Thursday, February 28, 2013

February Miscellany: Mandalas, Highlighters, and Bookmarks

Welcome to this month's miscellany!  February was a short month and a bit frustrating for me in various ways, so I'm feeling a bit relieved that it's over with.  Here are this month's links:
That's all for this month!  Stay tuned for new posts and reviews in March, including a massive new recent acquisitions post...

Monday, February 25, 2013

Current Daily Arsenal

Back in the earlier days of this blog, I used to write occasional posts on my daily arsenal or daily supplies - the pens and other supplies that I use every single day.  I haven't written one of those posts in years, so I thought that it was time to do so again.

Surprisingly, the list hasn't actually changed that much over the years, and the number of items out of my entire collection that I use everyday is also surprisingly small.


  1. Bic ballpoint - Shocked to see this as the first item on my list?  Well, despite the fact that I review all sorts of pens that are much better and more fun than this one, I also believe that there is still a place for the basic ballpoint.  I do a lot of "rough" writing - morning pages, handwritten first drafts, brainstorming, notes to myself - and for these activities it helps me to use a pen and paper that I don't care about very much.  It frees me to write without worrying about wasting a good pen or good paper on something that will probably be soon recycled or is less than quality work.  I can scribble things out, rip out pages, doodle in the margins, and it's totally okay.  It also means that when I do use a good pen on good paper I appreciate it even more.  My current basic ballpoint is a Bic Ultra Round Stic Grip in blue, but for this I'll use whatever I find.
  2. My DIY planner - I wrote about my planner extensively a couple months ago, so I'm not going to go into details now, other than to say that this is my main tool to keep myself organized and to keep track of my goals and to-do lists.  I could probably live without it, but I doubt that I would be as productive without it.
  3. Pilot FriXion Point 04 erasable gel ink pens - These are the pens that I use exclusively for writing with in the monthly and weekly planning sections of my planner.  They are fine-pointed (0.4mm), which allows me to fit more writing into the small boxes in my planner, and they are erasable, enabling me to easily make changes to what I've written - something I do often.  I'm currently using three different colours of these pens (blue, orange, and green), which also allows me to colour-code things in my planner.
  4. Sharpie Accent highlighter - I've had this highlighter for years but I've never used it as a highlighter. since the aqua blue colour (which doesn't seem to be available anymore) is too dark for me.  I use it instead to check off items in my planner as I complete them - a simple but positive way for me to mark my progress.
  5. Staples Better Binder - I originally bought this binder to use at university, but now that I'm not a student anymore, I've started using it instead as my writing binder.  I have sections for fiction, poetry, writing exercises, submissions, and more.  While I do most of my writing on the computer, there are certain things that I only write by hand, so I keep the binder well-stocked with lined looseleaf paper.
  6. Mechanical pencil - I always have a basic mechanical pencil to use both for quick notes during the day and for writing in my writing binder.  I'm currently using a Pentel Fiesta mechanical pencil, which is not very interesting but is sufficient for my needs.


That's it!  Despite all of the diverse items that I have reviewed on this blog over the years, these six items are the only items that I actually use every single day.  They're not glamorous, but they are the basics that I return to again and again.  While I do own other supplies (such as the Pentel Slicci, Pentel EnerGel, Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens, Rhodia Webnotebook, etc.) that I love and use often, I do not use them every day.

What's in your daily arsenal?  What basic supplies do you use every day, even if they're not necessarily fancy or impressive?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Notebooks with Black Paper

I recently received an email from a reader asking where she could buy a notebook with black paper pages to write in with her gel pens.  Since I really don't have a good answer to this myself (I found the black paper notebook in my earlier post on pens for dark paper at my local thrift store), I thought I would put the question out to all of my other readers.  Where can you buy a notebook with black paper pages?  Do you have any specific brands that you would recommend?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Platinum Preppy Highlighter

The Platinum Preppy Highlighter is essentially the same pen as the Platinum Preppy fountain pen, except that instead of a fountain pen nib, it has a felt chisel tip.  The Platinum Preppy highlighter is available in five fluorescent colours - blue, green, orange, pink, and yellow - and you can purchase both refill cartridges and replacement felt nibs, meaning that you should be able to use this highlighter for a long time, at least until the plastic of the pen body itself cracks (and if that happens, check out this article from Writer's Bloc on how to make a long-lasting refillable highlighter).  I'm reviewing the fluorescent green version of the Platinum Preppy Highlighter.


When you first buy this highlighter, it comes with the ink cartridge rattling around loose inside the pen, so you need to install it first before you can start highlighting.  I received a question about installing the cartridge on my original review of the Preppy fountain pen, so I thought I would discuss that in detail in this review, just for anyone who is new to this pen and is not sure what to do.  The process is exactly the same whether you have the Preppy fountain, highlighter, or sign pen.

