Posts Tagged ‘art supplies’

Review: Platinum Carbon Pen

Platinum Carbon Desk FountainPen

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.

Platinum Carbon Desk FountainPen

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.

Platinum Carbon Desk FountainPen

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.

Platinum Carbon Desk FountainPen

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.

Platinum Carbon Desk FountainPen

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.

Kuretake Zig Millennium Pigment Pens

Kuretake Zig Millennium Pen Set

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.

Kuretake Zig Millennium Pen Writing Samples

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.

Kuretake Zig Millennium Pen Comparison

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.

Review: Kipling 100 Pen Case

kipling 100 pen case

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.

kipling 100 pen case

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.

kipling 100 pen case

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!

kipling 100 pen case

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.

kipling 100 pen case

These are all the tools, pens, pencils and brushes stored in the open compartment. The tin holds a small traveling supply of watercolor pans.

kipling 100 pen case

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.

kipling 100 pen case

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.

Getting Creative with Online Classes

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:

Skliishare screenshot

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 screenshot

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 screenshot

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?

Review: Akashiya Sai Watercolor Brush Pen 20-Color Set

Sai Watercolor Markers

My good friend introduced me to the Akashiya Sai Watercolor Brush Pens when she brought an assortment home from Japan. I ordered several individual colors to try them out myself and loved them so much I went ahead and got a full set of 20 colors ($34.50). The pens originally came in reusable plastic package but I like keeping them in a jar where they are easier to access quickly. These brush pens feature a filament brush tip that behaves more like a real paintbrush than other felt tip brush pens. This creates a finer point and greater line variation.

Sai Watercolor Markers

The colors are both vivid and unusual like a bright, pastel sky blue and a more traditional artist-based yellow ochre. There’s a super pale apricot color that is fun to use for blending and a indigo-like midnight blue that I love. The 20-color set provides a wide variety of color options and I didn’t feel like any color was missing from the spectrum.

Sai Watercolor Markers

Colors can be altered, lightened or blended with water or each other to create more colors. I tested these pens on my standard Rhodia pad but on a watercolor stock, the inks could probably be manipulated and modified to greater effect.

Individual Sai Watercolor pens can be purchased for $3.50 each. There is also an assortment of pigment, waterproof “liner” brushes that can be used in combination with the watercolor brushes. The liner brushes sell for $5.25 each or a 5-color set for $24.75.

If you’re looking for a brush pen that can be used for calligraphy or art-making, these are totally worth the price.

Artwork to cheer myself up. #sai #watercolor #markers @jetpens

A photo posted by ana reinert (@wellapptdesk) on


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

Starting a Sketchbook or Visual Journal

With many stacks of notebooks, sketchbooks and blank books I’ve acquired, and the fact that my day job is about making pictures, I thought it was time to get back into the regular habit of keeping a sketchbook or visual journal of some sort. I figured that I couldn’t possibly be the only person who might need a little inspiration and creative idea to get me started so I thought I’d share some of the prompts, ideas and tips I found.

First, I found this great 15-day set of prompts from Wit & Whsitle. Usually I find prompt lists too long and usually full of things I think are silly or pointless but this set was only 15 days worth and fairly open to interpretation.

(illustration by Terry Runyan)

Then I remembered the awesomely inspiring site, Illustration Friday. Every Friday, they offer a prompt that is both simple and open to interpretation. Folks will upload their art to the site if you want to see what other people do. You are not required to submit your sketch or drawing but its a great source of inspiration and a one-drawing-a-week prompt is a low bar to hurdle. This week’s prompt is “pet” and was submitted by my friend and co-worker Terry Runyan. She illustrates both digitally and on paper so don’t feel that you have to limit yourself to just the pile of sketchbooks and notebooks you’ve accumulated. Illustration Friday also has a blog and podcast for even more inspiration.

(Sketchbook page by Lisa Congdon)

I love Lisa Congdon‘s art and she freely shares pages of her sketchbook as well as a video class on Creativebug that walks you through how she creates several sketchbook drawings. She uses layering and simple drawings to create designs that are easy to try yourself and she even shows how she creates variations on each technique to give you even more ideas.

Danny Gregory‘s Everyday Matters Manifesto for drawing your life was a huge inspiration for me. Consider purchasing one of his books. I particularly like The Creative License. He’s even started a Sketchbook Skool video class if you want a multimedia experience.

