Platinum Classic Brush Pen with Mt. Fuji and Cherry Blossoms Pattern ($52) is a nylon fiber brush pen with a beautiful slender black body. It features a gold toned clip and gold accents and a painted Mount Fuji and cherry blossoms designs. Its one of the most traditionally Japanese motfi pens I’ve ever owned and I’m surprised how tickled I am with the overall aesthetics of the pen. The overal shape of the pen is a smooth torpedo shape and the cap has a smooth, pill-shaped clip which is simple and understated.
The pen came in a simple black paperboard box with gold foil lettering and graphics on the exterior and red velveteen paperboard on the inside with a simple ribbon band to hold the pen in place. The packaging was elegant without being extravagant, if that makes sense.
But the real feature of the pen is the brush tip rather than a fountain pen or rollerball under the cap. The brush tip is made up of nylon fibers like a paintbrush but inside the aesthetics of a fountain pen. The pen works with a cartridge or a regular Platinum converter.
The bristles on the nylon tip come to a crisp point and the nylon fibers spring back quickly with a nice bounce. I decided to test the pen on both my usual Rhodia paper as well as some Strathmore Mixed Media drawin paper which is a toothier stock and found both the pen and the stock ink cartridge to perform quite well. The toothier Strathmore paper made it a little bit easier to control the brush pen versus the silky smooth Rhodia paper making me feel a little more confident in my mark-making.
The pen comes with a black cartridge with Platinum Black ink and the Platinum converter ($7.50) will fit as well which will allow a range of inks to be used. The Platinum Black ink is not waterproof but its definitely water resistant. I’m inclined to keep only black ink in this pen for the duration as I expect it would be difficult to ever get all this black out of the bristles and feed. I’d also be cautious about leaving this pen sit too long without using it in case the ink dried in the brush. It might be difficult to get it cleaned completely if the ink were to dry. Altenately, the Platinum Black is a rich, dense black that looks fantastic so it appears to be worth the trouble it might cause if you like a good solid black line for drawing or calligraphy.
Overall, I really like this pen. As its one of my first brush pens over $10 (by a long shot) I don’t have a huge basis for comparison. However, the quality of the brush tip itself is a big upgrade from the budget-priced nylon bristle brush pens I’ve purchased in the past. Add to that, the overall feel of the pen and the beautiful Maki-E painting and I feel like I have a real treasure on my hands.
DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Pen Boutique for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.
I tested the ink in my Franklin-Christoph Pocket Ice 66 eyedropper with a Fine nib and the ink still shaded quite nicely. The ink dried pretty quickly in the fine nib and I didn’t have any smearing issues even with my left-handedness. The painted lettering took a little bit longer to dry on the Rhodia paper so I suspect a wider nib would also take a bit longer to dry. Not a scientific analysis but this ink dried faster than a lot of inks I test.
The color strikes a nice balance between being a teal and a blue-black. Professional enough for everyday work but unique enough to be fun to use.
The ink is not waterproof so it means clean-up is pretty easy despite the depth of color.
Midnight Emerald is very similar in color to Akkerman #24 Zuiderpark Blauw-Green but Midnight Emerald is a tiny bit more blue than Zuiderpark. The price for Midnight Emerald is considerably lower. Diamine Twilight is more blue black and Callifolio Olifants is more indigo blue so Midnight Emerald really does seem to hit an unusual niche.
Overall, Midnight Emerald is a really lovely color and I’m grateful to have it in my arsenal.
Erin Marie A lovely fan in Atlanta gave me this bottle of ink because she knew how much I loved teal colors but I forgot to write down her name so, if you’re out there, please leave a message in the comments so I can give you a proper thank you and shout out for this lovely gift which I will cherish. We had such a lovely conversation but I have a brain like a sieve sometimes and trying to remember Slack handles, real names, email addresses and Rav names often leaves me not remembering any name at all! So sorry!
One of the pens I was hoping to find at the Atlanta Pen Show was a vintage Lady Sheaffer Skripsert. A friend of mine showed me hers and I fell in love with it so I knew it was definitely a pen style I wanted to keep my eye out for.
The story behind the Lady Sheaffer Skripserts were that they were pens (and pencils) designed specifically for ladies in decorative patterns and posh finishes as fashion accessories from the late 50s into the 70s. They were available with either steel or gold nibs and some of the designs included raised, jeweled bands around the middle of the pen for an even more glamorous look.
This ad for the Lady Sheaffer, lovingly known to collectors as “the shopping list” was published in Pen World magazine in 1994 and posted to the Fountain Pen Network Forum in a thread titled “Ladies in Tulle!” back in 2008.
Well,I totally lucked out because I found a vendor who had several different models to choose from including a very rare Christmas patterned one with holly berries on the cap (not to my taste but in retrospect, its incredibly rare!). I had a hard time picking just one of the many designs and he made me a deal on two different models, both with 14K nibs.
From what I understand, the later the Lady Sheaffer was produced, the more likely the ends are to be flat instead of rounded. So my guess is that the two I purchased are probably late 60s or early 70s.
