Mini Review – TxDOT Highlighter

This review is going to be a bit different than my normal ones (hopefully quicker). I found this highlighter for almost nothing in a charity shop where it seems someone donated whatever they didn’t give away. It’s got no branding save a message not to drink and drive (fine advice) and such a strange shape that I wanted to take a look.

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The body is a very large cylinder that bubbles out in the front and has 3 flattened areas that are ribbed for grip. It’s mostly smooth, save for a coarse area in the back where messages can be printed, so obviously it’s from some bulk-online company and the only logos are the ones that are being advertised. At the back, there is a giant, super-satisfying click mechanism and a surprisingly robust clip. The mechanism is a standard one (that you can see through the translucent body) that should perform all right and keep the tip from drying out immediately. The ink is a very pale, lackluster orange that doesn’t have a good smudge-resistance but does what one would expect.

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I just think it’s a nice, chunky, fascinating thing. It isn’t very practical but it gets the job done and it shouldn’t be possible to lose. And it’s made of a sturdy (and thick) enough plastic that if the refill is any good it should last for years. And hey, if you managed to get one, it was probably free! (Also it comes in one of those terrible plastic bags that I think is supposed to prevent it from drying out and which I can’t imagine working.)

Comparison – Wite Out Quick Dry/Extra Coverage/Super Smooth

Previously I’ve compared the two major brands of correction fluid: Liquid Paper and Wite Out. Back then I didn’t take a look at the fact that Wite Out comes in a few different kinds (but there is one that is basically “regular”), so I’ll attempt to rectify that this time. Now, the various “flavors” of Wite Out do go in and out of production, with the majors being “quick dry” (regular) and “extra coverage”. I also have a bottle of “super smooth” that I picked up second hand and surprisingly still works (it’s old enough to have the previous graphic design) but that type is currently out of production. How do they compare?

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Quick Dry – The standard of correction fluids and one that I’ve looked at before. Quick Dry is fairly “standard” in properties; it dries shiny and little warm in hue (yellow-ish). It is a bit finicky and tacky, sometimes making it difficult to get a smooth finish with multiple strokes. It covers regular pen, pencil and stray marks well (though it sometimes leaves a divot where the ink “repelled” it. But on darker lines like those made by Sharpies it only minimizes the effect.

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Extra Coverage – The other currently (easily) available Wite Out, Extra Coverage is smoother, dries matte, and is colder (and much more white) in hue. From my experience it layers well, always being fairly flat, even minimizing visible strokes. It covers pens and permanent markers with ease (though it’s still got that weird divot displacement thing going on) but doesn’t blend in as well with the paper. And, though I did no super thorough testing, it actually seems to dry faster than the “quick dry” or at least not remain tacky as long, but that could be because my “quick dry” bottles are older.

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Super Smooth – Being no longer available I have no idea what a “brand new” bottle of Super Smooth would be like, but I would hope it’s better than what I’ve got here. The bottle is old enough that it has a brush (not a sponge) applicator, and that’s not an asset since this particular type is very fond of clumping up. It’s visually similar to “quick dry” but more matte, and it doesn’t cover nearly as well (it just makes things look kinda hazy) forcing one to reapply it, causing many clumps and visible brush strokes. It dries much slower than the other two as well (maybe that’s why it lasted this long) and while it may be “smoother” in the technical sense I don’t see that as much of a positive either in the abstract or the comparison.

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If I had to pick a winner it would be “extra coverage” as the only flaw I see in it is that it doesn’t quite match the color of the average sheet of paper. The “regular” “quick dry” is still a good product but one I will be using less often now. It depends on whether or not you want the correction to blend in or completely cover up the mistake. But if there is one thing to take away from this, it’s that I now understand why “super smooth” was discontinued.

 

Review – Up&Up Clipboard with Storage Case

Sometimes I end up reviewing things that are much closer to being “office supplies” rather than “art supplies”, but surely most things needed and used in an office will be needed by artists at some point, or otherwise have art uses. Anyway, somewhere in there is my justification for looking at what I am reviewing today: the Up&Up (Target) Clipboard with Storage Case, which is really just a handy thing no matter who you are.

