Review – Vinifan Bicolor Colored Pencils (Triangular)

I don’t know about anyone else, but I certainly have memories of being fascinated by double-ended colored pencils. I actually might still have my first one around somewhere because, even though I ended up with a couple different ones in my pencil pile™, there just wasn’t much use I could find specifically for a double-ended colored pencil. But the box for the one I’m looking at today, the Vivifan Bicolor, has (as best I can make out since I don’t read Spanish fluently) listed uses for each side of the blue and red pencil. The blue side is for “writing” and the red side is for “correcting” (escribir y corregir respectivamente), but is that really a good use scenario?

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Like a few other Peruvian writing implements I’ve reviewed recently, the Bicolor has a rounded, triangular body that helps with grip and prevents it from easily rolling off the table. It’s painted red and blue on the sides corresponding with the color of the lead, coming together in the middle at a surprisingly straight line (I don’t know if that line exactly corresponds to the leads, though). Near the center, stamped in gold letters, are “Vivifan” and “Bicolor” which is enough, but I would’ve liked some more information.

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In the package, the points are very cheaply made with 3 flat cuts, but they are usable (though the points were broken or blunted on some of mine during the trip from Peru to the USA). The writing has a more-or-less standard, waxy colored pencil feeling. Coverage is pretty good when bearing down (the blue covers slightly less completely than the red), and at normal writing pressure they are darker than the average colored pencil. But, in my experience, they become unsightly and uncomfortable after only a few words. The fire-engine red and navy blue colors are unspectacular and almost non-differentiate-able from Crayola orange-red and blue pencils, but they get the job done. Both the waxy-ness and the not-good-for-art colors provided help lead to the very standard problem with inexpensive colored pencils of them not blending very well, but the packages says they’re for writing so that’s less of a concern.

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I’m still not really sure what I would use this for. The red side is good for marking corrections to be made, but the blue side is not good for writing. The color set is too limited for most artistic applications and the difficulty there is compounded by the inexpensive waxy-ness. Still, if you’re looking for a space-saving or easier-to-keep-track-of way to have both a blue and red colored pencil with you, this would be a perfectly adequate (and comfortably designed) way to do that.

Review – Sharpie Mean Streak White

I have a pretty liberal definition of what an art supply is. Not quite as liberal as those who say everything is an art supply because (almost) everything you do is art of some kind. But I do think more qualifies as art supplies than the average person does. For instance I would say that everything meant to make a mark is an art supply. And that assumption will be tested here where I take a look at the Sharpie Mean Streak “permanent marking stick”, and see if it has any real art applications.


The body is quite large, being about half an inch in diameter. It’s got a good amount of information on the side, but it gets a bit cluttered-looking. The back is a twist knob, like a glue stick. The cap has a slight taper with several ridges for grip. Inside is a pointy cone that can shape or dent the “marking stick” if you put it in slightly wrong. Inside around the “marking stick” (grease, wax, or whatever it is) is a sizable ridge that is quite uncommon on writing implements. There is also no grip section area.


There are two ways I can describe this, either as a permanent (wetter) crayon, or a more slick grease pencil. Neither of those descriptions really tell you exactly what these things are. The inside substance comes in a pointy cone that is pretty useless. It’s very putty- or grease-like and when used the point becomes very flat very fast. It writes similarly to a crayon, in that it isn’t easy to control or sharpen. When the tip is flattened beyond a certain point, the base can be twisted to extend the point, but it can’t be retracted, so remember to not twist it too far out (that shouldn’t be a problem unless you’re an impatient reviewer like I am). The feeling it has is very slippery, and quite a bit of material comes off for not a lot of writing, but there seems to be quite a bit of it in the barrel, so running out should not be a major problem.

Performance is a bit disappointing. The white color doesn’t cover very well at all, meaning use in art as either correction or even to mix with other colors is very limited or would require re-application. It can be used as a covering to make things “hazy” but the coating is quite unpredictable. It likes to clump up in certain areas and barely cover others at all, meaning detail work also shouldn’t be done with it. As far a permanence goes, it is, but not wholly. I did testing (not just normal use) on metal and paper. Both were reasonably water-proof, on metal flame did nothing to it and on paper it did resist the flame but once the paper burned it did too (not that anything else would have happened). Then on the metal piece it stood up to WD-40, which has a knack for removing regular Sharpie, but was easily wiped away by isopropyl alcohol. I also suspect it could fairly easily be scraped off or crack easily on pliable surfaces. It does go on whether the surface is wet or dry as advertised and does dry in a fairly short amount of time for how tacky it is to begin with.

