Thanks Lucy! the set of Staedtler pigment liners just got here a couple of days ago. Dear readers looks like our drawing pen reviews streak continues, this time courtesy of Jackson's Art Supplies. It is always nice to learn that my reviews are being read and appreciated by fellow artists from other countries. I had fun browsing through this British online retailer offerings and discovering a couple of products not readily available in the USA. Thus if you are in the UK, you might want to check their website for some nice gift ideas as the holiday season fast approaches.
The packaging of this set of pigment liners has not changed much in the past few years. I have a carded set from 2007, and the graphics and easel case are pretty much identical. The rigid pen case is sturdier and provide more protection than the usual flimsy flexible wallets. The main difference would be that the newer set clearly indicates an "18 hour cap off time" on the case label and pen barrels. Please leave a comment below if you can confirm that these pens can be left uncapped for such extended periods without drying out. Typically I only sketch with one pen at a time and promptly replace the cap before putting a pen down, so long cap-off time is not a trait that I keep in mind when shopping for pens. Yet I have had a a couple of Staedtler fineliner pen sets for months on classroom duty, and none of the pigment liners has dried out yet. If you tend to work with your entire set of pens with their caps off while going back and forth between pen sizes, you might find their resistance to drying particularly useful.
Decided to bring out my Copic Multiliner SP pens set to compare its strokes with the line widths of the Staedtler pigment liners. While both brands felt smooth and alike on the marker paper, the difference between nibs sizes was slightly more apparent with the SP pens. With the Staedtler pigment liners, it is a bit harder to see the difference between the strokes drawn with the 0.3 and 0.5 pens. For the sample robot doodle above, I drew the initial foundation sketch with the 0.3 pen. Shading was drawn with parallel inclined strokes using the 0.1 pen, and the 0.5 pen was used to thicken the outline of the figure's silhouette. The 0.7 pen was used sparingly to darken areas with heavier shadow like the bottom lines of the chest plate and the shin guards. Fine tip markers with precise different nib sizes lend themselves well for architectural renderings, and depicting mechanical subjects. With their long metal sleeve tips you can safely use them with straight edges and templates without smearing.
Bottom line: with its cleverly designed easel case and four different pen widths to choose from (0.1, 0.3, 0.5, 0.7), this Staedtler set would make a nice stocking stuffer for the artist types and sketchers in your gift list. Their black ink dried quickly and did not smudge under my drawing left hand. It is waterproof and lightfast, so they could be used in combination with watercolors. While not a common sight at brick and mortar stores, I have spotted them at arts and crafts stores and some office supplies stores. Just noticed that the easel case with 6 pen nib sizes (0.05, 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.5, 0.8) is currently listed at Amazon.
Caran D'Ache Supracolor pencils-I only own a set of 18 of them. Hexagonal profile. Lead size 3.7 mm. Entire barrel length coating matches the color of the lead. It is a bit thinner than the other two brands, so it can be sharpened with standard sharpeners. Feels a bit softer than the Faber Castell pencils, and with a slightly better solubility and greater covering power when dry.
Caran D'Acher Museum Aquarelle pencils- My newest set of 12. Most expensive of this bunch, for each Museum pencil costs more than double the retail price of the other two. Hexagonal profile. Lead size 3.8 mm. Most of the barrel is painted black and only the end of the pencil is color coded to match the color of the lead. Which is a sleek distinct look, but I would have preferred if the entire barrel was painted to match its color. Might want to consider sharpening with a knife to save the lead shavings for additional painting and creating other effects.
After wetting the dry swatches with a water-loaded round brush, it was clear that the Museum lead had a higher pigment concentration. The original dry core area of each sample swatch retained a denser concentration of pigment on the bottom two rows of the color chart. They also dissolved into a bright saturated wash more easily with just a couple of strokes. I think most users would be quite happy with the performance and solubility of any of these watercolor pencils for daily use. Yet depending on your application or desired longevity for the finished work, you might want to consider the Museum pencils for their higher pigment load.
