Review – Zig Millennium 005 Technical Pen

There are a lot of technical pens out there, and I’ve only looked at a few. Today I’m going to try and remedy that a little bit by doing a review of the Zig Millennium technical pen, specifically the black 005 version.

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The pen body is a bit odd. The bottom is a small, rounded piece of plastic. The barrel is silver and covered in writing. All necessary information is printed in several languages. The cap is nothing really special either: the top is flat with the tip size on what looks like a black plastic cutaway; the clip is simple, with a rounded end similar to a Pilot Precise or Uni-ball Vision. Interestingly enough, it says to keep the pen horizontal, but gives one a pocket clip. It’s the section of the pen that’s strange: it’s very small and nubby, it rounds off quite quickly and the ridges used to keep the cap in place are quite noticeable. It terminates rather abruptly into a metal end that leads to the tip. I’m not sure if one is supposed to hold the slightly uncomfortable section when writing or move back on the pen and place the fingers over the written portions of the pen, which I can feel the ink is raised up on, and will likely rub off quickly.

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On to the tip. It produces a very thin line, around the same width, but perhaps a bit wider than other brands of the same size, though that may just be the paper being used. The ink is archival quality (haven’t tested) and waterproof (have tested, is quite!) though that is to be expected from a pigmented ink. The black is quite black, and a cool black, which is nice, as many blacks tend to be warm. Writing is smooth and there are no skips or bumps with a good tip, though it will wear out after some time.

Overall it’s a good little pen, and quite comparable to the other technical pens in terms of both quality and price. I can’t speak for whether or not the rest of the line is wider than its counterparts from other brands, but that might be something to consider when purchasing. Otherwise, I’d say it’s almost entirely an æsthetic and comfort choice for the user.

Review – Palomino Blackwing Pencil

So I’ve reviewed some pencils, and I believe it is time in my pencil-reviewing career to take a look at the reproduction of the “greatest” pencil of all time: The Palomino Blackwing.

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The body of the pencil is unique, which really is something to say about a pencil. The main body is a fairly standard hexagon shape, but painted in a nice, less-standard matte black. The Palomino Blackwing name and logo is printed in gold, with a gold band around the back. No indication of hardness is presented. The eraser holder starts off normal, but flares out into a rectangular shape with a metal insert that holds the eraser and makes it replaceable. This eraser holder is fairly smoothly finished, which is also unconventional. The erasers themselves are fine, they get the job done but they aren’t perfect, especially if they have to deal with the amount of lead this pencil puts on the paper.

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Now to what really matters: the lead of the pencil. It is fairly soft, but not the softest. From what I can gather it’s about a 3 or 4B (a few bits softer than a no.1 or no. 2 pencil) and boy does it glide. It’s likely one of the best flowing pencils I’ve ever used. Even for this hardness it is noticeably smoother than others in the same area. But it does sacrifice its point for this. The pencil just never stays sharp, and it can go from a fine (almost) line to a very broad line very fast. The softness also makes sharpening harder as the end never gets quite as sharp as I’d like it to be as it keeps breaking off. I suspect that the Blacking will be reduced to a stump in short order because of this, and the eraser likely never be used to its fullest.

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Overall I’d say that the Blackwing is a superb pencil, but just not my type. It is well constructed, has convenient ideas and is super smooth. But I prefer more precision in my writing and drawing and need a finer point for that. I’m also no a fan of the darkness that softer pencils provide. I like being a little more in control and a little bit lighter. That said, the shading is amazing and the tonal range is phenomenal. It wouldn’t be my greatest pencil of all time, but I can see how it would easily be someone’s.

Review – General’s Woodless Graphite Pencil Comparison with Cretacolor Monolith

So, last week I reviewed the Cretacolor Monolith all-graphite pencil. This week I was going to review the General’s Woodless pencil, but I realized how similar they are, so I will simply be talking about the differences in the two.

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The General’s pencil had (I have an older one) an inferior set of markings on the side that wore off quickly and easily. If the newer versions have a similar ink I’d say this is a downside as you can’t see what you’re using. The outer coating is a darker color, which has no real effect except aesthetics. And the back end is a bit more flat.

Is the quality the same? I can’t tell for sure, as they both seem the same, but if I must hazard a guess I’d say that the General’s pencil is a bit more fragile. But for all I know they could be made by the same company.

All in all I’d have to say that if you were going to pick between the two it might not even matter. Whether or not your local store (or where you shop most) carries them, and the color are the two biggest factors I can think of. Really it’s just a toss up. (But don’t actually do that: the pencils might break!)

Review – Cretacolor Monolith 9B All Graphite Pencil

There are always new things to be done with old inventions. They could just be a novelty, or improve the invention quite a bit. And when searching around for pencils, one may come across the all-graphite pencils that have been around. Today I’ll be looking at one type of these, the Cretacolor Monolith.

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Well, the body of that pencil is nothing to talk about, really. It is all graphite with a thin finish and white text giving standard supply information. There is also a bar code. Really, there is nothing to talk about as all of the pencil is the same material.

