Dawn DeVries Sokol


Friday, April 3, 2009 at 11:46 AM


Back in Black

I’ve been asked by a few of you what pens I use while I journal. Ah, so many pens, so little time.  I will review the pens and pencils I use and will discuss what they are capable of. These observations are merely my own, and ones I’ve made through my journaling...

Today: Black pens. I was introduced to Faber-Castell Pitt Pens a couple of years ago...You can buy Pitt Pens in most art supply stores, online at Dick Blick and Daniel Smith...They do come in other colors, but I mainly use the black ones. They have four different sizes of tips. I rarely use the Brush tip. I mainly use the S, F, and M tips...Some artists say they can write over anything. Not true. They don’t write over oil pastels (well, what does?), but I’ve also had some trouble using them over watercolor backgrounds, depending on the watercolor brand. I’ve tried using Caran d’Ache Neo Color crayons as background watercolor washes and then writing over them with Pitt pens...It’s not easy, but doable. I just had to keep wiping the pen on something else...or letting it rest and then using it again. But it WOULD stop working...They write well on smooth acrylic backgrounds, most coated paper, etc. The label says they are Indian ink, waterproof and maximum light-fastness.

Lately, though, I’ve been using Zig Millenium black pens the most. I first bought these open stock at Recollections about a year ago. I’m having a hard time finding them open stock elsewhere since Recollections closed, so if you know of somewhere please let me know! These are my faves because they have SEVERAL different tip sizes, and they start with 005 (smallest) and go up to, well, I don’t even know, but I think the largest size I use is 08. The ink is consistent and they are about the same as the Pitt pens when it comes to what they can write over. The label says they are pigment ink, acid-free, archival quality, lightfast, waterproof, fade proof and non-bleeding. They last quite a while...

Pens that are comparable to the Zig Milleniums are Pigma Microns by Sakura. They are pigment ink, acid-free, waterproof and fade-proof. They range in various tip sizes just like the Zigs. I started using these when I couldn’t find the Zigs.

I’ve also used a pen called Deleter Neopiko Line. It’s a pen I bought at Kinokuniya Bookstore in Seattle. It’s a little pricier than the Zigs and Microns, but works really well. It’s a 08 tip. Made in Japan, I think it’s marketed toward anime and graphic comic artists. It’s label says it’s waterproof, pigment ink. Works the same as the others.

I just bought a couple of Prismacolor fine line pens. The jury’s still out on those. Haven’t really used them yet, but I will report once I do. They have the various sizes of tips, and the label says they are archival quality, acid free and lightfast. Found them open stock at Jerry’s Art-a-Rama here in Tempe.

Another pen I’ve messed with is the Pilot Parallel pen. These are nifty pens because they have calligraphic nibs and you can change out the ink. I’ve been working with a 1.5mm nib and lately it’s been leaking...But there is a nib cleaner included in the packaging, which I guess I should use. I guess it’s mixable color ink...Also, the ink isn’t bleed-proof. I’ve had it bleed into other inks. (See the example below...The heart was done with a pink pen that bled the Pilot Parallel line...You can find them on Jet Pens...Pilotbleed

I think the key to pens is to play with an assortment of them to find out what best works for you and the other mediums you work with. I really like to try different pens out, so when I go to Kinokuniya or make a purchase on Jet Pens, I try to buy one of another brand or two to see if I like it. That way, I’m not spending boatloads on a box of them. Also, with the way I journal, I think it’s more conducive to various pens. They are my main medium.

Gel Pens, the Like and a Little Latte

Lucy asked this question:

Let me ask you this, what is the best way to store pens. Standing Up,
laying down? If it's up, do you store them with the tip down or up??

Lucy: I just read somewhere that it’s best to store them horizontally. I’ve always done that with the pens I have in my drawer, the ones I’m waiting to use...but the ones I have at my fingertips, I’ve usually had vertically, with no concern for tip up or down. But lately, even those pens have been laid on their side. I just want to try to get the most out of them...

Now, on to part 2 of my

Marking Tools Series

And with that, we’re going to talk gel pens (and their cousins)...

First up, gel pens by Sakura. Now, Sakura makes a vast array of pens...some think that the ones made FOR Japan’s customers are a bit better than the U.S. counterparts. That’s only half true. Some of the Sakura pens you can get in the U.S. now, and they’re awesome. Like Souffle pens. They look really weird when wet on the page, but once they dry, they have a somewhat raised appearance. It depends on the paper you’re working on, too. I use Fabriano Artistico in my journals, and that paper tends to really grab ink, so sometimes I go back over the Souffles, just to get more of the raised effect. Aqualips are cool and I think sold in Japan only, but they are the same as the Gellyroll Glaze pens. No real difference. The Glaze pens give a glossy, watery look when dry. Kinda slick. Gellyroll Moonlight pens are neon colors and are sold in the U.S. I haven’t seen Tiara pens sold in the U.S. yet, except for in Kinokuniya and on Jet Pens. They have a nice glittery sheen to them and only are sold in a set. And I’m not sure where I found the Gellyroll Gold, but it dries to a goldish hue of it’s intended color. There are also just regular Gellyroll pens. It’s fun to play with them to see what various effects you can get from them. Most of them are best when doodling, filling in, and writing text that is more doodle-ish. (If that makes sense...) You’ll need to play with them to see what mediums they will write over. I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with bleeding of any of these pens. You do have to let them dry on your surface, though. Oftentimes, I’ve smudged them because I don’t have enough patience and accidentally move my hand over them while I’m writing or doodling elsewhere on the page.

