Better News than Yesterday

February 13, 2009

Left: A lightfast test of some black ink pens—Pentel Tradio Fountain Pen, Staedtler Pigment Liner (which I knew was lightfast but threw it on as a sort of test of my test; and it was an almost dried out pen that I grabbed to make my swatch); the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen (ditto about knowing it wouldn't fade); a Payne's Gray Koh-I-nor Nexus Studio Pens (which I tested because sometimes companies are great at making black inks lightfast but not color ones; sure enough this company is great at both). Click on the image for an enlargement. There was no fading on any of these inks.

I know yesterday was a bit tough, all that fading, all those thoughts of hours spent creating artwork that isn't going to look the same in about, oh a week (just kidding); but you get the idea.

Today I remembered to post a test with a happier result. The caption above lists the various pens I was testing. I purchased them all at Wet Paint in St. Paul, but the links I've provided so you can see photos, are from other vendors. You decide (we know I want you to buy locally from WP!).

I wasn't actually very hopeful when I did this test that the Tradio was going to be lightfast. My eyes don't pick up any change when examining the before and after samples. Something else about the Tradio, it is not waterproof! If you sketch with it and then use watercolor or gouache washes over it, or pass a water-filled brush over the lines this pen makes, those lines will bleed. It is a noticeable bleed. Some people don't mind that, for others it's a deal breaker. You decide what you want to do, just know this is the way the pen's ink reacts.

Also, I don't understand the use of the words "fountain pen" to describe this pen in the ad copy I find on various websites. It has a felt tip that is oddly shaped, has a bit of a chisel to it (I remember it as being almost triangular). It is fun to draw with, and has a bit of give so you can get the lines to morph a bit, but there is an odd feel (for me) to this flexibility, as if at any moment the pen tip is going to bend over on itself. And at the same time it seemed a bit scratchy to me, in a way that I don't like. The final issue I had with this pen is that the ink smells a bit; enough that I actually gave my pen away rather than hang on to it and use it intermittently! It's a light chemical smell that is not strong and pungent like a Sharpie, so for most folks it probably won't be an issue, but just be aware.

As to the other pens on the list, well I am always going on about the Staedtler Pigment Liners (still my favorite pen in the universe) and the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen (my favorite brush pen, which is waterproof as well as lightfast; read my review of it here.)

Every so often I mention the Nexus pen. I also love this pen. It is a rollerball filled with colored pigmented ink that is waterproof! (I think there are 23 colors, but the link I gave you earlier will show you.) I am particularly fond of the two grays (Payne's and Graphite) and Bursting Purple. If you visit my Daily Dots you'll see I use these pens a lot, but you can specifically find them in a book towards the end of Dottie's life, starting here, and continuing for 5 more pages. The paper I was working on for this book was a discontinued toned watercolor paper from Barcham Green (a defunct paper mill in England).

The Nexus, by virtue of its rollerball tip, is great for sketching on hard, resistant surfaces like that heavily sized paper was. But it is also a pen that I turn to when I make journals using Strathmore Aquarius II watercolor paper. I find that paper is a bit soft in texture and the rollerball tip bites right into it in a very pleasant way. Try it out.

One caveat on the Nexus: they have a tendency to start leaking. Sometimes it's within a day of purchase, sometimes it's just before they dry up. I've had probably 60 or so of these pens (maybe even more) and most of them are just fine until the day they dry up (which is a long, long day away). But every so often I get one that starts to show little bubbles on the tip when I uncap it. If that happens beware, it's going to leak on you, your fingers, your page—you get the idea. Sometimes the leak is fast and you can't use the pen. Sometimes the leak is slow and all you have to do is be careful when uncapping the pen that you don't pop a "bubble" and send waterproof ink onto your clothing. If you get a pen like that I say toss it and go get another one. Yeah you didn't get a real life out of it, but the pens are too darn fun to use (and useful) to let that bother you. They cost about $4 a piece but sometimes you have to take the fun factor into account. Over time you'll get your money's worth. At least now you know.

  1. Reply

    I used to have a bunch of the nexus pens and they were fun, but the whole set leaked and I had to throw it out. It was a real bummer so now I am too afraid to go buy more of them. Have you done any lightfast testing on the Faber Castel PITT pens?

    • Roz
    • February 13, 2009

    I’m sorry you had a whole set go bad on you, that would be a bummer!

    I don’t recall a recent (last 2 years) test on Faber Castell Pitt Pens. They are marked lightfast and are from a company I test.

    I tend to test things that aren’t 1. rated on their package, 2. vague claims in the promotional material, or 3. no claims or words like “illustration” or “studio” used in the promotional material. All signs of not being “art materials” grade.

    The Pitt pens are waterproof, which makes them nice to sketch with and wash over with watercolor and gouache, but I don’t like the straight nibs (medium, fine, I forget what they are labeled). The only Pitt Artist pens I use are the Brush ones.

    I look around in my files and see if I can find a test from years back when I first started using them and was more cynical that I am today! (Wait, just make that cynical in a different way!)

  2. Reply

    Note: Since writing that Februay 2009 response I have started using the Faber-Castell Pitt Artist’s Calligraphy pen and I think it is my second favorite pen (after Staedtler Pigment Liners).

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