As if I needed another reason to love Askew Taylor, they now have a rack of open stock Caran D'Ache Museum Aquarelle pencils. At check out, the helpful clerk told me that there was a free sample for them and went back to the paints section and got me this 710-Phthalocyanine green pencil. Both the holding card and the barrel of the sample pencil are clearly marked "not for sale". They just got them in, so you might want to drop by the store if you would like to try one of these samples. These Museum pencils might very well be the best watercolor pencils in the market. "Bright translucent colors, great solubility, the liquid watercolor handles just like watercolor paint, and the ability to effectively combine drawing and painting with one tool" are the main features that come to mind when playing with these fine artists watercolor pencils.
Also grabbed the green metal Fixpencil 884 2 mm leadholder for my pencil collection. The Fixpencil 884 is the kid version of the classic Fixpencil 22. They are the exact same dimensions, but its coating is sleek and shinny and its grip area is slightly ridged. Its pocket clip slides out a bit more easily that on the satin black finish of the Fixpencil 22. To make them more comfortable for long drawing sessions, I like to use plastic pencil grips on my Fixpencils. Their aluminum barrels are lightweight but feel cool and quite strong and solid at the same time. The built-in pointer in the plastic push button is effective and a convenient feature, but I seldom use it since I always carry a dedicated lead pointer like a KUM 23A. I just don't like the mess of graphite dust that seems to keep spilling non-stop from the push button after a few uses.
Also picked up the nice product booklet that features sample color swatches with their name, numerical codes, and pigment components for all the 76 colors of this range. It is quite handy for selecting additional single colors since it also lists all the colors included in each set.
The dry marks dissolved readily with a waterbrush into translucent washes of bright color. Might be time to practice whittling down a pencil with a knife, to make it easier to sharpen and save the watercolor lead shavings since they are so richly pigmented and dissolve so readily into saturated liquid watercolor.
After your wet watercolor dries expect a bit of a shift and lightening of the colors. Yet you can always go back in with the dry pencils to add more pigment, a few line details, or some texture.
It had been a while since I visited the local art supply store Askew Taylor, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found these pencils and electric eraser (including a couple of hard-to-find graphite items) earlier today.
The appearance of the pencils themselves has also changed through the decades. While the barrels have remained blue, the barrel markings and tin used to sport a lot more golden paint. The vintage pencil wood has a reddish hue, and the modern pencil is made of a paler wood.
The HB lead in the modern version seemed to be a tad darker, but they both sharpened and erased well. Fine addition to a wooden pencil collection.
This Technalo lead is quite strong, so it can be used for sketching quickly without fear of breaking the tip. With the aid of a waterbrush, you can pull light shadow washes and tone straight from the sketch outlines.
The electric eraser is one of the more popular tools that the kids seem to enjoy in the drawing classes at the Arts Center, so this Koh-I-Noor electric eraser was a timely find in the clearance area. It was made in China, and it also uses two AAA batteries. Good choice for making small corrections in tight areas
Removing2Bmarks? No problem!
Just like the stronger Sakura electric eraser, the Kohinoor version can partially remove and lighten areas of colored pencil. Yet its eraser refill feels softer and gets warped around the metal chuck (as if the heat from the friction of erasing was melting the plastic material around its holder), so you can only extend a short section at a time to keep it from flopping and breaking off.
Still it should make an adequate addition to our selection of classroom erasers.
Found this free sample pack of Bruynzeel Design pencils in the open-stock pencil section, so I finally got to try their graphite (8815), aquarel (8835), and colored (8805) pencil lines. You might want to pay a visit to Askew Taylor, if you are near Raleigh and want to find one of the remaining sample packs. The Lemon Yellow (25) was certainly bright, and along with the Vermillion (31) felt pretty smooth. Actually all four samples felt waxy and smooth as you lay down sketching strokes. The 2B graphite pencil retained its long sharp point well, erased easily, and can provide a nice range of gray tone from light to dark just like a premium Japanese pencil. They are worth trying. The watersoluble ultramarine (50) performed ok for a watercolor pencil but seemed a bit pale to me.
For additional information on these pencil lines and their color number codes you could check Pencil Topics. They all have round barrels with color coded end caps after a band indicating their line and "Holland". According to the sample pack label they are manufactured in China under the guidance of Bruynzeel-Sakura that is based in The Netherlands.
