Don’t be fooled. This is about art supplies. If you are not interested in art supplies, look away now.
This is a piece done in a Moleskine sketchbook with black India ink, unipin fineliners and Faber-Castell pitt pen for the bit of colour. It’s one of a planned series, which I had trouble figuring out how to realise until I found someone else using black India ink to create jetblack night skies. I could not get water colours to do this, and it was tedious and not very pretty trying to do this with black brush pens. It didn’t work on black paper. So that’s the mystery solved and now, there’s another in the pipeline as soon as I stop prevaricating about it. After that, who knows what I will fill the sketchbook with.
Today’s subject is fineliners. I own quite a few, and I’m going to talk about them all now. Like I said, look away:
- Unipin fineliners 0.05, 0.1, 0.3. In truth, I probably have some 0.2s in a box somewhere as well but the house move has made chaos of my art supply organisation.
- Copic Multiliner SP 0.03
- Faber-Castell Pitt Pens SF, F and S
- Staedtler 0.3 and 0.1
- Pigma Microns, 0.1, 0.2, 0.3
- Dip pen with black India ink
Because I used to live in Ireland, and because in Ireland the choice tended to be limited and, initially, quite undependable, I have tended to buy lots of spares. I am swimming in fineliners. I have tried them all at this point. What follows are some comments.
Mostly, the easiest pens to get in Ireland are the unipins, followed by the Staedtlers. The F-Cs come in close. After that for the Copics, I only know of one reliable dealer in Dublin, and the Pigma Microns were starting to appear just as I left as part of the mandala and zentangle drawing trend. I don’t really want to say fashion because who knows how long it will last and whether it will be a gateway drug to other drawing. Most often I have seen the Pigma pens available as kits for zentangle drawing. However, I was motivated to get them because all over the web, they were announced as the best, and archival and brilliant. I’m not sure I agree.
The Copic Multiliner SP I only have in 0.03 and the main reason for that is, really, as far as I know, it is the only producer that produces a 0.03. It isn’t, as far as I know, available in Copic’s standard Multiliner range in black. So, basically, if you want a really fine fineliner, this is it. It’s a very decent fineliner whose primary downside is that a) it’s hard to get in my experience and b) it’s more expensive than all of the others. On the plus side, they are refillable.
The default available fineliner in Ireland, although currently unfound in either Luxembourg or Germany are the unipins, and to be honest, if someone told me I could only have one lot of branded fineliners, it would be a fight between this or the Pitt pens. The finest of the range is the 0.05 and if you follow Olivia Kemp on Instagram, you’ll know that she favours these plus rates their non-fadability higher than that of the Faber Castells. At any rate, the linework in the caravan above was done using the Unipins that I have with me here.
The Pigmas Microliners I had a yen to try because I thought the product design and appearance was very attractive, and while I still think it is, the fact remains that I’m less overwhelmed with the pens than I expected to be. I’m not seeing how they are spectacularly better than any of the other items I have tried. There’s one linked to my handbag sketchbook which will soon be due for release.
In Luxembourg, the most common fineliners as far as I can see are the Staedtlers followed by the Faber Castells. This probably has something to do with proximity to Germany. My view of the Staedtlers is somewhat nuanced. Basically, I like drawing with them. I like the way the lines appear although I’ve only drawn 0.1-0.3 lines with them (I don’t think I have seen a finer tip available but I am open to correction). My primary issue is that the tips wear out or bend faster than any of the others. But they are a beautiful looking pen, and I have a couple of them in the drawing tool box all the time.
In general, for lining drawings which will be later painted or coloured with Pitt brush pens, I tend to prefer the Pitt pens from Faber Castell, particularly their SF which I think is Super Fine (but who knows) which, owing to problems getting both it and its big brother brush in black, I have a shocking tendency to hoard. Again I have heard there can be issues with the ink fading (which surprises me as I understand it is India ink) for display pictures. Since most of what I do goes into books, this is not an issue for me.
Dip pens with black India ink are…something which I have seen a few artists recommend, particularly Mary Doodles on youtube. My experience is mixed. It provides a completely different drawing experience (scratch, scratch, scratch) but it also has a slightly three dimensional effect leaving a raised line which can, provided YOU WAIT UNTIL IT IS ABSOLUTELY DEFINITELY DRY, have quite a tactile experience. It takes ages to dry. Ages. And black India ink is a risky process to engage in as it is indelible I am hoping never to spill any.
In terms of my preference then, I’d tend to choose either the unipins or the Pitts first – and in fact, my painting kit has unipins and my marker kit has Pitts, and then after that, probably the Staedlers. I would not necessarily worry if I never bought another Pigma Micron but I seem to have loads of them anyway. And I would ensure I have a few of the Copic Micro SP 0.03s purely because they are the finest available. If Unipin started selling 0.03s, I probably wouldn’t worry about the Copics any more. Despite the fact that the Copics are refillable.
The dip pen, for me at least, is not really for general use. But you can do interesting things with it from time to time.