good chance to see if the colors in the Gansai Tambis were as clean and vivid as more expensive brands. I think it did a really good job for someone just getting started with watercolors. It may not behave exactly like traditional watercolors but I think you’ll have a lot of fun using them.
After the article several weeks ago from the NY Times about the tools used by famous artists, I fell under the spell of the multi-colored colored pencil used by Milton Glaser. My friend Kirsten confirmed that Mr. Glaser really does use these pencils. He taught one of her graduate classes at the School of Visual Arts so she confirmed the story with some degree of authority. To say I’m jealous she saw his pencil handiwork in person would be understating things a bit.
It took awhile to find a dozen of these gems. I ended up buying them from a vendor on Amazon who was in Europe. The listing officially calls these pencils “Koh-i-noor Aristochrom Magic – 12 Pencils with Special Multicoloured Lead“. For the sake of ease, I refer to them as Koh-i-noor Magic Pencils. The box of one dozen was $14.50 plus $8 shipping which makes these pencils more expensive than Palomino Blackwings. But needs must, right?
The pencils came in a slightly mangled yellow box with the Koh-i-noor/Hardtmuth logos on the box. They had been shipped in nothing more than a kraft envelope so the mangling was a result of the postal system. The box isn’t anything special so the fact that all the pre-sharpened pencils were safe meant the box served its purpose.
Inside were the dozen pencils I most coveted. The pencils are hexagonal with gold metallic paint and the only branding is ink jet onto one facet in black. The text includes “060”, a lengthy stock number and bar code, “Koh-i-noor” and “3400”. I wish the branding had been foil stamped onto the pencil instead of the super-cheap looking ink jet but these pencils are probably not very popular or produced in extremely large quantities so they don’t get as much attention as a traditional graphite or single color pencil.
The end of the pencil is shaped into a low profile cone shape and is not dipped. Its exposed natural wood. Its a weird detail that I’m not crazy about but the simple gold paint on the rest of the pencil makes up for the unusual treatment of the end. I’d love it if the end were dipped in a glossy black to give it a truly regal feel but there aren’t a lot of options for “magic” pencils so I’ll take what I can get.
The real reason I love these pencils is the three-color lead. Red, blue and yellow pigments are blended into the lead in small chunks so that, as the pencil is used, the color changes. The blue is a deep indigo blue and the red and yellow are pretty much primary colors. What I discovered over the last few weeks of using these pencils is that by turning the pencil a little bit as I’m using it, I can force lighter or darker colors to appear as I need them.
The composition of the pencil lead is definitely wax- or oil-based as it is not water soluble. This makes it easy to add other materials like watercolor paint, water-based markers, ink, or pen without blurring your linework. It also means that the marks don’t smudge, which is quite pleasant.
On regular paper (like my Rhodia test paper) the Magic pencil does not erase well. I suspect that on a primed surface like gesso, it might be easier to erase but for doodling and sketching, be prepared to leave the lines where they are. Loose-y and goose-y is the best way to enjoy these Magic pencils.
I know these pencils won’t appeal to everyone but I they are such wonderfully unique tools that I couldn’t resist sharing them.
I was recently let loose in Target during back-to-school shopping without any adult supervision. In my melee of shopping enthusiasm, I couldn’t resist buying the largest set of Staedtler Triplus Fineliner felt tip markers they had.
The set included an array of standard colors and six neon colors as well. The set came in a sturdy plastic case with a flip top lid that would create an easel stand. It reminded me so much of those wonderful 64-color boxes of Crayola crayons with the built-in sharpener that I was helpless to resist. To an adult, fresh markers are just like a brand new box of crayons.
The Staedtler Triplus series is notable for being quite long pens with a rounded triangular shape that makes them comfortable to hold.
I was surprised with how sophisticated the color palette was for this set including colors like a yellow ochre and rich reds and blues. These were certainly not watery kids’ markers in regards to the colors. The neons are lots of fun but the neon yellow is not dark enough for writing — maybe underlining or filling in shapes. Also, the grey marker was too light for writing but might be nice for drawing or coloring.