More sources for ideas and inspiration:

you need to jump in and get over the intimidation part — by messing up a few pages, ripping them out if need be. Waste all the pages you want by drawing a tic tac toe schematic or something, painting them black, just doodle.  — Gary Panter
What inspires you to be more creative?

Review: Stabilo Point 88 Mini Fineliner 0.4 mm 18-Color Set

Stabilo Point 88 Mini Fineliner

One of my friends had a set of the mini Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners in her pen case that she uses to draw and sketch on the go. I have always envied this set so I finally broke down and got my own set. I got the 18-color mini finerliners in the “sporty” water bottle for $15.

I confess that I have a huge soft spot for metal-tipped, felt-tip markers. Marvy Le Pens were one of my middle school “gateway drugs” into the wonderful world of pens. I like the slight grippiness of the felt tip that helps me slow down and write a little bit neater than with the smooth-as-glass experience I get with some rollerball and gel pens. I love the wide array of colors for taking notes and color-coding my planner and calendars so a large set of colored, felt-tip markers thrills my inner 12-year-old. If I get anymore excited about this little mini bottle of markers, I might start drawing rainbows, kittens and unicorns.

Stabilo Point 88 Mini Fineliner

The pens are shorter than the regular Point 88 Fineliner 0.4mm marker pens but the cap posts nicely so that it feels like a full length pen in use. Since I tend to wear the tips of these sorts of felt-tipped markers out long before they run out of ink, the shorter pen seemed like a reasonable option. I can also fit a lot more of these shorties in my travel case, which is a bonus.

(via JetPens)

The pens are the same width and shape as a standard hexagonal pencil. Even the color of the barrel is reminiscent of a classic yellow Ticonderoga pencil but with classy white pinstripes. The cap snaps snugly on the pen cap or the base for posting the cap.

Stabilo Point 88 Mini Fineliner writing samples

The individual Point 88 mini pens do not have color names written on them so I made up some descriptive names as I went along. Jet Pens lists official names if you’re curious. The colors were all bright and clean colors. The point size is in my “sweet spot” for nib sizes at 0.4mm and exactly the same line width as the Le Pens.

(I lost to my inner 12-year-old and drew a panda. You forgive me, right?)

My first reaction when I started testing the Point 88 minis is how much the writing experience and colors reminded me of the Marvy Le Pens. I’m don’t have a complete set of Le Pens here but was able to cross-reference the writing experience and color with at least a dozen colors and there are some very comparable shades between the two brands.

The inks are not waterproof but neither are the LePens. The Stabilo pens are designed to allow for a long cap-off time without drying out. I didn’t test this out but hope that they live up to the hype and provide me a long life of colors over the next several months.

Stabilo Point 88 Mini Fineliner comparison to Marvy Le Pen

When posted, the Stabilo Point 88 minis are a tiny bit longer than the Le Pens full length but unposted.

The same Stabilo 88 mini Fineliner marker pens are available in a soft plastic wallet instead of the goofy “water bottle” but it costs $0.75 more for the envelope rather than the bottle. My Stabilo mini Fineliner pens will end up being dumped into my regular pen case so I’m okay with the $0.75 savings. The full-sized set of Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners includes all 25 standard colors for $21.50. I might go ahead and order the full set so I can have the greys, browns and the midnight blue color which are some of my favorite shades to use. Individual pens are $0.80 each so its worth adding a few to your next order if you’re not sure you want a full set or you need to “complete” your set.

The Staedtler Triplus Fineliner 20-color set is a little bit more expensive ($25) but a little bit finer at 0.3mm. I know the Staedtlers are quite popular as well so if you find the 0.4mm to be a bit too wide, these might be a good alternative. I’m going to stick with the Stabilo Point 88s.

 

Review: Stillman & Birn Sketchbooks

Stillman & Birn Sketchbook

After trying out the Stillman & Birn sampler packet, I went ahead and got two sketchbooks. A 5.5×8.5″ Epsilon series hard cover and an 8.5×11″ Alpha series hard cover. I always think of the 8.5×11″ black hard cover as the quintessential artist’s sketchbook. This was the first sketchbook I ever got when I started art school. Its the book made popular by graffiti artists often just called a “black book” or “piece book”. Many companies produce versions of this book and, to be honest, I’ve always considered the popularity in the Moleskine notebooks attributable to the ubiquity of the “black book” sketchbook.