Here's the cartridge before I installed it:


As you can see in the photo, one end of the cartridge is sealed with a small metal ball.  You want to take that end of the cartridge and push it up into the nib section of the pen.  It may seem a bit hard to push on, but keep going until the cartridge is in place.  The metal ball will be pushed into the cartridge itself and you will be able to hear it rattling around in there.  That is okay.  The nib section with the cartridge inserted into it should now look like this:


Wait a few minutes and you should soon be able to see the felt tip soaking up the ink (obviously you'll only be able to see that with the highlighter or the sign pen and not with the fountain pen).  This is the fun part:


Once that's done, you can pick up your pen and start writing or highlighting with it!

I tried out my Platinum Preppy highlighter first of all on some pages I had printed with my inkjet printer.  It smeared the ink slightly on the freshly printed page (likely the ink was not quite dry yet), but not at all on the older page, which was great, because the ability to use a highlighter on inkjet ink is something that used to be a very important to me (back when all of my notes for university were printed out at home on my printer).  However, the ink did bleed through a bit in some places.  I also tried the highlighter on a page of a textbook, and here it performed well with no bleedthrough at all.  However, because the paper of the textbook had a smooth, non-porous texture, the ink was very slow to dry and some of it was transferred to the opposite page when I closed the book.

Testing out the Platinum Preppy Highlighter, on a page printed on my inkjet printer (left), both an old page (top) and a new page (bottom), and on a page of a textbook.

Finally, I tried out the Platinum Preppy highlighter on some handwriting with different pens.  Although I had let the ink dry for at least ten minutes, there was still some smearing of the ink, especially that of the gel pens. (For some reason, the smearing is not nearly as noticeable in the photo as it is in real life).  Again, older handwriting did not smear.  Obviously you should give your ink time to dry before highlighting, but the Preppy still smeared the ink considerably more than did the Staedtler Textsurfer Classic highlighter, even though the writing samples in both cases had the same amount of time to dry.  Still, it's not really that noticeable, and the writing is still easily legible.


The ink colour of the Platinum Preppy highlighter is very nice.  It's a light and bright shade of green that is not too intense.  If you want a highlighter that really pops and stands out on the page, the colour might not be ideal, but if you prefer a highlighting ink that is more muted and easier on the eyes, then the Preppy's ink certainly satisfies that.

Overall, the Platinum Preppy is a decent highlighter.  The Staedtler Textsurfer Classic is still my favourite highlighter, but as long as you understand that with the Preppy you need to wait a bit longer for your ink to dry and that it may bleed through on some papers, it is definitely acceptable.  I really like the light colour of the ink, and, based on colour alone, the Preppy would probably be my current favourite highlighter for that reason.  The Preppy also gets bonus points for being refillable (both the ink and the tip - only the ink of the Textsurfer Classic can be refilled).  It's definitely worth a try if you're looking for a good highlighter.

Friday, February 15, 2013

How Small Can You Write?

Back in high school my friends and I used to ask each other that question.  We'd all pull out our writing instruments of choice and compete to see who could write the smallest.  I usually won.  If I didn't have the smallest writing, then at least I had the smallest legible writing.

I've mentioned my small handwriting on this blog many times before, so now I thought it was time to both show you my handwriting and ask you the question as well: how small can you write?


The photo above shows a few examples of my handwriting (with a penny for scale).  The first line is my normal handwriting using a standard 0.7mm gel pen.  Usually I don't like using pens of this size because they require me to write larger than I'm comfortable with.  The second line is my normal handwriting with a 0.3mm Pentel Slicci gel pen, the finest pen I own.  This is the size of handwriting that is most comfortable for me, and that I naturally write with when I'm using a fine-tipped pen.  The final two lines are me actually trying to write small; the letters in these lines measure scarcely a millimetre high.  Here's a close-up of those lines:


My handwriting looks a bit messier here and I screwed up the "u" in the second line, but it's still legible.  And the letters on the penny look huge in comparison!  At this scale, I can also see that the ink was feathering quite a bit - not usually something I have an issue with with the Pentel Slicci, but when the writing gets this small even the tiniest bit of feathering becomes a big issue.  (And I also wasn't using Clairefontaine paper, which I should have been doing.)

Obviously, how small you can write depends quite a bit on the kind of pen that you're using.  I'd never be able to write this small with a 0.7mm pen, and I can so far only dream about how small I'd be able to write with a 0.1mm or even 0.05mm pen.  But how small you can go (legibly) also depends on factors such as the steadiness of your hand, your ability to see fine details, and your focus and concentration.  I would never write as small as those final two lines on a regular basis, but it is fun to give it a try now and then.

