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Vendor Spotlight: Sakura

Reported by Rachel Johnson

I am dedicated to writing honest craft product reviews, so I must tell you the truth… I was already a huge fan of Sakura pens before I was assigned to review their products for Craft Critique. I have been using their Metallic and Stardust pens for nearly ten years and always have a pink or green one in my bag for crafty emergencies. I was very excited for this opportunity to review more of Sakura’s products.

Based in Japan, Sakura has been making quality “marking tools” since 1921. They invented gel ink in 1984, and in 2002 they invented the 3-D ink used in their Glaze and Souffle pens. Many of Sakura’s inks have been patented, and the company makes both mainstream pens and professional artist tools. In my opinion, Sakura Gelly Roll gel pens are the highest quality pens you can buy. Even the design and packaging of the pens is superb!


I received a wide variety of Sakura’s pen products to review, some of which I had never used before. My first step in trying out the products was to create a “glossary” of pen types on both white and black paper so that I would have a resource which could help me determine which type of pen I should use in different situations. I used thick, smooth card stock for my tests seen below.

Following are my observations of each type of pen.

Glaze: These pens create a thick 3-D line and their ink is slightly transparent. They create vibrant color on white, but most colors do not show up well on black. You can use the Glaze pens alone or with Sakura Stick-lers to create 3-D decorations on any surface (like cell phones, mirrors, etc.), and they create a cool stained glass effect when used on clear surfaces, like vellum paper. In my opinion, Glaze pens are not very good for letter or note writing. They take a while to dry, and can be a bit tacky once they do dry, so I suggest not stacking paper with Glaze ink on top of each other. You also sometimes need to wipe off the tip of the Glaze pens to remove excess ink.

Stardust: These are my favorite pens to use on white paper. They are super-sparkly, with glitter included in the ink (I mean, who doesn’t like a glitter gel pen?!). They are slightly transparent, but much more opaque than the Glaze. You can use them on black for decorative elements, or just to add a little sparkle, but they are not the best writing pen for use on black. Stardust’s gel ink is not 3-D, so it dries much more quickly than the Glaze ink. I like to use these pens to write letters and notes, but the ink is not archival, so you may not want to use them in memory books. Sakura also makes a clear version of the Stardust pen which you can use to add a touch of glitter anywhere!

Metallic: I think these gel pens are best for conventional letter writing – although they are much more than a conventional pen! The ink is silvery and shiny, but not glittery. They need practically no drying time, and leave a thin line. I personally like the sepia brown color as an alternative to a boring black pen. The Metallic pens show up silvery-opaque on black. They are also archival, waterproof, and fade-resistant – perfect for use in scrapbooks. All that, and they come with adorable glittery caps! Perfect!


Moonlight: I received the fluorescent Dawn Color Moonlight gel pens to review. They are opaque, luminous, neon colors that will glow under black light. The Moonlight pens are super smooth and fun to use! They look great on white, but are amazingly bright on black. They write almost like paint pens on many types of surfaces, even photos.

Souffle: These pens are a very unique product. They have a 3-D opaque ink that dries to a completely matte finish that almost looks chalky. I love the baby pink, teal, and charcoal black colors! For the best results, write slowly and allow a considerable amount of time (at least 5 minutes) for the ink to dry. The colors become more opaque as the ink dries, especially on black paper. Souffle pens work on nearly any surface, but they are most striking on dark colors. In fact, they are my favorite pens to use on black paper. They leave a cool raised line, but be careful; you can scratch the finish of the Souffle ink even when dry.

Pen-touch Silver Metallic Marker: This is a very smooth, very opaque, silver paint pen. It is even completely opaque and shiny on black. Impressive!

Permapaque: These are opaque paint markers that are two-sided, with a fine tip and a chisel tip. They write on any surface and are archival, non-toxic, odorless, and waterproof. They work like permanent Sharpie markers, but are more opaque and write on black! They would make fantastic poster markers.

Quickie Glue Pen: This product is revolutionary! It is my favorite new product. It produces a smooth thin glue line, great for use with glitter. You can write out words or doodles and then coat with fine glitter for a detailed effect. I highly recommended this product if you like adding glitter to your designs! It is great for precision work and delicate or detailed paper craft projects, but it is not the most tacky or strong glue – it is not for gluing down large elements. Also, write slowly with the Quickie Glue Pen for the best results.


Once I had tried out all of the different pens, I went to work on a few craft projects using the pens as my main craft tool. Just as an example of how you can use many of the Sakura pens on black paper, I made a tag for a small gift using the pink Moonlight pen for the writing and the clear Stardust pen for the hearts and stars. The tag is simple, but I think it makes a strong impression because of the bright pink color.


Next, I created an 8″x 8″ inch scrapbook page. I was determined to create all of the embellishments and patterns from scratch using only Sakura pens. The only supplies I used for the page were plain white, purple, pink, and black paper and the range of Sakura pens seen above. I added a few sparkly embellishments to the page at the end, but everything else was drawn by hand by me.