That said, in recent years, I’ve found the quality of the standard black sketchbook to be so-so. The paper seems thinner than ever and the construction is not nearly as durable as I remember it being. Until, that is, the Stillman & Birn books came into my life.

Stillman & Birn Sketchbooks

Both books feature a heavy 100lb/150gsm weight paper and have a textured, black leatherette over stiff hard cover boards. The interior pages (62 sheets/124 pages in each book) are stitched. There are no additional features to these books: no pockets, ribbon bookmarks or other embellishments. These books mean BUSINESS and they feel super durable.

Once the paper branding bands are removed from the book, the only branding is a blind deboss of the Stillman & Birn logo on the lower portion of the back covers.

Stillman & Birn Sketchbook writing sample

The smaller Epsilon sketchbook has a smoother paper texture than the Alpha paper and the label describes it as “plate surface”. The recommended use listed is “…line drawings without feathering or bleeding”. With the smoother surface, the line quality is a little crisper than with the Alpha, especially at smaller sizes. The paper color in the Epsilon books is also a tiny bit whiter than the Alpha which is more of a natural white.

Stillman & Birn Sketchbook reverse of writing sample

As you can see from the reverse, the only real show through was the Zebra Permanent marker (similar in formula to a permanent Sharpie marker). In person, I can see a bit more of the ghost of the writing on the previous page but I feel confident that I could use both front and back of each sheet without bleeding issues or obscuring the previous page.

Stillman & Birn Sketchbook writing sample

The Alpha Series features a natural white paper with a slight tooth to the paper. The label lists the paper as “vellum surface” and lists the recommended uses as “suitable for all dry media, will accept light washes”.

I tested the Alpha paper with ink and some of my more arty tools since I expected that this, of all paper, would be able to handle it. There’s a tiny bit of show through but no bleeding at all, even with the wet ink that was applied like watercolor. The paper did not buckle with my light ink wash. I’m sure with a wetter application of watercolor, it might buckle a little bit but it seems more than adequate for a range of tools, including wide nib fountain pens, and a little experimentation.

If you are looking for paper able to withstand a lot of water application, try the Beta, Delta or Zeta line. Those are 270gsm paper designed for wet media. If you’re more inclined to do some light washes or mixed media, the Alpha or Epsilon books should be perfectly adequate.

Stillman & Birn Sketchbook reverse of writing sample

From the reverse of the Alpha book, you see there’s very little show through. In person, I can discern a bit more show through than can be seen in the photo but not so much that I wouldn’t be comfortable using both sides of the paper.

Honestly, its hard to have any criticism of these books at all. The paper is beautiful and they handle fountain pen ink without bleeding or feathering. The construction is top-notch and super-durable. Stillman & Birn offer such a great range of products that if these books didn’t satisfy my needs, one of the many other books in their line would. The S&B sketchbooks are priced neatly in between budget-priced black sketchbooks available in art supply stores and the prestige notebooks like Moleskine and Rhodia.

I always like to have a “black book” handy at work for sketches and rough drawings and I think my go-to brand now will be Stillman & Birn. Maybe I’ll even start that sketch journal I’ve been meaning to do?

The best online source for Stillman & Birn is Goulet Pens or ask your local art supply store to start carrying Stillman & Birn.


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

Spectrum Artists Show Off Their Tools (AGAIN)

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live

Once again, I attended the Spectrum Fantastic Art Live event here in KC this weekend. Its a convention of fantasy and science fiction artists working in comics, fiction, storyboarding, sculpture and more. There are Q&A sessions and artists doing live demos of painting, sculpting and digital techniques. Its an amazing show with A-list artists from all over the world.

A couple years ago, a few artists were kind enough to show me the tools they use to sketch and draw. This year, I was able to talk to a few more artists about their favorite tools.

tom-kelly

Tom Kelly showed off his favorite tools to my husband. And was enthusiastic about his Uni Ball Signo Broad opaque white gel pen, the Kuretake No. 13 brush pen, and the Pentel Presto! Correction Pen as a drawing tool. He also kept an arsenal of Sakura Pigma Microns, Sharpie markers and a Pentel Graphgear 0.5 mm drafting pencil.