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The whole thing is what one would expect: a decent quality but nothing spectacular. It’s about 9½” x 13¼” and a little less than an inch thick excluding the clip. The plastic is pretty thin, translucent, and flexible. At the front there is a simple snap closure on a plastic (not in the engineering sense) hinge. The main hinge on the back is also made in this way by bending the plastic of the body in a thinner part. This makes the item easy to produce (one piece of plastic) but it will lead to structural problems over time. Fortunately, the plastic is high0enough quality that this isn’t an immediate concern. The back is basically flat but slightly recessed (half an inch in all the way around). The inside front is also pretty flat but with a small trench at the bottom for catching writing utensils and a spring clip riveted to the top. The clip is made of a few different parts with a “wire” acting as the clamping mechanism. There are pieces of plastic attached where the clip holds down the paper to reduce damage and a nice bend in the center of the wire to allow it to be lifted easily. The wire disappears into a rolled tube attached to the case inside of which is a spring that is pretty strong (enough to hurt but not seriously injure), and it does a good job of holding papers down while keeping a much lower profile than traditional clipboards.

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It’s a good version, if it’s the kinda thing you need. I have a sturdier case of similar design that I’ve been trying to get a second one of, and this does the job well (but it isn’t a replacement for me). It does bend and bow (writing with it empty for more than a few words feels a bit weird) and lack proper hinges. I’m not sure it would stand up to extended use in harder conditions, but for office work it is very serviceable. The inside compartment easily holds 30+ sheets of standard office copy paper with room for a writing implement, and the clip keeps things firmly fastened to the face with minimal “denting”. If you’re in the market for a clipboard with a document storage compartment this is an inexpensive and quite serviceable option.

Review – INC Soft Scripts Mechanical Pencils

Pencils for the office, school, or just someone who loses their pencils a lot can get pricey, fortunately there are a lot of inexpensive options out there. But are they even worth it to try? Sure, there are a lot of inexpensive pencils, but if they don’t “pencil” there is no reason to even consider them. INC Soft Scripts are one such pencil on the less expensive side of the aisle. How well do they work?

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The design here is pretty stereotypical, with the barrel being a thin, featureless tube of black plastic that tapers at one end to a plastic lead pipe. Near this end is a rubber grip in one of a few (5 in my case) colors that is narrower in the middle and has ridges toward the end, both ostensibly to help with grip, and they succeed in being barely noticeable. On the back end is a colored plastic push-advance mechanism (that matches the grip) with integrated pocket clip and eraser holder. This bit can be removed to expose the lead-holding tube that contains 2 extra leads (for a total of 3 per pencil). The clip is nothing spectacular, with most of the necessary information on it, and fairly brittle. But I feel the entire end piece would fling off before it broke.

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Performance is what one would expect. The HB lead is middle-of-the-road, leaning toward soft, but there’s nothing particularly off about it. I personally don’t use a .7mm size but it is a fairly standard size and makes breaking less of a problem. The eraser is one of the little white ones that will get the erasing done pretty well, but will seem to disappear almost immediately. The clip is serviceable but I wouldn’t recommend using it. And, finally, the mechanism is quite solid and workable; pushing lead out and holding it in place when commanded to do so.

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They’re easily usable, but far from spectacular, pencils, with their main benefits being the rubber grip (if you happen to like those) and the fact that they are the ones at the store (if indeed they are the ones at the store). There’s nothing really there to recommend them on, but no reason to tell you to stay away, either. They will perform fine for office, school, car, or other tasks where pencils should be inexpensive because of the frequency with which they are broken or lost. In comparison to others at a similar, price it would really come down to personal preference.

Review – Western Family Mechanical Pencils

If you are ever in dire need of a mechanical pencil, and somehow find yourself at a shop that doesn’t sell Paper:Mate Sharpwriters at the price of whatever change you have in your pocket, or even at all, the Western Family mechanical pencils may be a cheaper, and click-advanceable, alternative. But are they actually useable?