Once I got home and could start doing more detailed research, I was able to determine that the black pen with gold “tulle” is definitely a Lady Sheaffer. The nib is referred to as a Stylpoint nib as it partially hooded. There’s also a bit of a flip up at the end of the nib which if you didn’t know that was how the nibs were designed might make you think the nib had been sprung. But its not. They were designed that way.
Upon further study, the gold pen with black diamond pattern is actually a Sheaffer Imperial Sovereign rather than a Lady Sheaffer Skripsert. The inlay nib should have been the givaway but I did not know enough about the long history of the Skripsert line to know all the nib variation so I took a chance because it was beautiful. I ended up with a great pen regardless.
The Lady Sheaffer Skripsert was NOS (new old stock), complete with its original sticker, so really how could I pass it up?
And the Sheaffer Imperial was hallmarked on the barrel with a crown and “14K G.F. Sheaffer U.S.A.” So I think the barrel and cap are gold plated as well as the nib. Swank!
What should have also been the give away that Imperial was a different beast is that the barrel is a bit wider than the Lady Sheaffer. They are the same length but the Lady Sheaffer is a little bit more tapered overall for a slightly more diminutive silhouette. Its not good or bad but it shows that doing your homework prior to a show is important. I ended up with a happy surprise and learning more about vintage Sheaffers in general but more research would have made me better informed overall.
Both the Lady Sheaffer and the Imperial wrote beautifully. The Lady Sheaffer had a medium nib which wrote pretty wet and its flip up angle took a bit of getting used to. I had heard the flip was designed to enable writing at more angles but could not find any information on the internet to corroborate that so I’m not sure. If you know why the Stylpoint nibs were designed with a flip, please leave a note in the comments. I theorize that it is a bit like the Fude de Mannen Japanese nibs that allow for a wider range of stroke widths at a wider range of angle but again, I don’t have any proof nor have I used the pen long enough to prove my theory.
The Imperial has a fine nib that is perfect! It writes beautifully and as soon as I get cartridges or converters for these two pens, I have a feeling that they will end up in regular rotation. They are both comfortable in my hand, lovely to look and and beautiful writers. How can you beat that?
In the end, I’m pleased with my vintage Sheaffer purchases but I would have been happier with myself if I’d been better informed before I got to the show. But knowledge comes with time and asking the right questions.
For more information about Lady Sheaffer Skripserts:
I never thought I’d be a collector of Retro 51s. However, in the last couple of years, I’ve acquired a variety of different Poppers and a Classic Lacquer and, I must admit, I have a collection now. So, I now keep an eye out for the regular seasonal releases in the Popper series.
Just prior to the Atlanta Pen Show, Retro 51 released their spring design, Bouquet, and I scrambled to find a retailer who didn’t sell out in a minute. Luckily, the fine folks at Anderson Pens set not one but TWO pens aside for me and, as a result, one lucky reader will get claim this beauty as their own – or to give to their loved one, their mom, or their favorite person who deserves an everlasting bouquet of flowers.
The Bouquet is a smooth, watercolor floral printed on an ivory background. The flowers definitely have a tropical feel. The graphics are some of the most complex I’ve seen on a Retro 51 and they turned out really well. The colors are clean and rich. And the printing is flawless.
The hardware is a soft, brushed gold. I’d almost call is rose gold but its not pinky nor is it brassy. The end cap is a rosy pink dot to match the flowers.
Of all the “Mother’s Day” releases that Retro 51 has done, this is by far the best one yet.
GIVEAWAY: See that one in the photo above still wrapped in shrinkwrap? That is #0288/1000 and it can be your. All you need to do is leave a comment below and tell me who in your life deserves a beautiful bouquet of flowers. AND… read the FINE PRINT. Big thanks to Anderson Pens for providing the giveaway pen!
FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Monday, April 25, 2016. All entries must be submitted at wellappointeddesk.com, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Tuesday. 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 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 delivery addresses only please this time. Apologies to our international readers!
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?
Since I started doing the #rockyourhandwriting challenge this month in my Field Notes Sweet Tooth editions, I’ve been having fun experimenting with all sorts of opaque gel pens. The Uni Signo Angelics ($2 each) are some of the best opaque gel pens available. The tips are 0.7mm and the pens dry to a matte finish which look great on white paper, black paper or colored stock.
I got a several of the colors available to add some pop and flair to my coming #rockyourhandwriting posts. I’m particularly excited to add some of the white gel pen to the colored stock. It just looks so cool!
Be warned, these opaque colors do take a bit longer to dry than regular gel pens and are only available in the 0.7mm tip size so they are not as fine as some of the Uni Signos I’ve come to know and love. But for creating some fun artwork and decorative details, these are definitely a nice addition to the pen collection!
Addendum (4/23/2016): Following Rusty’s comment below, I did a water test to verify if the Angelics were water resistant. I used a water brush over the text I wrote two weeks prior so it was very much dry. Some of the color did bleed but the overall lettering stayed in place. I’d rate the pens “water resistant” but not waterproof. The color faded as a result of the water and some of the luminance was lost. So, if you were to address an envelope with these pens and the envelope got wet, the address would not vanish as a result of the rain but the color would no longer be as vibrant as it originally was. I hope that helps!
