Review – Copic Ciao Markers

Copic Markers are a professional artist’s staple and set quite a high bar in terms of how a marker performs. I personally don’t have the skill to utilize them effectively, but I have seen the wondrous products of many who swear by them. Getting to that level takes practice, and while one can learn with other markers, it’s never too soon to get attuned to the markers you intend to be using for a long time. That’s where the high price-point of Copic markers really starts to become a problem. To build up a library of the markers would cost hundreds of dollars, and when starting out one doesn’t know what tints and shades they need or prefer (the markers are refillable, thankfully, but that doesn’t change the upfront cost, just the upkeep). There is a budget option, the Copic Ciao, which at $4 are a dollar and change less expensive than their bigger brothers, but that price is still up there. Are they worth it?

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The markers are roughly cylindrical with a ⅜” diameter. There is the smallest of bulges in the center for the purposes (I assume) of aiding grip and disincentivising rolling. On either end there is an inch-and-a-quarter long color-coded cap with a quarter-inch step down on the end that allows either cap to be posted on the other. Near the base of each of these caps there is a small nub that makes it easier to remove and also helps prevent the marker from rolling. Each tip has a butte-esque taper leading from the body to the felt “brush”. The chisel tip is molded in the same plastic as the body, while the brush tip (the one you’ll most often be using) is a darker plastic that extends to an easily visible band underneath the cap. Which ends are which, what color the ink is (both descriptive and in code), and every other needed piece of information is nicely printed on the sides, and it appears underneath a shiny finish to prevent wearing with use (after all, these markers can be refilled).

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I’m not an expert when it comes to actually using these (or any) markers, but a quick search online of what people are able to create speaks for itself. What I can say is that the tips are well-made and hard-wearing (and they’re also replaceable, decreasing future expense). The chisel is sturdy and unyielding while the brush easily bends to create lines ranging from 1/32 to ¼ inch. The ink is alcohol-based and goes right through absorbent papers, feathering and drying quite quickly. It’ll still bleed through fairly heavy and high quality papers, but it doesn’t dry as quickly, allowing it to be blended more easily either with other colors or the colorless blender (which, as far as I can tell, just contains alcohol). Once down, the ink is essentially impervious to water and alcohol-based attacks, but they are sensitive to sunlight (as per their website) and, being solvent-based, aren’t the most “archival quality” things in the world.

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In my opinion, even forgoing the financial difference, the size and shape of these smaller Ciao markers is just more comfortable and easier to use. And they allow an artist to build up a collection of various colors in a much more consolidated space if they are willing to lose the color labels on the end. But they’re still expensive, and getting them won’t make you a better artist or a blending magician (as I can attest to). If you’re unsure if you want them or can utilize them I’d recommend starting out with only a few (greys would work best in this scenario) and getting more as you need them or improve your skills (the sets are quite expensive, especially if you end up not using them). But the bodies will last forever and the refills/replacement(s) (felt tips) are fairly easily available and extend the life of the marker significantly. This is a fine (and for some superior) version of a marker that is trusted by professional illustrators around the world.

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Review – Rhodia 3×4.75(5) Staple Bound Pocket Notebook

Pocket notebooks are something that, it seems to me, are becoming more of a “thing” again. Whether or not it was just me being unable to find them early in the 2000s, or them not existing in large quantities at the time, I don’t know. Still, I seem to find newer, and possibly better, pocket notebooks all the time, like the Rhodia 3×5 48-page 80g notebook I stumbled across at my local bookstore.

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The color of my notebook is black (it can be orange), with orange lettering printed on, making it look like the Rhodia premium pads, but it contains regular, stark white, 80g Rhodia paper. My particular book is a graph ruling in a light purple that is customary for the brand. I quite like it, but prefer a light blue for graphs. The 3×5″ size makes the book small and convenient to put in any pocket. Being a half-inch shorter on either side to a field notes book, I was surprised at the places this book could go that the latter couldn’t. The 48 pages are quite sufficient for making lists, a few sketches, or even a few stories, and about the right length to prevent the destruction of the book by the time it is completed.