The whole time I was using the Triplus markers I found myself comparing them to the Stabilo Point 88 markers I purchased not too long ago. There are a lot of similarities in regards to price as well. The Staedtler set cost me about $24 at Target while the mini sized Stabilo 18-color set was $15 from Jet Pens. Stabilo does make full-sized versions of the Point 88 markers which is entirely comparable in size, price and selection to the Staedtler Triplus markers.
The tips on the Stabilos and the Staedtlers are basically identical despite the numeric coding suggesting that the Stabilos are wider. I could not actually discern any difference in the writing samples I did. Colorwise, the two sets differed with the Stabilos having a wider range of traditional colors and the Staedtler having the wild neons instead. If you compare the Staedtler 20-color set listed on Jet Pens to the Stabilo 25-color set, the colors are very similar. The two sets are competitively priced ($25 and $22) but the Stabilo set offers five extra colors where the Staedtler set offers a more durable carrying case.
While I really enjoy the neon colors in the set I purchased, I wish I had seen the 20-color set available on JetPens that does include a wider array of grey shades plus yellow, orange, and aqua which I miss in the reduced set I purchased.
FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Thursday, Spetember 17, 2015. All entries must be submitted at wellappointeddesk.com, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Wednesday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. If winner does not respond within 30 days, I will draw a new giveaway winner. Shipping via USPS first class. US residents only please.
I found a great collection of pen-and-pencil-centric How Its Made videos. Some you may seen but I thought this would make for great lunchtime viewing. Enjoy!
This next video is how Aurora Fountain Pens are made:
This is the manufacturing process of Caran d’Ache colored pencils:
This next video is in Japanese subtitles with no spoken dialogue but its how Pilot makes its fountain pens so I thought it would be fun to watch even without narration. The first eight minutes is all about how the nibs are constructed which is a little slow to watch but fascinating!
I have filled almost ever page in the Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook I reviewed last year. I started working in it regularly about a month ago when I started taking some online drawing and painting classes and I thought I’d share with you how well it held up to regular use and abuse.
I absolutely love the 100 lb/150 gsm natural white, smooth paper. I’ve used ink, gouache, watercolor, acrylic and colored pencils throughout the book, often all of these tools on the same page. Fountain pens, paint pens, markers and brush pens all worked well on the paper with no feathering. Some pages developed a little bit of a curl as a result of lots of wet media but there was no bleeding or show through at all. I’ve doodled, sketched, taken notes, tested materials and generally carried it with me everyday for a solid month.
Not every page is finished but I thought this would be a good opportunity to show the overall wear and tear and show how well the Stillman & Birn sketchbook has held up. The hardbound cover and spine show a little bowing but the binding did not fail at all. I’m confident I can continue to add and tweak the pages and the book will hold up to the stress.
Much of the pages are doodles and sketches and I’m a little self-conscious about showing this work-in-progress but I hope you get a sense of the durability of the Stillman & Birn notebooks from the photos.
Blick stocks the full range but I’d really recommend the Epsilon as a great place to start. Prices for the books range between $15-$24 depending on size and binding. The 5.5×8.5″ Epsilon is $15.99 which is comparable, if not a little cheaper, than the equivalent sized Moleskine (or similar) notebook with far better paper.
Pardon the smudge on the Platinum Carbon Pen. I’ve been using it for several weeks for making art, particularly of the mixed media variety and managed to get a smudge of acrylic paint on it. Should you purchase one of your own and want it to look as well-loved as mine, you must also smudge a little acrylic paint on the barrel — color of your choosing. My smudge is a pale apricot color.
Okay, now let’s talk about this unusual pen. First, the Platinum Carbon Pen was designed to be a desk pen (which explains the hideously inappropriate rubbery plastic cap) AND it was specifically designed to be used with Platinum’s permanent Carbon Black ink. What appealed to me is that the nib is a “super fine” Japanese nib and known to be a good performer. Why would you want or need either of these things?