And he makes stuff like this:

Harley Quinn by Tom Kelly

I met Hector Casanova who is not only an illustrator and comic book artist but also an illustration professor at KCAI. We bonded over our unending love for the Sanford NoBlot pencil. I just write and doodle with my NoBlots but Hector sketches and draws with his hoarded collection. Then he adds water to create a washy blue effect on his drawings like these figure sketches he did at an event at Spectrum this year ( may be NSFW).

Hector Casanova NoBlot pencil sketches

Aren’t they amazing?

Hecotr Casanova Drawing Tools

Hector also uses a full army of Japanese brush pens. I recognize the Pentel Pocket Brush pen and the Pilot Futayaku Double-Sided Brush Pens.

And with these tools are the start of artwork like this:

Hector Casanova Headphones

Pretty amazing, huh?

Review: Copic CIAO Markers

Copic Ciao 6-pack color set

I recently bought the Sea colors 6-pack of the Copic CIAO markers. The set comes with four, watery colors plus black and a clear blender. Each marker uses an alcohol based permanent ink and features a brush tip on one end and a chisel tip on the other.

Untitled

In general, I think the Copic line of markers is popular with illustrators, particularly those in the comic book and/or animation business. When I was at the local comic book convention last month, I saw a lot of the artists had Copic markers in their kits. The CIAO is a smaller, less expensive version of the professional Copic Markers.

Writing Sample Copic Ciao

I absolutely love the springy quality of the brush tip. Its great for lettering. I’m a doofus with the wide chisel tip though. I blame my left-handedness.

Overall, the colors in the set were pretty though I never figured out quite how to use the blender pen. Because of the lightness of the colors, there was a little washiness in the colors that was not intentional.

After playing around with the Sai Watercolor markers, I was even less interested in the Copic CIAO markers but I suspect that these markers are not really made for the casual user. They reminded me a lot of the old DESIGN markers we were supposed to use in art school for “marker renderings” back in the day when digital photography and mock-ups were too expensive so artists would do a realistic drawing to show potential clients.

When dry, these inks were virtually waterproof which means that other water-based media, colored pencils or paint could be added to a drawing or calligraphy piece. On the right edge, I liberally applied water from a paint brush onto the markers after they were dry for a minute or so and the colors didn’t budge.

Reverse side of Copic Ciao Writing Sample

Then there was the bleed through issue. If you need markers like these for illustration purposes or for the waterproofiness, then the bleed through may not be an issue. For me, they bleed so much as to not be suitable for sketchbooks or even envelopes.

I will definitely use the black for calligraphy with the brush tip and the chisel end for labeling boxes (like a Sharpie Marker), but the other colors might not get a ton of use for my purposes. If I stumble across an illustrator or a young would-be illustrator, I will gift them the set.

Bottom-line: These are not for the casual user but more valuable to the artist, illustrator, animator or art student using heavy duty illustration board, specialty “marker paper” or the like.


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

Review: Sai Watercolor brush markers

Untitled

My friend Madeline of Tag Team Tompkins introduced me to the Akashiya Sai Watercolor Brush Pens and within minutes, I had to order a bunch of my own. What makes these so awesome, you ask? Well, for starters, these brush pens have real bristles at the tips so they will behave more like a real brush than any of the brush pens with felt tip or polyester points.

Then, there are the amazingly awesome colors! There are complex colors like the yellow ochre, pale-almost-there colors like the pale orange and vivid brights like the vermillion orange and lime green. Individual colors are $3.50 each but sets are also available in seasonally-inspired sets of five ($17.50 each) or a 20-color set ($70).

Water test with Sai Watercolor Brush Pens

These pens are water soluble which means you can thin the colors with water to make lighter wash or blend two colors together. I used a water brush to blend through and only lightly brushed the color with water to make the color all washy here.

If you’re not falling over in your chair with the urge to buy one or a whole set of these wait until I tell you a few more things.

Sai Permanent Outline Brush Pen

What if I told you there is also a permanent outline brushpen ($5.25) that can be used to create permanent lines like the leaf I drew in the top writing sample and then applied the water soluble colors over it? Now are you excited?

Sai watercolor brush pens writing sample, from the reverse. On Rhodia.

When I flipped this writing sample over… there was no bleed through, or even any show through. Seriously. Keeping in mind this writing sample was done on good quality Rhodia paper stock but still… that’s pretty cool for thick, juicy markers to not show through at all. Or maybe that just speaks very highly of the Rhodia paper?

