Review – Sanford Design Pencils

Ah, the pencil, the fundamental unit of art (mostly). Many people will try to tell you there is a difference in the performance of different brands of pencils. While there may be it is so small that it is almost unrecognizable. The main difference between pencil brands are the aesthetics and feel. So I’ll leave finding which hardness of lead you prefer and focus on the feel of the Sanford Design pencils.

The lead obviously comes in all hardnesses, and I can verify that it does actually write. But that is not he major factor in choosing a pencil, really. This variety of pencil feels good in the hand to me personally. They are slightly smaller than the regular number 2 school pencil, and maintain the slightly uncomfortable ridges of their hexagonal design. But being small the ridges are less noticeable and help with grip on an otherwise smooth and slippery pencil. The writing on the side is clear but shiny, and in glare is hard to read, but from my experience doesn’t wear off. It has a nice feel in the hand and is not prone to slipping, but after continued use the corners do tend to dig into ones hand.

This pencil variety is my pencil of choice when it comes to art, though it doesn’t have an eraser the comfort and better lead (when compared to school pencils) makes up for it. Although I will admit that the main reason I use it is because the art stores I frequent carry it and not another brand. I recommend trying out a bunch of different pencils to see which you like best.

Review – 12 pack of Crayola Colored Pencils

Colored pencils, or map colors as they forced you to call them if you went to school in Texas. While they don’t give the most professional look they are still a widely used and a good tool. The variety I will be talking about is the simple 12 pack of Crayola colored pencils.

Most people know them, but for those who don’t, they come in a simple assortment of colors. The bodies are slick but grip-able as with most art utensils. The wood is splintery but easy to sharpen. And the “lead” is suitable, if a bit brittle and break prone.

The color of the pencils itself is nothing special. It is the standard bright and varied set of colors that comes in every school supply-esque box of colors. The mark is about that of a number two pencil and requires a good amount of force to be applied heavily. It leaves a waxy finish on the surface, preventing blending. Using them to color big blocks of the same color as is done in school is probably the best use for them. They have no where near the range of more expensive “art” colored pencils, and none of the blending or covering capabilities. That being said they are good for practicing and less “formal” images, working well in mixed media because of the waxy finish.

Overall, if you are looking for a good art colored pencil this is most likely not for you, and you probably didn’t even consider these. But they are still a useful tool for seeing what things will look like (drafting) or practicing technique. If you already have a set of art colored pencils you could also use these instead so you don’t use up your ludicrously priced coloring utensils.

Review – Pentel 18 Color Pens Fine Point Markers

Markers are fun. They’re not the type of thing one thinks of as a serious art supply, though. When one says markers, one most often thinks of the Crayola variety. But I have here a set of 18 Pentel color pen – fine point markers. I wonder how they compare?

the box



First thing, the pentel is is not to be used at all like a Crayola marker. It is thin, like a pen, and obviously can’t be pressed. They don’t fill very well, so coloring is not and option. But that is not really what one would be doing with these. They make a very fine line, almost like a ballpoint pen, but thicker. It is suited to detail work. They are good for mixed media or a sketch style. Blending is an option and a good one with these pens, in my opinion. They are not particularly suitable for larger images, however, because of their small size. They may even work better as just regular pens (even for writing) than as a marker.

The nib


The body of the pen is slick but holdable. The side is marked with gold lettering that indicates what they pen is, but it is hard to read and rubs off easily. The lids do not snap into place but they do fit snugly enough to not dry out after extensive periods of time. I have had them for long enough to confirm this. The case fits all of them and keeps them organized with ridges. The top folds over and Velcro’s shut preventing the markers from falling out.

The body


These pens are very nice but not exactly like the markers. They are more like colored pens but with felt tips. While they have a very limited application range they are very nice and quite usable. They are however, quite expensive little things, especially for how quickly they can be used, I would only recommend getting them if you do have a known use for them.

Review – Paper:Mate Write Bros Medium Ballpoint Pen

Pens, they’re important. Not a lot of them are very useful for the inking process, but they can be useful for simply starting an image, or many other art-things. This one is the Paper:mate Write Bros. medium ballpoint pen.

Ballpoint pens are one of the aforementioned types:  not particularly useful for finished works, especially smaller ones, but good for seeing what things look like in ink, and making sketches or notes that you don’t want to be erased. A fun exercise is always to draw with a cheap pen on scratch paper, preventing erasing, forcing one to improve their ability to create an image on the first try.

Ballpoints make a fairly fine line but they have rough edges, as there is some bleeding. A medium point is good for writing and most other uses, but as mentioned before is not good at detail. The ink is good, it does bleed with water, but is fairly sturdy as far as that goes. It is a deep black that does require a little drying time, but usually no more then a couple seconds. It takes to paper well. I’ve had no problems with the amount of ink in the pen either, I believe it lasts longer then most other ballpoint pens I’ve used, but I haven’t taken detailed records either so take that with a grain of salt.

The pen itself is easy to hold, if a bit slippery and shows all the necessary info (although that does rub off after continued use). It obviously has a cap and clips to a notebook or shirt pocket, which is always handy.

Overall if you are looking for a cheap pen that can be used for a myriad of things around your workspace, this in one I would consider. However I would recommend buying a couple of packages of different types of pens to figure out which one works for you. But it is at least a nice house or office pen, which is what it was designed for.

Review – Strathmore 400 series, 100 page, 8.5X5.5 Sketchbook

Strathmore sketchbooks, specifically in this review the 400 series, 100 page, 8.5″X5.5″ sketchbook.

Design-wise, the cover is acceptable. It certainly does its job and displays all the necessary information in a way that is easy to read, and in three different languages. The stock of the cover and the cardboard of the back are thick and nice, capable of standing up to a great deal of punishment (the back more so, obviously). The back is unbendable without breaking it first, creating a solid drawing surface away from a table, if that’s how you like to draw. The book is spiral bound, the metal of said spirals is superb, they are strong and have enough give and bounce that they don’t bend into a different shape easily. The spine also keeps the pages very secure.

The paper in this book is a medium thickness, thicker than 20-pound, thinner than heavier drawing paper. It is relatively smooth, but still coarse. Good for the main purpose of the book; sketching, but poor for fine detail work as the bumps create imperfections. It is still much less coarse than other sketchbooks by Strathmore. Pencil and ink are taken well by the paper. Pencil smudges fairly easily, and shows through to some degree. Ink is absorbed quickly, making drying time fast and can be seen through the paper. There are 100 sheets in this book, which seems a large number, making the book fat. But that is hardly a complaint. The pages are very nice for their purpose of sketching.

I take a sketchbook everywhere, I try to vary what I take and where, but when all I want to do is a simple sketch, a Strathmore is what I take. They are easy to get, fair priced and a good quality. I would not try to create a “finished” piece on one, but that is not their intended purpose. They help one practice, hone skills, and create technique by being very durable and useable in a variety of conditions. This size of book is great for a bag or carry in the hand (half the size of a sheet of copy paper). It is a great thing to have when one is out and about and would like to sketch anything.