So, how small can you write?  How small is your regular handwriting?  Feel free to post photos on your blog and share the link here, if you like.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pens for Dark Paper


I don't own very many pens that are suitable for writing on dark paper.  Writing on dark paper isn't exactly something that I do a lot of, but pens for dark paper do come in handy for art journaling, where I may need to write on a coloured background.  And I don't see why you couldn't use dark paper for some of your personal notes and memos to yourself as well - just for fun.

I recently did a quick test of some of the pens I own to see how suitable they were for writing on dark paper.  Here are the results:

(Click to view larger)
The first pen I tried was the Uni-ball Signo Broad white gel pen (1), which was undoubtedly the best pen for writing on dark paper.  It lays down a smooth, bold line that is nearly opaque.  While I usually prefer finer-tipped pens for writing, for some reason a bolder line looks better on dark paper than it does on white paper.  While I only own the white, these pens are also available in a range of colours, including silver and gold.

Next I tried a handful of Sakura Gelly Rolls.  The standard white Gelly Roll (2) was okay.  It didn't write as smoothly as the Uni-ball, and the line was noticeably more transparent (in the photo above, the white Gelly Roll looks grey compared to the Uni-ball), but is more widely available than the Uni-ball.  The Moonlight Gelly Rolls (3) worked well.  They wrote smoothly and the fluorescent colours really popped on the black paper.  But they were still had a slight transparency to them and were not as opaque as the Uni-ball.  The Stardust Gelly Roll (4) was a fail.  You can still read it, but the ink doesn't stand out at all.  The final two Gelly Rolls, the Silver Shadow (5) and Gold Shadow (6) also worked fairly well.  They didn't pop quite as well as the Moonlights, but they still wrote smoothly and were easy to read on the dark paper.  (The photo doesn't do them justice.)  Their ink was also opaque, with none of the transparency of the others.

The 0.8mm metallic Pentel Slicci (7) wrote smoothly, but is a bit muted and slightly transparent.  (The photo makes it look duller than it really is.)  It's acceptable, but it wouldn't be my first choice.  The Sakura Permapaque Opaque Paint Marker (8) continues to disappoint me.  While these markers are great on light papers, they are simply too transparent (despite their name of "opaque") to use on dark paper.  I tried the yellow one here and, while I can still read it, it does not show up very well and it's hard to even tell what colour it is supposed to be.  The Zebra Sarasa SE gel pen (9) actually wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, since it is not marketed as a pen for dark paper.  The ink is easy to read and maintains its colour, although it is a bit dark.  It wouldn't be my first choice, but it's not that bad either.  I knew the Uni-ball Signo DX 0.38mm gel pen (10) wouldn't work very well, and I was right.  If you hold the paper at the right angle, you can read it, but otherwise it fades into obscurity.  My final "pen" was the Sharpie Gel Highlighter (11), which I thought might have worked well - but it didn't.

Overall, the Uni-ball Signo Broad was the clear winner, with the Sakura Gelly Roll Moonlight coming in second.  One thing that I don't have yet is a good marker that writes on dark paper.  Two markers that I have my eye on are the Sharpie water-based paint marker and the Uni-Posca paint marker.  Have any of you tried those?

Do you ever write on dark paper?  What are your favourite pens for doing so?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Old Art Journals Rediscovered: Palimpsest Journal

I title all of my art journals.  I don't really know why.  Perhaps simply because it serves as an easier way to remember and refer to them rather than saying "number three" or "number four."  I titled this journal, my fourth completed art journal, Palimpsest: An Art Journal, because I was recycling it from a notebook I had used before.  The word palimpsest actually refers to a parchment that has had its original writing removed to make way for a new text.  Because many pages of this journal have their previous notes showing through my backgrounds, I thought "palimpsest" would be a suitable title.  The journal itself is a mix including complex multi-layered pages as well as grids, mandalas, and even several pages that contain nothing but stickers.


Despite the diversity of styles, it was easy to pick my favourite page spread.  On this page spread, I'm starting to shift toward a slightly simpler style.  These pages consist of little more than a collection of squares of paper collaged on a painted background and outlined with markers and gel pens, and one of my favourite quotes from Henry David Thoreau, that begins, suitably enough, with, "Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!"  I really love the colours and textures that I collected in these paper scraps, because I usually do prefer muted colours over brighter shades.

Do you prefer simpler art journal pages, or more complex multi-layered pages?  What kinds of colours do you prefer to use?

Other pages from this journal: Hand + Mandala, Grid, Grid + Mandala

~~~

Old Art Journals Rediscovered is a series of posts dedicated to rediscovering the art journals that I have created over the past four years. In each post, I will introduce you to one of my old art journals, and share with you one page spread from that journal - not the page spread that is the prettiest or the fanciest, but the one that speaks most clearly to me today. I hope that by sharing with you the evolution of my own art journals, you will feel inspired to start your own explorations with art.
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