Okay, one more thing and then I think my case should be made. There is a special assortment of extra fine line pens called ThinLine ($4.95 each or a set of all five for $24.75) that come in a few select colors of deep rich hues that are also waterproof when dry and perfect for outlining. With colors like Greenish Indigo and Sumi Black, how can you resist the temptation?

Are you suitably enticed?

 


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

Rubber Stamp Organization

Organizing Rubber Stamps

I had been piling my stamps into a large drawer and then I will fish around looking for the one I’m looking for. It was not efficient at all. Then I pulled open my Alex drawer unit and realized I was storing notebooks in a flat file. What?!?! I know, craziness. So, I pulled all the notebooks out and put them on a bookshelf and lined up all my woodblock stamps, graphic side up, in the top drawer. All of a sudden, I am using them more often and can find exactly the one I want, when I want it. Even handle stamps stand up when the drawer is closed so those sit along the edges.

Alex Drawer Unit from Ikea

Feeling the need for some of your own stamps, visit The Shop. I’ve been restocking!

Field Notes for Memory Keeping

Memory keeping with Field Notes

While traveling, I used a Field Notes to keep my thoughts, names of places, restaurants and people, as well as pasting in receipts, business cards and various paper ephemera. I stamped the date and the name of the event on the front of the the Field Notes before I left.

I added the squashed penny with gel Super Glue when I returned. Squashed pennies are great inexpensive keepsakes for a trip. I got this one at the Musee Méchanique at Fisherman’s Wharf, a mechanical toy and game museum where you can play every game! Some took nickels and dimes but most took quarters and ranged from dancing puppets, vintage “peep shows,” pinball machines and classic 80s arcade games. Most American museums or large tourist attractions have a squashed penny machine. You insert 50¢ and one penny (I like to use a shiny penny but anyone will work). Then turn the crank and out pops your penny embossed with a design.

I was surprised how easily my paper scarps fit into the Fields Notes with little more than a fold. I used glue stick and washi tape to attach items and a 4-day trip filled almost a whole book. I used a paper clip to hold the transit cards just in case I needed to use them again. I’m not a scrapbooker but this is the perfect amount of memory keeping. I could complete it while traveling and on the airplane so, once I was home, it was done and all the bits I’d collected were contained.

Memorykeeping with Field Notes

Cut It Out! The best craft knife.

Fiskars SoftGrip Craft Knife

I’ve been wanting to write about my favorite craft knife for some time now, but I bought it several years ago and had never seen it in stores again. Well, we are all in luck because last week, I found it again at my local Joann’s craft shop. Its the Fiskars SoftGrip Craft Knife ($5.69). It has a  soft rubberized grip area with a unique soft arced shape.This creates a comfortable grip and keeps the knife from rolling off the table which is a big plus.

Fiskars craft knife

I use X-acto blades everyday because of my job so finding a comfortable tool is paramount importance. This is the best knife I’ve owned. My daily knife is a soft aqua color that has turned a dull blue gray from years of use. These are photos of my new bright orange version for home use. Goodbye, metal tube knife!

If you’ve never used a utility or craft knife before, I highly recommend adding them to your arsenal of tools. Combined with a cork-backed metal ruler and a self-healing mat, trimming paper, photos or other straight edge cutting will be fast and clean. Detail cutting can also be done with a craft knife and is less hand-cramp-inducing than scissors.

How do you replace the blades?

Untwisting the knurled end will loosen the clamp on the blade to easily replace with a new sharp blade. The Fiskars takes a standard #11 craft blade. I use Excel blades in the box of 100 ($18.75) which is by far the best value. Align the knife blade and tighten the knurled end.

Fiskars Craft Knife

Storing a craft knife   

It comes with a cap to cover the blade but, sadly, the cap does not stay on well and I get nervous removing the cap that I might slide my thumb over the blade when removing it. I’ve actually done this in the past so I definitely have that once-cut-twice-shy behavior. Also, I lose the caps within weeks so its not a big deal to me. I do recommend storing all X-Acto style knives, tip-down in a cup or jar to avoid accidents but the whole point of a knife is to be sharp so use with care. If you need a portable X-acto, I recommend a retractable version like a utility knife rather than a knife with a cap.

Fiskars Craft Knife

What do I do with all the dull blades?