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The body of the pencils is very simple; a smooth cylinder for the barrel with a tapering and fluted (for grip) cone leading to a plastic nub (lead pipe) at the front (this part is free spinning but doesn’t appear to detach). At the back is a nothing-special click mechanism with an integrated plastic clip (that does indeed clip to things and hold it in place, but is pretty flimsy) and a small white eraser on the back. Removing the eraser (which actually fits down inside almost all of the click mechanism) reveals the inner lead-holding tube, which comes stocked with one extra lead per pencil. The entire click mechanism can also be removed for more direct access.

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The performance is nothing to write home about. The HB 7mm lead is, as one would expect, fairly soft but not too soft, and a bit wide for people like me (I prefer 5mm, but I can live with 7). The eraser does indeed erase: it gets rid of most regular graphite marks but can be used up very quickly. The barrel of the pencil feels sturdy, but the ends are flimsy and plastic-y with tolerances that aren’t very tight.

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Overall the package is fairly bare-bones, but functional. I wouldn’t use them as my main pencils, but they’d work in a pinch. For only a few dollars you get 10 pencils (in 5 terribly boring colors) with 2 leads each and a body and eraser that will hold up probably no longer than it takes to use those 2 leads (the clip being the weakest link there). There is nothing particularly appealing aesthetically about them and no information (like lead size) other than “Western Family” printed on them. They’ll work for scattering about for use if you can’t find your normal pencil or for loaning to people who don’t care about the pencil (like at the office, or playing D&D) but I can’t recommend them for any other reason.

Review – Bic Xtra-Fun Pencils

Sometimes I’m a sucker for buying new things for the novelty, and I think that’s what Bic is counting on (except I think their target market is children) with the Xtra-Fun series of pencils. At first (and second) glance they appear to be regular #2 pencils in wacky, fun colors. But are they usable?

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For the most part these pencils are pretty standard: a “wooden” hexagonal body with general information stamped and inked into one of the facets (each pencil also appears to have a unique number stamped but not inked into it; I am unsure of its significance). The most obvious differences between them and regular pencils is the bright-colored paint on the outside with the inside dyed a different (usually mismatched) color, and that the standard metal eraser holder has been replaced with a much larger diameter plastic one. The body looks and feels at first like a regular wood pencil, but after sharpening and handling it for a bit I would say that if it isn’t a type of plastic it is a “flaked and formed” wood that uses a different process than most pencils to give it more plasticity.

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The performance of the lead is as expected, on the soft side of middle-of the road. Not much precision is possible, nor shading; it’s good for scantrons and notes. The eraser is of the white variety, and actually very decent, erasing most typical writing lines without seeming to disappear before your very eyes. In fact, the most disappointing thing about this pencil is its structural integrity. It bends very easily, and much more so than a regular pencil. Simply handling it will result in finding out how easily it bends, which is worrisome in general, but added to by the fact that when I was using these pencils I began to sharpen one, and the tip broke off every time I was just getting to a point, down until there was no more pencil to put in the sharpener. Thus, one of my pencils was rendered entirely useless, and I hadn’t really played with the plasticity of that one, so I would definitely call it a defect, and one that makes it hard to recommend these pencils, especially for children.

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I probably won’t be buying any pencils from this range again, but that would’ve still been the case had they been good pencils. But with such an easy to encounter (albeit not in the intended usage case) flaw that essentially ruins the pencil’s penciling ability, I have to say I wouldn’t be able to recommend them to anyone. The colors are also terrible but I suppose some have different (perhaps more X-treme) tastes than I, so I can’t particularly fault it there.

Review – Crayola Crayons (120 Crayon Box Part 2 – Purples, Blues, and Greens)

This is part 2 of my review of every single color in the Crayola 120 crayon box. I’m going to be taking a look at some purples, the blues, and some greens. In case anyone was wondering, the colors are roughly sorted so that they flow as smoothly as possible from one color to the next, although this is trumped by the wrapper color. So even if I think it’s more red, if it has a purple wrapper it went in the purple section. And now, let’s begin.

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Plum – Plum is a nice, deep purple that evokes the fruit to an extent. It is a bit less red than the plums I’ve typically seen, and it isn’t as dark as others, but it is a recognizable version, suitable for royal robes and flowers, that covers quite nicely.

Vivid Violet – I’m not sure what makes this violet any more “vivid” than the others, but it is a nice, decent covering color, that is very similar to “plum” and has a similar enough use range to even be used as a highlighting color.