Next up are Uni-ball pens. Their line of Signo pens are cool...But there is a difference in the ones distributed in the U.S. and those not widely available here. The Uni-ball Signo UM-153 White pen is the pen that writes over most any surface or medium. It’s great for writing on black paper as well. I have had some problems with it in the past, such as less than continuous flow. I keep a heavy stock of them in my drawer because I tend to use them quite a bit. You can find them on Jet Pens or in Japanese bookstores. The UM-153 is also available in blue, dark blue, green, orange, red, black, silver and gold. I’ve used these as well and really like the red...And they are good for fine writing, doodling, etc.
I’ve recently played with other Uni-ball Signo pens, such as the UM-120, which I love the Uniballtexture and appearance of. Jet Pens has them available as Uni-ball Signo Angelic. The UM-100 is OK as is the Uni-ball AquaMagic pen. Again, play and experiment by buying one of each to see what works best for you...

And another widely known manufacturer is Pilot. I mentioned the Pilot Parallel pens yesterday, which are available in several calligraphic nib sizes and are refillable, with various colors of ink available. Lately, I’ve been using the Pilot Latte pens, which have some incredible colors (my work in my Moleskine for Exchange 5 was done with Pitts and Lattes). They flow well and are meant for a variety of surfaces, including plastic.

Jet Pens has them in sets or sold as open stock. LOVE these. I also picked up a Pilot Choose pen whenSpotliter I was last at Kinokuniya. Works OK, but not as well as the Lattes...And Pilot also has the Spotliter2 pens, which are mainly meant as hi-liters, although I use them sometimes on my pages...I like the neon colors, if I’m going for that effect. Each pen has two different tips: a chisel and a regular tip. I found those at Kinokuniya in a seven-color set, and you can also find them on Jet Pens, where they sell them separately.

Pen Whores Unite!

I am truly a pen/marker/pencil whore. There’s no way to put it nicely. So I’ll just say it. I decided to sort through my drawer today and pull out some markers, and what I found were a whole helluva lot of pens that need to be used! I found several pens of the
same sort, color, etc. What it shows me is that I don’t take inventory
before I go out art supply shopping.
So yes, it’s good to buy different marking tools and try them, but for God’s sake, USE UP WHAT YOU HAVE! !

Whew. Now that I got that off my chest, it’s time for another Marking Tools segment.

Markers and paint pens. I’ll be honest, I don’t use them that much. I haven’t had many good experiences on the marker front. I’ve TRIED, believe me. I usually just end up disappointed. BUT, don’t let that discourage you. I’m going to spotlight some, talk about results with others and let you decide.


Copic Markers: I recently talked with Teesha Moore about these, because I wasn’t getting the results I wanted. Actually, I love how they look on the page. BUT, they tend to bleed through to the back side of the paper. I asked Teesha about that, and she said she’s never had that problem. And we journal on the same brand of paper. My conclusion: I’ve used them over the blank paper, whereas Teesha usually journals over a watercolor background. So maybe having that first layer down prevents the seeping into the backside. AND sometimes I go over and over the color, so that forces a bleedthrough. Just one stroke is enough. Copics are REALLY expensive, so buy one to try it first. Copics have two different tips on one pen, as do the Prismacolors. Copics have a chisel tip and a brush tip. Prismacolors have a large chisel tip and a finer point tip. Both are pretty stinky, so if you have a really sensitive nose, definitely try them out before buying a bunch. I like the variety of colors the Prismacolor line carries. They aren’t quite as expensive as Copics. Again, I’ve had bleed-throughs with these. Below I used a Permapaque marker by Sakura to show you what that looks like. I think mine’s dried out a bit, though...It’s an opaque pigment marker, not stinky and has two tips as well. All can be found at Dick Blick or other art supply stores.


Markersample_2For the other markers I have, I’ve used them on a page previously painted with an acrylic. I wanted to compare to see how each one worked on acrylic. Sharpie Poster Paint Pens are good, as you can see...But make sure you get the water-based, not the oil-based. You need to shake these before using. The one that says “Painters”, well, I’m not exactly sure what that one is. Half of the label is pulled off the pen. I just tried searching for them online with no luck. If I find out, I’ll let ya know. The Galaxy markers wrote REALLY well on the acrylic and you can get them in a variety of colors. They also have glittery ones. They can be found at scrapbook stores, craft supply stores and even Target. Bic Mark-Its can be found at Target. They are comparable to Sharpie regular pens. The one I think wrote the best over the painted background is the Ultimate Marker by American Crafts. I will be using this one more. Label says they are acid-free and permanent. Looks like they are available at scrapbook stores. Same maker as Galaxy! The Pen-Touch by Sakura is more of a paint pen that you have to shake before using. Should be available in scrapbook stores, some craft stores and online. Didn’t like the American Crafts Precision Pen so much on the acrylic background; I think it’s better on plain paper. Says it’s acid-free, fade proof, waterproof and non-bleeding.The Zig Painty pen didn’t work as well either...both the Precision Pen and Zig Painty should be found at scrapbook stores.

So, there you have it...A day of markers. Make sure to play because I really think results vary from artist to artist. Depends on the other mediums you use on your pages.

Dawn SokolComment