Review – Faber-Castell Trilux 031 (Black, Blue, and Red)

Some time ago I reviewed the Faber-Castell Lux (034), an inexpensive Peruvian pen comparable to cheap Bics or Paper:Mates. They were pretty decent pens but they had small, round bodies that could easily become uncomfortable (I personally don’t have much of a problem with the size, but I can see how some people might not like it). Their bigger brothers, the Trilux (031 in this case), have larger, triangular bodies, in an attempt to remedy this problem and provide a more ergonomic experience while still being inexpensive. But are they actually more comfortable?

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“Probably” is the answer. The body is a very rounded triangular shape (in green for the 031, the back of the package indicated different numbers are different color barrels) with a cylindrical cap in the back and the slightest of step-downs in the front third, followed by a quick tapering to a point. The step down and end cap are just for the single-piece cap-with-clip to be able to grip since it’s still round for some reason. Both the cap and end-cap (finial?) are color-coded to match the ink color of the pen. Printed/embossed in black on the side is enough information to identify the pen.

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The section is comfortable to hold: the triangular shape fits well in the hand (with a standard 3-finger grip), the plastic is easy to hold, being slightly less polished after the step down, and said step down isn’t an issue at all, barely being noticeable. The cap is post-able (I only mention that because with the triangular shape and round cap they had to go out of their way to make that so) and the integrated clip does a fine job but I would suspect it’s easy to snap off.

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The inks seem to be the same as those used in the Lux, which are fairly comparable to any other set of inexpensive ballpoint inks, with the red being on the darker rather than the lighter side, the blue being quite dark, and the black feeling warm and grey-ish. My set in particular is fine-tipped, and writes fairly smoothly, but with more blobs than I would like. When I first opened the package the red and blue pens worked while the black was dried up. Warm water and/or rubbing alcohol didn’t unclog it and I finally had to resort to using a lighter, which I wouldn’t recommend, but it did work and was likely the only way to get it to write as it is “non-disassemble-able” (unless you want to destructively disassemble it).

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In the end they’re a solid pen, and a comfort upgrade with their thicker section and triangular design. They’re not the perfect office pen, but they feel well made (even if the plastic feels ever so slightly less flexible and/or solid when compared to some other similar pens), they write, they’re comfortable, and are inexpensive. I wouldn’t be seeking them out, and with them being “Producto Peruano”, finding a steady supply in the ‘States would be hard, but they are an increase in comfort to an already well-performing pen for the price.

Review – Art & Parcel (September 2016)

Art & Parcel is a monthly subscription service for art supplies from H. Blyth & Co. It’s like a Lootcrate, but for art supplies; so it’s way better than a Lootcrate (my opinion). But with so many of these monthly-blind-subscription-service things around, what makes this one special enough to look at? (Answer: Art supplies) And is it worth it to get one?

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(Couple of notes here: I got this parcel for free {and even though I got to pick one, I didn’t get the one I picked, so the picking part won’t influence the review} for review, and I live in the US where the “subscription” part of this service is unavailable. From what I can tell that means that I would have to pay up front as a lump sum to get my parcels, instead of being able to pay by the month, this also means that shipping cost is terrible to get them here, £16 (About $20) is a steal for these products, and the shipping in the UK is a great deal too, even throughout the rest of Europe it doesn’t exceed the price of the items like it does coming to the US)

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The one I am going to be looking at today is September’s parcel, which is focused mainly on colored pencils, but first I’ll talk quickly about the packaging. Mine was shipped in a bubble envelope, inside of which was a very nice cardboard box that was very well sealed with brown tape. On the top the Art & Parcel logo is printed very plainly, and on the bottom in pencil there is the month. (My box was a bit dented, but this is likely from the post office as, due to my schedule, the box had to be sent through the post twice) Inside is a nice packing slip that explains everything that is in the box along with its regular retail price (if that’s anything to go on you save a pound or two from buying the items individually in this set). All of the materials are neatly and securely wrapped in a newsprint/tracing paper that is sealed with a sticker of the Art & Parcel logo. It is all very well executed and nothing got damaged.