I would still consider this an art supply, and it can work well in mixed media, but really it is much more at home in the garage or the toolbox. The tip and lack of sharpening or controlling method means it works quite a bit better when marking large surfaces. It is “permanent” in that it’s hard to purposefully get off, but it doesn’t penetrate and won’t wear terribly well. It’s an interesting item, but certainly not a general use-one.

Review – Poppin Fineliners

Poppin is a company that I don’t know much about, but their pens definitely catch the eye. When I saw this set of fineliners (felt tip pens) from them, I knew I had to pick a set up. The packaging and the feeling of the pens themselves appears quality, but do they live up to their first impressions?


The outsides themselves are very nice looking. At the bottom is a small inset for posting the cap, which connects via a visible seam to a very smooth and featureless barrel. Underneath the cap are a series of step downs that are quite short and would be uncomfortable to hold, leading quickly to a standard-looking felt tip point, making it more comfortable to hold the pen by the barrel when writing. The cap, when on, has a slight step up from the barrel but is equally pleasantly smooth, and its only features are a dimple in the top and a rather unique u-like clip that looks like a Lamy wire clip that has been flattened.


Functionally, the clip is about useless. It doesn’t have any dimple with which to grip, and is spaced farther from the cap than the width of most fabrics, meaning friction won’t be holding it in. The tips themselves aren’t that great, either. Like most fineliners, they do write with minimal pressure, but unlike most they do not give a consistent line. Dots very quickly form when writing or drawing due to having a very fluid ink not well controlled, and when writing fast at times skips can even develop, though this is rare.


The colors of black, blue, and red are very standard, but the two extra colors are very washed out, blue especially. The blue is very pleasant sky blue when controlled well, but becomes darker quickly. But it still sticks out compared to other office blues. Red is nice and vibrant, though its tone is closer to that of a pink. It’s the least prone to problems as the ink is a bit thinner and less likely to dot. The black is fortunately a black and not a very deep purple or gray as some are. It is slightly on the cool side, which is unusual. The colors do match their corresponding pen bodies fairly well, but the inclusion of a 4th pen that has a white body, but also black ink, is slightly confusing. They unfortunately do bleed through the paper, but have minimal shading and resist water (while they do spread slightly when wet, they remain easily readable).

Overall I think the pens aren’t really up to par with what one can get for their office. They are sturdy and the ink works well, but without functional clips, they must remain at the desk or in a case, and their writing performance leaves much to be desired. The user just ends up with a pen that feels slightly rough and dry. If style and durability are your main concerns (and potentially ease of writing as the ink almost jumps from pen to page on contact) these might work for you. But for those looking for the superior, super-smooth and comfortable writing experience, or a portable reliable writer, these can be easily passed up.

Review – Office Depot Ballpoint Pens

Most stores have generic in-store brands or store branded products for various merchandise. That is the case here, with these Office Depot branded ballpoint pens. I don’t know what they cost originally, but they were marked down twice to 50 cents and then 3 packages for $1. Which means I picked up 30 for a $1. There are very few things I wouldn’t say are a good value for that price (I’d probably say stale gum was worth 30 pieces for $1) so it would be hard for these things to let me down. So let’s see how they perform.


The bodies of the pens are super simple. They are round and straight with a cap on the end to hold the ink cartridge in on the back, and a slight bump (to hold the cap on) followed by a taper and then the point of the front. The cap is fairly generic with an integrated clip that works but isn’t great. They are all made of translucent plastic that matches the ink and have “Office Depot” printed on the side.


Writing is surprisingly smooth, especially for mediums (they’re a bit broader than normal mediums I would say) and at times they can write with minimal pressure. The packages say “No skip guarantee” which isn’t true, but it wouldn’t be for any pen. It blobs after a certain amount of writing time but I don’t know a pen that wouldn’t, and it’s less than expected. They do tend to have (sometimes severe) startup issues though, especially the longer they are left capped, as do most cheap ballpoint pens.


The colors are fairly standard office colors, nothing at all natural looking. The black is just off-black and slightly warm. The red is deep and doesn’t shade much, but still very noticeable. And the blue is quite dark, but still differentiate-able from the black except in the lowest of lights. All are essentially waterproof and dry quickly.

Overall, I’d say the pens are probably worth it. They have no frills, and likely a high margin of error. Any problems, though, and the pen can simply be tossed. They do come with wax-sealed tips, meaning they will last longer in storage, but after that they need to be used fast before they dry up. The bodies are sufficiently hardy to last easily for the life expectancy of a pen like this. The cap seals, the clip holds, and the tip writes. Everything’s functional and unspectacular. If you’re running a business where pens are needed frequently by customers or employees, or you’re just forgetful and lose your pen, these are cheap and they work until they disappear. But they won’t be impressing anyone.