X-mas present that has been sitting next to my drafting board since December: Buddha Mini board. Finally got around trying it with my Holbein waterbrush. It works well as a form of creative meditation warm up. Thanks Caro!
This sample Tria marker was included with one of our supply orders at the Art Center, so I get to try it after it disappeared under my drafting board for the past few months.
It has 3 different nibs: fine (that can be removed and placed on top of any of the other two nibs), brush, and chisel. Thus it can produce a variety of marks. Color identification is done through the translucent barrel or the color dot on top of each pen cap. It is made in the UK according to the barrel sticker. Currently featured at clearance prices at Jerry's.
We ordered these German Staedtler eraser refill sticks by mistake for one of my drawing classes (we actually needed refills for the electric eraser that is quite popular with the students), but we kept them anyway. Figured we could always use them even though I do not own their intended holder. I had a couple of eraser stick holders that I thought might work with them, but they turned out to be too narrow.
Then it occurred to me that they looked to be as wide as a regular pencil, so I tried a 7 mm Derwent pencil extender. This pencil holder grips the eraser stick securely, and it works adequately as a plastic eraser.
The legendary Mitsubishi Hi-Uni wooden pencil is probably one of the best in the World according to many pencil fans. I like the balance of darkness with the super smooth feeling of their leads, for they tend to produce dark marks that are more smudge-resistant that similar grades from other brands. The Hi-Uni is certainly one of my favorite pencils along with the Tombow Mono 100, so I was pretty excited to finally get a couple of 0.5 mm Hi-Uni refill leads(F & B) to try in my Pentel Graph 1000 and Graphlet PG505drafting pencils. A useful feature of these two mechanical pencils is the lead degree indicator (that includes 3H, 2H, H, F, HB, & B): in the push button in the Graph 1000, and in the metal grip in the case of the Graphlet. While you could certainly pick any of these mechanical pencils and switch leads as needed, I find it more efficient to assign a mechanical pencil for each graphite grade I wish to use in a drawing. Hence the value and erasability chart shown above. The Kokuyo Campus Student eraser for 2B lead erased the sample swatches quite well with just a few swipes (For additional eraser options check out this excellent eraser guide). All 3 leads (one 0.3 mm, and two 0.5 mm diameter) felt smooth on the regular Piccadilly sketchbook paper, but the B leads smudged a bit on the paper's tooth.
Used the lighter F grade 0.5 mm lead to doodle the outline of a futuristic jet.
Then used the 0.3 mm B lead to highlight plane components and darken outer outline gradually.
To finish this seeker sketch, the 0.5 mm B lead was used to render some shadow and paint markings.
As you might expect, the F lead yielded lighter cleaner lines while the B lead wore down faster and produced noticeably darker marks. I must confessed I felt initially a tad disappointed with the amount of smearing visible around those darker areas of the spaceship sketch, for the Hi-Uni wooden version seemed to be more smudge-resistant.
Then it dawned on me that it wasn't the lead, but the paper choice that was at fault. As you can see on the ATC above, the Hi-Uni 0.5 mm B leadcan produce pretty clean drawings on smooth bristol. I ran my finger over it a couple of times and it did not smear much. I am pretty happy to have added these premium graphite refills to my collection, but I am not really seeing a big difference with the already reliable Pentel Ain leads.
I have had a fondness for the Pilot S3 S-Series drafting pencils lineever since I found them at a Kinokuniya stationery store on a sourcing trip to the West Coast. Their translucent colorful barrels remind me of candy with a futuristic look. I have also spotted an S3 in the hand of a manga artist in a Hikaru Hayashi Manga sketching book(page 167). I like the grip design even though it can get a bit slippery at times. I find them to be a pretty good value for an intermediate level mechanical pencil with a plastic body that still has a metal clutch gripping mechanism that holds the lead securely without any rattling nor slippage.
In this case, I used different size 2B leads in different colored pencils for easier identification. That way, I could start to sketch the body structure with the middle 0.5 mm pencil (light blue), then add light detail like whiskers and fur texture with the thinner 0.3 mm pencil (yellow), and outline and shade with the wider 0.7 mm pencil (blue) that was loaded with the Uni Nano Dia lead. While all the 2B leads felt smooth and produced dark satisfying marks, they do wear down pretty fast so you might find yourself clicking more often to advance the lead. The Pentel Ain 0.3 mm 2B lead seemed to vanish into nothing in no time, and it was the only one to snap once during this review. The 0.7 mm Nano Dia lead did seem to last a bit longer and wore down more slowly by comparison.
