Fine Point Pen Comparison: Uni Pin, Pitt Artist, Jetstream

Review by Tina Koyama

Last winter when the weather was too yucky for urban sketching, I entertained myself by drawing pet portraits. I started by surprising friends with sketches of their pets using photos that they had posted on social media. Then it turned into a fundraiser for Dog Gone Seattle, a local rescue and adoption organization. In all, I made more than 70 portraits of mostly dogs and cats, but also one horse, one bearded dragon and one chameleon (you can see them all here). 

Many of the portraits were made on the covers of Field Notes Brand Birch Bark notebooks, which have a wonderful cover stock that I found especially delightful to work on with pencil, pen and even watercolor. The portraits were tiny, though, with lots of fine whiskers and hairs – which meant that sometimes I needed finer point pens than I would typically use for drawing or even writing (my big handwriting isn’t attractive with a fine point). I bought several for my needs, and I thought it would be fun to compare some by drawing a few kitties. (Although they have different names, I’m skeptical: I think the owner has only one cat and is pretending she has many – they look identical!)

The three pens I’m comparing are the Uni Pin Pen 003 (0.03mm, pigment ink, $1.75), the Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen XS  (0.1mm, India ink, $3.70), and the Uni Jetstream standard ballpoint (0.38mm, oil-based ballpoint, $2.50). These aren’t quite apples to apples – the point sizes differ, as do the ink types – but since I rarely use pens this fine except for special applications like whiskers, I considered the selection a “sampler.” 

First, I compared the three for writing and scribbling on basic Field Notes paper, which is smooth. The Jetstream ballpoint was by far the smoothest writing experience. At larger point sizes, Uni’s “hybrid” ballpoint ink is one of my favorites for basic writing – smooth, reliable, blob-free.

Both the Uni Pin and PITT felt scratchy, which surprised me on this smooth paper (granted, I’m more accustomed to larger points in all types of pens). For shading, the PITT was my least favorite: It has the type of nib that must be held vertically to get a consistent line, so when I held it at a natural angle to shade, it felt even scratchier, and the ink application was inconsistent. The Uni Pin, which has a similar “needle point” as the PITT, was more forgiving and could be held at a slight angle and still produce consistent lines (hmmm, too bad I lose my ability to spell when I get into scribbling mode). It also felt smoother.

For the sketch tests, I deliberately chose paper I thought might be challenging. I was recently given a pack of Crescent Artist Trading Cards containing colored, double-sided boards appropriate for mixed media and collage. The paper has a strong tooth that I knew might be too rough for these fine points, but what the hey – I knew the portraits would be small and not very time-consuming.

First I drew Zoey with the Uni Pin. Despite the tooth, the Uni was pleasant to use, and the ink was beautiful for fine hatching. (Other materials used for all portraits: white Prismacolor Premier and white Sakura Gelly Roll 1.0mm.) 

Next up was CJ with the PITT. Oof – that one was hard to get through: Toothy paper with scratchy pen equals ARRGH. Although the result came out OK, the ink coverage is a bit inconsistent because I kept wanting to hold the point at an angle. I really like PITT Artist Pens in larger point sizes and use lots of them, especially the brush tip, but this XS size is definitely not a favorite.

The final sketch test was Cooper with the Jetstream. I felt the expected feedback, but not unpleasantly, and the ink coverage was excellent. When I get in the mood to draw with ballpoint, I typically reach for a classic Bic, but the Jetstream is now a close second.

That concludes the kitty test, which may or may not be helpful to you in choosing a fine point pen, but it sure was fun for me!

OK, so we’ve all seen photos of Ana’s multiple cats, but do we believe they are all different cats? Or PhotoShop trickery posed by one tabby? 

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

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