Use an old can or jar with a cover (or make a slot in the lid just big enough to drop your blades into) to put used blades into. When full, tape it shut and drop it at metal recycling facility.

I hope this helps inspire you to try a new tool.

Ink as Watercolor

watercolor ink sample

Watercolor lettering sample (via Well-Appointed Desk)

Following the post this morning about painting with ink, I started thinking of other ways ink could be used. Its very much like watercolor paints so I thought I might share some fun ways to use watercolors that might inspire you to play and experiment with all those bottles of ink and ink samples you’ve accumulated. I wouldn’t recommend trying these with bulletproof or other waterproof inks but most fountain pen inks should play nicely.

Leslie Shewring experiments with ocen inspired blue watercolors (via Decor8 and A Creative Mint)

Leslie Shewring experiments with ocean inspired blue watercolors (via Decor8 and A Creative Mint)

Just brushing ink on paper, like you would with watercolors, can inspire and inform you. You can see the undertones of an ink color easily as well as the range of lights and darks of a color.  Add a little water to ink in a dish or bowl to create color washes.

Watercolor quote by Rocketrictic (via Flickr)

Watercolor quote by Rocketrictic (via Flickr)

Try blending two colors and drawing your favorite quote in ink.

Ink dipped ediging on doilies to decorate gifts (via Decor8)

Ink dipped ediging on doilies to decorate gifts (via Decor8)

The inks can be used to tint other papers, create tissue puffs, coffee filter hydrangeas or something else entirely!

Liquid Masking Fluid demo (via Comic Tools)

Liquid Masking Fluid demo (via Comic Tools)

Use masking fluid to block out areas on your page. Let it dry and then paint over it with your inks. Then peel the latex away to create a fun, colorful piece.

While any paper should work, a heavyweight watercolor paper will give texture and will be less inclined to curl or distort. I’ve been using an Aquabee Super Deluxe 9×12 wirebound sketchbook for playing with watercolor and ink. It is textured (cold pressed) on the front and smooth (hot pressed) on the back. If you’re searching the internet for watercolor paper, think hot is like ironed (smooth) and cold is wrinkly (textured) if that helps to remember the difference.

Hope these ideas inspire you. Drop me a link if you try any of these. I’d love to see what you create.

Ask The Desk: That’s not a pen!

Ask The Desk Header

I received an actual letter from Leah a week or so ago. She asked lots of different questions about pens and tools so I thought I’d include some of my answers here as well as in a letter to her.

She asked:

What pen/nib did you use for the titles of your 12 Days of Inkmas?

The secret is that I didn’t use a pen at all. I used a brush!

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 10.44.46 AM

I got the idea to use a brush from seeing some ink “swabs” on European Paper. They were using a brush to create a lovely little ink swab. I like that a brush was easy to clean and I wasn’t creating a landfill full of q-tips in sampling inks each month.

brushes21

I’ve used several different brushes that I’ve accumulated over the years to not only create “swabs” but also to create a more interesting header for the 12 Days of Inkmas. I’ve tried to keep up the habit for future ink samples and reviews as I can see the range of shading with the inks this way.

EDIT: The word “Wide Strokes” was done with the Scharff FINELINE 3000 #3, not the #6. Oops!

brushes22

From left to right: Robert Simmons #2 red Kolinsky hair and synthetic filaments round brush, A. Langnickel 670 #5 Red Sable script brush, Scharff Kolinsky red sable FINELINE 3000 #3 round and #6, and a Silverwhite synthetic 1500S #2 Round.

I’ve acquired brushes over the years from friends, yard sales and various art supply stores. I’m stunned to see how expensive the Scharff #6 brush is ($67)! I’ll definitely take better care of it. I’m confident that any good quality round brush recommended for watercolor, acrylic or oil would make a perfect tool for “swabs” and ink tests. Visit your local art supply or craft shop to pick up a couple.

Just remember to wash out your brushes in water, squeeze dry and reshape the tip to dry. Don’t scrub them and make the bristles flair out  or you risk breaking the fibers and/or hairs. Always dry your brushes with the tip up and don’t leave them sit indefinitely in your wash water or the bristles will bend at a weird angle. If you let them cake with inks or paints, try The Masters brush cleaner. It will save just about all your brushes!

