Sakura Pigma Micron pens have long been my go-to when I needed an inexpensive fine line pen. They’re so good I never really saw the need to explore alternatives. that is, except for one problem I have with them. With the smaller sizes, the tiny felt tip can become wobbly, bend and eventually, break off.
This made me to wonder if there was a fine line marker pen with a sturdier tip. The Ohto Graphic Liner caught my eye with it’s metal tip. Jet Pens kindly sent me one plus another felt tipped pen to try. For this review, I’ll put the Staedtler Pigment Liner, the Ohto Graphic Liner and the Micron head to head (tip to tip?) and decide which comes out on top in it’s usefulness as a writing/lettering tool.
Speed and Pressure Test
For this test, I drew four different lines to see what kind of line variation each pen is capable of; one very fast (F), slow (S), with very light pressure (L), and heavy pressure (H).
This test shows why Microns are so good for lettering. There is almost no difference between the fast and slow lines meaning you can make quick flourishes or careful curves and maintain a consistent line weight. The difference between light and heavy pressure is the biggest of the three. This is my favorite thing about Microns. They can act almost like a tiny pointed pen or brush where you can achieve a good amount of thinck-thin contrast by using more/less pressure. This might be the thing that kills the point however—as I take advantage of this feature,I may push them a little too far.
The Staedtler is the most consistent with very little variation between the four lines. While this may not be good for geting contrast while writing, it’s great when you want to draw precise letters. You don’t have to worry about the line quality changing as you vary speed and pressure.
The ink in the Ohto is the most fluid of the three so speed made a big difference. The slower you write with it, the more ink will be absorbed by the paper.
To test how the pens handle lettering with built-up weight, I first drew mono-line serif caps and added weight to parts of the letters. This gave me a good sense of each pens tip feel and ink flow on the paper.
The Staedtler was the clear winner for this application. The tip glides on the paper surface with just the right amount of friction providing great control while still allowing for smooth lines and curves. It’s ink lays down smoothly on the paper and has very little feathering. It is the lightest shade of black of the three but that doesn't bother me in fact, I actually like it’s softer charcoal color. It’s lack of line variation means, every stroke you make will be a predictable thickness. This is great for building up the precise amount of weight on a letterform.
The Micron drags a little too much on the paper for me making for scratchy lines and not very graceful curves. The ink is nice and smooth but slightly less sharp than the Staedtler.
The Ohto performed the worst for built-up letters. It’s metal tip just glides too quickly on the paper offering no feedback and resulting in a lack of control. I couldn’t help but think of a scene in the film, The Art of Hermann Zapf where Hermann explains that writing on paper that is too smooth “is like walking on ice!” Except, in this case, it’s the tip that’s too smooth. It is also the juiciest of all the pens tested. ink can’t wait to get out of this pen! For carefully drawn lettering, this pen just flows too quickly. As you can see above, when I erased my pencil lines, the ink smeared even though it appeared to be dry. I was able to erase over it cleanly after giving it some more time to set.
The Micron wins this test because of its ability to get good line variation with pressure.
This quickly written lettering is probably the best way to use the Ohto. I like the way some of the quickly written strokes taper off as the pen lifted off the page.
And the winner is…
I have to give the slight edge to the Staedtler Pigment Liners for general lettering. However for writing/envelope addressing, I would pick a Micron.
I found this experiment to be very informative for me and the results were different that what i expected. There’s, of course many other options when it comes to fine line drawing pens so I encourage to explore further and I will as well.
JetPens sponsors 26 symbols and I received these products at no charge.
My little tribute to the best sauce ever.
I’m thinking about doing a series of these where the ingredients make up the package shape. What should be next?
The fine folks at JetPens recently sent me a Kuretake Watercolor Brush Pen Pocket Set. The set includes a watercolor palette of 12 colors, a portable water bottle, a compact water brush, 3 sheets of watercolor paper and a carrying case. I’ve spent a little over a week with it and its a really great travel kit.
The palette is exactly like a CD jewel case only smaller (4.75 in. square). I never thought I’d say this about a watercolor set, but it’s just adorable. When open, the lid of the palette works well for mixing colors. Be careful though, there’s no lip on the hinge side so if it gets tilted, all your puddles of mixed colors will run off the edge. I found this out the hard way.
The brush holds water in it’s handle allowing you to squeeze it anytime you need more water. I’ve found this also eliminates the need for a container of water for rinsing your brush. It cleverly comes apart and tucks into itself protecting the bristles and makeing it a bit more portable. I can't believe how much I like this brush. It has a really nice fine point that snaps right back into shape after lifting off the paper. I was able to do some relatively small and detailed lettering with it. Normally, with a brush this small, you’d run out of paint fairly quickly. But because it has a continuos flow of water supplying the bristles, you can paint longer and create nice washes by just squeezing out more water when needed.
I even love the design of the water bottle. the bottom compresses like an accordion and it has two indentations for your fingers allowing you to squeeze it to draw in water and squirt it into your brush. A full water bottle will fill the brush handle 6 times.
Everything packs nicely into the handy carrying case. The case includes a zipper pouch for the water bottle and brush. it it attaches to the middle of the case with velcro and can be removed. With the pouch removed, the case opens flat and can hold your paper on the left and the palette under a elastic band on the right for a nice self-contained set-up.
So far, I’ve only used this set indoors. While it’s perfectly good for that, I look forward to using it for what it’s really made for; painting outdoors… on vacation… on a beach… ahhh…
(JetPens is an advertiser on 26symbols and I received this product at no charge)
I’ve wanted to update the 26symbols logo for a while now and last night I finally got around to doing it. Inspired by Bodoniesque numerals such as these and these, I knew I wanted to do something in that vein. I’ve been enjoying lettering with watercolor lately so I started by sketching out a few 26s.
I then refined the shapes in Illustrator
Next, I used these new shapes as masks and let the watercolor texture show through.
My wife gave me Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art book for my birthday. It’s a typographic interpretation of Gaiman’s commencement speech given at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts in May 2012 designed by Chip Kidd. I found it very inspiring and it even had a few good laughs!
A few weeks ago Brad Dowdy (The Pen Addict) mentioned a type of paper called Tomoe River on The Pen Addict podcast. Intrigued, I headed over to Nanami Paper and bought a pad of 100 sheets. I think my reaction when it arrived was the same as Brad’s. The first surprise came when I opened to cover to reveal this super thin paper that feels like cheap newsprint. The second surprise was when I made the first stroke with my pen. The ink just sat right within the boundaries of my stroke and didn't dare to venture out to areas of the paper not touched by my nib. No. bleed. whatsoever. Even as it slowly sinks into the paper, it retains the line. Where does the ink go? It seems physically impossible for a bead of ink to sit on top of paper, be absorbed and not spread out. It’s really fun to watch. I’ve spent a few days with this paper now and I look forward to exploring further how well it handles other tools/inks and what advantages it has for hand lettering. Thanks, Brad, for pointing it out!
The sample above was written with my new TWSBI Diamond 580 with a 1.1 stub nib. More on that soon. I filled it with a beautiful red-orange(Fuyu-gaki) Pilot Iroshizuku ink.