Review – Black Papermate Flair Medium

Okay, so you want to ink a drawing, or maybe just sketch with a nice bold line, but you don’t have a technical pen. Either you can’t afford them or they aren’t available in the shops you have. Well, maybe you could try the Papermate Flair. The one I’ll be reviewing is the black, medium version.

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The body of the pen is a simple matte black. Sometimes this wears off and reveals a smooth body underneath. The ends are tapered, with a bulge in the middle. The name and size of the pen are printed in fairly high quality on the side. The clip is metal, works fine, but a bit tight, and has two hearts as decoration. On the top of the cap there’s a white breather hole. Removing the cap reveals a slick, tapered grip section. Despite this it is pleasant to hold because it flares out at the end, giving your fingers a place to rest.

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The tip is a nice felt tip. The medium is a fair bit wide, but is almost uncomfortable far from the grip. It writes well but sometimes has so much feedback that it seems to drag on the paper. Its ink is a nice black, though sometimes it can fade to a deep grey. It applies easily and consistently, having very little line variation, which is good if you’re inking something. The nib does feel like it can get bent out of shape fairly easily though, so be careful.

So really, if you want an impromptu inking pen, or something to sketch or make technical drawings with, but don’t have a technical pen, this is a fairly nice replacement. It isn’t as high a quality so it won’t last as long, but it it still a superb writing instrument and a very cheap alternative, even if it doesn’t have all the same quality features.

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 – Faber Castell 24 Colour Pencils

Colored pencils have been around for a long time. And now most of them are very cheap and often associated with kids or school. However, if one does want to look into the more expensive world of colored pencils there are plenty to choose from. Let’s take a look at the Faber-Castell box of 24 Colour pencils.

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The pencils come in a nice, if easily dent-able metal case. Inside the case the pencils are stored in a row on a plastic tray. The pencils themselves are thicker than most pencils and nicely circular. They will sharpen in standard pencil sharpeners but be wary of the lead. On the side is a hard-to-read but nice logo and color information section. They are not slick and have a very matte finish that holds well in the hand. The color of this finish matches the color of the lead fairly well if not exactly.

The lead itself is hard and brittle. The colors are not nearly as vibrant as those of Crayola or other such colored pencils, giving them a much more realistic tone. The full range of colors is wonderful, with some very subtly different colors and some nice earth tones. The lead comes off well on paper and is quite opaque as most colored pencils are; they do not want to bleed or mix which is another reason why the full compliment of colors is nice. When drawing, it is best to watch how hard you push, as too hard can easily break the lead and not enough will lead to unsatisfactory coverage.

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These colors are a huge upgrade from the standard “map colors” and such. Though they may be a bit pricy, they are great drawing implements. They seem to carry a certain prestige that transfers onto the paper (or other mediums). If you are will to spend the money I would certainly recommend these pencils. They are quite superb

Review – Escalada 3.5 x 5.75 Pocket Journal

So, you’re out and about, you’ve just finished your last pocket notebook and are looking for a new one. You happen across one. It’s got 80 sheets of thick sketch paper and is only a couple bucks. It even looks kinda nice in its faux-leather binding. Is this small Escalada journal a good buy? Let’s see.

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We’ll start with the binding. It’s surprisingly good, it flexes well and doesn’t break under standard usage conditions. The binding, as well as the cover is of course cardboard covered in faux-leather with a slightly unattractive sheen. This layer holds up alright, though it does start to peel and rub off at the corners which is very unsightly. It also gets gummy in high temperatures and begins to take the shape of whatever is next to it, so where the elastic band is there will be a permanent set of grooves. But it hasn’t melted or gotten sticky in the time I’ve used it and I live in the middle of the desert.

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The paper is 80 sheets of 74 lb drawing paper. It’s thick but flimsy, it feels as if it’s falling apart sometimes and ink bleeds through and can be easily seen on the other side in some cases. Yet I have had no instances of marking on the next page. It has an easily visible grain and does at times warp ones drawings, mostly pencil though and not very much. The roughness is a bit unsightly to me but that’s just personal preference. Despite the flimsy feeling of the pages they are very stout and remain ridged most of the time. They resist bending, however I feel that if they did bend they would soon fall apart.