First, I’ve not been much inclined to fill my regular fountain pens with waterproof or permanent ink and I’d guess you aren’t either. I don’t want to damage my pens should the ink dry or clog in the pen. So, the fact that the Carbon Pen is designed specifically to work with the Carbon ink means the feed is a bit wider to accommodate it. Also,the pen costs a whopping $13.50. That’s cheaper than a Kaweco Sports so if it clogs to the point that its unusable, I’m not sacrificing a more expensive tool. Next, the nib is super smooth and SUPER fine. If you’re looking for a fine fine line that isn’t going anywhere… this is a good option. Now, you could always put some other inks into the Carbon Pen but I am quite liking the idea of a pen with a specific purpose — like a Sharpie Marker. I don’t need a Sharpie Marker all the time, everyday, but when you need a Sharpie Marker, not much else will do. I feel the same way about the Carbon Pen. If I’m taking notes in a meeting, I don’t need super fine permanent writing. But if I’m drawing or writing in a journal, I might want something that is permanent. And finally, its sort of shaped like a paintbrush with a long tapered end which actually gives it nice balance and is quite comfortable in the hand. I wish the end had been rounded rather than the flat blunt end but for $13.50 I’m not going to complain too much.
The long shape doesn’t make it particularly pocketable but it fits in my Kipling 100 Pen Case with no issues so I travel with it anyway regardless of its impractical length.
The cap cannot be posted unless you want your pen to look like the guy at the party with a lampshade on his head. Your call.
More paint smudges on the grip section. The Carbon Pen has gotten some serious usage since I got it and the great thing about it being so budget-priced is that I don’t care if its got paint on it. The nib and hardware are gold toned so despite the paint smudges, it looks very proper and dignified.
The partially hooded nib is an interesting design choice but it makes its feel pretty stable despite its wickedly stiletto nib point.
The pen comes with one Carbon Black ink cartridge. A pack of four refill cartridges is $3.30. Some have mentioned that this is a bit high for cartridges but since the nib on the Carbon Pen is so fine, it does not use about a lot of ink. The cartridges last a long time. Alternately, you could purchase a full bottle of Carbon Ink ($25) and refill the cartridge or buy a converter ($8.25). I just bought a pack of cartridges and I’m going to see how long it will take me to go through five cartridges. I’m willing to bet it will be years before I need more.
The nib, even though its super fine, was very smooth on the paper and has a tiny bit or spring to it. It makes it a pleasure to write with. What I loved was combining it with Sai Watercolor Brush Markers for drawing. Since the Sai Watercolor brushes are water soluble, I was able to smoosh the colors around using a water brush but the Carbon Pen lines stayed in place.
If you have need of a super fine, permanent ink fountain pen, I can’t recommend the Carbon Pen highly enough. I love this pen so much I might buy the Desk Stand just so its handy at all times, even though the stand is more expensive than the pen… on second thought, I might just buy an extra Carbon Pen.
Technically, the full name for these pens is Kuretake Zig Memory System Millennium for Drawing & Scrapbooking but that is a mouthful. So, are we okay just calling them Zig Millennium Pens for the duration?
This set of five pens was recommended to me following my recent round-up of archival, pigment felt tip pens. Turns out the Zig Millenniums are budget-priced pens that offer all the same features of the more expensive brands and can often be easier to find in local craft and hobby stores.
I purchased this set of five on Amazon for the rock bottom price of $6.56 with free Prime shipping. The set included one of each in 005, 01, 03, 05 and 08 sizes which is a perfect size variety for me.
The pens are a wide barrel silver plastic — just a smidgen wider than a Sakura Pigma Micron. The Zig Millennium pens are 5.375″ long capped, just shy of 4.75″ uncapped and the cap will post making the pen 6.375″ long. The clip is metal and reminds me of the clip on the Pilot Precise V5. The Zig Millenniums are only available in black ink but, with these permanent felt tips, I find I only ever reach for the black pens anyway.
