A Look At New Pens From Derwent

February 16, 2015


Above: Sketch of Donald Sutherland using the Derwent Graphik Line Maker .3 in Sepia, in a handmade book (6.5 x 9 inches approx.) containing Arches Text Laid. You can see heavy ink lines from a different pen showing through this lightweight paper on the right-hand page.

This is actually two reviews in one. I'm reviewing pens, but because they were used on paper that I was going to review later this week I'll also comment about the paper at the end of the post.

Derwent has released some new pens. Since I didn't get into the stores for so long they may have been out for quite sometime, but I didn't see them or pick any up until the middle of January.

In the first image you see a quick sketch made from the TV using a pen from the "Line Maker" line. I was disappointed in the value and hue of the sepia pen. It seems a little more yellow than the sepia pigments I use in paint and other brands of ink. The pen ink flow is good. It's a bit like a rapidograph tip, that's the best way I can think to describe it. If you already work with Microns or Staedtler Pigment Liners or the Faber-Castel fine tip pens I think you'll find this comfortable. I find the hard felt tip in the cylindrical point stiffer than other pens of this type and didn't enjoy sketching with it. And I was also bothered by that Sepia color.

I also purchased a .5 from the same line in grey and I like how it felt on the different papers I tested it on much better. The grey was too light a color for me to use much, but if you like to sketch with light valued inks and paint over them you might enjoy working with this color.

The pens in this line contain lightfast pigmented inks. As is normal, they dried at different rates on different paper surfaces and sometimes when I went in with watercolor there would be a slight bleeding of color into the wash. However, since both of these colors are relatively light it wasn't very noticeable and it was certainly in keeping with other pens of this type. (I couldn't find anywhere that it was claiming to be a waterproof pen, but I would rate it as water resistant and, if I liked the colors more, I'd have no hesitation in using it with watercolors.) There's a slight odor to the ink, but even with prolonged use it didn't give me a headache so I wouldn't be concerned about odor issues. It is solvent free.

150114_DerwentPaintPenPigeonsLeft: Some quick gesture sketches of pigeons. I threw up some parking lot photos (in which there were pigeons) onto the computer and sat back and sketched as it was too dark to go outside at this point. The tips were stiffer than what I've been using lately and a finer line, but I was enjoying myself until I coughed and threw paint everywhere (I was very sick) and then started to get a headache from the smell, despite the congestion I had because of being ill.

The other pen from Derwent that I recently tried was their Line Painter. These are set up the same way, with stiff cylindrical nibs that have a hard felt tip within the round metal tube. I consider this very much an old style technical pen/rapidograph type nib. Their copy is calling it (for both pen lines) a "Japanese Nib." That doesn't make much sense to me but perhaps it has something to do with the prevalence of the Micron, which has the same type of nib as these pens. (When someone says Japanese Nib to me I immediately start thinking about the various Manga nibs available for my dip pen holder.)

These Line Painters are different from the Line Makers in that they are filled with a "paint"—an opaque pigment ink. The ink/paint is very saturated so they do work well even on dark backgrounds. It is permanent waterbased ink that is solvent-free. The lines from these take a moment to dry but then can be painted over easily without any pick up (or if you really scrub and they aren't quite dry, barely noticeable pick up).

The Line Painters have two disappointing features: they have a distinct and annoying chemical odor. I am unable to use them for sketching for longer than 5 minutes or I get a raging headache. And I have to walk away from my journal and let the ink dry and the page "air out." That's a problem for me.

150212_GreenManLeft: Pentel Brush pen with pigmented ink and washes with dye-based Pentel ColorBrush Pen and Niji waterbrush, on Japanese Lined paper notebook. With background color supplied by Montana marker with a 15 mm tip (dark lavender) and all other color supplied by leaky Derwent Line Painter Pens. The green leaked so badly I simply smoothed the leaks out with my finger. The brick red blotched everywhere even when writing, but you can see that even on a dark background the dark color shows up. The green splotches on the right-hand page are simply from holding the pen in my hand while I was working with the red pen on the left page/ear. I mopped them up so they wouldn't stick to the opposite page.

