Review – Speedball Elegant Writer Calligraphy Pens

It has been some time since I really practiced my calligraphy (and I only know how to do “gothic” because it’s the coolest-looking one). I really got into it for a moment a few years back, but for whatever reason I never really kept up. I write an alphabet or a quick note every now and then, but refilling fountain pens or cleaning up dip pens is such a hassle. Somewhere along the line, I picked up a set of Speedball Elegant Writer pens, which are more of a learning tool than anything else, but they do provide quick and easy access to calligraphy by removing the cleanup (and some of the drying-out problems). Does that make picking up a set worth it?

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The bodies of the pens are a very bland-looking, vaguely-pearlescent plastic cylinder that tapers out toward the cap. The top and bottom have little rings of black plastic and the cap has a cheap-feeling molded-in clip. Printed blockily on the side is all the information one would need to reorder or look the pen up. The grip section has a noticeably sharp step-down from where the cap covers it, and then a few more step-downs in front of the fingers leading to a small felt-tip nib (the size of which is marked on the side; my set contained two 2mm pens, a 2.5mm, and a 3mm).

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The nibs are a bit scratchy when writing, and lack that sharp edge you really want when calligraphing. They do a fine job for the material they’re made out of, but they certainly aren’t professional quality. It’s worth noting that the pen is super light, and posting the cap doesn’t affect the balance at all; whether or not that’s a problem depends on what kind of user you are (but it does make them feel cheap). The ink is black enough, but on closer inspection has noticeable shading. Most people won’t think anything of it, but again, it isn’t professional quality. On the page it behaves well, with minimal feathering and bleed-through even on copier paper, but it has no fortitude and easily washes down to a purple smear when exposed to water (I suspect no better results in the sun). It just isn’t meant to stick around for too long.

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Really, the worst thing I can say about these is that I think they’re over-priced. If you’re just learning letterforms or want to practice and remember them, these pens are more than adequate. They’re cheaply made with a non-permanent ink, but the tip is well-crafted and the plastic can actually absorb some shock. I keep them kicking around to keep my hand able to sculpt the correct letterforms (though they are just this side of larger than I prefer) and I’m not unhappy with them; they are entirely serviceable.

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Review – Speedball Super Black Ink

Let’s get to inks. If you’re drawing you might want to try out some India inks. I’ve already taken a look at Higgins India inks, but today I’ll be looking at Speedball Super Black. The ink comes in a plastic half-cone container, that is fine for dipping as it is very wide. It is very full though and can be easily spilled at first, so be careful. The cap has a foil lining that isn’t very good and ink gets on the rim and underneath it constantly, so be careful when opening and closing as there may be ink where it isn’t supposed to be.

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Now on to the ink itself. It is black, and when I say black I mean black. It has virtually no greying even when applied in the finest or broadest of nibs or brushes. It goes on black, and it dries black. Though it is a warm black with a hint of yellow brown when applied very thin. It does dry fairly quickly, though not the fastest, and it doesn’t feather on any paper I’ve used, even in large amounts. It doesn’t bleed through the page, but it does have some show through and page buckling in larger dollops, so it should only be applied in one coat. It is quite water-proof as in it doesn’t even move when water is applied to it, though that is because it contains shellac which can clog up pens and brushes if not washed out properly. They recommend ammonia for that but soapy water applied right after use should do the trick if nothing else. It can also be diluted for washes etc, but because it is heavily pigmented this is not the optimal ink for the purpose as it could go bad quickly.

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Overall if you want a BLACK drawing ink and can handle the problems pigmented ink presents this is a fairly cheap ink that may just be exactly what you’re looking for.