I’ve been using these pens regularly for over a week and the points have held up to various papers including over acrylic paint, watercolor brush markers, and colored pencil without being any worse for the wear. I’ll be curious how well the points hold up long term and if the ink lasts as long in the pen as other brands.
Colorwise, the ink is not as rich black as a Sakura Pigma Micron which is the gold standard at almost twice the price. Compared to other brands like the Copic Multiliners, Staedtler Pigment Liners and the Sharpie Pen, the Zig Millenniums are totally comparable in regards to how rich the black ink is. Actually, if I had to rank these felt tips by how rich the black ink is, I’d put the Zig Millenniums second only to the Microns, especially at the wider nib sizes.
With their wide availability and comparable pricing to Sharpie Pens, the Zig Millenniums are a great addition to your archival felt-tip pen collection, especially if you are looking for finer or broader nibs than are available in the Sharpie Pen.
I was serious last week when I said I bought the Kipling 100 Pens Case. I found it on sale at the Kipling USA website in the dragonfly pattern but they offer new patterns every season as well as an assortment of solids. The 100 Pens Case retail for about $49 but can be found on sale for as low as $25 or as high as $80 for past season popular colors or patterns. The fern colorway is currently available for $34 plus the additional 40% off “BIGSCOOP” discount code making it about $21 which is quite a deal.
The case reminds me of a soft-sided cigar box. The case measures approximately 8.75″ x 6.5″ x 3.25″ with a big sutrdy plastic zipper. The zipper only has one pull. I’d prefer if it had two so it could be zipped closed on the long side rather than along the spine.
I’ve decided to use this case as my traveling sketchbook/art-making tool kit and its PERFECT for this task.
Inside is a stiff divider panel with elastic loops to hold pens or pencils as well as matching loops on the inside of the cover. The loops are perfect for colored pencils or slender pens like Marvy LePens but they would not work for beefier tools like fountain pens or pens with big clips or silicone grips. There are 26 loops which is just about enough for a travel assortment of colored pencils. I’ve used the case for over a week and its easy to slide pencils under the loops, point first from the bottom. I just love looking at my array of colors!
When the pencil flap is folded back, a large open compartment is exposed that can be filled with additional tools and supplies. As you can see, mine is packed solid.
There is a hack on YouTube for adding a few elastic straps on the blank flap to hold loose papers like cards, stickers or notes.
These are all the tools, pens, pencils and brushes stored in the open compartment. The tin holds a small traveling supply of watercolor pans.
And here’s everything in the case. Did I get 100 pens into it? Not quite. I was able to fit 77 pen-like objects including an assortment of water brushes, wide drawing markers, Tombow brush markers, and felt tip pens as well as three pencil sharpeners, tape, glue stick, ruler, letter opener, ink cartridges, bone folder and my “tool” keychain. At present, it zips closed but just barely. I’m hoping to determine if there are a few tools I don’t use regularly and pull those out.
This case is going everywhere with me these days. Its perfect for storing art supplies on-the-go since it makes everything easy to see and access as opposed to more common zip pouches.
How could I pass up a chance to take a picture of the lime green gorilla key fob that was included with the case? It is easily removable if toys on your pen case are not your speed.
I recently mentioned my desire to take some art classes and spend more time being creative this summer. In my hunt for the right classes for me, I found a lot of great online resources for learning new creative skills (and even some technical skills!). I thought I’d share some of the resources in case you, too, are looking to try your hand at painting, drawing, crafts or developing some other skills.
There are two big categories for online classes: the subscription-style sites that house diverse topics, instructors and courses and individuals who teach classes and workshops in a few select areas.