The second disappointing feature of the Line Painters is that they LEAK frequently and randomly. As a paint pen you need to shake these pens up to mix up the paint they contain. That doesn't seem to cause much of a problem. When you start to write with them you have to pump them by pushing the tip in and out on the paper a couple times. Still not a problem. Once you start sketching things seem to go well until suddenly they don't: maybe you run out of paint and your line is too dry so you pump the pen again and instead of just a small amount of ink a huge blop of ink comes out. Sometimes I was just sketching away with little pressure on the tip at all and a blob of ink came out. Another time I was simply holding the uncapped pen in my hand while I was sketching with another pen in the same hand and I coughed, which seemed to be too much for the uncapped pen. It sprinkled ink everywhere on the page. I didn't notice at first, put my hand in it, and had a total mess across the page. (It was a pretty fierce cough as I was still very sick, but still…)

I have even picked up a pen that was lying flat for several days and found it was leaking into its cap.

(You are told to store these pens flat.)

There's actually a side effect of the leaky nature of these pens that I don't like and am worried about—when they leak the amount of paint they deposit is substantial. If you don't smooth it out to rub it in, or rub it off with a towel it dries pretty slick and felt a little tacky even after days of drying. I'm worried that if I put pressure on these pages over time, as in when I glue collage material to a later page and put the entire book under a weight, or simply put it to rest on a tightly packed shelf, that the ink will stick to the opposite page.

Because of these issues I would not recommend the Line Painters, unless you have a high tolerance for chemical smells and odd, messy behavior you can't easily control.

It's too bad because I like the way the ink looks on the page, on all sorts of papers. I purchased a set to test and they were labeled with these colors: 02 Clockwork, 08 Brilliant, 09 High, 13 Envy, and 15 Bricklane. I would call these colors (not in that order because I have no idea what order their labels are in because what is HIGH? and the pens are too messy to have anywhere near the computer) Brick Red, Shocking or Bright Pink, Purple, Medium Turquoise Blue, and Green Gold (which I bet is "Envy").

If you look the sets up you'll be able to find them using Derwent's numbers. Besides selling both lines in sets they are available in open stock. I thought they would be a nice addition to my Montana Markers, only in a much finer line. And they would be if they didn't smell and leak horribly.

I have no idea how long they will last as I'm not using them on a regular enough basis to get a feel for how many sketches I'm producing with them. They cap well so I don't think they'll dry out much if you keep them capped.

Something About Arches Text Laid

The first two images in today's post are in a book I made with some Arches Text Laid. Normally I use Arches Text Wove/Velin and I love that paper, but for some reason I bought sheets of ATL and used it to make a test book and then didn't test it.

Well I used the book finally at the beginning of the year and when I returned to Wet Paint to buy more of that paper I was told the paper was being discontinued by the distributor, they couldn't get it any more. That's not a good sign. I wrote about it on my blog at the time to give people a heads up.

It's a wonderful paper that works well when constructing a book. It is lightweight (I believe the weight is 120 gms.) but very resilient and strong for its weight. It has a lovely texture for pen, dip pen, and pencil. It will take watercolor washes, though it isn't a watercolor paper, and will buckle a bit because of its lightweight.

The only drawback this paper has (besides the fact that it's unavailable) is that it allows see-through of dark ink, like the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. But as you can see from this sketch of a boy using that pen, on a prepainted page (the paper holds up to prepainting), with the addition of Montana Marker, this paper is quite a workhorse. I have some more images to show you later this week. If you are a fan of lightweight papers and like to work with mixed media you might want to find some of this before it's all gone.

    • Connie
    • February 26, 2015

    Hi Roz,
    I just got back to reading your blog-love your birds! I wanted to ask how you fold the Arches Text Laid for the journal you made. Is the fold with the long side or the short? I have only made one stitched journal, but I would like to try to make one with this paper. I ordered some from Wet Paint.