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.
Sailor Bung Box Blue Black is also called “4B” and boy, is it another one of those colors I just love. Its a rich indigo blue with a halo of red that gives it such a pop. I decided to test it in the teeny, tiniest pen I own, my Kaweco Liliput with an EF nib — maybe I’m just channeliing the vibe of the teeny tiny Bung Box shop in Tokyo Hamamatsu, Japan (Thanks to Mel for setting me straight!)?
The advantage of testing BB BB (Ah, there’s the four Bs!) in a small, fine nibbed pen is that the dark indigo blue-black is dark enough to show even in a fine nibbed pen and the red halo even adds some shading and character to small, fine writing. If you, too, write small or like fine nibs, this blue-black has enough character and shading to be interesting even in such a delicate line. Quite exciting.
I put the quarter in the photo above to show how small the writing is, just for scale. But also to show this ink is not waterproof which means it will easily clean out of your most delicate pens. Just don’t sign your mortgage papers with it.
And finally, it was hard to narrow down to just a few blue-black ink comparisons because I literally have a dozen to choose from! But I picked the ones that were the closest in hue. Diamine 1864 150th Blue Black and Sheaffer Blue Black both had the same sort of red halo but the actual shade of blue was different. Diamine 1864 is a bit more violet and Sheaffer is a little more on the green side. I included a couple more common blue black inks like Lamy and Kaweco and they both feel flat compared to the sheen and halo on the 4B. The MontBlanc Midnight Blue is much darker overall and the Caran d’Ache Magnetic Blue has a sheen too but is more denim-y.
So there you have it. Another in a long line of options in the hunt for the perfect blue-black. I think 4B is pretty darn close to perfect. But Sailor really does make delicious inks. Pricey, but delicious. So if you have a chance to pick up a bottle of this rarity, and you like blue-black inks, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
I received these two little lemon-lime treats from a Desk reader to try out and I’ve been delighted to take them for a test drive. They are the Jinhao 886 “bullet” fountain pens. They are small well-weighted, metal enamel fountain pens at a budget price. They kind of remind me of jelly beans. It looks like they can be purchased through Amazon for about $7.99 a piece with Prime Shipping though the bright yellow color isn’t shown. Alternately you can find the Jinhao for even less on Ebay if you’re willing to brave it.
The nib is labelled “18K GP” but I don’t think it means what they think it means. Not for the prices. Maybe the nib is gold plate but that’s not really why someone is going to buy a Jinhao 886. Its a stiff, steel medium nib and not purchased for its “poshness”.
The pens are just 5″ long capped and 5.5″ posted. And the caps do post nicely without adversely affecting the weighting. The whole pen weighs 21 gsm capped and filled which is pretty weighty for the little guys. Compact and solid.
As for the nibs, stiff. Stiff, stiff, stiff. And a solid medium nib. Which is a perfectly acceptable size and feeling but I have been using so many fine and extra fine and slightly softer nibs that the Jinhao 886 was noticeable nail-like. But I suspect these pens were specifically designed for students and kids so a sturdy nib is probably quite up to the task of grade schoolers learning to write.
But I was really quite charmed by the pens overall. They feel nice in the hand, wrote pretty well right out of the package. I had to do a little light sanding on one nib on a nail buffer but it was cursory at best. And the size and shape is quite nice for we of small hands. Kids and ladies of dainty hands might quite enjoy having one of these pens in their collection. And at the price, there’s no reason not to try them out if the opportunity presents itself.
These would make good pens for experimentation as well. If you are looking to learn to do a little nib grinding, this would be a good pen to test that out. Or want to have a pen with some less-than-well-behaved ink (like Emerald of Chivor or bulletproofs or such), filling a Jinhao 886 would be a good way to have you pen and use it too without concerns about damaging a more expensive, rare or collectible pen. Consider a “play” pen.
Big thanks to MJ for sending these little bon bons!
Oooooo, Pelikan Edelstein Aquamarine – Ink of the Year 2016 ($28 for 50ml bottle)! I don’t know what it is with me and the Pelikan Edelstein Ink of the Year Colors. Since I discovered that there was such a thing as a special color each year, I’ve pretty much made a point of either buying or trying each one. The color for 2013 was Amber, then 2014 was Garnet (which is the only one I’ve missed), 2015 was Amethyst and now Aquamarine. Now, I have to say that the Aquamarine is squarely in my “color wheelhouse”. I love this sort of complex, teal-blue-grey so I am so glad to get to try it out. It also makes me not very impartial about it. So bear that in mind.
I drew the header with a watercolor brush to get a range of hues and intensities and was thrilled with the color right out of the bottle. I seem to forget just how well-behaved Pelikan Edelstein inks are. Then I dipped my Esterbook 2442 stub nib to experience the ink in more “real world” circumstances. There’s a good deal of shading in the ink and the color is deep enough to hold up even with my small, light writing. It just glided across the Rhodia paper stock and dried is a reasonable amount of time. I did not smudge, nor did I time my writing. I just wrote at a regular pace. (Says the overhand lefty.)
