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What’s New At Wet Paint and A Quick Look at Pigma Professional Brush Pens from Sakura

April 8, 2015

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Above: Scan of various lines made with the Pigma Professional Brush Pens from Sakura, on a yellow legal pad. Read below about pen characteristics.

I love going over to Wet Paint, but lately it has been even more fun because the interior landscape there changes every day. They have been expanding the store—that means more space and more supplies. Even while construction is underway the store has been open. You really need to check it out.

I'm a little at a loss when I go there now because my internal map of where all the supplies are located is no longer useful. 

Now I walk in and ask if there is anything new. That' seems to get the job done. The helpful staff bring out all sorts of fun stuff for me to look at. 

Recently Liz Carlson showed me the Molotow Marker Masking Pens. These pens are filled with a masking liquid (also called masking fluid) that has such negligible odor that even I can use them. There is a 2mm and a 4mm tip pen. And you can purchase a refill bottle of masking liquid. (I haven't done anything except scribble on scraps of paper with mine, because it has been crazy here with CR in the hospital, but I'm eager to use them in the coming months at life drawing and the zoo.) If you don't know what masking fluid is it's a liquid "rubber-ish" product that you apply to your paper to safeguard various areas from paint. Watercolorists often apply it with a brush (which typically is then totally ruined for anything else). When the masking liquid dries you can paint right over it. It will repel your paint in those areas. When the paper and paint are dry simply rub off the masking liquid (you can use your finger with this version, or use a rubber cement pick-up block). The results are fun. Stop painting around all those tiny details. Reserve your whites or light colors. Knock yourself out. (Ha, old printer's pun.)

A week or so after I was introduced to that product I was shown the new Pigma Professional Brush Pens from Sakura. These are archival quality black ink pens with solid fiber brush tips. The ink is also waterproof. They came in a pack of three: a Fine Brush, Medium Brush, and a Bold Brush. If you use a Micron pen, this is the ink you are already familiar with. I find Micron ink has a very slight odor, but if I can't get a Staedtler Pigment Liner I have been known to use a Micron. So that slight odor is not a deal breaker for me, just a heads up.

I tested all three tips while waiting on the phone. You can see that "doodling" in this post's "yellow" image. 

I found that the Medium was not as springy as the fine and didn't scribble as well. We will define "scribbling" here as the ability of a solid fiber tip to make quick line direction and width changes (through pressure). Both the Broad and Fine were great for scribbling and very flexible and springy.

Since I've only tested these 3 pens I don't know if that difference is inherent in the Medium tip or if it's just an "individual" difference and departure from the manufacturing "norm." 

I found that the Broad tip yielded fine lines, as fine as the Medium did, just with different pressure. Unfortunately with more pressure and side-tip strokes the Broad tip didn't have enough clearance from the end of the pen so when you stroked it in that configuration the ends of your strokes got odd little tails (you can see this in my example). If you hold the pen higher to avoid this phenomenon you get a wide stroke that is not much wider than the Medium, so what's the point? (Definitely no pun intended there.)

My Fine tip was flexible and really delightful to use. Look at the tiny strokes I got with light pressure. But when I did my side stroke test the drag line always broke up. This means the pen is moving faster than the ink can feed into the tip. I wasn't moving any faster than I did with the other two tips so this phenomenon is annoying to me. It seems to me they should be able to control that flow more easily on the fine tip because it is smaller and needs less volume of ink to pass through it. But perhaps I just got a pen that was starting to dry out. (The pens were packed together in a bubble pack and their caps were tightly sealed.)

Will I give up my Faber-Castell Pitt Artist's Brush Pens (regular and large) for these? Nope. Will I give up the new Faber-Castell Pitt Artist's SOFT Brush Pen for these? In a heartbeat. I found the F-C Soft brush too flexible at the middle of the tip, so that it almost folds in half when even light pressure is applied. Not fun for me to work with.

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Left: waterproof test on watercolor paper in Kunst & Papier Watercolor Journal. Read the post for details on what this means.

I did a quick test of waterproofness on the watercolor paper contained in my Kunst & Papier Watercolor Journal that I'm testing. I used that paper because watercolor paper typically has the type of sizing that floats ink on the surface of the paper for a little while longer (it's made to do that with the watercolor pigments) and if you're going to experience an ink bleeding problem it usually shows up on watercolor paper.

"Archival Quality" can mean so many things from simply that it doesn't allow water pick up or bleeding to a certain acidity rating that it doesn't seem useful to comment upon. The Microns made by this company seem to be lightfast based on the experience of many of my friends. I would guess the same is true here. The use of the word "Professional" in the name is problematic since that used to be a clue that materials were not artist-quality, and were instead made for illustrators who were going to shoot their work and then rely on film "originals" for archiving. There seems to be a shift in the art materials community to reclaim the word "professional," however, as evidenced by Winsor & Newton now calling their watercolors "professional" yet maintaining they have the same quality. (I don't care for Winsor & Newton watercolors but I'll refrain from making a snippy comment here and just say this is a change and it is something artists should be alert to—To paraphrase Humpty Dumpty words can mean exactly what we want them to mean, no more, no less—we should be aware and alert to the way language is used to promote and sell and label products.)

All of that is just to say, I've not had them long enough to do a lightfastness test on them and probably won't use them enough to spend the effort. So if you're concerned do one. 

Also I am not a regular user of the "Micron" beige-bodied, very fine-tipped solid-fiber brush pens made by this company so I can't give you a comparison between the two lines as to relative springiness.

I think both the markers and pens mentioned in today's review would be great for various lettering applications—the masking liquid pens to create type reversed to white from a wash of color you placed down, and the brush pens for some lovely script lettering.

Note: I purchased the items tested in this review and do not receive compensation for mentioning Wet Paint—I just think it's really good to support your local independent art supply store.

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