  1. Reply

    Connie I don’t have any sheets of this left and the book was made so many years ago (and not used) that the notes for it are packed away.

    What I can tell you is that if you hold the paper up to the light you’ll see strong lines running down in channels every inch or so, with lighter lines running horizontally between those. The strong long lines run with the grain. So if you hold the paper up to the light and see where they are running you’ll be all set to start folding and tearing and as long as your final fold keeps those long lines running vertically you’ll have your final fold with the grain.

    I did a straight tear, simply folding and tearing (keeping in mind what I’ve just written) until I got to the size I wanted which is about 6 x 9 inches. You can of course make a different size book by not tearing down as far as I did, or by tearing away some of the sheet before you begin your folding and tearing. I have a post that discusses this “fussy” tearing here

    Even though that diagram deals with fussy tearing a 22 x 30 inch sheet and not a piece of Arches Text Laid, which I know is larger, you can apply the same ideas AS LONG AS you keep those long lines in the paper running with the final fold.

    Sorry the other stuff is packed away where I can’t get at it.

    Have fun making a journal with it and enjoy the paper. I had great fun with mine and I’m sorry it’s all gone!

    • Connie
    • March 3, 2015

    Thank you Roz-I’m going to read as many of your posts on tearing paper and bookbinding as I can before making my new journal.

  2. Reply

    Connie, I’m glad you’re looking at that material. You might also want to consider signing up for my upcoming bookbinding class. (The videos are all completed and I’m working on the online platform—I hope to be up and going by the end of March. Watch the blog for announcements or write to me and ask to be on the mailing list.) I’ve turned my simple round back spine class into an online class and we’re making the book you see here

    Only it’s about 6 x 8 inches and has Gutenberg for paper.

  3. Reply

    Hi Roz … I use both and haven’t had any issues with leaking or clogging, nor have I noticed any distinct smell. I use them on watercolour or mixed media paper and a heap of water and haven’t had any problems with showing thru on the back. I tend to use them heavy handed, spraying and blowing on the wet paint rather Tha sketching.

  4. Reply

    Oops referring to line painters

  5. Reply

    Jenn, glad they are working for you. All the ones I’ve tested in the paint line however, have acted as described. Each pen in the set has blobbed at some point.

    And the ones they have open for testing at Wet Paint have also all blobbed, at totally random times.

    In fact I took a friend in who was looking for a white pen and she actually tested a new one they just opened and in about 30 seconds of using it, it blobbed on the paper.

    I think this is a significant drawback that people have to be warned about.

    Also I’m sensitive to smells so I always write about that and the paint line has a distinct smell which gives me a headache, very quickly. Other friends in town have also noticed this smell, though it isn’t a deal breaker for some of them.

    Don’t know what you mean by spraying and blowing with them on wet paint, but that sounds like fun.

    It’s great if they work for you and their smell doesn’t bother you.

    • Ariane harper
    • January 9, 2016

    Hi, Ive been using the line painters and have had quite a few leaks with them. The pens have great colour and depth but I can’t deal with the leaking. Do you have any suggestions for pens similar?

  6. Reply

    Ariana, I find that these paint pens leak a lot too. It’s part of every drawing session for me. I’m not a fan.

    There are other paint pens you can try, like the Sharpie Poster Paint pen. I use the waterbased ones not the solvent based. I have had good luck with them and they only leak in the larger 15mm or so tips.

    Another poster paint type pen is the uni Posca. I like those and haven’t had leaks with them.

    But my favorites for larger works are the Montana Markers (also there are other brands like Molotow) and I use their waterbased acrylic paint. I’ve never had leaking with one of these UNLESS I fail to put it back together properly after refilling. They sometimes splatter a little in their caps when I shake them up, but that’s a function of how much paint was on the tip when I closed them, rather than a leak.

    Experiment and see what you think.

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