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Black Pen Comparison

With so many black pens out on the market, choosing the right one for your project can be confusing. Today I’m going to show you a few of my favorites and tell you a little about the advantages of each of them. This comparison will focus on my five favorite pens – Sharpie Ultra Fine Point, Copic Multiliner, Copic Multiliner SP, Zig Millenium (by EK Success), and Pigma Micron (by Sakura).

Here is a brief summary of each pen:

Zig Millenium:
Each of the markers features pigment ink that has been tested for archival quality. All are acid-free, lightfast, colorfast, waterproof, fade-proof, non-bleeding and smear-proof, once dry. The pens are available in a range of nib sizes and retail (in sets) for around $16.00.

Pigma Micron:
These pens contain archival ink for use in acid-free environments. They are chemically stable, waterproof, and fade resistant. According to the Sakura website, their should be no bleed-through or smears of the ink once it is dry. The pens are available in a range of nib sizes and retail for around $3.00. They may also be purchased in sets.

Copic Mulitliner and Multiliner SP:
These pens are pigment inks that have replaceable nibs and are refillable. According to the Copic website, the multiliners will not bleed when used with Copic markers. The same claim is made for the mulitliner sp. Both types of pen are available in multiple tip widths and retail for anywhere from $6.00 to $9.00 individually. They can also be purchased in sets.

Sharpie Ultra Fine Point:
Sharpie markers have a tough, resilient tip that produces a quick flowing, fast drying ink. Sharpie Ink resists water, and is permanent. The Ultra-Fine Point Sharpie has an extra-fine, hard nylon point for a 0.3 mm line width; they come in a variety of colors. These markers retail from $1.00 and up and are can be purchased individually or in sets.

The picture above is what each pen looks like when it writes on Georgia Pacific White cardstock. Each one of them can be used for writing, although I’d recommend the Zig Millenium or Pigma Micron. I chose the .01 width for those two pens because they are thin enough to use on handwritten notes as well as color fine detail images.  The Pigma Micron pens are specifically marketed for “fine point technical and artistic applications.” Sharpies will write on anything (paper and beyond – fabric, ziploc bags, containers, etc) and stay put – although they bleed through most paper. The Copics are lovely and smooth to write with but they do bleed through cardstock, so if you were writing a note to someone I would not recommend them. Of the pens I am focusing on today, the Pigma Micron writes the smoothest – it literally glides across the paper.

Next I used each pen to draw a small square. I wrote the name of each pen inside, gave it a minute (two minutes max) to air dry, and then colored them each with a Copic Sketch marker. I did not heat set any of them but I did “finger test” them to see if they were dry. The Copic Multiliner SP and the Zig Millenium are the only two that did not smudge or smear at all. The Copic Multliner only smeared a little bit – I have discovered that it just needs a bit more drying time because it is a wider-nib pen. The Sharpie marker not only smudged, it bled and mixed with the Copic ink. You should be able to see that about the word in the box. It seemed dry before I colored it. The Micron pen also smeared badly.

I next tested the pens out by making a Zentangle. If you don’t know what these are, here is a review of them I wrote awhile back. Included in the Zentangle kit are two Pigma Micron pens (remember I mentioned they were marketed for fine detail work). The tile is one that was also included in the kit. It is heavyweight, 100% cotton artist’s paper with a vellum finish. Starting at the top, I used the Zig Millenium (in the section that looks like a chart graph with circles), the Copic Multiliner (in the section with darkened semi circles around the edge), the Pigma Micron (in the section full of small circles and black space between them),  the Sharpie Ultra Fine Point (in the section with the white pipes and black spaces), and the Copic Multiliner SP (in the section that looks like tile flooring on the bottom). Each pen worked fine and none bled through the paper. Once again, the Pigma Micron out-shined the others in terms of detail work (it colored in the small spaces the best, and its black is the blackest one). The Sharpie marker leaked out a bit of ink when I stopped drawing – you can see that some of the white pipes have black line on them.

And here is my favorite use for the Copic Multiliners – correcting my stamp mistakes. This is a very large image. The card measures 5.5 inches square. So it can be hard to get a perfect impression of the stamp. Down by her shoes, on the diamond shaped grid, I didn’t. It was very spotty. Before I colored with Copic Sketch markers, I used the Multiliner SP to draw in the areas that I missed with ink. It’s only noticeable if you really stare at it – see how a couple of the diamonds are a bit darker? That is because my Multiliner SP has a wider nib. The smaller the nib width the finer your detail work can be. This image sat uncolored overnight, and had no bleeding problems at all.