It’s an alright pocket sketchbook. It’s cheap, both in price and manufacturing, but it does do its job well enough. Just carrying it in a bag or a case won’t do much harm to it, especially since it only has eighty pages and can be run through fairly quickly. However, if your life is a bit more rough and tumble than most this is not for you, it will look ugly shortly and fall apart not long after. It does best if you’re looking for a notebook to store in your bag or somewhere on the cheap and don’t have too much preference as to the quality of the content you put in it.

Review – Royal Langnickel Nano-Liner 02 Red Technical Pen

So, you really need a red technical pen. You’ve heard good things about Microns, but you can’t find them in red at your local store. You instead find a red Royal Langnickel Nano-Liner pen. Is it a good substitute for a micron pen? Let’s see.

First off, the body of the pen is not sleek. It is grippy as a result but feels a bit rough on the hand. All necessary information is printed on the side and is fairly hard to rub off, though it can be done more easily than with other pens. The metal clip on the cap does its job well and the number on the top is easily visible and rub-resistant.

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The ink is a bright red, unmistakeable for any other color. It’s brighter than most other red pens and would most likely have to be diluted to even begin to simulate reality. It is permanent and a bit more liquid than most technical pens. It bleeds through thin paper with ease and pools at starting and stopping positions. With card stock it works just fine, but with a heavy grain paper the line tends to seep out and become wider. Precession drawing is difficult, even with the 02, which would seem to make a line as big as a Micron 05. However, for large sweeping motions this pen seems right at home, just don’t push to hard and destroy the nib.

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So, is this pen an adequate replacement for a Micron? Certainly not! It does have several good points: large amounts of ink are good for long, and sweeping lines, but less so for the precision drawing it is marketed for. It does do the drawing job better than a standard office pen and is cheaper than a Micron. I think it’s really up to personal preference as with all art supplies, but one should really try a Micron first before checking this pen out.

Review – Bienfang NoteSketch Book

One of the worst things about different types of notebooks is that they vary in the page setup. Some have lines, some graphs, others are blank. Even the lined ones vary in the ruling between the lines. And what if you want to make a note on a sketch? Sure, you can just write it somewhere on the page, but it never really looks right, does it? Likewise with drawing on lined paper. Or what if you want to draw a diagram with a description. It will never go in any space you have left on the page, especially if it’s a long one.

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Well, Bienfang appears to have those people covered with the NoteSketch Book (all in different fonts so you remember it better). But we have to start with the covers first. The front cover is a nice card stock, heavy and not likely to rip out. It can take a mild beating, regular use is easily handled, but abuse isn’t. The back is cardboard and quite nice. It is light but strong, and will support drawing on ones lap or holding it in front of a subject. The paper inside is a little over half blank with the rest being roughly college ruled lines. It’s nice, but as thin as printer paper. It will only take pencil or technical pens before bleeding and wrinkling. Of course, for its intended use this is no problem. This also helps keep the book slim and it easily fits into most bags. They come in a variety of page sizes but those are all virtually identical, with the page size you like being the only deciding factor.

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Personally I can’t go anywhere without one of these. I don’t use them much at home, but on the road or just outside they are perfect. I don’t know about anyone else, but I only bring a pencil and a pen when I’m out, so any drawbacks from thin paper are negligible. And the ability to write notes and have space for it fits what I do. I love having a set aside space to put my thoughts or the story behind a drawing. If thats what you like to do, or you like to draft or draw diagrams that require explanation, this is the book for you. If thats not your thing, then this may just not interest you.

Review – Imagine Plus 110-pound Card Stock

By: Austin Smith

After paper the new thing that one would most likely move on to is card stock, in this case Imagine Plus 110-pound 8.5″x11″ card stock. This stuff is a little more “advanced” and one could actually create “finished” projects on it. “Finished” being a subjective term.

110-pound card stock is obviously much thicker and heavier then paper. It takes pencil and ink well; heavy inking and even light painting also work well. The stock does buckle under water quite easily, though, so over-inking and water-based paints aren’t recommended. And painting on anything lighter than Water-color type paper could lead to buckling.

The stock itself is smooth, with enough friction to not go sliding around. Pencil is taken and erased well. Ink is quickly absorbed. The grain is noticeable at times but rarely affects the work that is on it. Heavy ink shows through, but the likelihood of someone seeing the back is negligible.

The size of the paper being 8.5″x11″ makes it a rarely seen art surface. The size, like that of copy paper, is simply unconventional. It is a good material for people just “graduating” into “finished” artwork.

While the stock is nice and useful, most will quickly pass it up for superior art surfaces.