I also went back to my Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook and tested the ink on 140 gsm “cartridge paper” and added water to see how it behaved if I wanted to use it as more of a drawing ink and I loved the sea green colors that emerged. Also, the Seawhite of Brighton paper once again performed quite well. The ink stood up beautifully. Good pairing!
When compared with some of the many other shades of teal-y blues in my arsenal, it may be hard to discern a difference from the photos. Both Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku and Sailor Jentle Yama Dori have a very distinct reddish halo that Pelikan Edelstein Aquamarine does not have. De Atramentis Pigeon Blue is much brighter than Aquamarine and Noodler’s AirCorps Blue Black is a good deal darker, especially once its in a pen. Of course, Aquamarine is a limited edition color and its a bit pricier than some of these others so if you’re looking for similar options, any one of these would be good.
If FOMO is a driving factor for you, than I definitely recommend grabbing a bottle of Aquamarine while you have a chance. If you’re a fan of teal-y blues, that goes double for you!
DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Goulet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.
I recently received the Kickstarter edition Baron Fig Squire in silver aluminum. The pen came in the Baron Fig signature wine soft-touch box, similar to the box that the Baron Fig Confidant notebooks are shipped, nestled in carved black foam. The packaging is appropriate to the pen without being too over-the-top. Generally, as long as the pen is protected in shipping and delivery and the brand is satisfied with its presentation with making the packaging too ostentatious, I’m good. This packaging fit that description.
Several people had mentioned the branding on the pen being a bit much, having both the sword icon etched on one side and the name “BARON FIG” on the other. In the aluminum silver finish, these logos are actually quite subtle and I had to catch the pen in just the right light to see them so I don’t think the branding is too much. Once the pen is removed from the packaging, there really isn’t much to remind you what the pen is. We, as pen nerds, will know its a Baron Fig Squire but the the average consumer, there’s a strong possibility that a year from now, someone would ask them what the pen was and without the brand name on the pen, they might not remember off the top of their head. Since the branding is etched, I also suspect that it will patina over time.
The overall aesthetic of the pen is really quite understated in the hand. The finish of the silver aluminum is smooth without being slippery and the shape is comfortable and well-balanced. I was prepared to find the pen either heavy or too masculine but its neither. The writing end is a tad bulbous, aesthetically, but when writing, I didn’t notice it. It just feels pleasant in the hand.
The twist mechanism is unusual. Its a short half turn, if that much, expose the tip, and there is no knurling or texture added to the end for grip so if you have slippery fingers, the retracting mechanism might prove a little annoying. Maybe I’m spoiled by years of Retro 51 with the deep knurling that makes it easy to twist the mechanism even with wet or greasy fingers but the Squire is definitely for a drier pad. With the rollerball refill, you will definitely want to get the tip retracted too or you’ll have a big leak in your bag or pocket. If you swap out the refill with a ballpoint, it would be less of a concern.
One thing I did notice was that the silver finish of the pen pretty much picks up dirt and ink from everything. I was continually wiping smudges off the pen as I used it. Had I known the silver was quite so prone to gunge, I probably would have chosen the charcoal over the silver for a slightly more camouflage approach to dirt. The silver is pretty but clearly I’m messy.
The Baron Fig Squire ships with a branded Schmidt P8127 rollerball refill. Its a little too liquidy for me making my writing appear even more inconsistent than ever. But the refill is something that can be easily remedied. It looks like the Squire will accept a Parker-style capless refill so I’ll probably grab a couple Monteverde fine gel refills in blue-black, black and maybe turquoise ($4 each from Goldspot Pens) and try those out instead.
Overall, I really like the pen. And I say that with a bit of surprise because the pen was so hyped. Not that I didn’t expect the guys over at Baron Fig to do a good job. I did. But the Squire was a bit like a summer blockbuster movie for the pen community. There was so much hype and excitement that I wasn’t sure that actually holding the pen in my hand could live up to my expectations.
But in the end, I am really quite pleased. I suspect I will use it regularly. Its aesthetically appealing, comfortable in the hand and allows me plenty of refill options since I’m a great big picky-pants about that. And isn’t that what you want from a good pen? Something that feels good in the hand and writes the way YOU want it to write?
If you missed out on the Kickstarter and are interested in purchasing a Baron Fig Squire, they are taking pre-orders on their web site for $55.
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.
I’ve always wanted to try one of Noodler’s quick drying inks but I could never decide which color to try. Then along came the new Noodler’s Berning Red ($12.50), and my decision became a little easier. “Let’s try the new one!”