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It isn’t particularly fair to say that I’m just reviewing the pencil in this case, as the pencils will vary highly based on the grade of graphite used. I believe they all have the same hard graphite and finished outer shell. But my particular pencil here is a 9B which is very very soft indeed and means that this particular pencil has trouble keeping a point and wears down very quickly. On the other hand, it can be used to create a magnificent array of shading effects. I have had no problems with snapping, even with the points, but I wouldn’t expect to drop it and have a complete pencil come out of it. They do feel quite fragile. There is also the waste factor from sharpening the pencil, especially when it has been well used, will lose a lot of graphite (I’m not sure what this means when compared to all of the wood lost in standard pencils but I thought it worth mentioning) This can be avoided by sharpening the pencil by using it on its side as a shader. Using the pencil in this way also creates a marking area that is larger than almost any other art supply until one gets to brushes.

Overall a graphite pencil has its special uses, most notably with coverage, but is also fragile and not entirely unique. It’s like a charcoal stick that is much more well-behaved. So I would say it is worth a shot to try one and see if you like it. If you’re prone to using only the point of a very sharp pencil this might not be for you. But if you want flexibility in line width and color (especially with a softer pencil), then this might do some amazing things for you.

Review – Pigma Graphic 1

So you like to draw things a bit larger, and technical pens just don’t get big enough. You don’t want to use a brush or something similar. You may want to try the Pigma Graphic in size 1.

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The body is identical to a Micron body. It’s tan and smooth, with most necessary information printed on it. It has a place on the back for the cap to fit that is color coded. The cap is nice and has a metal clip. On the top it says 1 to indicate the size. The top can rub off, though, with some rough treatment. The grip section is easy, kinda small but easy to hold onto due to it being textured.

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The tip is felt. It comes to a point that is about 1mm. It flows nicely, laying down a nice line with no inconsistencies. The point doesn’t have much flexibility, making the line very constant with could be a plus or a minus. The ink is the same black that all Pigma pens have. It is fade and smear resistant, with some waterproofness to it. It is also acid-free, making it archival quality. In other words: it’ll last as long as your paper does. The ink is also a very nice, true, dark black. The writing experience is smooth and easy.

To sum up, the Graphic 1 is basically a larger tip Micron. It does have a different type of tip, on which the point can be more easily damaged, but the base is more secure. If you like Microns and need something bigger this is a good choice. And if you like felt-tip pens and want a higher quality one this is certainly the pen for you.

Review – Micron Orange, Yellow, and Fresh Green Colors

It’s that time again, the time I review Micron colors. The three I have this time are the bright colors: orange, yellow, and fresh green.

Starting with the orange: It’s a very bright color, brighter than the fruit of the same name. It’s also a little bit on the light side, looking a bit washed out on the paper. It’s less pleasant than most of the other Micron colors. The pigment does apply evenly and there is no doubt it is orange, though.

On to the yellow, which is super saturated. It’s almost illegible on white paper, on off-white it’s not much better, even though it is still rather subdued and looks quite like the yellows presented in nature. In large patches it loses its illegibility and actually looks quite pleasant. It’s probably the closest to a natural yellow you’ll find in a pen.

Now the fresh green. This one looks like lime green. It is also super bright, and comes the closest to hurting my eyes of the bunch. The pigment tends to pool, creating some shading when drawing. This can be both advantageous and disadvantageous depending on the effect you’re going for. It is the most likely to bleed of any of the colors, but with this selection that isn’t too bad. I would also say this is the least realistic and useful of the bunch.

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Overall, these three bright colors have some issues, but are fairly good. They write well and are entirely servicable, but finding jobs for them seems difficult to me. I’m not sure if they are the must-haves of the other Microns, but they are quite good.

Review – Micron Rose, Brown, and Sepia Colors

So now we get to the final group of the Micron colors that came in the 8 pack of Micron colors. These are the weird or non-standard colors, in my opinion.

The first is Rose, which is a pink: they just call it Rose to make it fancy. It’s a very deep, pleasant, pink color, not like the very vibrant, in-your-face pinks that dominate what is considered pink these days. It doesn’t really approach purple, but it is darker than most roses I’ve ever seen. It’s surprisingly nature-y for a pink, though. It does have some problems with bleed-through on thin paper, but not a lot.

Next we have Brown, which I would call light brown. I would say it’s sort of a fertile, soft, earth color. Again, for a light color it’s fairly subdued, not like a Crayola pencil or anything. Again, it’s surprisingly real looking. It has no problems with bleed-through at all really, and goes well in a landscape.

Finally we have Sepia, which I call dark brown. It’s very mud-like. Another deep, saturated color. It can get very saturated though, and end up looking like black in the final product, so it does take careful application. It also tends to pool, resulting in spots of darker color. Some skill is required to get it to look right. Surprisingly, though, it has very little bleed-through even on thin paper.

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These ‘non-standard’ colors are very nice overall. If one is looking to do nature sketches, landscapes, etc. these are quite nice. They are very subdued and blend in nicely. I find them much more pleasant than the bright reds and blues of the other Microns. If you just want standard colors for organizing or technical things, these are not the pens you need.  However, if you’re drawing a lot of the outside, or in cool colors, these are fantastic.