Hahnemühle Watercolor Sketchbook Review: Part 2

March 30, 2018
Sketch made in the Hahnemühle Watercolor journal with the Pilot Parallel Pen. I was using the ink cartridges made for the pen. They contain a dye-based ink that is fugitive (don’t care), and water-soluble (Oh-goody.) The pinks you see in this image are tints of color drawn out from the ink lines by the application of a clean water brush. It’s a quick way to create shading.

This is part two of a three part series on the Hahnemühle Watercolor sketchbook. Please click on this link to read part 1.

Today I am going to look at two aspects of paper response in this watercolor sketchbook. These techniques are important to me and therefore I select books containing paper which can handle the techniques. (Or I bind my own with papers I love working on.) While you might not distress your paper with these techniques you might have other approaches that are hard on paper and can extrapolate how this paper will tolerate them.

Sketching with the Pilot Parallel Pen

Here is a detail of a portion of the top image in this post. If you look closely you’ll see that the edge of the Pilot Parallel pen actually scratches and cuts into the paper. You will also see that the paper stands up to this abuse, even repeated abuse in some areas where multiple lines have been massed together. Even after scarring up the paper in this fashion the ink doesn’t bleed through the paper. Successive wet layers (not shown in this image) do not bleed through this paper. This is a tough paper despite its light weight. (The background was painted with watercolor but I didn’t like it so I over painted with an acrylic marker.)

It is no secret that I enjoy using tools in ways that they aren’t intended. The Pilot Parallel Pen was made for calligraphers. Its flat straight nib is ideal for making thick and thin strokes required by the various letterforms.

I look at the pen and see instead the ideal tool for making thin and thick lines in my sketches. And as important, making lines that are not always that controllable.

Why aren’t they controllable? Because I like to use the largest nib size and when you turn it edge down and “grind” it into the paper you can’t always see how the ink is going to flow out. It’s a little like feeling your way in the dark. At other times when you use the pen with the full width of the nib on the paper—the way you would pull a long stroke in the letterforms—if you don’t balance your hand and lean one way or the other, the pressure of your hand lifts the nib off the paper on the side where the pressure isn’t even. That makes for more erratic line building.

Here is a portion of another portrait I did with the Pilot Parallel Pen. I have not pulled out diluted ink to create shading and you can see how the paper is scratched up. Pay particular attention to the bottom right solid red area where scruffing up is very pronounced. The paper still didn’t bleed through. The background is acrylic marker.

I love it.

But perhaps one of the most interesting things about using this pen for a sketch pen is the noise!

I mean it. The noise is almost as bad as fingernails on a chalkboard. 

It took me three weeks of daily use to get accustomed to the scratching, scrubbing, clawing noise.

Now I don’t even notice it.

A couple weeks ago Dick came into the TV room where I was sitting and sketching, he leant over my shoulder, “What is that noise?” He asked. He could hear it from the far side of the kitchen, over my humming! It’s that loud.

I just laughed and scratched the pen across the paper a few times to demonstrate, “It’s the pen,” I said. 

“Wow, doesn’t it tear up the paper?” He was amazed that because I so love paper I was doing something so abusive to it. 

“Sometimes, but it depends on the paper. And I don’t have to be this crazy with it, but frankly it doesn’t even bother me any more.”

I am all about the line. I want the line I want.

So how does the Hahnemühle Watercolor sketchbook paper, which is student grade watercolor paper hold up to the Pilot Parallel pen? Superbly. Read the captions to the first three images in this post as you look at the results.

Background Textures and Pen Types

Platinum Carbon Black ink sketch with washes of Pentel Brush Pen ink. The background which is diluted acrylics was applied first weeks before sketching. The sketch and the shading were done at the same time. The Montana Acrylic Marker was applied on the background where you see pink. The area was not masked off, the edge was just put in with the marker.

I love to work on textures. I’ll make background textures with a variety of media—depending on whether or not the top layer of work (my sketch) is going to be dry or wet media. 

In the image that opens this section of today’s post you can see a sketch made with Platinum Carbon Black ink. 