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The first items in this box were four Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils. I am no stranger to these pencils (they were the subject of one of my first {and not as well written} reviews), though I don’t have these particular colors: Naples Yellow, Light Phthalo Blue, Chrome Oxide Green Fiery (wonderful name that), and Red-Violet. I think the choice of colors is a bit strange, but they are definitely useful, and give a better representation of the pencils abilities than a plain RGB or RYB would have. There’s not much more to say there since they are some of the best colored pencils around. One thing I do really like about them is the fact that they layer so that some colors can somewhat be on top of other colors, unlike the cheaper colored pencils where they’re pretty mutually exclusive.

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Next is the KOH-I-NOOR Hardtmuth Magic pencil, which is basically a fat colored pencil that has a “lead” made up of the 3 RYB colors. This means that as you write or color with the pencil it changes, and the colors mix together to create a nice gradient effect. In practice the yellow mixing with both the red and blue works great, but the purple almost looks black and rarely shows up, and getting a nice solid version of one of the primary colors is very difficult, so the gradient looks more green and orange than anything else. I would bet that with some practice and odorless mineral spirits with a blending stick that it could produce wonderful effects, but I would still have trouble finding a use for it.

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Third up is another Faber-Castell product; one of their Pitt Artist Brush Pens, another item I’ve looked at in the past, though this is a different version. It’s a “big brush” and the body of the pen is over a half inch in diameter, a bit chunky for me but still very easy to hold on to and surprisingly comfortable. The color is “Cold Grey IV” which seems to be in the middle of the grey family, and the brush is very fat, going from lines of about ½mm to almost 5mm. It’s also got all of the stuff you want out of an ink: waterproof, lightfast, and archival quality. But I’m not really sold on how it fits with the rest of the stuff here. It is a grey, which makes it more like a pencil when sketching, but going over the same place multiple times does make it darker. It’s just strange to me, but then again I have a very different style to most people, and playing around with a new brush pen is always fun.

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And the final item included is a 10-sheet pad of watercolor paper. It’s made by Fabriano but has the Art & Parcel logo again on the front. It’s A5 size, which is about 6” x 8” and is a hefty 300gsm. It handily took everything I threw at it without flinching, bleeding, or feathering. Sharpies, calligraphy pens, and brush pens push most papers to the limit, but this stuff is truly meant for paint (watercolor at least), which I don’t have too much of lying around (in accessible areas, I did have some tempera and it handled that very well), but it seems easily capable of handling it. A liberal application of water will turn it in to one big slight buckle, but that’s about it. My only complaint is that there are only 10 sheets.

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Overall I’m very satisfied with this box. It’s well worth the money and provides several products that work in tandem, allowing you to start creating right out of the package without having to look for more materials. From what I can tell, this is true of the previous parcels as well, but each one comes based in a different medium. The subscription would be relatively inexpensive way to try out something that might not be in your comfort zone without having to do a lot of research or spend time picking out and ordering products. It was honestly really hard for me to try and pick out a parcel I wanted. The recent ones at least were all super cool (and they can be purchased even after the subscription goes out, so nobody needs to miss out like with other sub boxes) and I’d be signing up right now if shipping to the US didn’t more than double the price (damn the postal service(s)). I really like this box. It’s given me a bunch of cool stuff to play around with (and a Haribo candy to eat*) and if the idea of getting a bunch of high quality art goodies in the mail every month appeals to you I would recommend it.

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*I ate it; it was good (like a softer laffy-taffy).

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 – Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen Brush Manga 6 Color Set

I’m not a Manga artist. And I usually don’t use color in my art. Mostly because it’s hard, like using brush pens is hard. What I’m trying to say is that my perspective on this particular set of art implements might not be the view of the average person who might find them very useful. With that said, let’s take a look at this set of Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens, the Manga 6 Color Brush set.