While 0.5 mm and 0.7 mm leads are packaged 40 pieces per container, 0.3 mm leads are packed 20 pieces per container. From this value chart of my 0.3 mm leads, you can see that there is not much noticeable difference in value between swatches of adjacent graphite grades. Thus if you are just starting to try them out, you might want to get refill tubes that are 2 or 3 degrees apart. Harder grades would be suitable for penciling sketches that you plan to ink, and softer grades would make a better choice for making bold graphite sketches that can stand on their own. Illustrations drawn with Band2B leads are likely to be dark enough to be scanned or reproduced as easily as some ink sketches. Giveaway Alert: If you read my ramblings this far, you are obviously into mechanical pencils and their refills. Thus I bet you would be interested in the latest JetPens giveaway for a Rotring Drafting Pencil and Eraser set that ends on February 25th, so go check it out.
Have been trying out the latest lot of JetPens goodies that arrived this month for review, and decided to split them into two posts according to product categories. We'll start with the brush pens, and save the mechanical pencil and Hi-Uni leads for the next post (which incidentally will be my 500th post).
The Pilot New Brush Pen Medium and the Pentel Color Brush with pigment ink (FP5M) are very similar-looking brush pens with long barrel bodies and medium size synthetic filament nibs. To get the ink flow started, the white and red shipping plastic rings had to be removed before the brush tip and ink cartridge were screwed together. When brand new the brush nibs are white, and you have to prime and load them with ink for the first time by pressing the flexible ink cartridge (right about the middle of pen)
Pilot sample doodle on sketchbook paper. By adjusting the pressure on the tip, you can change the taper and thickness of the brush strokes with some practice. Pressing on the brush nib produces a fatter mark, and lifting the tip as you complete a stroke gives a pointy end to the brush line. A fast stroke can yield a 'dry brush' effect.
The Pilot water-based and dye-based ink is compatible with alcohol markers. The Prismacolor marker ink did not affect the black brush strokes in the sample doodle. There is no smudging visible in the areas where the yellow marker ink meets the black ink marks.
Comparison doodle chart: top half of the page was drawn with the Pilot New Brush Pen Medium, and bottom was drawn with the Pentel Color Brush with pigment ink (FP5M). In these early tests, both brush pens performed and felt very similarly as far as ink flow and the variety of marks that they can make. Prolong testing should reveal further data as far as their durability and compatibility with other media. In general though, these tools offer some of the versatility of bottled ink and traditional round brushes with the convenience of a regular pen that you can just through in your sketching kit without the fear of creating a potentially messy spill inside your bag.
Sample doodles colored with dry Caran D'Ache watercolor pencils after they were allowed to dry overnight. Thus both brush pens can work well with colored pencils and watercolor pencils used dry.
After dissolving some of the watercolor marks with a waterbrush, the Pentel Color Brush pigment ink proved to be waterproof. The watercolor pigment produced clean colored washes without getting polluted with gray ink. Thus you could use water-based markers and watercolors to safely color sketches drawn with it.
The Pilot New Brush Pen Medium ink smudged upon contact with water as seen on the grasses drawn at the top of the page above. If done deliberately, you could pull warm gray shading right out of inked areas as seen under the chin of the girl head sketch on the left. Though clearly it would not be a good choice for mix media with water-based coloring materials. Depending on your goals, they can be fun additions to expand the functionality of your average sketching kit and for inking organic subjects like fur, hair, and vegetation.
Alberto Lung ("Lung" being the Spanish-spelling for "Dragon" in Chinese) completed a Master of Science and worked in Food Safety/Brand Protection for a few years before returning to his artistic roots. As a self-taught artist combining a scientific academic background, a passion for archaeology and mythology, and some Manga inspiration, I currently design and teach cartoon-sketching workshops for children to promote their visual literacy and creativity. I often rely on speed-sketching demonstrations of ninjas and fantasy creatures to engage young audiences and introduce them to suitable art supplies to develop their drawing skills. Love to sketch Sci-Fi and action figure concepts (robots, ninjas, and monsters) while searching for cool art supplies.
Feel free to contact me if you need another opinion or advice on selecting your art supplies.