Monday, December 24, 2012

Top 10 of 2012

The end of the year has rolled around and that means it is time for my list of my top ten supplies that I used in 2012!  This is not a list of new products of 2012 or of items that I would recommend, but merely a list of my personal favourites that I loved using over the past year.  Here it is!

Left to right: Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen Extra-Fine, Rhodia Webnotebook Dot Grid, Lamy Safari fountain pen, Pentel Aquash waterbrush, Lyra Rembrandt Aquarell watercolour pencils.
1. Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen Super-Fine

I haven't been doing as much writing by hand this year as I no longer need to take notes for university, but I have been doing a lot more drawing and sketching.  Not surprisingly, my top pen of the year is a drawing pen.  The Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens are the best drawing pens that I have used so far.  The ink is waterproof, lightfast, and quick-drying, making it a good choice to use in my watercolour sketches.  I love a basic black felt or plastic tip pen for sketching, and while I have a set of these pens in four different nib sizes, the finest of them, the super-fine, is the one I reach for the most.  I seriously couldn't live without this pen.

2. Pentel Aquash Waterbrush

A waterbrush is a paintbrush with a plastic handle that you can fill with water and then lightly squeeze the handle to wet the bristles.  This brush has transformed my relationship to my art - I'm not kidding.  It has made using my watercolour pencils so easy that now I find myself reaching for them almost every time I want to create art, whereas before I hardly ever used watercolours.  I know I've said it before, but if you want to getting started in watercolours, the combination of a waterbrush and watercolour pencils is a great way to start.

3. Lyra Rembrandt Aquarell watercolour pencils

Watercolour pencils are just like normal coloured pencils except that they are watersoluble.  Just colour the way you would with a pencil, then add water to it and it turns into a watercolour painting.  This is actually the only brand of watercolour pencils that I have used, so I'm sure there are better ones out there, but I absolutely love these regardless.  I never really used to like working with watercolours until I paired these pencils with my waterbrush.  Now, watercolours are so much more fun and easy, and I find myself reaching for these pencils and my waterbrush nearly all the time.

4. Rhodia Webnotebook Dot Grid

The Rhodia Webnotebook showed up on last year's list, but this year it is the dot grid version (affectionately known as the Dot Webbie) that really captured my heart over the unlined one.  Why is the dot grid awesome?  It still gives you the look of unlined paper, but the dots allow you to precisely line up lists and columns of writing.  The dots also don't break up your writing the way a normal grid does.  And of course all Webbies have Rhodia's usual awesome paper.

5. Lamy Safari fountain pen, limited edition green colour

This is my first "real" fountain pen, and also the most expensive pen I have bought so far.  It writes very smoothly, has an awesome clip, and can be refilled with bottled inks.  And did I mention that it's a beautiful green colour?  The only thing preventing this pen from being higher on my list is that I bought the fine nibbed version rather than the extra-fine.  At some point I'll probably buy the extra-fine nib and switch it with my fine nib and then I'll love this pen even more.

Top to bottom: Uni-ball Signo Broad white gel pen, Pilot FriXion Point 04 Orange, Uni-ball Signo DX 0.28mm Emerald Green, Pentel EnerGel Euro 0.35mm Black, Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2B.

6. Uni-ball Signo Broad white gel pen

The best white pen ever.  Seriously.  It writes amazingly smoothly, and the ink is a solid white that writes on almost every surface.  I originally bought it for writing on dark papers in my art journal, but I haven't actually used it much for that.  I really love it for adding white highlights to my watercolour sketches.  Another essential addition to my art supply kit.

7. Pilot FriXion Point 04

This is not the smoothest writing fine point gel pen I've ever used, but it is the only one I've used that is erasable.  I use this pen in my planner because it is fine enough to allow me to write in small spaces and because it allows me to easily make changes to my schedule and to-do lists.  The slightly greyed, muted colours - although some people don't like them - give a more soothing look to my planner pages than bolder colours.

8. Uni-ball Signo DX 0.28mm Emerald Green

This is a rather unexpected addition to the list.  Although the 0.38mm DX has long been one of my favourite pens, I had mixed feelings about the 0.28mm in my original review.  But given my penchant for fine lines, I've slowly grown to love this pen and I'm willing to put up with a bit of extra scratchiness to get that finer line.  I also love the emerald green colour - it's light and bright, but still dark enough to read clearly.  I usually prefer yellower greens, but this emerald is also a lovely shade.