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The pens themselves are fairly plain. There is an indication of the size (“B” for brush, in this case) on the top of the cap. The cap has a set of groves running around it with a shiny finished top and clip. The clip is the same piece of plastic as the cap and does its job in an unspectacular way. The body is straight until the very end, which protrudes as a fluted section for posting, at which it’s effective. The body contains all of the needed information in several languages, which makes it seems a bit too crowded, but I can’t really complain. The section is slightly textured, which is wonderful; it isn’t slippery or uncomfortable. After that is a tapering section for the cap seal and the brush point itself. The cap seals and holds well onto this point.

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The brushes themselves aren’t of the bristle variety, but are more like a flexible porous point. This makes them much less finicky, and better for a disposable item like this one, as they would wear out faster than a bristle brush. Their flexibility is nice, going from a medium point to one several millimeters wide with relative ease, and they can be bent to some pretty severe angles without any long-term damage being done. The amount of ink they lay down is good. It increases with the pressure on the tip, and makes a full line. At times it skirts on “not enough”, and layering will definitely change the color significantly. Sharp turns with the lighter colors will leave a darker area on the corner. On office paper this amount of ink will bleed though, especially at the ends, but on cardstock there is barely show through.

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The six colors themselves are a decent selection, but not great: Dark Naples Ochre is a nice, natural looking yellow. Orange glaze is a bit pale and not really a color that is found in many places. Pink Carmine is a bit too dark and is hard to use. Purple Violet, besides having a redundant name, is dark and pleasant, but again not very natural. Phthalo Blue is a great looking lake or ocean blue, but is a bit dark for most uses, and Permanent Green Olive is quite dark and olive, which is more suited to deeply forested areas or jungle than to plains or some more common areas. Still, the colors interact with each other very well, and they dry fast, but do mix on the paper, meaning one can get interesting color combinations while still having their pens keep relatively clean.

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Overall, the set is a good set to introduce oneself to the Pitt artist brush pens. It has a nice simple selection of colors that allows for experimentation and can be used for the base of a larger set. But I certainly wouldn’t consider it a complete set for creating an art work. Many more colors would be needed, and more tailored to one’s specific purpose. For instance, there is very little here to make skin tones with, which would be very important in Manga. They’re very good pens, but the set is incomplete.

Addendum: I failed to mention the water/smear proofing of these pens when I first completed this post. Both of which are very good. When interacting with other inks or materials the lines generally stay solid, which is good for resilience but bad for blending. When hit with water the lines don’t move, but they do bleed a tiny bit of pigment.

 

Review – Expo Ultra Fine Red, Green, and Blue

Last week I looked at the Ultra-Fine Expo markers as a whole, and the black color specifically. This week I’ll look at the more common colors in most dry-erase ranges in this size and brand, and see how they work.

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Red- The color red is a problem with many pens, and dry-erase markers are no exception. The red goes on smoothly enough, and is one of the thinner “sticking” inks. The lines it makes are solid, but the shading and their thin-ness is more pronounced. The color is also quite washed out and pink, which I’m not really a fan of, but seems to be a theme in reds.

Green- The green is one of the thicker and smoother colors. The lines are bold and solid. But the color, while pleasant, is also washed out. While it is definitely in the green spectrum, it’s more of a sea-green or something similar.

Blue- And finally the blue. In writing characteristics, it’s more of a mixture between the other two. The lines aren’t as bold or thick, and it’s not quite as smooth as green, but more so than red. The color is the most true and least shading of the bunch. It goes well with the black, and is easy to read even from far away, though it isn’t too dark.

The first set of colors is standard, and while lackluster, they get the job done. I can’t really complain as they weren’t created with art in mind, but rather for ease of use and low odor, which they have. Next week I’ll take a look at some of the less-standard colors available in the lineup.