Violet (Purple) – It seems strange to me to have two names for this color and only this color, but it is a classic. It covers decently and is the classic purple color, suitable for most purple applications (not skin, as I learned when I was in kindergarten).

Orchid – As a type of flower that has many color variations, I would say that at least this color is similar to parts of various orchid flowers. It is a redish-blue-purple, if that makes sense. It’s lighter than other purples, but with streaks of blue seeming to come through and making the whole thing a cool, nice color suitable for use in most flowers.

Wisteria – Much more on the nose, wisteria does capture a much better picture of the flower it is emulating, as well as crayon could do. The color is a gentle light purple with visible streaks of blue running though it. It captures almost perfectly the look of many wisteria flowers, but unfortunately, even though it covers well, it wouldn’t be used for much else.

Purple Mountains Majesty – This crayon color may win my award for least favorite name. I have no idea what “purple mountains majesty” even is really, or how it would be represented in color form. I guess this would be it, and it is a pale, lilac-esque purple with alright coverage. I couldn’t think of an real uses beyond flowers, even mountains in the distance are typically different purple shades, but this could work.

Blue Violet – Is essentially a bluer version of red violet, or, I suppose more accurately, a bluer version of the regular violet color. It very much feels like the color with more blue added, making it darker and cooler. It’s fine at covering but has what appear to be streaks of darker and lighter color running though it, making it a very interesting color to look at, but not one with many uses.

Purple Heart – Doesn’t particularly look like the badge. But it is a nice dark-ish purple color. It’s quite on the blue side, making it very pleasant to look at but, like many, difficult to find a place to use. It also covers about as well as most other purples.

Royal Purple – The last true purple on the list, Royal Purple doesn’t disappoint. It’s a nice, deep, fairly well-covering purple, that I would take over the standard violet most any day. Sadly, its uses might be regulated to the adornment of Kings and Queens.

Outer Space – An interesting and close to-apt-color name. “Outer Space” is really a dark blue, a little darker and blacker than Prussian Blue. It has a black and purple space-like quality to it, and it covers well enough to be a good night sky. Most other uses would simply be a Prussian replacement.

Midnight Blue – I’m not quite sure, but I think this would have been a more apt name for “outer space”. As it stands, it is a nice blue, and a dark one, but it isn’t very dark, and certainly not a midnight-y color. I do like it, it covers pretty well and it looks like a nice denim color (a color that will be coming up soon) and it would have a wide variety of uses since it is so close to the color of jeans.

Navy Blue – I’ve seen better navy blues than this one, but it is pretty apt. It’s a darker, but less saturated blue. It doesn’t quite evoke the standard navy “deep sea” color, but it does a pretty good job for a crayon. It covers sporadically and seems to have stripes of lighter and darker color. Still it would make a good color for jeans, flowers, and water from pools to oceans.

Indigo – This color looks quite strange. In comparison to the other colors here this one seems to jump off of the page; it’s almost watercolor-like. It is a very smooth, well, indigo color, but it tends to have spots where the crayon stopped moving. It covers well, and is quite dark, lending it to lots of uses from flowers to bodies of water.

Denim – Denim is a very good name for this color. It looks like a pair of raw, unworn denim jeans. It covers well, and has a similar paint-like effect to “indigo”. It is not only perfect for jeans, but it could also easily match the basic dark blue color that many vehicles come in.

Blue – Another classic color, the blue here is pretty standard, though I suppose that’s to be expected from the color that basically set what ‘blue’ is for the world of elementary school. The color is nice, middle-of-the-road, and it covers well enough (though probably the worst out of the blues). It works well for anything from shirts to oceans to cartoon dogs.

Cerulean – Cerulean is one of the few colors that isn’t named after anything in particular (not even a town in Pokemon). Here it is depiceted as a thick, light blue, like the color of a Caribbean sea (or those pictures of clear freshwater lakes). It covers very well and is a great color to use in a situation where you want the blue to “pop” off the page.

Blue Bell – I’m not sure if this really qualifies as an ice cream color, but I’d like to think it is. Blue Bell is a nice, gentle, well-covering blue with a hint of a darker purple. It’s a good color for skies, clouds, mountain ranges, and foaming water.