For my regular pen drawing needs, I have been relying mostly on Sakura Pigma Sensei 06 and 10 pens (actually I get them by the dozen) with the occasional Sakura Pigma Graphic 1.0 mm pen to round up my sketching kit. I like to sketch fast and with a fairly thick black line for my cartoon doodles, and those two pens are fairly easy to find locally and online. Since I tend to press rather hard on the pen tips, I usually avoid fine and extra fine felt nibs that often bend and fray prematurely. Sometimes the felt nib gets pushed all the way back into the metal sleeve of the needle point, and others it just bends sideways. I have damaged a few Pitt Artist pens and Copic multiliner SP pens that way (at least with the latter you can replace the nibs). Since I haven't tried anything new in the felt-tip pigment line pen category in a while, it felt like it was a good time to test some of the many imported black ink drawing pens featured at JetPens. Given my sketching preferences, I got mostly pens with larger nib sizes.
All the chosen pens had their nib point size clearly marked on the top of their caps, and most also displayed the pen size on the side of the barrel with either a sticker or actual printing on the pen body. For easier identification of your pens, you might want to always take care to post the pen cap on the end of each pen to avoid getting them mixed up. Naturally to prevent your ink supply from drying too soon, it would probably be best to use one at a time and promptly cap the pens you are not actively using. Oddly, the one pen that did not display its size on the barrel had the busiest printing. So we might as well list it first.
This sample reference chart was drawn on Canson XL marker paper using the following pens:
Pilot DR Drawing 05 pen (Made in Japan) I knew of this pen because I had seen it pictured in the inking tools section of art instruction books from Europe, but I have never seen it in actual brick and mortar stores in the US. From their description in the British site Cult Pens, the Pilot DR pens sounded like they might be the equivalent of Sakura Pigma Micron pens across the pond. It felt pretty smooth with a nice dark black ink.
Kuretake Zig Cartoonist Mangaka Outline Pens with 01 and 05 nibs (Made in Japan) knew nothing about these pens before ordering them. Their barrel markings indicate that their ink is water-based pigment, lightfast, smudge-proof with alcohol-based markers or watercolour. Their posted warning applies to all pens, so to get the most out of them always remember: "Do not leave in direct sunlight or in high temperatures. Replace cap firmly after use. Keep horizontal". That means do not leave them in your car nor keep in a holding cup standing up for too long. The Pen Addictreviewed it a while back.
Pilot Drawing Pens - Oil-Based Ink with 03, 05, & 08 nibs (Made in Japan) spotted them among the more recent arrivals. They stood out from this sample lot with their purple barrels and produced the widest line strokes. Their pen sizes were not labeled on the barrels. Since they work on plastic surfaces, they can also be used as marking pens.
Mitsubishi Uni Pin for Pro pens with 01 (0.28 mm), 02 (0.33 mm), & 03 (0.38 mm) nibs (Made in Vietnam) only knew of these pens by their listing in Cult Pens. Their pigment ink is labeled as water proof and fade proof. I like that their nib size is also clearly printed on the barrel near the front of the pen. Their pen cap design features two windows that lets you see the pen tip when closed.
I allowed the sample doodles to dry overnight, and then used some Prismacolor double ended markers to apply some quick swatches of color to test the smudge-proof quality of the pigmented ink when exposed to the alcohol-based marker inks. Only noticed some light smudging with the Pilot Drawing Pen 08 oil-based sample, and the others resisted the alcohol ink quite well.
The oil-based ink makes this Pilot Drawing pen suitable for decorating and labeling plastic surfaces like this DVD.
To complete this first round of tests, I did a few more doodles and found all of them pretty satisfactory for disposable pigment pens (price range in this lot was $1.65-$3.30/pen).
Used all three Uni Pin pens to create this sketch of a Transformer Seeker on Quo Vadis Habana Clairfontaine 90 g paper. Started with the 02 pen for the main body, used the 03 pen to reinforce the outline of the robot in the foreground, and used the 01 pen to depict the background elements behind it. Pilot DR 05 Drawing pen doodle test on the same Quo Vadis journal. When using felt/ porous tip markers it is important to choose the right paper for optimal performance and ensure the longevity of your pen nibs. I tend to use marker paper, fountain pen paper, smooth card stock, or bristol board. Some sketchbook papers have a bit of texture which is fine for pencil, but it can be too abrasive for makers. Rough papers can destroy felt nibs in no time. If you enjoy drawing with marker pens and want to try something other than what you can find in store shelves, you might want to check out the wide assortment of felt/porous tip markers at JetPens.
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.