Review – PaperMate Flair Colors – Olive, Lilac, Navy, Plum, and Turquoise

And now for part 3 of my look at the 20 colors of Papermate Flair pens. This time I’ll be looking at five of the cooler colors in the lineup. I’ll just get started.

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Olive – Olive is a nice green, forest-y color that looks quite natural and is very pleasant. It is quite conservative and laid back. One might be able to get away with using it at an office, but it’s unlikely. In poor lighting it almost blends in with dark blues and blacks, though. On the smearing side it’s one of the worst, easily smearing and becoming unreadable with contact with water.

Lilac – It’s a light purplish color that is smooth and quite easy to look at. It wouldn’t be appropriate in most offices, but in many a field of flowers there are similar colors. The color looks almost washed out before water is applied, but it smears and feathers probably the least out of the entire set.

Navy – Navy is a very dark, office-appropriate blue that goes well in most places. Artistically, it would be most at home in the dark, but there may be other applications. It does smear, but very little, and it is often readable afterwards. The main problem when water is applied is that there is so much pigment that it covers a wide area with a bluish tinge.

Plum – A bit off from most of the fruit I’ve seen, this plum is a dark, red-ish, purple color. It could pass for a plum still, just not one from a supermarket. It could also make its home in an office for a bit of fun, but not for everything. It bleeds, feathers, and smears pretty badly, but does stay mostly readable.

Turquoise – Turquoise is a nice color at points, but it shades quite a bit, and the color variation can at times be unpleasant. It’s a good sky, but doesn’t look like the stone, and going over it multiple times will turn it into more of an aquamarine. If your work doesn’t have a problem with blue, it should still work. With a wipe from water nothing changes, but if left for a few moments the color dissolves completely and is unreadable.

And that’s it for part 3. These colors are some of my favorites in the set, and much more usable than their warm counterparts. Next time I’ll be taking a look at the remaining 4 pens, which aren’t officially named anywhere I can find.

Review – PaperMate Flair Colors – Black, Blue, Red, Green, Purple, and Yellow

The Papermate Flair is a good porous-point pen; I’ve looked at both the black and red versions in the past. But they do come in a host of colors. I got the largest pack I could find, which seems to be exclusive to Sam’s Club, with 20 colors. And it’s so exclusive that I can’t find official color names for 4 of them. Those 4 will be in the last part of this series, the first 3 being Standard, Warm, then Cool. And now onto the colors.

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Black – The black is a fairly standard black (most are): it’s deep and cool. It’s office-appropriate and moderately smear-resistant. While it does smear, it is readable after most spills.

Blue – A dark, office-type blue that is not a very natural color, but a pleasant one. It is legible and unintrusive. It lightens considerably and smudges when wet, but doesn’t erase.

Red – A dull (but still punchy) red, nice to look at, but a bit pinkish. It’s less glaring and hard on the eyes for grading and warnings than comparable pen reds, but similar to most marker reds. Is fairly smear resistant, but does lighten.

Green – A dark green, slightly darker than, say, a crayon green. It’s a deep, grassy, natural color. Noticeably different from the other, more common colors, but nothing that’ll jump out from across the room. It could be used in a liberal office. It smears and lightens quite a bit, though.

Purple – One of the more usual, pops-off-the-page purples. It is noticeable as a purple and isn’t the most natural-looking color. It stands out from dark blues, but could get lost in a page of dark inks. Almost no smudging on this one, though it does feather a lot when wet. It could be used in a similar office to the green one.

Yellow – A super-bright, stereotypical yellow. It’s almost illegible on white paper. It’s the most water-resistant after red and purple, but it all but disappears anyway. It hurts they eyes to look at for a long time (I’m not sure if it’s the brightness or the fact it’s hard to read) and isn’t a very natural-looking color. I wouldn’t recommend this one unless you’re coloring in books.

And that’s part 1 of my look at the 20 Papermate Flair colors. A good general assortment here, but nothing groundbreaking. Next week I’ll take a look at 5 of the more Warm colors in the set.