Washi Tape Addict

My stash of Washi tape

I pulled open my “tape drawer” to add a few rolls of the new Scotch “washi” tape to discover that I have amassed quite a collection lately. Some might call it a problem. I call it an enthusiasm.

The best washi tape is still the MT brand from Japan. While the Cavallini paper tape is gorgeous, it doesn’t peel off the roll worth a darn. The new Scotch brand washi tape is a little shinier on the surface than true washi tape but for the price and availability, I’d say grab a couple rolls and decide for yourself. The Martha Stewart paper tape is shiny too and not particularly sticky so I would pass on it completely in the future.

Do you stock up on washi tapes? How many rolls do you have?

Comparing Rubber Stamp Inks

Uni Red "cinnabar" chop stamp pad sample

Conversations got started yesterday about folks’ preference for rubber stamp inks and I realized that this is a topic I’ve never pursued.

Since I like to use rubber stamps to annotate my paper planner and my mail, navigating the array of rubber stamp ink pads is something I thought I should investigate.

There are many different kinds of inks used on stamp pads: dyed-based, pigment-based and gel ink.

Office Depot Felt Dye-Based Ink Pad sample

Dye based inks are what are most commonly found in office supply stores and self-inking stampers. The inks dry fast and is waterproof but depending on the stamp design and the type of material you are stamping, the liquidity of the ink can spread, obscuring your design. I tested a standard Office Depot brand felt pad with dye ink and found it a little runny. Both Clearsnap and Tsukineko offer versions of archival dye-based inks. Tsukineko’s is called Memento and Memento Dew Drops. Clearsnap sells Colorbox Archival Dye Ink pads in large pads and Cat’s Eyes. I have not tried either of these brands but they offer a wider array of color than your average office supply store, probably higher quality inks and the option for small, portable stamp pads.

Tsukineko Dew Drop Brilliance ink pad sample

Tsukineko VersaColor cube ink pad sample

Pigment-based inks are what are commonly found in the craft and scrapbook sections. There are standard pigment-based ink pads, as well as slower-drying and “chalk” styles. The slower drying inks are specifically designed to be used by crafters who use heat embossing powders with the inks and not something that is needed for everyday stamping like a return address stamp. Chalk inks dry to a matte finish comparable to the look of powder chalk or pastel but its just a descriptive term. They are not made from chalk. Both standard pigment-based and chalk-style inks dry fairly quickly and can be heat set (using something like an embossing heat gun or similar tool) I tested the ClearSnap Colorbox Cat’s Eye Pigment Pads, Tsukineko VersaColor Pigment Cubes, and Tsukineko Dew Drop Brilliance. All three of these products are also available in larger 2×3″ pads but I really like the small sized pads for portability.The best thing about the pigment inks is the huge array of color options including metallics and even a decent opaque white.

Colorbox Pigment Ink Pad sample

In preparing this review, I had trouble finding the Colorbox Cat’s Eye pads in singles. They are now available mostly as stacking sets of six pre-selected color packs sets called Queues. I really like the quality of the ink in the Colorbox pigment inks, next to my Uni Cinnabar Chop stamp pad that I picked up in Hong Kong, they are my favorites for retaining the design details of my stamps while laying down an even ink coverage. Since the Colorbox Cat’s Eyes are becoming more difficult to find in singles, I think I’ll probably be seeking out the VersaColor pigment cubes instead. The Dew Drop Brilliance pads are just sopping with ink and it is quite slow drying. The Dew Drop is definitely designed for crafters, not mail art.

Office Depot Gel Stamp Pad samples

Gel ink was a new discovery when I went to Office Depot yesterday on the recommendation to try some “standard” ink pads. I found red, blue and black pads in felt pad dye-based and the gel ink pad. The description on the package stated that it would maintain crisp lines and never need re-inking. In use, the ink was less vibrant than the others and seemed to sort of pool around the edges. I don’t really recommend it for creative uses. To be honest, I’d give this whole concept a pass.

All of the small pads have low sides that allow you to tap your stamp, regardless of size, across the pad so a small pad doesn’t mean you can only ink up small stamps. All the ink pads I tested range in price from about $1.50-$2.50 for a small Cat’s Eye, Dew Drop or Cube to $5-6 for the larger pads regardless of whether they are from an office supply store or an art/craft store. They are relatively small investments so you may want to grab one or two of the smaller ink pads with different ink types and try them out for yourself.

