Archive for the Pens and Pencils! Category

Pen Review – The Sharpie Pen

Posted in Pens and Pencils! on April 19, 2010 by doseofsalt

Now I want to preface this with the fact that when I saw this I thought…hang on, doesn’t Sharpie already have a felt tip pen like end on one of their products?  I’m pretty sure they do, but I guess they’ve never marketed it directly as a pen.

Anyway, here we are with what is being pushed as “The First Sharpie Pen!”.  And that’s what it is, a Sharpie branded felt tip fineliner type pen.  The illustrator in me is jumping for joy!

Who doesn’t love a good Sharpie? Most of them are pretty rad and useful in so many situations.  I do like the standard round tip marker myself, but have dabbled in thicker and thinner versions as well as the Sharpie hi-lighter which is absolutely brilliant and lasts for AGES.

So when I saw the Sharpie Pen on the shelf I had to grab myself one (or a pack of two) to check them out.  As you’d expect, you wouldn’t really sketch much with a felt tip pen, or at least I don’t as I can’t get the same sort of tactile response from them to get the dynamic shading that I do with it, but for illustration type work the fine line felt tip pen is something that I usually have on hand in abundance!

Straight up it’s a pretty comfortable pen to use.  It’s barrel is slightly wider than your average biro but not as wide as a regular sharpie marker.  The barrel comes to a pretty abrupt end as it tapers off down to the metal end that actually holds the felt tip in place.  I think it could have done with a bit more of a smooth taper to the end, but that obviously wouldn’t allow for their use of that cursed in-line lid design they’ve gone for.  The width of the lid is the same as the barrel so when you put the lid on, it’s one continuous surface top to bottom.  The same goes for when you put the lid on the end cap while working.  Usually this can be an epic deal breaker for me, or lead to great frustration however it fits on the end cap quite tightly and doesn’t rattle around at all when in use.   Whew.

As a wrting pen it does quite well, but I don’t ever really use a felt tip for writing unless I’m labelling a drawing or doing hand written comic text.  As an illustration tool though I found it to have it’s ups and downs.  The nib seems to be able to take a bit of a beating as I can be quite heavy handed when I illustrate.  I have snapped many a good felt tip off at the base, but the Sharpie Pen seemed to handle ok.

It gives a nice consistant line on the page and using varying amounts of pressure allows for nice cross hatching of various widths.  I did however feel that it could have gone on darker.  I found the lines that it would put down would often need going over a couple of times to be as striking as I’d like.  The drawing I’ve included with this review was done start to finish with the Sharpie Pen.

One point of marketing that they’ve included on the packaging is that it won’t bleed through paper.  I’m not sure if they achieve this by thinning the ink or not letting as much as usual saturate the paper, which could be the cause of my disappointment in the blackness of the line.  Regardless of that, it did actually perform quite well and didn’t bleed through the page of the visual diary I used.  You can see the drawing through the paper and I don’t know if you’d really want to use the other side of the page but it hasn’t bled through which I guess is the point.

All in all the Sharpie Pen is a pretty strong performer.  It’s comfortable enough to use and as a writing tool would work really well.  As an illustration tool however its performance on laying down nice solid black lines lets it down for me.  It won’t be replacing my Artlines anytime soon though.

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Pen Review – Pilot B2P (Bottle to Pen)

Posted in Pens and Pencils! on April 18, 2010 by doseofsalt

The second in my road tested “eco” pens running on the premise of being manufactured from recycled materials is this offering from Pilot.  The B2P is advertised as being made from 89% recycled materials (apparently not including ink, cartridges or refills) which going by the packaging and design, and name obviously, is recycled water bottles.  Pretty cool idea and it leads to them being able to really go all out on designing the look of the pen.

This one fell directly into my shopping basket because it just looks awesome.  The blister packaging has the pen sitting suspended inside a larger capsule that is shaped like a water bottle complete with the swirly indented lines around it.  Think Mount Franklin water bottles.

The pen maintains this design with it’s smooth plastic body having the same wavy lines carved into the barrel to mimic the bottles from whence they come.  It’s made of really cool looking transparent blue hard plastic, giving it that watery kind of look.  It is a retractable style pen and has a nice sturdy clicking mechanism.

That’s unfortunately about where the greatness of this pen ends.  As far as performance on paper it is just such a huge letdown.  It’s a gel ink type pen which can usually go either way.  They are usually either really excellent pens, especially for writing, or they’re just horrible.  This one falls on the horrible side of that equation.  I haven’t even done an example sketch for this pen as it was too frustrating even to write with.  The ink comes out nice and black, but as soon as you change direction in your lines or do anything too swirly it just cuts out and you’re left with gaps in your lines.  It’s probably a little too inky for sketching also.  At a push, if it didn’t have the crappy ink cut out problem it might be OK for doing some bold illustration type lines, but unfortunately it doesn’t flow nearly well enough.

Good on Pilot though for entering the whole eco-pen race.  If they’d instead made it just a really nice regular ballpoint pen it’d probably be a decent pen to use for a variety of applications as it is pretty comfortable to hold.  A rubbery grip would make it a bit nicer though.  All of that is moot though because what it puts on the paper is actually quite horrid.  I’ve included a picture of some of my scribbles I did with it.  No sketch.

Pen Review – Uniball Power Tank Eco

Posted in Pens and Pencils! on April 18, 2010 by doseofsalt

One thing that I noticed to be quite an “in thing” that a variety of pen makers are doing is an eco or recycled range.  This struck me as pretty cool so I bought a handful of these today to check out.  I will say right off the bat I’m not expecting a whole lot from them.  For some reason when I think of something being recycled I think of it being a bit rough around the edges.  Maybe I’m just thinking of toilet paper.

