Thursday, November 27, 2014

Black Pen Comparison

Black pens are not all created equal.  While I consider black to be one of the least interesting ink colours out there, it is also (along with blue) one of the most commonly used options.  So here is a comparison of the black pens I have in rotation, as a follow-up to my green pen, blue pen, and red and orange pen comparisons.

Personally, I like my black pens to write with the deepest, darkest black imaginable.  I don't particularly care for black ink (there are so many more fun colours out there), so if I'm going to use it, I want it to be not just black, but BLACK.  My favourite pen in this category is by far the 0.7mm Pentel EnerGel.  Not only does it have rich, deep black ink, it's also very smooth and lays down a luscious and bold line.  The 0.35mm version of the EnerGel has the same ink, but is not as bold as its wider-nibbed cousin.

The Pentel Pulaman disposable fountain pen and Sanford Liquid Expresso also write with a deep, dark black, as does the Uni-ball Vison RT, although since I've had some issues with how the Vision RT writes (occasional skipping), I wouldn't describe it as one of my favourite black pens.  Fine-tipped pens tend not to stand out in this comparison, but the 0.3mm Pentel Slicci actually has quite nice black ink as well.  And for drawing and sketching, the Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen and Tombow Fudenosuke brush pen are also excellent.

My least favourite black pen is the Sharpie Pen Grip; I would describe its ink colour as more of a dark grey than a true black.  Ballpoints typically have greyish, washed-out black inks as well; the two in the comparison, the Pentel Superb and PaperMate FlexGrip Ultra (a generic cheap stick ballpoint) are no exception, and I usually like blue ballpoints better than black ones.

Finally, one pen I left out of this comparison was the Zebra Sarasa.  This has long been one of my favourite 0.7mm gel pens, but a reader recently informed me that Zebra has changed their ink formula in the Sarasa, and I have not yet tried one of the new versions.

What are your favourite black pens and inks?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pen Review: Bic Atlantis Ballpoint

Much to the chagrin of some of my readers, I have been using ballpoints quite a bit lately.  They may not offer the most amazing writing experience in the world, but basic Bic ballpoints do play an important role in my arsenal of writing supplies.  Because of that, I was interested in trying out the Bic Atlantis, Bic's version of the "super-smooth" ballpoint.
At first glance, the Atlantis appears to be a slightly flashier pen than the standard Bics - it's retractable, it has a basic grip, and the name and logo are emblazoned in silver.  It's still a very basic pen, but the design is relatively pleasing and unobtrusive, so I don't have any complaints.  The main thing that stood out to me was the grip; when I first started writing it felt almost slippery, making me feeling as though I had to grip the pen more tightly, but that might have just been me, and I didn't notice it as I continued to write.

Two different versions of the Bic Atlantis.

The most important question here is: Does the Atlantis write noticeably better than the standard Bic ballpoints (e.g., the Bic Cristal)?  Well, the ink doesn't glob, which is great, but standard Bics don't glob very much either.  And it is relatively smooth writing, but it's not the smoothest ballpoint I've ever used (the Uni-ball Jetstream is probably the best pen that I've tried in this category).  I even find the standard Bics to be relatively smooth ballpoints.  And the blue ink seems to me to be a bit pale.

Overall, the Bic Atlantis strikes me a solid, dependable, unremarkable ballpoint, but I can't really discern much of a difference between it and the standard Bic ballpoints - which I also consider to be solid, dependable ballpoints.  Everyone is all about fountain pens these days, but I'm not ashamed to admit that I still like ballpoints (as well as fountain pens).  If you just need a basic pen to toss into your bag, keep at hand for random notes and doodles, or lure potential pen thieves away from your more important pens, than I think that you can't go wrong with a Bic ballpoint - of any kind.

Other reviews: Art Supply Critic, Pocket Blonde, Rhonda Eudaly.

Friday, October 31, 2014

October Miscellany: Pencils, Commonplace Books, Minimalism

I'm catching up from my month of absence, so this miscellany is a bit longer than average.  I hope that in November I'll finally get my blogging schedule fully back on track again.  Thanks so much to all of you for your comments and support!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Favourite Supplies for Art Journaling

I've been keeping some form of art journal for nearly six years now, and a sketchbook for over five years.  I've tried quite a few different supplies over that time: some worked, some didn't, and some I loved but didn't actually use very often.  But I keep going back to the same few basics again and again.  Whether I call it an art journal, visual journal, or sketchbook, these are my essential supplies.
Left to right: Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen, Lyra Rembrandt Aquarell watercolour pencils, Pentel Aquash waterbrush, Uni-ball Signo Broad white gel pen, paper scraps, UHU Stic glue stick, scissors.