Cornflower – I don’t think this color replicates its namesake as well as it could, but the radiance flowers display is hard to replicate. This is a light, well-covering blue that leans to the white side of things, making it good for skies, clouds, and of course, cornflowers.

Blue Green – A fitting, name, if not the best descriptor, “Blue Green” is a slightly greenish blue, as opposed to a bluish green suggested by the name. It’s a nice sea and tropical color, the kind that many summer items are made of. It covers decently but is a bit splotchy.

Pacific Blue – Having recently visited the Pacific Ocean, I can say that this is not the color I saw there. But the color of the ocean changes by the season, and this color fits the bill. It covers well enough, with only small granules of white space. And its darkish/slightly stormy look makes it perfect for oceans both in the summer and fall, as well as the stormy sky.

Manatee – The best way to describe this color is grey, with a blue tinge. It does resemble the skin of the animal, but not too a tee. It covers quite well, and is a fairly unintrusive hue. It can easily find a use for animals such as rhinos, elephants, and of course manatees; as well as sidewalk and swimming pool pavement.

Cadet Blue – Besides reminding me of a Modest Mouse song, “cadet blue” is a good color. It is quite grey, but not as grey as the previous manatee. It’s got a little more blue in it that shines though just enough. It covers very well, but has a bit of a splotchy-fibrous look to it. It would work great for a cadet’s uniform, faded jeans, or sea creatures.

Turquoise Blue – I don’t know why Crayola took their opportunity to create a turquoise and made it “turquoise blue”. It seems a bit of a waste, but it does look like a bluer, lighter version of the stone. It covers well, but it isn’t that spectacular. It would work for coloring turquoise-like stones, jade-like stones, greenish bodies of water, and clothing.

Sky Blue – Another very good color name, this blue is indeed a very close approximation of the color of the sky (or at least what color it looks like it is). It’s pretty much the stereotypical light blue color people think of as sky blue (very similar to Crayola’s other sky blue in pencil form). It covers well enough (and the non-covered areas blend in easily since it’s so light) and it would work well to color water in dishes, fighter jets, babies’ clothes, and of course the sky.

Wild Berry Yonder – An interesting take on a color name “wild berry over there” is only slightly better than “purple mountains majesty” in being a bad name. And I wouldn’t imagine the color this name represented being blue, but it is. A muddy sky blue as I would call it, it is a blue that has had grey rather than pure white mixed in. It does cover decently and would work for coloring dirty jeans, muddy water, or a dusty sky.

Periwinkle – Another one of those flower colors that because of the varying nature of flowers is unable to be 100% accurate, “periwinkle” is also a standard color, which the crayon does not deviate from. It’s a light blue with a touch of purple and yellow (which doesn’t really make sense but sure). It doesn’t cover as well as other blues but it works, and it’s a good ice, cloud, clothing, or flower color.

Aquamarine – Another nice blue color that covers very well. “Aquamarine” is a slightly green blue that looks like a warm tropical ocean or lake. It’s light and smooth in texture, giving it a pleasant look. It’s another fun summer color but unfortunately it doesn’t have many uses.

Robin’s Egg Blue – Looking like a slightly darker shade of the last color, this one is indeed very similar to the eggs of a robin (again, allowing for natural variation). It’s another well-covering, very pleasant looking, somewhat useless color. It is vibrant and wants to jump off the page, but it also looks more oily, like a pastel if that’s what you want.

Sea Green – While it might look like some sea, “sea green” does not represent a sea I would want to go near. This bluish green (or greenish blue, it’s kinda blurring the line) covers pretty good, but is lighter and harder to see (no pun intended). It works well for underwater foliage, plants in direct sunlight, and limes.

Caribbean Green – A similar motif, but not quite the same style, “Caribbean green” is slightly more blue than “sea green”, looking like a slightly greener and darker “aquamarine”. It’s a good water color, but its coverage isn’t as much as some of the others in this set. It would work well for underwater plants and tropical bodies of water.

And that’s part 2, looking at the second group of 30 colors from the 120 Crayola crayon box, next time it’ll be another 30.