I don’t usually go for red inks but I thought it would be nice to have one and one that dried quickly is definitely a perk. I was surprised when I started my painted lettering how much it bled. I don’t think I’ve ever had an ink do that on Rhodia before. I was getting a little nervous that the ink was going to misbehave. Once loaded into my Esterbrook with the 2442 falcon stub nib, the ink was much better behaved but the unusual behavior in the painted lettering made me want to test the ink on some other paper stocks to make sure that it wasn’t a fluke. I pulled out a piece of Moleskine Volant paper and a piece from my Filofax notebook (also available from Pen Boutique) to see how the ink behaved. Berning Red was amazingly well-behaved on the Moleskine paper and only a little soft on the Filofax paper, even with the stub nib. Phew.
Now to talk about the shading… not much to speak of. Mostly the color shifted because I dipped the Esterbrook rather than filling it.
Also, while the ink is quick drying, it is not permanent so it will clean up easily and the ink will run if wet so plan accordingly.
Colorwise, its just a little lighter than Noodler’s Rattler Red Eel, slightly warmer in color than Diamine Red Dragon and slightly cooler than Waterman Red. It’s very much a true bright red though I did find it a bit darker in the larger swashes of the painted lettering, not as vivid. I find it looks brighter in the writing sample.
If you’ve been waiting for a quick drying red ink, you can’t go wrong with Noodler’s. The Bernake line of blues and blacks have been quite popular and I’m sure the same will be said for Berning Red. Noodler’s bottles are full-to-overflowing so you get your money’s worth too.
DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Pen Boutique for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.
I must be on a blinded-myself-with-turquoise kick this month because Akkerman Treves-Turquoise is a kissing cousin to Private Reserve Daphne Blue which I recently reviewed. I guess I’m just ready for blue skies, turquoise swimming pools and burn-your-retinas summer colors. Akkerman Treves-Turquoise is definitely on the vivid end of the ink spectrum but its not quite as bright as Daphne Blue.
Treves-Turquoise does have a much more distinct red halo though, especially in wider nibs, in swatches, and in my painted lettering.
I started out testing this ink in my Pilot Retro Pop with medium nib but the ink seemed a little light. I switched to my Esterbrook 2442 stub italic and both the color and the red halo became much more evident. This ink is definitely at its best advantage in wider nibs.
It shades with a great ranges of blues from a light sky blue to a deep turquoise. When wet, the ink completely puddles so it would be fun to play with for some light watercolor washes but do not dip your carefully crafted manuscript or latest letter into the tub or it will be lost forever.
When comparing swatches, you can see how similar Treves-Turquoise is to Daphne Blue. If you’re on a budget, Daphne Blue is a perfectly fine substitute for Treves-Turquoise which is pretty pricey to acquire in the States. Treves-Turquoise is a richer color than Iroshizuku Ama-Iro so if you’re looking for something more retina searing, Daphne Blue or Treves-Turquoise would definitely be more saturated than Ama-Iro.
Special thanks to Junee Lim at Alt.Haven for sending me a sample of this ink to try out. I’ve had it for absolutely ages and FINALLY got around to trying it out. Luckily, Vanness Pens will be in Atlanta for the pen show and they stock Akkerman inks so I might be able to score a bottle of this ink of my very own in a couple weeks.
Story Supply Co. Pocket Staple Notebooks (3-pack for $10, available in plain, grid or lined) might seem like just another in a long line of pocket notebook makers but I think they are offering a little something different. First, for each 3-pack of 3.5×5.5 notebooks they sell, they contribute a story supply kit to a chapter of 826, which provide writing and tutoring to school age kids in many major metropolitan cities like LA, Chicago and DC, to name a few.
Besides contributing to a good cause, the standard Story Supply Co. Pocket Staple notebooks are a little different than some of the others on the market. The covers are simple navy cardstock on the outside (100# French Paper Co. Kraft-Tone cover, if you want the specifics) which are heavier weight than most pocket notebooks on the market. On the inside, the paper is a creamy, ivory 70lb Cougar smooth (described as “natural” on the Story Supply Co site). The paper is slightly warmer in color than the standard Moleskine paper — where Moleskine paper is yellowy, Story Supply Co. paper is slightly more peachy French vanilla, if that makes sense. Not noticeably peachier but if you put it side-by-side with a Moelskine, the paper is not as yellow.
My package also included a snappy logo sticker ($1 each) to add to my already buried laptop cover and a natural finish round pencil ($1 each) which managed to vanish before I got to sharpen it. Either a cat rolled it away or my husband absconded with it. No one is fessing up.
Inside the front cover is space to put pertinent information like contact info, contents and dates. In the back is information about the Story Supply Co. and their contributions to the 826 programs.
In writing tests, I found the paper to be very smooth and all my standard pens and pencils to perform well to my naked (bespeckled) eye pretty well. I definitely discovered that felt tips and gel pens were the most well received on the paper, as were pencils.
Upon closer inspection though, I noticed some feathering, even with the finest fountain pens. I think there is little-to-no sizing on the Cougar smooth paper which let the ink just run free. I was a bit sad because even my almost-never-feathers Platinum Carbon Desk Pen feathered on the Story Supply Co. paper.