Blog 11-3-15 – Things are late, and unfortunately will continue to be late

Hello followers and viewers. I value my schedule highly, and I believe I have done a good job over the last long while of keeping up with that schedule. That being said, if you view my content with any regularity you will have seen that I have been late the past few weeks on a few things, and have unfortunately exceeded previous records of my own lateness. This is especially not fun for me with my comics, which I consider the core of my online content.

Now I don’t want to just make excuses, but I have had a few things happen recently that have made progressing more difficult. I moved into a “limbo” situation that has not gotten resolved as quickly as I had hoped, and makes my work and living environments undesirable from a “getting things done” or “moving around comfortably in clear spaces” kind of way. I’ve also had to change jobs to one with irregular hours that prevents me from being in “work mode” for my various comic and article writing/drawing. And finally I have a large project I’ve been working on with a very hard deadline that is very behind schedule. I’ll talk about that more as it nears completion.

So with all of those things I was still able to be on top of things for a while, but it wasn’t going to last. And it looks like things will be problematic for a little while longer. I hope you can bear with me while I work this out, and I hope to have all of the items I have been late on and caught up to all of the new content by the end of November, but it might end up closer to the end of the year. I hope you enjoy the content regardless and I hope your holiday season is less stressful than mine is going to be.

Best Wishes,

Austin Smith

Review – Fiskars Cutting Mat (12×18)

If one is cutting things for hobby purposes for much time and one doesn’t have a table which would deal well with sharp objects, a cutting mat is really a no-brainer. But how well do the more common ones really work?


Fiskars cutting mats are easy to find in many places. The particular one I use is 12×18 inches, but has a border of about a half-inch, extending the dimensions to about 13×19 but with rounded corners. Each edge is marked with a ruler that is accurate and the mat is divided into inch squares.  A couple of angles are also laid out in one corner. Most of the information on the mat is printed on a sticker on one of the sides (it’s double sided).

Being made of a fairly slick plastic, the mat can clean up easily after things like paint and plaster, but it has a texture that prevents the items being cut from sliding around. The mat is self-healing, but that really only applies to small nicks, anything larger might get a bit better, but will obviously never go away. Most things of this nature don’t inhibit the use of the mat. And it can take quite some beating from blades. If one is using this for hobby projects it will easily hold up to almost anything that is thrown at it (or rather cut on it). Obviously it has an upper limit, as it was cut into shape in the first place, but for normal personal (not industrial) use, it’ll work for a long time.

It does its job, I don’t know what else to say. Placing this on top of a table before cutting something for hobby, personal, or artistic use will almost ensure the safety of the tabletop. It works, and you can buy them from Wal-Mart.


Review – PaperMate Flair Colors – Orange, Lime, Magenta, Marigold, and Pink

Now it’s time for part two of my look at the 20 colors of the Papermate Flair. This section of five is the “Warm” colors section. Mostly some normal colors here, but a few out-liars. Nothing too crazy.

Papermate flair colors part 2

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Orange – The orange is a deep, red-ish orange that is surprisingly natural looking. It’s very subdued, but noticeable, good for organization, but not for documents. It’s dark enough that it can be read at a glance. It fades significantly, but doesn’t really smear when wet.

Lime – The lime likely has the most variance in color, when written with fast it is a surprisingly standard bright lime color, but when taken slowly it is rather dark and subdued. It wouldn’t make a great office color but it is less harsh than a normal lime green, and the variances in tone make it good for art. Another plus is water hardly affects it.

Magenta – I find magenta colors had to classify, this one is pretty, nice to look at, and readable. It wouldn’t suit the office well but it does look like I could see it out my window. Heavy bleeding and smearing when wet with this one.

Marigold – At first glance this pen looks like another yellow, which it is, but much less harsh and more readable. It has a tinge of orange that is very pleasant and flower-like. There’s a lot of smearing, but almost no fading when exposed to water. Perhaps it could be used as an alternative to red to use when marking something important. Just as noticeable, but less aggressive.

Pink – I don’t like this color, it’s a hot-ish pink, not blinding, but not pleasant. It’s standard all things considered, it barely moves when wet and is inappropriate for anything but personal organizing. I’m not judging you if you like it, but I won’t be using if for anything.

And that’s part two. I like the warm colors, but I struggle to find uses for them. Next time I’ll take a look at five more, but this time “Cool” colors.