I find that this paper, despite its cold press texture, seems very slick when working with fountain pens. I prefer to work with my fiber-tipped brush pens like the Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pen or the Tombow Calligraphy pens (with either a soft or hard solid fiber brush tip.) All of these pens contain inks (including the Platinum Carbon Black) which are waterproof when they dry, and they dry quickly on this paper. A plus when you want to get on with painting and then move on to the next sketch.

I find that even with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen or the Pentel Brush Pen with pigment ink (which has a squeezy gray barrel) this paper is very opaque and work from the previous page is typically not visible. Heavy ink work is no more visible than on comparable weight papers.

Note: as with all lighter weight papers if you’re scanning and have ink showing through from the next page spread, simply insert a piece of black paper behind the page you’re scanning and you will not see the other drawings showing through in your scans.

Detail of the green portrait sketch. You can see crisp layers of ink in the eyes and lip area. You can also see some rubbing out in the forehead. This was abandoned because the green underlay was too dark in value for this to make sense. Nevertheless the paper withstood the scrubbing without pilling.

I found that when I painted in acrylics (lightly, not heavily—I don’t use heavy acrylics in my book because of the issue of sticky pages—and don’t write to me about cornstarch and page dividers, I just don’t want to deal with it), or with gouache or watercolor, that I was still able to work on the page easily with pen, or with dry media like pencils. There is a strong enough sizing on the paper that it doesn’t evaporate with the first whisper of moisture.

You can see that this is so in the final detail image which shows lovely layering of ink. At that same time it also shows areas of lifting which didn’t damage the paper.

I found this to be a very strong paper and if you use lifting techniques in your work you will be able to adapt them to this paper.

I found that it took me a few paintings to accustom myself to this paper, after working mostly with Fabriano Artistico Hot Press 140 lb. watercolor paper and Arches watercolor boards. But I did adapt and I actually came to enjoy working on this paper.

I will wrap up my review with some additional thoughts and comments about the construction of the sketchbook on Monday. 




    • Nina
    • March 30, 2018

    wonderful post – thank you. I’ve just started sketching with the parallel pen and find it an amazingly interesting tool (and yes – the noise! 🙂

    1. Reply

      I’m so glad you enjoy sketching with the parallel pen!

    • Tina Koyama
    • March 31, 2018

    I love those Pilot Parallels, too, for exactly the reason you mention — the unpredictable, variable line! I even hacked a couple of them (per videos on YouTube) to curve the straight edge, so now they are more like those aluminum can-made nibs (shaped like a knife blade). Slightly less damaging to the paper. That scritchy noise, though. . . I play music so I don’t have to hear it as much.

    1. Reply

      I have not heard of people adapting them by curving the edges. I will have to look into that! Thanks for the heads up.

  1. Reply

    Cool review — like you, I adore the Nostalgie, I’ll definitely give this one a try. (And yes I read all three reviews!) It looks like it will suit how I like to work. As it happens, I quite like the Handbook sketchbook, and also the notorious Moleskine watercolour album.

    I have a couple of Parallels in a drawer that I never warmed up to — I’ll pull them out again. I quite like sketching with a Lamy 1.1 mm, for subtle line variation. I had it in mind to play with the Parallel for a more extreme version of that, but somehow it wasn’t the right moment.

    Looking forward to your live sketching class coming up in a few weeks, by the way! Thanks for all of your teaching, on this blog and elsewhere.

    1. Reply

      Sonia, I just purchased a new Moleskine PORTRAIT on Saturday and opened it up and couldn’t get near it the chemical smell off the paper was so strong. I’m airing it out now for a few weeks to see if that helps. But if not I’ll just have to pass on Moleskines.

      I hope you do try the Parallel Pens, they are a lot of fun! I don’t use Lamy pens. I found the pens too bulky in my hand so I gave my tester away. I’ve been enjoying the Platinum Carbon Black ink in the pen that company makes, but it’s an odd pen too, with that point stick of a barrel. I bought a Falcon at the end of last year, but it went to my husband because we guessed wrong about which tip I would enjoy. Saving up for another try at that. At least it felt really good in my hand.

      Thanks for the kind words about my teaching!

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