From the reverse of the writing sample, there’s a little show through and it would probably have been more evident if I’d used pens or nibs wider than and 0.5mm or darker colors but I didn’t have any loaded up or handy. The Sharpie Pen and Microns performed fine on the paper and the gel pens, including the Gelly Roll pen I tried did just fine. After I photographed my writing samples, I did another test with my stash of Staedtler Triplus Fiineliners and they all did quite well too with a little show through on the back of the page with some darker colors if they were used to fill in letterforms and such but no feathering issues. So, I think, like most pocket notebooks, a standard EDC type of pen or pencil with a Story Supply Co. notebook would be a fine combination but its not meant to be used with calligraphy nibs or Sharpie markers unless you’re prepared for bleed through.
I probably should have considered this before I tried to watercolor on the paper, though it actually held up better than I thought it would. The paper buckled and curled but it didn’t pill so it performed a lot better than most. I will probably continue to abuse this notebook since I still have a week left in my Rock Your Handwriting challenge and I filled up my other notebook already.
All in all, I think the Story Supply Co. Pocket Staple notebooks offer an alternative at a similar price point to many of the other notebooks on the market. The distinguishing features being the warm ivory paper, heavier covers and the donations to children’s writing charities setting them apart.
I haven’t done a reveal post of one of the Field Notes Colors Editions in a long time but the new Sweet Tooth edition is a way more fun in use than I expected it to be. When described, a colored paper edition of Field Notes with perforated pages doesn’t sound like all that big a deal. Until I actually started using it.
The Pop Tone paper is 70lb and quite toothy (no pun intented) which makes it great for pencil and lots of pens. It also doesn’t bleed or feather and the bright colors are freakin’ fantastic for opaque gel pens. I don’t get a lot of excuses to humor my inner middle schooler and break out the giant box of Gelly Rolls but a 3-pack of Sweet Tooth is the perfect excuse. So much so that I’m thinking I’ll need to order about ten more packs so I don’t run out.
I actually think the “tangy orange” is more of a “cherry red” but I do agree that the other two colors are definitely “banana split” yellow and “blue raspberry” blue – in the most artificial candy-colored definition of those colors. I like the coordinated hot foil lettering on the covers, a subtle nod to candy packaging.
I don’t mind that the paper is unlined, in fact I actually prefer it. And it eliminated any issues printing ink might have caused with writing ink adhering to the paper. So I’m actually glad they didn’t print on the paper. And it means there’s free range to doodle in any direction.
From the reverse of my writing sample, there was no show through or bleed. You can see a little bit of indentation from my writing pressure where I went over the lettering with the clear sparkle Gelly Roll pen. On the yellow “Banana Split” paper, there’s a bit more show through because the paper is a lighter color but you should easily be able to use both sides of the sheet with all three colors.
The micro-preforation is tight and requires folding a couple times to get page to tear out but pages tear out cleanly. The advantage of the tight perforation is the pages are unlikely to fall out.
I even tested some fountain pen ink from my my Kaweco Dia II with Daphne Blue and didn’t have any issues. I’m sure thick, italic nibs might cause some issues but daily use fountain pens should be just fine though, with most Field Notes, I recommend felt tip, rollerballs, pencils and gel pens more often. Colored pencils were a particularly fun discovery as some colors really popped. Uni Posca and Sharpie water-based paint pens were also fun and didn’t bleed through. Aren’t these Field Notes the perfect excuse to use all those pens you bought on a whim?
I know folks are constantly tweaking their favorite Field Notes lists and when I initially saw Sweet Tooth, I didn’t think it would break my top five but now that I have it in hand, I think it will be my number one. I love it. I must order more.
DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Field Notes for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.
I have had my Penxo 2.0mm Leadholder in green since sometime in October when the Kickstarter orders shipped but I’ve been sitting on it. The color is beautiful and the pencil itself is beautiful – even the packaging was lovely – but I was a little disappointed. The pencil shipped with free lead which was complete crap and that probably tainted my experience. The lead pointer that shipped was also not worthy of such a fine looking tool either.
Now, the Penxo is loaded with Uni Field red lead with a wicked sharp point and looks a bit like a martini. Much better.
Once I was using the Uni Field red lead which was a soft waxy lead that absolutely glided on the paper, I could focus on the actual experience of using the Penxo rather than my initial reaction to the pencil when it arrived which was all about the crappy graphite. The Uni Field lead did dull very quickly which allowed me to test the Uni Pocket Lead Pointer at regular intervals and it is smooth and efficient. It also meant I had to finagle the mechanics of the Penxo for extracting the lead far enough to insert it into the lead pointer and then pull the metal apart again to re-insert the lead back into the housing without stabbing myself, catching the lead in the pencil framework or breaking the lead. This is not as seamless as it should be which is sad.
As I continued to play with the various lead colors from the Koh-i-noor set, I was given more opportunity to practice threading lead into the Penxo housing, sharpening and aligning the lead. I found it awkward to try to pry the pencil apart to slide the lead down. I confess, the clutch mechanism in standard leadholders are easier to control with a greater degree of accuracy. They aren’t as aesthetically appealing but I feel more confident that I’m not going to impale myself with the lead either.
