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Pen Comparison: Archival Ink

Reported by Cassandra Darwin

I love pens.  Always have.  Probably always will.  And after buying hundreds of different kinds I know that some are (much) better than others.  Here is a quick comparison of just a few that I happened to have handy – I tried to narrow the selection down to dark colors with pigment ink.  First I’ll do a quick review of each pen, then describe a water test I conducted, and finish with summary of all the important facts.

Starting from the top of the picture:

Martha Stewart “Writing Pen” from EK Success

  • Acid-free and archival pigment ink
  • Available in 10 colors
  • 0.5 mm fine tip for writing and drawing
  • $1.99
  • Easy to hold, smooth writing, and color coded on both ends of the pen.  Have not had any problems with bleeding on different paper media.
  • Pigment ink that is waterproof and compatible with Copic markers
  • 4 nib sizes for colors and 7 nib sizes plus two brush sizes in black (0.05 black was tested)
  • Available in 6 colors
  • $2.95
  • This is like the Rolls Royce of pigment pens.  Compatible with every medium, writes smoothly and easily.  I plan to get more sizes and may look into buying the more expensive refillable version.
  • Pigment ink is acid free, archival, waterproof, and fade proof
  • 6 nib sizes (black 0.45 and 0.5 mm sizes were tested  – although my chart below has the wrong sizes listed)
  • 15 colors available
  • $2.79
  • This has been go-to pen for a long time.  I have even been using some of the same pens intermittently for 10+ years without any sign of drying out.  My biggest complaint is that the nib sizing numbers don’t correspond with the nib size – size 08 is actually a 0.5 mm nib.

Gelly Roll Pens from Sakura

  • Archival ink that is waterproof and fade resistant (not pigment ink)
  • The Classic Gelly Roll (solid cap) comes in two nib sizes and 11 colors
  • The five other varieties of Gelly Roll (clear and glitter caps) are avilable in 40+ colors with a variety of metallic and pearl finishes
  • $1.39 – $1.69
  • These are certainly the most affordable option in my comparison, and maybe even the easiest to find in stores.  But the roller ball gel ink does require steady pressure to get an even writing line.  And the Metallic Gelly Roll did not survive my water brush test (below).

Pigment Pro from American Crafts

  • Acid-free archival pigment ink
  • $1.99
  • This pen has been discontinued, but I wanted to include it because this was my first time using it.  I’m not sure if it had been sitting at the store for too long, or what the story was.  But I pulled it out to use it for the first time and it was all dried up!

Click the image below to enlarge see writing examples for each of the pens.

I figured it would be a good idea to test with a wet paintbrush to see which pens can be used with watercolors and markers.  Below is a writing sample for each pen on watercolor paper.

Then I used the water pen to get each line of writing thoroughly wet.  All of the pigment pens passed with flying colors.  But of the Gelly Roll pens, only the Classic version resisted the water – the other metallic varieties had a little to a lot of smearing from the paintbrush.

So what I discovered after this test, is that I really should stick to the pigment pens for my archival projects or anything that may get wet with watercolors, markers, etc.  I still like the Gelly Roll pens, but I will only use those for certain projects and everyday use.
Taking price and color/size availability into consideration, the Pigma Micron pens are the best option for me.  But if anyone wants to splurge and buy me a present, feel free to get me any combination of the Copic Multiliner sets.
What are your thoughts?  Do you have a favorite pigment pen that I didn’t mention? Leave a comment and let us know!
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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?

Vendor Spotlight: Zentangle

Reported by Heather Strenzwilk


According to the Zentangle website, a Zentangle is “an easy to learn method of creating beautiful images from repetitive patterns.” I recently received a Zentangle Kit which contains: an instructional mini DVD, full size DVD, instruction book, heavyweight artist’s paper tiles, 2 Pigma Micron 01 black pens by Sakura, golf pencil, sharpener and 20-sided die in a book shaped box covered with green organic paper. These tools are all you need to create this unique artform.

I had tried unsuccessfully to create Zentangles using information from the Internet. The DVD and companon guide in the kit were what I needed to understand the process and how to replicate the patterns. I began by watching the DVD, in which several Zentangles are created from start to finish accompanied by Oriental background music. In fact there is no dialogue on the DVD. Since I like to work and “listen” rather than watch, this forced me to watch the DVD and observe the technique.

The process is rather simple:

  1. On a tile, mark several points with a pencil and connect the points to create a shape (or tangle).
  2. Draw several lines to portion the tangle into separate areas.
  3. Use a Micron pen to create a unique pattern in each section.
  4. Use the pencil to lightly shade the edges of each pattern and outer edge of the tangle and blend the pencil to give a shaded look.
  5. Add your initials near the finished tile and sign and date the back of the tile.
  6. Admire your work.

These are my first Zentangles- notice the difference between the onces I created with pencil (bottom) vs. Micron pen (top)

After waching the DVD I created my first Zentangles on copy paper, first with a pencil, then a Micron pen. The pen didn’t move smoothly and my pencil shading didn’t blend well at all. I really felt like I was dragging and the process was not fun. I grabbed a Micron pen and created 2 more Zentangles. These were better (Micron pens are some of my favorite pens for journaling).

By this point, my confidence was growing and I felt ready to “graduate” to the tiles.

Once I had created 5-6 Zentangles, I felt more confident with the basic patterns and was able to focus on enjoying the process and not following directions. Once I switched to “fun mode,” I think my Zentangles improved. My nine year-old daughter saw what I was doing and she created several pieces herself. She used a Sharpie Ultra Fine Black Marker and her designs were bolder because of the slightly wider tip. At this point, I also started experimenting with tangles that were not square, but ultimately I prefer squares.

It was easy to add pencil shading using the paper tiles that came with the kit.

Next I graduated to the tiles. What a difference- the tiles are “mould-made, acid-free, 100% cotton, heavy-weight fine artists’ paper with a beautiful vellum surface finish” and were a wonderful surface for the Micron pens. It was very easy to do the pencil shading and blending on thie surface too. The small golf pencil that came with the kit was small for me so I switched to a more common (and longer) #2 pencil and shading remained successful.

On the back of each tile is a place to sign and date your artwork.

When I completed a tile, I added my initials to the lower right corner of the Zentangle. On the back of each tile is a place to add a signature and date. I often forget to date my work so I like this reminder. In the future I want to punch a hole in the corner of some tiles, and add a metal ring to create a mini book of my designs.

Zentangles are definitely fun to create and were a fun way to relax and enjoy some quiet art time with my daughter. I like the relaxing Oriental music on the DVD. This is a very portable artform and one I can easily do while traveling. I sometimes replace form with color; because these are black and white, I am forced to focus on form.

All in all I had fun creating Zentangles. I learned a lot more from the companion guide and DVD than I did from surfing websites for information. The paper tiles are wonderful, and I loved how easy it was to work with them. Micron pens have been one of my staple pens for years, so I was happy to work with them in the kit. Rolling the 20-sided die (Icoshedron) to help me choose a tangle seemed silly to me but might be attractive to someone else. I also liked the box that stores all of the items from the kit (except the full-size DVD which doesn’t fit.) However, the price of the kit was $49.00 which was way more money than I would ever pay for a kit like this.

Pros:

  • Love the paper tiles in the kit. Wish it came with more than 34 tiles.
  • Tools come packed in a sturdy yet attractive storage box
  • Additional tiles are available (55 tiles for $29)
  • Micron pens are excellent pens and perfect for the art form
  • Online gallery for inspiration; live classes available in select areas

Cons:

  • The kit is very expensive ($49.00)

Are you familiar with Zentangles? Please share your thoughts with our readers.

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