And one last tip, you don’t necessarily need to press hard when stamping to get even and complete coverage. Make sure the stamp is completely covered with ink and then lightly but evenly apply it to your paper, envelope or other ephemera. Having scrap paper nearby to test on is also helpful.

(photos can be viewed in more detail on my Stamp Pad Face-Off Flickr Set)

Sensu Artist Brush & Stylus for Touch Devices

I was snooping around JetPens I stumbled across this unique item: the Sensu Artist Brush and Stylus for touch-sensitive devices. Using the brush end, it’s supposed to better simulate brush strokes in drawing and painting apps and then the other end is a rubberized stylus for drawing and tapping. I know a lot of artists are integrating the iPad and other touch devices into their creative process and I think this might be a cool way to expand the types of marks that can be created. $39.99.

Holler if you’ve used one and let me know how well it works!

Pentel Pocket Brush Pen

The Pentel Pocket Brush pen is one of the best, if not The Best, brush pens on the market. First, the understated look of  the pen is a pleasure to behold with nothing printed on the pen but one elegant character. The pen has a simple silver clip and a solid black plastic body. The cap clicks solidly onto the pen. The pen comes with two permanent black ink cartridges.

The tip is what makes this pen so notable. Unlike other brush pens that use a porous sponge tip shaped like a brush, the Pentel brush pen is an actual filament brush so that it gives and flexes like a real brush. It allows for delicate fine lines and bold strokes, quickly and easily.

While actually drawing and writing with a brush is not my forté, I did want you to see what a variety of line weights were possible with this pen. Clearly, I could use some practice writing with it!

Pen and refills available from JetPens. I purchased my pen from Utrecht.

Faber-Castell PITT Artist Brush Pen

Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen Brush

I have had this pen floating around in my collection for awhile. I’m always attracted to the Faber-Castell pens because they often have such wonderful colors available. On this trip, I decided to grab this  deep blue gray color called Indianthrene Blue in the brush tip version. The brush tip is a shaped felt tip which looks a brush which gives a nice variety of line variation. Unfortunately, because of the material used to make the “brush” it frays and wears over time making it less precise. The PITT pens are water resistant which would make them good for labeling, kitchen use or addressing or decorating envelopes.

There are dozens of other colors available for the brush pen and PITT pens are also available in a nylon tip style in Extra Superfine (0.1mm), Superfine (0.4mm), Fine (0.6mm) & Medium (0.8mm) nibs and a variety of colors.

Brush pen is available online for $1.60

Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen Brush

Spectrum artists reveal their tools

Archer Dougherty and her supplies

I had the good fortune of getting to attend the first-ever Spectrum Live art expo. While I was dazzled by the art and starstruck by the artists, I couldn’t help but peek at whatever tools each artist was using to doodle or autograph. Some made me shiver (really, a Bic ballpoint?!?! Your art deserves a better tool!), some made me boggle (What mechanical pencil is that??).

I met two lovely artists who were willing to share a peek inside their tool kits. Archer Dougherty and Chris Ryniak were kind enough to show me their favorite tools so without further ado…

A close up of Archer Dougherty's goodie bag

Archer’s kit was a large zip pouch whose previous life may have been as a document case or iPad sleeve. She said she loved just throwing her tools into the bag with a book or sketchbook and not treating them as particularly precious. She was sitting quietly drawing with a simple lightweight Zebra mechanical pencil which she admitted to preferring when she was out and about because it did not require sharpening and always kept a sharp point.

Chris Ryniak's pen roll

In stark contrast Chris Ryniak carried his tools in a very organized pen roll. His favorite tool was a newly acquired matte Zebra Sharbo X LT3 in orange flame.

Close-up of Chris Ryniak's roll

He praised his Pentel Twist-Erase 0.5 mechanical pencil for the large and wholly usable eraser, to which I can agree.

Chris Ryniak lifted this marker on his last trip to Japan

He also showed me his Zebra Hi-McKee markers which he liberated on his last trip to Japan and which he loves. It seems to be a marker comparable to a Sharpie though I have not found much additional information about it. Anyone have personal experience with these?

As both artists were busy fielding questions and comments from actual art-buying customers, I didn’t get to ask them all the questions I might have wanted but I am grateful for their time and generosity. Hope you enjoyed the peek into their kits as well!

1 2