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The cover quality is nice. It is thicker than the paper without being cumbersome, and seems tear- and crease-resistant, though I wouldn’t push it. The ink used to print the logo and info on the back is much more heavy-duty than what is used on the pads and holds up without smearing, chipping, or fading for quite some time. The staple binding is a weakness in some cases, being a bending point, but overall causes little damage since the size is so small. And the paper is typical wonderful Rhodia. It is thick and smooth, taking everything from pencils to fountain pens with no problem. It is an absolute pleasure to write on, though with some liquid inks taking time to dry, one has to be careful. If they are looking for speed, a non-liquid pen should be looked into, but even ballpoints feel great on the paper. Bleed-through and feathering are minimal. Show-through is unfortunately common, and tearing is unlikely but possible if the book is going out on an adventure.

Overall, these little notebooks are a great addition to the pocket notebook collection. They are heavy lifters for their size, and the black ones are fairly covert and classic looking. And, of course, they all but disappear in a pocket. A great little book to look into especially if you think Field Notes are just slightly too large.

Review – Prismacolor Kneaded Rubber Eraser

Recently, my erasers started running out of eraser juice, and I started having trouble with them. So I went to the art supply store looking for a replacement. I found almost my exact eraser, and one that was a bit cheaper, so I decided to try the cheaper one, the Prismacolor Kneaded Rubber eraser, out.

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Kneaded rubber erasers are cool. They can stretch and bend to get into small, difficult spots as well as wider spots. They can “clean” themselves, and generally don’t leave any eraser shavings. And while this is a good eraser, it isn’t as good as the ones I have used previously. It just doesn’t erase quite as well. Pencil is harder to remove, and stays bolder in indented lines. The eraser also rubs off quite a bit. There are still fewer shavings than one would get with a solid eraser, but more shavings than one should get with a rubber one.

So, if you’re just looking for an eraser that is better than standard or even high-quality solid erasers, I would recommend this one. It’s definitely good and gets the job done. But it certainly isn’t the best rubber eraser out there.

Review – Higgins Black Waterproof India Drawing Ink

So a while back I reviewed Higgins black non-waterproof India ink for fountain pens. That’s a fine ink for fountain pens, but if one wants to do, say, an ink wash it doesn’t fare too well. There is a Higgins solution for this; Higgins black India drawing ink.

The ink comes in a tiny well with a small dropper. There is not nearly the same volume of ink, but the bottle takes up about the same amount of space.

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The ink itself is very black. Very, very black. It is waterproof and a little thin. It can be used to create a very dark line right out of the bottle, or diluted with water to make various shades of grey. Unlike the fountain pen ink, which turns a greenish color when diluted, the ink remains black or grey. It colors the water completely black no matter the solution, so measuring the amount of the mixture before hand is recommended.

Overall the ink is superb for what it is made for, which is brush inking and ink-washing. It is very dark and handles very well. It dilutes nicely to create shades, and covers well when it does. It does take a little practice to get good at using it but when you get the hang of it it works wonderfully.

Review – Higgins Fountain Pen India Ink

Higgins non-waterproof fountain pen India ink. I don’t really have more of an introduction than that. This’ll be pretty short because there isn’t much to say about ink. But there is still enough that it is warranted.

First off this ink is black, I mean really black, even when it is diluted by water it is still a solid grey, it doesn’t turn into a deep green or blue. It is not true India ink because it does wash off with water, but you’ll have to do some scrubbing. It is fairly thin because it is used for fountain pens, making it less suitable for most other uses. Applied over a large area it causes the paper to wrinkle, but not too severely. But because of this it is very smooth, and any line problems will stem from the pen. It shows through most papers and stains a lot of items. So one must be careful while using it.

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Over all the ink is nice, it works well for fountain pens and is okay for other tasks. It is water soluble so it can be cleaned up (if not easily) which is a huge bonus. But most importantly it is a true black.

Review – Testors Plastic Cement

Do you need to glue plastic pieces? Are you making models, collages, or sculptures? (Why do I always begin these with a question?) Then lets check out Testors plastic model cement.

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This review shall be short as glue is glue. It does what it says it does, binding most plastics, but it has problems with gloss and such as most glues do. It does not bond metal or most other substances, it is purely for plastic-to-plastic gluing. Although it will stick your fingers and paper with it, so be careful when using it. It takes several hours to fully set but hardens in about half a minute. The only real problem with using it is its terrible odor, but that is common to all plastic glues.

In short it is a very good glue, and that is why Testors is one of the most well-known brands in this line. There are better glues, and this is obviously not suited for every use, but that does not change how well it performs for the price. Just don’t get it on any paper products unless you want them to turn to very thin, stiff boards.