The Big Sites:
Skillshare: Skillshare is the first online learning site I tried. I started with Mary Kate McDevitt’s Hand Lettering class and I absolutely loved it. After that, I was sold. I bought a whole year subscription and added over 50 classes to my “to try” list. They offer a lot of creative classes and there’s a strong focus on digital skills or taking projects to a digital finish. There’s a logo design class with Aaron Draplin as well as classes on animation, business development and marketing, photography and a whole lot more. I have started recommending Skillshare to all young designers and creative folks. There’s a lot of practical information from a lot of highly respected talent in the industries they represent. Subscriptions are $10/month but there are discounted rates for purchasing a year membership. Skillshare also has mobile apps for iPhone and Android to easily access content.
Lynda.com: Lynda is probably the first online learning site for creative skills. Lynda got started publishing how-to books for Photoshop, HTML and CSS back in the 90s. Then went digital with video tutorials and set the bar. Classes range from step-by-step tutorials for using applications (from Adobe apps to Word to Evernote, QuickBooks and even LogicPro. The list goes on!) to steps to improving your business, marketing, programming and much much more. Subscription start at $24.99/month but discounts are available for a yearly subscription as well as bulk pricing for businesses and Pro account options.
CreativeBug: CreativeBug focuses more on art and craft skills but if you’ve been thinking about learning how to knit, crochet, sew, start watercolor painting or make jewelry, this might be the site for you. The classes are well-filmed and easy to follow. I started with Lisa Congdon’s Sketchbook Explorations course and then started adding sewing and other art classes to my queue. There are a few free lessons available to try before you subscribe but the cost per month is just $5 so its not a big leap to just subscribe for a month and see if you like it. CreativeBug also has an iPhone/iPad app and are currently working on a Android app.
Craftsy: Craftsy organizes its classes on a per-class basis. If you want to take the Pen & Ink Essentials class, you just purchase that class for $19.99 (current sale price) and you can access that class whenever, forever. The class offering range from sewing, baking, knitting and fiber arts, fine arts and even woodworking.
Free Online Art Classes: I found out about Free Online Art Classes from a NYTimes article. Its not the prettiest or most up-to-date looking web site but Lois DeWitt has put her 50 years of teaching experience behind the site and the classes are free. Topics range from traditional art materials lessons like Drawing with Colored Pencils to Fabric Printing and Jewelry Making. This would be a good place to start and get an idea about what creative pursuit might best suit you.
Individual Artists’ Sites:
Jane Davenport: I am currently taking Jane Davenport’s Supplies Me class which is the starter class for her mixed media art journaling classes. Her quirky style was very much to my taste so it seemed like a good fit. She totally enables my urge to buy all the art supplies which is a good and bad thing. I’m enjoying learning some new techniques and how to actually use a lot of the pens, pencils and art supplies I’ve collected in ways I had not considered. There are several more classes available to help build confidence in drawing and handling art materials. Classes start at $55 AUS and go up to the Entire Kaboodle for $775 AUS.
Kelly Rae Roberts: Kelly Rae Roberts offers a Mixed Media Mantras Workshop that focuses on creating meaningful visual messages. The course walks you through creating your own mantra and then guides you through the process of turning your mantra into a mixed media collage piece. The class is divided into three parts and costs $247. Access to the video and virtual classroom is available for six months from purchase date.
Christy Tomlinson: Christy Tomlinson, AKA Scarlet Lime, offers a variety of online multimedia classes. For beginners, she recommends the Behind The Art creative workshop that walks through her favorite materials and process from building multimedia backgrounds to laying in details using an array of materials to create art journals and multimedia pieces. The course is divided into five weeks and costs $64.95. Christy also offers a Creative Planner online course if your urge to be creative intertwines with your love of planners and staying organized. The Crative Planner course contains 25 videos and costs $34.95. There are several other classes to choose from as well. To get a feel for her classes, you can check out Christy’s YouTube channel as well.
Alisa Burke: Alisa Burke offers an assortment of mini classes as well as larger workshops for drawing and journaling. Cost per class is between $15 and $50 and you’ll have unlimited access to videos and content. You can get a feel for her videos on her YouTube channel or just purchase one of her online classes and jump in with both feet.
Have you ever tried an online class or are you considering trying one now?