In the end, I found the Koh-i-noor leads to be more scratchy and graphite-like overall but I liked the bright yellow color a lot and all the colored leads looked good with the green Penxo body.
The Penxo really is a beautiful design but its not as functional as I’d like it to be and it saddens me since this is probably most people’s first (and probably last) experience with a lead holder. Generally artists, architects and draftsmen gravitate towards lead holders and they are looking for a level of control with the point length and the lead hardness and the Penxo just makes that really challenging.
I’m not giving up on the Penxo but I think it will be more of a conversation piece than a daily writer. The Uni Field leads and Pocket Lead Pointer however are new staples!
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.
Pretty much if you paint something a lovely shade of mint green and sell it in an online stationery store, I’m probably going to buy it. So it was inevitable that I was going to have to have the Craft Design Technology HB Pencil set ($6.50). This set of three hexagonal mint green pencils are perfectly perfectly Japanese. The finish on the pencils is immaculate. The paint is silky smooth and the silver foil stamping is the finest I’ve seen with no imperfections even in the tiniest type. The white cap, which I initially mistook as a painted end cap is actually a rubber eraser that works like a dream.
The pencils sharpened nicely with my 2-step Palomino hand sharpener and wrote like silk. The lead was a little smudgy on the smooth Rhodia paper I test on but overall, the pencils required almost no pressure to write making the process of writing effortless and incredibly enjoyable.
Overall, these pencils were an impulse purchase based purely on aesthetics but have ended up being a great find. The smooth writing experience and the eraser-that-actually-works makes them worth purchasing by the gross.
I bought these pencils from our fine sponsor Fresh Stock Japan. While they are a sponsor, I did purchase them. Just so its all clear.
I’ve been coveting the Rhodiarama A5 Webnotebook in anise for several months now. Stephanie at Rhodia Drive sent it over to me back in September after she interviewed me for the site. I’ve kept it wrapped safely in its cellophane for just the right moment to open it. Today was the day that I cracked the seal on the plastic and let the beautiful new notebook out.
The Rhodiarama Webnotebook is the colorful edition of the signature Rhodia Webnotebook. There are 15 colors to choose from including Rhodia signature black and orange but I, of course, chose the anise green. The Rhodiarama feature the same PU leatherette covers as the regular Webnotebooks and vertical orange elastics along with the 90gsm ivory Clairefontaine paper you’ve come to expect from Rhodia. So the big differences are the range of colored cover options and colorfully printed end papers.
Its been awhile since I’d used a Rhodia Webnotebook so I was quite delighted to test out my pens on the paper and see who flawlessly they performed on the stock. Inks stayed crisp and nibs that had seemed quite wide and soft on other paper seem fine and crisp on the Clairefontaine.
From the reverse, there was little to no show through at all making the notebook usable on both sides of the paper which is quite cost effective.
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.
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.
Chic Sparrow is known for making some of the finest quality leather traveler’s notebooks. Her business started on Etsy but she’s been so successful that she now runs her own site and limits the number of orders accepted each week in order to keep up with demand. Chic Sparrow offers her notebook covers in an array of sizes and finishes, including a full line of “deluxe” covers which include pockets inside the front and back covers with beautifully executed contrasting stitching. I purchased the Creme Deluxe in Black Beauty in the A5 size ($109.99). I wanted to be able to accommodate some larger sketchbook and drawing books as well as writing and planning notebooks and was hoping that the A5 would give me the space to do so.
All of Chic Sparrow’s notebook covers include four elastics inside making it easy to slide in four notebooks before you have to get creative with additional elastics to add more. Since the A5 is already a larger book and the Creme Deluxe is double layered, thick leather, I am trying to limit myself to no more than four books at a time so I don’t feel like I’m carrying around a brick in my bag.
Okay, I lied. At present, there are five notebooks in my Black Beauty but cut me a little slack since some of these books are specifically in here for review purposes. (Reviews to be posted in the near future!) But from the side view, you can see the thickness of both the leather, the smooth finishing of the edges by Chic Sparrow and the massive amount of books I have crammed into the notebook cover with room to spare. The middle two books are A5 sized sketchbooks, the front book is my Moleskine large planner and the back two are the Moleskine Volant and Cahier in large size from my previous notebook cover.
As I’ve only been using the Creme Deluxe for about two weeks, I have not yet filled the front pockets with cards but have slipped some notes and papers into the secretary pocket behind. You can also see the large pen loop on the right hand side that accommodates my Uni Style Fit 5-color gel pen easily. Its a large loop so any pen smaller than the Uni Style Fit needs to have a good clip or it will probably slide out.
One of the notebooks I’m using for drawing right now is the Fabriano EcoQua Staplebound Notebook. It has 38 sheets (72 pages) of 85 gsm paper and is available in blank, lined or dot gird for about $4.50. I found it in my local art supply store. Its not great for wet media but for pen, pencil and sketching, its a good option for the price point. )I reviewed the larger Dot Grid version of the EcoQua awhile back. Needless to say, I much prefer the blank version.)