9. Pentel EnerGel Euro 0.35mm Black

The Pentel EnerGel has long been one of my favourite basic everyday writing pens for its incredibly smooth feel and vivid colours.  Now that it is available in a sub-0.5mm tip size, I love it even more - and it still writes just as smoothly as ever.  I also appreciate the slightly more streamlined and compact look of the EnerGel Euro as compared to the standard EnerGel.  There may be other pens that I find more fun to use or that come in more interesting colours, but for a basic writing pen, this is my favourite.

10. Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2B Pencil

Shocked to see a pencil on this list?  I think I am...  I started using wooden pencils again this year for the first time since elementary school, and so far I have really been enjoying the experience - even though the feel of writing with a wooden pencil is completely different from that of a pen.  This is my favourite of the wooden pencils that I have tried so far, and, while it has not received as much use as the other items on this list, I do want to use it more in the coming year.


So that's all for this year's top ten!  What were your favourite supplies of the year?  Any surprises?


  1. sweet! I've always wanted a water brush, and I must check out out that white gel pen. thank you for sharing. very helpful!

    1. Thanks, Jenny! The Signo is definitely the first white pen I would recommend. It may not be perfect in all situations, but for what I use it for, it's just right!

  2. Haha, I do have a lime green safari in EF and it's still scratchy after 3 months of breaking in. However, I got a red one with fine nib and was much happier about it (now I lost it...bummmer). Now I wish I have switched the nib between the two before I lost it.

    I have had the Pentel aquash on my wishlist for quite a while now. I guess now there is one more reason for me to get it.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Citrine! When I bought my Safari I was a bit worried about the EF being scratchy so that was why I settled for the F instead. I still want to try the EF out though; I think I could probably put up with a bit of extra scratchiness in order to get that finer line.

  3. I have an EF nib on my Lamy Vista - my experience is that it's pretty smooth - they're not hugely expensive, and it's easy to swap them, so it might be worth trying another, Citrine.

    Speaking of EFs, I've been impressed by the EF on my Kaweco Sport this year - really nice writer, and the pen is very handy to carry about.

    I'm pleased to see someone else using the Signo for white highlights on watercolour, although my experience is that it stands out a bit too much sometimes - I'm thinking I may try some white gouache instead. Anecdotally, I've heard people speak highly of the Sakura Gellyroll white pen too, so if you ever can't get a Signo...

    Woodcase pencils - I like the Faber Castell 9000 best - their 2B is beautifully smooth and dark - I have some Staedtlers, but they're "Tradition" 3Hs, for construction lines mostly.

    1. Thanks for the comment, John! I'd love to try some white gouache as well one day, although I'm still a bit intimidated by actual watercolour paints rather than the watercolour pencils that I have been using. I like the white pen because it cheap, easy to store in my pencil case, and I can use it for doodling or writing on dark paper as well. I have the white Sakura Gelly Roll as well, but its ink is not as opaque as that of the Signo, although it's not too bad.

      I do want to try more wooden pencils! That Faber Castell 9000 sounds very nice...

    2. I have watercolour pencils (Derwent Academy), but I use them dry (mostly).

      This is my watercolour paint set; and I found it a bit intimidating at first too! I think the big plus is how easily they mix and form a wash though - for that, you surrender a little portability, and some control in comparison with the pencils. Worth a try though, and these little sketcher's sets aren't expensive, in general.

    3. I should just give in and buy a set. Although I don't know if I would use paints often enough to justify a purchase, I would love to try watercolour washes. I like the pan watercolours because they look a bit more portable than the tube paints.

    4. Definitely! Winsor and Newton, or Daler Rowney's "student" level sets won't break the bank, and I think you'll be surprised by how much better the washes can be than with pencils. ("Artist" level paint is the professional stuff, made with more exotic pigments, and so more expensive).

      If you go for the Cotman set, bear in mind that the brush is great for detail, but doesn't hold much water - I bought some Daler & Rowney "Simply" brushes to supplement it recently (£4 for three round brushes in various sizes), and they've been great so far. (Or just use your waterbrush, of course!)

      Pans are convenient, but you can, if you can't find the pigments you like, use tube watercolours in a portable kit too - people seem to just let them dry, and reactivate them with water. Russ Stutler's site is quite inspiring, and I think he uses that method;


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