Anyway,  the first pen I’ve had a look at in the recycled range is the Uniball Power Tank Eco.  It’s a retractable style pen which I quite like.  I lose my lid on the end preference, but generally speaking any sort of retractable pen has enough metal and workings in it that it gets enough weight to balance out nicely.  Another thing that I’d like to point out that some people might not care about, but I certainly do, is that the actual clicking mechanism feels and sounds really solid.  When you depress the button you’re rewarded with a very hefty CLICK CLICK.  The Power Tank Eco isn’t overly weighty but feels nice in hand.  It has a hard plastic barrel that is green (obviously) with a brown pocket clip and a rubbery brown grip.  The packaging explains what the pen is recycled from, and it’s actually pretty cool.

The barrel is made from recycled PCs and the rubber grip is made of scrap sawdust from pencil manufacturing and resin.  And this is where one of my favourite parts of this pen comes along…IT SMELLS LIKE SAWDUST!  Seriously, when I smell this pen, I’m instantly transported back in time to the Whyalla High tech block and woodwork class.  Mr P is standing there holding some piece of busted drilling equipment and telling everyone that it was “BLOODY DANNY DIAZ!” who wrecked it in that awesome high pitched voice he got when he was angry.

It smells awesome.  The grip has these sort of teardrop cutout parts in them that exposes some of the shiny plastic underneath.  I’m not a huge fan of these as it adds a bit of unevenness to the grip that can be a bit distracting when working with it.  I tend to change my grip pretty regularly when I’m drawing and like to have a consistent feel under my fingers.  The hard inserts throw this off somewhat but not really enough for me to throw the pen away because it draws quite well.

It’s has a pretty smooth rolling ball and glides pretty effortlessly on the page.  A lot of the times this can be a let down with sketching because you lose some of the dynamic range you can exert when the pen works as soon as it hits the paper, but it’s not too bad.  It has a pressurised ink chamber, so can write upside down and apparently in the extreme cold.  I probably won’t ever need to test that out, but who doesn’t want a pen that can write upside down?

So this one gets points for a couple of things.  It’s a nice smooth flowing pen that sketches well and writes really nicely.  It’s made from recycled stuff, so it should be good for the planet, and it smells like an awesome old woodworking school building.  The sketch here was done with the Uniball Power Tank Eco.

Pen Review – Staedtler Triplus Ball 0.45mm

Posted in Pens and Pencils! on April 17, 2010 by doseofsalt

Let it be known that I often choose the type of pen I want to try out primarily by how rad it looks.  Aesthetics mean a lot to me when it comes to pens.

When I saw the Staedtler Triplus pens on the shelf, the first thing that I thought was that they reminded me of oldschool industrial looking pens from when I was a kid…the kind my dad or grandparents would steal from BHP.  They felt weighty in the packaging and they look like quite long pens.  Weight and length is very important for me when it comes to using a pen for drawing.  It’s all about balance.

The Staedtler Triplus come in a package of three pens, including black, blue and red ink.  If they sold them separately I would obviously have just gone for black, but I take what I can get.

On opening the packaging the first thing I noticed is that they have a lid that fits to the pen inline with the shape of the pen barrel.  It doesn’t fit over the pen barrel like many lids do and when you put the lid on the end of the pen it’s the same, it clips onto the small metal end plug again keeping inline with the width of the barrel.  I’ll start with this because it’s one of the first things I noticed about the pen.

When I draw using a biro I vary my stroke speed between very slow and very fast depending on what I’m actually drawing.  I generally only sketch with biros as I can get a lot of the same sketchy characteristics that you’d get with a pencil due to my technique, without having to worry about anything smudging.  I like the permanency of it as when I sketch I have an unwritten rule that I don’t correct anything, just incorporate it.  Any mistake is just an opportunity to go somewhere else with an idea.  So I discovered that when I start doing more shading type work and move the pen vigorously the lid rattles around on the end plug.  I found it quite distracting actually and really prefer pen lids that I can jam down hard over the barrel so it stays nice and firmly in place.  Sure it adds a little bulk to the pen but despite my stationary lust for great form, I still need it to function well.

In terms of barrel shape, it has as its name suggests a triangular shaped barrel.  This is supposed to be for comfort but to be honest any thin barreled pen feels the same in my hand after I’ve been drawing with it non-stop for 45 minutes.  The pen does have quite a bit of weight to it, which gives it a nice balance when you’re using it.

In use the pen is quite nice.  I’ve used cheap nasty biros with a smoother on paper feel and it does feel quite scratchy on the page,  but this sort of tactile feeling is often quite good when sketching.  It makes you feel more in contact with the page if you can feel the pen scraping at it a bit.  I think that’s why I find it hard to just sketch with my Intuos 4 graphics tablet.  As much as it has a nice matte surface and a variety of nibs to use to help mimic natural mediums, it’s just not the same as digging a pen into a piece of paper!

All in all, this is a pretty nice pen.  The only let down I really had with it was the lid not fitting securely enough to the end when the pen is in use and having a bit of a rattle.  It may seem strange and you may say “well just use it without the lid on the end,” but I find it really strange to use a pen without the lid on the back end of it.  It’s that whole balance thing again.  It just feels so much more comfortable and balanced to have that little bit of extra weight and length at the back end of the pen when I’m sketching.

The sketch included in this entry was done with the Staedtler Triplus Ball 0.45mm