Saving Those Fiber-Tipped Calligraphy Pens Even When They Are Running Out of Ink

March 14, 2013

130105_FmanLeft: 8.5 x 11 inch sketch, Stonehenge cream paper, Faber-Castell Pitt Artist's Calligraphy Pen and outlining after the fact with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen.

The Faber-Castell Pitt Artist's Calligraphy Pen is just so under utilized as far as I'm concerned. I talk about it to people all the time and they look at me as if I'm from another planet.

It's the same great India ink that is in the rest of the Faber-Castell Pitt pen line. That means it's waterproof like the other pens and almost immediately after you put down your lines dries so quickly you can paint on it.

And because the pen tip is a chisel shape for calligraphy writing you can tilt the pen tip on an edge and sketch a thin line, or ride the tip down the page flat for a wider line.

I find that when they start to run out of ink they get a lovely almost "graphite" shading tone to them. (I have other images like that I'll show you on another day.)

On this particular day I decided to go back in with dark outlines using the PPBP. I think my head was still swimming from my visit to the Mucha Exhibit in December. (You can see examples of Mucha's work in the excellent books I list here.)

Don't give up on those fiber pens, even when they seem to be running out. I typically have 5 older pens sitting next to my chair, or in my non-drawing hand. I find that I can draw with one for a few minutes and then it sort of dries out, then I start drawing with another old pen, until it does the same, and so on. If you start sketching with an older pen it also makes lighter lines to begin with and that might be less intimidating to you when you are putting your first marks down on the paper if you have a heavy hand and your marks are otherwise very dark. 

(And of course to get to that stage of the pen's life you'll have to put a lot of drawing practice in, so it's all good!)

There will come a time when you'll only get a few strokes out of an older pen, and then it is sadly, time to say good bye. Until then there are a lot of marks to make.

    • Karen
    • March 14, 2013

    you can also use it for some pretty nice lettering and it doesn’t have to be cursive.

  1. Reply

    I also love the calligraphy PITT pen and just discovered that it comes in other colors – cranberry and sepia! I also agree with you that when a pen starts to dry out the line quality becomes really interesting and useful, although I do like to mark the outside of the pen with tape so I know which one is the dry one and which one is the fresh one so I know what I line am getting before I draw on the page.

  2. Reply

    Roz, non pen related question here. Have you ever used stipple paper to bind into books, or do you just cut sheets to draw on and them glue in? I feel a major binding binge coming on and the thought popped into my head this morning.

  3. Reply

    Yes! It is very fun for writing with. I wish they would also make a slightly smaller one—Staedtler Pigment Liners used to come in a size 1 calligraphy point that was tiny but still added variation to your letters and I used it all the time for sketching and writing and I miss it so.

    But this is a pleasant and larger exchange.

  4. Reply

    Suzanne, the cranberry one (it always seems like a wine color to me) never seems to satisfy me, but I do use the Sepia a lot as well.

    I have tape on my pens too so I can tell them apart, but then I started doing so much sketching with these pens that they were running out quickly (because I was using up all the ink by drawing all day, not because of some defect in the pen) that I COULDN’T REMEMBER what the various tapes meant. Now I’m also writing a date on the masking tape (or washi tape) I use. It helps a little bit as you say when you reach for one.

    But when they are fresh, wow, that’s a difference!

  5. Reply

    Margo, the coquille papers I’ve seen are all one-sided, i.e., coquille texture on one side and smooth on the back, so for that reason (and there are some archival issues too, but those matter less to me) I don’t bind them in books. I draw and paint on them and then either cut out the piece and glue it in or glue in the entire page.

    You can hunt around on the internet and find archival coquille paper The stuff I use from Bee might be, but I’m not sure that it is.

    There is a school in California where a lot of botanicals or birds are drawn and they sell archival coquille paper. I’m sorry I don’t have that info at my finger tips. I might have put it into one of my posts about coquille paper in the past, don’t know. I just know I was searching for some at one point and then decided it didn’t matter to me if the paper was archival or not.

    I hope you have fun with your binding project!

  6. Reply

    I have the same paper as you, ordered after you posted about the fun with it and the PPBP. Today was tear and fold. I also have one of the Keith Smith books on order so I should be having a bind-a-licious spring. Again thank you for all the kind sharing of tips and techniques.

    • Stacy
    • March 14, 2013

    Evidently these Pitt Artists pens can be refilled? While reading Danny Gregory’s An Illustrated Journey, Chris Buchholz states (pp. 25-26): “I’ve been thrilled lately with the fact that I just recently figured out that you can refill PITT pens with the ink of your choice. I’ve been filling them with different colored inks, and I’ve even been experimenting with filling them with Dr. Martin’s.” I thought this was a useful idea!

    Also related to the Pitt “B” (brush) pen, I found a video online demonstrating that the pointed tip can be pulled out, and it turns out it’s pointed at both ends; you can insert the worn-out side back into the pen and use the other, sharper, side.

  7. Reply

    Stacy, thanks for writing. I learned in 2008 that you could flip the tip on a brush pen from F-C and the other end was also pointed and I posted the post about it

    As to filling them with other inks, I really like the ink they have in them so I’m not really interested in that myself, but I think others might like to try it. (I just finished reading an Illustrated Journal and actually forgot Buchholz mention of filling these pens. I thought I’d like to ask people if they are doing that and how they enjoy it.)

    Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately depending on the view, I get so much use out of the F-C calligraphy pens that refilling them would be sort of useless as the tips are pretty worn when I’m done.

    I did pull one of them apart like the brush pen and that wasn’t a flippable tip—don’t know if I just had a bad one or not, but then again, since I’m getting every last drop of ink out of them I can’t complain.

    I’m glad that you enjoy these pens. That’s for writing in and letting people know about Dr. Martin’s. Since there are so many lying around here getting worn out I probably should try it at least once on one that isn’t that worn yet.

    Have fun with your pens!

  8. Reply

    Margo, have fun with your book. Are you going to have the texture across the spread so that you have one smooth spread one textured? Or are you going to fold and collate so that you have a smooth page opposite a textured?

  9. Reply

    HAHA! I squeezed the last bit of ink out of a ZIG dual tip calligraphy marker yesterday: it creates a kind of charcoal effect when it begins to do an exit. The light burns brightest before it goes out with calligraphy markers. NOW if somebody could create a textured nib that would give us the textural random effect of the drying marker—I would get on line for it! I am thinking of using one as a dipping pen to see if the texture can be revived…

  10. Reply

    Hmm…I tore down a variety of watercolor paper yesterday. But now before my first cup of coffee I’m thinking dig out some coquille and try binding it. Why not? I usually bind paper so the same sides are facing but, it might be fun to do the opposite. Maybe I’ll just make two pamphlet stitch books to try it and see how I like it. There’s the idea!

  11. Reply

    Making a series of pamphlet books to test something out and see how you like your paper organized for working compatibility is alway a good idea Margo. A little time and materials investment that can pay off big time in greater satisfaction with a more expensive (in labor, time, and materials) project. Hope you have great fun.

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