In the back of the notebook cover is another secretary pocket to hold extra loose sheets and you can see more of the beautiful stitching details.
All in all, I am blown away by the quality of the craftsmanship from Chic Sparrow. The leather is beautiful and the notebook is expertly assembled. I was a little hesitant initially because of the price but I realize it was truly worth every penny I spent.
The Pelikan Stola III ($36) is probably the closest competitor Pelikan has to the Pilot Metropolitan or the Lamy Safari. If you’ve been looking for a professional, upscale looking fountain pen in the sub-$50 range, The Stola III is definitely a strong contender. However, there are some plusses and minuses to consider before hitting the “buy it now” button.
For me, a big plus is the beautifully clean simple design of the Stola III. Its a matte silver pen with a gloss black clip with Pelikan’s signature “beak” design. Its a sophisticated design that is both modern and classic. The body of the pen is metal on a brass base, not plastic, so it feels sturdy. The total weight of the pen, capped with a full long cartridge is 32 gms. Uncapped and unposted with a cartrdige, it weighs 20 gms.
The finish of the pen is a fine mica metallic silver with a clear gloss finish over the metallic paint. The pen itself is metal but there is definitely layers of paint and clear gloss over it, like a nice auto or motorcycle paint finish. The end cap and clip are flat black and glossy.
I’m including my weight chart which shows some other common models capped and filled.
In general, I am not much for pen packaging. I prefer that it be protective for shipping and storage purposes but it doesn’t need to be much more than that. The packaging for the Stola III falls right into that sweet spot. There was a white outer shipper box and then the inner matte silver paperboard box that reminded me of a book. When opened, the pen was tucked under a black, satin ribbon in a flocked, recessed area and stored in a clear, cellophane tube. I removed the cellophane for photography purposes and left the paper tag that is tucked under the clip.
Inside the pen was a long European cartridge in blue. In shipping, my cartridge ended up leaking. I suspect it was a result of the winter weather here in Kansas City which vacillated between freezing and a balmy 70 degrees fahrenheit this weekend so the seal probably split causing the leak. I swapped it out for a Pelikan Edelstein Topaz long cartridge instead. This is actually one of the reasons to put the Stola III in the plus column. It is a sub-$50 fountain pen that takes standard European cartridges or converters. Unlike the Pilot Metropolitan that takes either Pilot cartridges or a Pilot-specific converter or the Lamy Safari which also requires proprietary converters and cartridges.
The Stola III is only available with a medium nib which is steel. It is not the same nib that comes on the M-series pens. The Stola III nib is a much stiffer steel nib, not gold. Not for $36. The advantage is that the Stola III nib is much easier to use for new fountain pen writers as the nib is more forgiving at more angles than the M-series nibs. I myself have not had the best luck with the M-series nibs because, as a left hander, my upside down writing angle causes me to push rather than pull the nib which chokes the softer tines of the M-series pens making the writing stutter and start and stop. I did not have this problem with the Stola III. The Stola III wrote smoothly and had no false starts for me.
I was a bit concerned that the medium nib might be too wide for my small writing but it actually wrote quite nicely and very few of my letters filled in. The medium nib allowed the Topaz ink to shade nicely and the nib was a nice balance of smooth and a little grippy on the Rhodia paper which was a perfect balance. Sometimes pens can be too smooth and I feel like I have to chase to keep up with them but the Stola III seemed to be the perfect sweet spot. On other papers, the Stola III felt even smoother and even had a little bit of a stub look and feel to it which I liked.
The longer I write with the Stola III the more I enjoy the feeling of it. I like the smooth grip section and the weight of the pen. The only other thing I discovered is that because of the way the friction cap works, the cap cannot be posted without potentially damaging the plastic inside the cap that is what makes the closure work and keeps the pen from drying out.
As you can see in the photo above the plastic edge inside the cap sits awfully high and when I tried to rest the cap on the end of the pen I could feel it rubbing on the plastic while simultaneously not making a good seal and wobbling precariously. I did not mind not posting the Stola III as the pen is 4 5/8″ (11.5cm) unposted which was long enough to comfortably write with for me but if your hands are larger it may pose an issue. If you absolutely need to be able to post your cap, then the Stola III might not be your pen of choice.
Compared to the Lamy Safari and Pilot Metropolitan/Retro Pop, the Stola III has a similar overall length and width to the Pilot but does not taper quite as much. It definitely has a more refined, sophisticated look. I’m already thinking of it as my dressier pen where my Retro Pop and Safaris are more playful, casual pens.
Overall, the Stola III offers a lot at a low price point: good looks, metal body, standard European cartridges and converter options, nice nib and build quality. On the downside though, the pen is only available in a medium nib, only available in the silver and black model at present and the cap does not post. Hopefully, Pelikan will consider offering more color and nib size options in the future to make the Stola III more appealing to a wider audience though I think most pen enthusiasts can find a place in their hearts and in their wallets for this little gem.
DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Pen Chalet for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.