Each of these pens has its advantages and disadvantages. As a person who does different types of crafts – card making, scrapbooking, art journaling – I feel comfortable saying that all of them are worth having in your arsenal. I use all of them regularly – the Zig Millenium and the Pigma Micron for writing, the Copic Multiliners for fixing mistakes and adding to stamped images, and the Sharpie for art journaling and just about everything else around the house.

I’d love to hear from you! What is your favorite black pen?

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11 Responses to Black Pen Comparison

  1. Avatar
    Michelle Hessler September 21, 2010 at 7:34 am #

    The one thing you don’t mention is that the Copic Multiliner SP’s come in MANY sizes, not just the 0.7 size. I use a .05 multiliner as well as a .3 for journailing and writing, it is an extremely fine tip. Also, the nibs on the copics are all replaceable, so if you damage one, you can replace the nib, which is really important, especially if you tend to press hard and are using one of the superfine points.

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    Michellem September 21, 2010 at 9:31 am #

    You did a really great job on this review! I have all the pens you used and I agree with you – I usually grab for my Pigma Micron pen first – then usually for my ZIG pens because I have the collection of them. When I Zentangle I like to use a couple of sizes of pen nibs. My Copic Multiliner is a favorite too!

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    RosieP September 21, 2010 at 9:32 am #

    My favorite – and affordable – black pen is Staedtler triplus fineliner. Also, comes in a set; sets can be purchased for about $15 at places like Michaels and Hobby Lobby using a coupon.

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    Erika M. September 21, 2010 at 9:34 am #

    I would be interested in knowing which pen you thought would be best to use in art journaling – writing on paint, gesso, etc.

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    Becky September 21, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    I am a copics fan, I love the multiliners, and I us the .05.

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    Jan Castle September 21, 2010 at 12:32 pm #

    I use the Copic Multiliner SP 0.1 for ‘fixing’ stamped lines, etc. and it works well when I use Copics for coloring an image…no smearing. I have all the pens you mentioned and appreciate your critique because I bought them all to try with my Copic coloring. Having discovered the hard way which works…now I know what to do with the rest of the pens-LOL! Thanks,
    Jan Castle

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    Alex September 21, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

    Very helpful and detailed. I love my Micron pen for writing and journaling in scrapbooks. Got hooked with CM long ago and those things just don’t dry up. Just got the Copic multiliner with the plan to use to fix stamping mistakes. Thank you for all this information!!!!

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    Chookarooni September 21, 2010 at 5:29 pm #

    Yes my favorite is the Micron – will admit haven’t tried all of them but love, love, love a very fine tip – the sharpie (even the smallest one – still not fine enough for me)

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    Jessica September 22, 2010 at 12:20 am #

    i use the Pigma Micron and Sharpie markers, as well as the Sharpie pen. If i’m not doing wet work and am writing/drawing on plain, unpainted paper, i use the Micron. It’s perfect for detail work, and the ink seems to last a long time. The Sharpie fine point marker is my must-have for art journaling. It’s the only one i’ve used so far that can write over gessoed or painted pages in my art journal, though sometimes it gets a little clogged; i scribble onto clean paper, though, and it comes right back. i like the Sharpie pen for writing, but not on painted pages – it doesn’t do as well as the marker version. Thanks for the review!

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    Taylor September 25, 2010 at 7:18 pm #

    @ErikaM – for art journaling I always use a Sharpie. Because they are inexpensive, i don’t worry if the texture I’ve laid down tears up the nib. And they write well over the gesso. I’ve heard people say that Copics will work well, but I’ve also heard people say it destroys the nibs. I’m afraid to destroy a nib, lol.

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    Gladtobemom October 13, 2010 at 8:22 pm #

    I’ve used all these pens. The Pigma Micron pens are nice, but the Copic Multiliner SP are the ones I won’t do without.
    It’s a BIG deal to me that they have replaceable nibs and can be refilled inexpensively. I can take off the tip, clean it, adjust it, or even change it for another kind if I decide I don’t really like that nib.

    I also find that the ink doesn’t bleed when I use watercolor washes or markers over the dried ink . . . which is a HUGE plus.

    I do use the Pigma Microns to make up little kits to give to people because they are the most cost effective. A hot pressed watercolor sketchbook, a 0.2mm Pigma Micron Pen, a water brush, and some watercolor pencils makes a really dandy shut in present . . . especially if you combine it with a Zentangle or Totally Tangled book.