I created the background ripple pattern using the pink Glaze pen on white paper. I made the long photo border using black paper and the purple Souffle pen, layered with the pink Stardust pen, pink Moonlight pen, and white Souffle pen. I drew the square photo frame using the black Glaze pen on purple paper with pink & purple Souffle accents. For the journaling element, I used the purple Metallic pen and the black Souffle pen. The word “family” was created using the Quickie Glue Pen and my own charcoal grey glitter. It was very simple to write with the glue pen and add glitter after I had written out the full word. The flower embellishments on the page were made using a combination of many different pens on different colors of card stock. It was fun to experiment with the different colors and textures!


Even though I sometimes frown at my own handwriting, it was was cool to create a memory page using only my creativity and doodling skills instead of simply buying patterned papers and factory-made embellishments. The variety of pen styles pushed me to expand on my decorative style and try out new techniques. I am happy with the result!


I continued my foray into making my own decorative elements by creating a Halloween card. I used only the handful Glaze and Souffle pens seen below to create all of the elements on the paper card. I like how slick and shiny the Glaze colors became, but it was a little bit difficult to fill in the large area of the pumpkin – some parts would start to dry while I was still filling in adjacent areas. The resulting finish is not as consistent as I would like. It also took quite a while for the different elements to dry, so I had to wait longer than usual to assemble the final card. Despite the slight frustration with the drying time, I am impressed with how vivid all of the colors on the card turned out, and am pleased to have created something unique.


I have always been impressed with Sakura’s pen quality, but their dedication to innovation is what really sets their products apart. After exploring the many varieties of Sakura pens, I know that there is a pen out there for any type of project I can imagine. I would highly recommend all of the Sakura products I have tried. However, it is important to read the pen descriptions and match the correct pen to your project in order to get the desired effect.

Pros:

  • There is an amazing variety of Sakura pen types and colors.
  • Many of the pens can write on almost any surface, including dark surfaces, glass, and metal.
  • High quality, “ice cream smooth” gel ink that stay viable for years (some of my Sakura pens are nearly ten years old!).
  • Permanent, water-proof, archival, and fade-resistant options.
  • Innovative 3-D inks (in the Glaze and Souffle pens) that add texture to your designs.
  • Fun and distinctive pen design – I love those colored caps!

Cons:

  • Some pens, such as the 3-D Glaze and Souffle, take a long time to dry.
  • Glaze pens don’t show up well on dark surfaces.
  • Not all Sakura inks are archival – check the packaging for details.

Have you used these or other Sakura products? Which are you favorites?

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13 Responses to Vendor Spotlight: Sakura

  1. Lorraine October 9, 2009 at 2:45 pm #

    I love the Souffle and Glaze pens! Beautiful results with both!

  2. Patchi October 9, 2009 at 3:10 pm #

    Thank you so much for these reviews! I wanted to buy Souffle pens a year ago, but the reviews I read were not that good – probably because most people are looking for journaling pens…

  3. M October 9, 2009 at 7:56 pm #

    Excellent review. Very thorough. Lovely design ideas and results. Tha nk you!

  4. Jennifer October 9, 2009 at 9:08 pm #

    thanks for the great review! i received the clear Stardust and a Quickie Glue pen in swaps. i haven’t gotten a chance to using them yet, but now that i have your advice on how to use them, i think i’ll go make some notecards and bookmarks! 🙂

  5. Michelle E October 10, 2009 at 9:46 am #

    The Stardust clear pens are my favorite – gotta have ’em!

  6. Jen October 10, 2009 at 3:36 pm #

    Great review, your projects using just the pens are amazing!

  7. Jill October 10, 2009 at 6:52 pm #

    I like the pens… BUT I have some issues with a line through the ink. Any suggestions?

    I am addicted to the Stardust pen!

  8. rachel johnson October 10, 2009 at 6:59 pm #

    Thanks for all of the kind comments!

    I think I know what you mean about the line through the ink, Jill… I think it happens when some dry ink gets in the way. Usually, if i tap the pens and draw a bunch of scribbles to get the ink flowing, that line goes away.

  9. Jill October 12, 2009 at 8:48 am #

    Thanks! I will try it.

  10. Tricia October 12, 2009 at 12:54 pm #

    Have you tested the permapaque pens on fabric? My boys have black gloves this year and I need something to label them – yellow sharpies aren’t doing the trick…

  11. rachel johnson October 14, 2009 at 10:57 am #

    I have a few corrections that I wanted to add to my review:

    Regarding the archival quality of the pens, nearly all of the Sakura Gelly Roll pens are actually archival. The Stardust pens DO use archival ink, but they are not technically classified as archival because the glitter in the ink can rub off a bit over time… There is a lot more info about the pens on the website if you have questions: http://www.sakuraofamerica.com/

    Regarding the souffle pens, the colors that I like best are actually called pink, green, and gray (not pink, teal, and black) – Just in case you are looking for those colors in the store.

  12. Btrflywmn October 18, 2009 at 3:19 pm #

    I haven’t used these, but they look so cool. Can’t wait to try them.

  13. Jacquie Hart October 18, 2009 at 5:17 pm #

    I have the Souffle, Gelly Roll, Stardust, and the adhesive pen—I LOVE THEM ALL!!

    Jacquie