Left: Self portrait made at the bathroom mirror. My braids are tucked back behind my head because I was gluing (nothing like leaning forward and getting glue in your hair!). I’m testing the Pilot Futayaku Double-Sided Brush Pen in a handmade book that’s about 7.5 inches square—I made it with Nideggen paper.
Before the Minnesota State Fair at the end of August I purchased a bunch of pens to test and never got around to it. The other night I tested the Pilot Futayaku Double-Sided Brush Pen.
Readers of my blog know that I sketch quickly and then go to watercolor or gouache almost immediately. Having a pen with ink that dries quickly and creates bleed proof lines so I can start in with my wet media is important to me. I do have a little wiggle room. Sometimes a pen’s ink will bleed every so lightly, but not enough to alter the paint color I’m applying. Other times a pen will work great on one paper, but not so great on another, but I’ll elect to use it on all papers even so.
If you want to read more about why a pen works well on one paper and not another you can read “It Isn’t Waterproof, Until It’s Waterproof.”
To test this pen I took out my current journal which is filled with Nideggen paper. This is a lightweight paper (120 gsm), but because I love its tan color, I enjoy working on it with color pencil and gouache. The paper will buckle a little with the application of wet media, but I don’t find it a deal breaker.
Since Dick was already asleep I modeled for myself standing at the bathroom mirror. I did the entire sketch with the fine point tip of this pen. After I finished with the fine point I went over the outline of the head with the medium tip (which is a thick tip in my estimation).
I didn’t start out to make this a pen and ink test, so I never intended to put watercolor on this page. Because of that, at the bottom of the image you’ll see three lines, two corner shapes, and the word “Water test.” I sketched these shapes in and brushed the first three items with a clean brush and clean water. Even though I had just made the lines there was no bleeding on the two shapes. There might have been a very slight lift off of ink on the three lines (it’s more difficult to tell on toned paper), but I don’t think so. I scrubbed on these shapes as part of my test. That is harder than I would ever glaze on or apply gouache.
Next I put a light wash of yellow on my brush and washed it over the words “Water test.” There seemed to be no contamination of the color.
Even before I tested the water resistance at the base of the page spread (which is turned on its side so I could have a vertical) I had applied pink from a Montana 15 mm tipped acrylic marker on the left side of the page. I ran the edge of the thick tip right up to my ink lines, deliberately hitting them to see if they would bleed. They didn’t. The lines stood fast even when I moved the marker tip over them, even though the lines were freshly made. (I restated some lines after this paint application.)
While this pen may not have quite this water resistance on all papers, I’m very pleased with how it stood up in this test. I didn’t test it further on other papers because there is one downside to this pen: Odor.
Don’t get too worried. For most of you it will be nothing. To some of you it might be a plus. The pen’s ink smells a bit like India ink. After a life time of technical illustration and countless bottles of a variety of India inks, I have a love/hate relationship to the odor. I have pleasant memories associated with it, but in the past ten years those memories have been supplanted by headaches as my sensitivity grew.
Because of the odor, I will not be using this pen on a regular basis. I will be using it at life drawing co-op for various experiments. (If something cool happens I’ll keep you posted.)
But if such mild odors don’t bother you, this still might be a pen to investigate…
1. Because it is water resistant. (As tested and explained in this post—results will vary on different papers.)
2. Because there are two tips on one pen body—a fine point and a medium point (which I think is actually very bold). You could sketch a variety of lines with only one pen in your hand.
3. Because the pen is lightweight and a delight to hold in the hand.
4. Because the caps come off and easily snap onto the end that you are not using. And they hold really well. They won’t be popping off into the hay as you lean over a pen gate and sketch a sleeping lamb. Or ricochet off the tile floor of a zoo enclosure and bounce into the water habitat of a playful seal. No fumbling! No endangered animals.
5. Because the caps snap closed cleanly and sharply there is no worry about whether or not you have closed the pen.
The pen is non-refillable. Also I cannot tell you if the ink is lightfast as Jet Pens doesn’t report on this, and I haven’t done a lightfastness test.
As to the tips on these pens I can tell you that Jet Pen lists them as felt-tips. They look sort of “plastic” to me, but I have been surprised lately by other pens, so I’m just going to report what they are listed as.
They are stiff, yet springy. If you like solid tipped brush pens of any sort you will probably like the action on these. I prefer individual hair brush tips so I’m used to having much less control and enjoying the flexibility of a real brush tip.
That said I found them fun to write with. If it weren’t for the odor, I think I would adopt the fine tip side of this pen as a writing pen.
I do worry that the tips will wear down quickly. After only a few minutes doing the sketch you see here, I worried that I was already wearing in the fine tip. But I found I could still make fine lines, I just don’t know how long that will last. I don’t think about how hard I am on pens when I’m sketching, but having seen a couple videos of myself sketching now (because of taping demos for my classes) I realize that I’m a bit of a demon with them. I want pens that stand up to any amount of pressure I dish out, yet also spring back to producing hairlines. Perhaps after taking this pen to life drawing for awhile I’ll have a better sense of what this pen can stand up to.
The bolder tip, called medium, is definitely softer in action, as befits the bolder line it produces. You will also see on my test at the base of this page spread that if you let up on the pressure with the medium tip you can get some fine lines.
If you’re a fan of felt-tipped and other solid brush tips on pens, and a little bit of India ink-type odor doesn’t bring on a headache for you, I think you might want to give this pen a go.
This pen is also available with gray ink on the Jet Pen site. I have not tested that pen and do not know how its ink responds to wet media.
Note: Usual disclaimer—I purchased this pen for testing and am not connected to Jet Pens or Pilot in any way, except as a happy customer. I’ve supplied the link to Jet Pens’ website because I know you can get this pen at that location. The problem, for me,with pens from Japan is that they often have their names in Japanese on the pen barrel and packaging. Since I don’t read Japanese, I can’t decipher that information to let you know what they might be called, so you can search for them. Providing a link eliminates the need for me to try.