  • A fine black permanent felt-tip pen - This is by far the most important item on this list.  I use this for sketching, writing, doodling, or adding details to a collage.  And because it's permanent, I can use watercolours over it.  My favourite pen in this category is the fine Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen (which is also light-fast and acid-free, and relatively comfortable to hold), but many other good options are available, such as the Sakura Pigma Micron or even the Sharpie Pen.
  • Watercolour pencils - I used to use acrylic paints a lot in my art journals, but now I've mostly moved away from them and use watercolours more often.  Watercolour pencils are my favourite way to use watercolours; they're such an easy and convenient way to add a bit colour to a sketchbook page.  Although I'm still very much an amateur, this post describes how I use my watercolour pencils.  (And based on how much I've worn down the pencils, the three colours pictured here - dark green, light green, and light blue - are the colours I use most often.)
  • Waterbrush - This is the perfect complement to watercolour pencils, as it eliminates the need to carry water.  It's also very easy to use.  My waterbrush is the Pentel Aquash, but it's getting a bit worn out so I think I'll give a different brand a try next time.
  • Paper scraps - This year's collage-a-week project has taught me that I still really love collage.  This is a good thing, because my collection of paper scraps is extensive and includes magazine cut-outs, old greeting cards, wrapping paper, scrapbooking paper, origami paper, graph paper, old maps, and anything else I can find.  I love all papers, and I love combining them together to create something new.
  • Scissors - Essential for cutting and trimming above-mentioned paper scraps.  My scissors are not any particular brand, but I've owned them for just about forever.  In addition to scissors, I also love my paper trimmer (similar to this one); if I need to cut a lot of papers to size this is much faster and easier than scissors.  I've used my trimmer for years and I haven't needed to replace the blade yet.
  • Glue stick - Another collage essential.  My favourite glue stick is the UHU Stic, which I can find just about anywhere.  It goes on smoothly and is acid-free - just be sure to apply a nice thick layer to ensure that your paper will stick (focus on the edges and corners), and have a piece of scrap paper covering your workspace so your desk doesn't end up all gluey.  If you're gluing heavier-weight papers or painting over your glued-down papers, you probably need a stronger glue, but UHU works for me most of the time.  (And I find it rather amusing that this is the very same glue I used way back in kindergarten!)
  • White gel pen - For doodling and writing over dark backgrounds, and adding white highlights to watercolour sketches.  The best white gel pen I have found is the Uni-ball Signo Broad (or UM-153), which writes smoothly with a thick, opaque white line.  (Although, as I found out the hard way, it will dry up if you don't use it often enough.)

I love how most of my favourite supplies are very basic, inexpensive, and easy to find.  And all of them can fit easily into a pen case to form a simple travel art kit.  As I said in my post on my favourite supplies for writing, the tools you use ultimately don't matter.  What matters is the art you create with them.

If you keep an art journal or sketchbook, what are your favourite supplies?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Eraser Review: Tombow MONO Zero

The Tombow MONO Zero eraser is the most unique eraser I own.  It's a mechanical, retractable eraser with a cool, silver-and-black colour scheme and clean, straight lines.

But the most unique thing about it is the eraser itself, which is only 2.3mm in diameter.  Compared to all of the other erasers that I've ever used in my life, this is incredibly tiny.  Here it is compared to a wooden pencil so you can get some idea of how tiny the eraser is:

Obviously, this is not an everyday eraser.  This eraser is for precise erasing, so that you can remove exactly what you want from your work without messing up your surrounding drawing.  Personally, I'm not that fussy about details when I sketch, so I doubt that I'll get much use out of this eraser.  And I'm not impressed with how the eraser works either.  In my test, it left a definite shadow behind, although to be fair, this kind of erasing is not the intended use of the Zero and if you were erasing a smaller area, the shadow would likely not be as visible.  The eraser also seems to me to be firmer than other erasers I've used and so I feel I need to use more pressure with it, but maybe it needs to be that way for strength, because it is so small.

The end of the eraser is marked with the size (2.3mm) in red.  I at first assumed that this meant there were other sizes available (that way you could easily distinguish between sizes), but this is not so.  However, refills for this eraser are available, and you can also buy a similar eraser that is rectangular instead of round, and has a black body instead of silver.  That eraser sounds intriguing as well, and I would love to hear from anyone who has used it.

Overall, the Tombow MONO Zero eraser is unique, but not something that I can see myself using often.  If you're a perfectionist in your drawings, you might get more use out of it than I do.  And if you just like collecting erasers, then you'll probably want one.  From the other reviews I've read, I know that some people will love this eraser because of how precise it is, but it is just not for me.

Would you use this eraser?


Other reviews: Dave's Mechanical Pencils, OfficeSupplyGeek, Comfortable Shoes Studio.

Note: I received this eraser free of charge from Tombow USA, but that did not affect my review.

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