Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

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Markings Journals Meet Fountain Pen Ink

04/22/2014

Three C.R. Gibson Markings journals have been on a shelf waiting review for more than a year. To be sure they are attractive which could be the reason they never got properly filled. My used journals are destined for the recycle bin and Markings are just too nice for that fate. But since you guys like paper so much, putting them to the test made a good project for this month.

The first is a Markings sketchbook (MASA-2) with a Monet Waterlily Pond cover. It contains 130 pages lightly ruled on one side and blank on the reverse. The paper is 6.8″ x 8.9″ and held together with large double rings. Line spacing is 7.5 mm and pale blue so it doesn’t interfere with writing. The paper is soft white and has no tooth but does have a somewhat velvety texture. It’s a comfortable surface for fountain pen nibs and good with other writing instruments as well.

Ink did not show through or bleed through so double-sided use is assured. This is a very nice notebook I will enjoy filling.

The two bound Markings journals are the same style though sporting different covers, one leather (MJ5A-1) and the other embossed metallic (MJ5A-3). Each has 240 pages, a storage pocket, elastic band closure, ribbon marker and lays remarkably flat. Both journals look great and are well made for the price though the 6 mm line spacing might prove too narrow for wide nibs.

The paper color is slightly more yellow than Moleskine though the lines are identical in spacing and color. The weight is similar to Moleskine, but the paper seems to be lightly coated which causes fountain pen ink to suffer inconsistent coverage. Some inks feathered significantly and all of those tested bled through except Noodler’s Black. A Sharpie Pen in black performed well, so other writing instruments ought to get along fine with these journals.

These Markings journals are readily available, attractive and well-made, but unreliable for fountain pen use. Since the feathering and bleed-through are evidence of ink incompatibility, a narrow nib won’t improve performance enough to get a recommendation. However, the right ink will write well enough even with a o.7 mm nib.

What’s the takeaway from these pen tests? Don’t expect uniform paper performance from a manufacturer. Frustrating? You bet. Waste of money? Yep. Add to that the variability of ink performance and it’s hard to recommend any brand without reservation though there are exceptions.

Not for the first time this year only Noodler’s Black performed well. It’s reassuring that there is at least one pen on my desk that should write on most anything. However, it is not fun when my other pens are loaded with pretty inks that won’t work with the journal at hand. Better to stick with what has earned the approval of my inks and pens. That makes me more productive and my pens much happier. Go team!

 

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Sailor Peach Pink Ink And A Maruman Croquis Notebook

04/13/2014

Jet Pens sent a bottle of Sailor Peach Pink ink and a Maruman Croquis notebook in the same box. Naturally they got paired for product tests, following a quick go on a Staples pad, and became fast friends immediately.

Sailor inks have a deservedly good reputation and an expanding catalog of lovely colors. The characteristics are well-matched to smooth Sailor nibs. Not that other inks don’t work well in Sailor fountain pens, but the flow and degree of lubrication seem especially well-suited at least to the Sapporo and the 1911 in my collection.

 

The photos don’t reflect the color well, but Peach Pink is a slightly warm pink that goes well with aqua and turquoise. It is pretty on cream paper and suits the Maruman Croquis very well.

It’s a good ink for a wide nib and showed some shading with a cursive italic nib, a dry-writing straight-cut affair. The ink isn’t very lubricating and would be a good match for a free-flowing pen that could use a bit of taming.

The Maruman Croquis S163, 4.2″ X 6″, notebook makes a useful sketchbook, but since it works beautifully with all of the pens I tested, it would make a good journal, too.

Of course Sharpies bled through, but they do that on most paper.

Watercolor sketching with a typical amount of water did cause the 45# paper to buckle. Using a dry brush lessened that effect.

Paint straight from the tube did not buckle at all.

The cardboard cover is strong enough to make the Croquis suitable for use in the field though the size is at my limit for a width I can hold without strain.

Colored pencils would be a very good match for the paper as would graphite. Ink produced some show-through, but it is at a tolerable level for a writing journal. For artistic purposes, one-sided use would be better so that nothing interferes with the appearance of the drawing or painting.

A pale painting could be a good backdrop for a haiku poem or an inspirational quote.

The performance was good enough to make the Maruman Croquis a multi-purpose journal in a very convenient size and Sailor Peach Pink makes a very good mate for the pale cream paper.  Neither will go to waste around here. Not at all.

Want a bottle of Sailor ink, but can’t decide which one? Let me make it harder for you.

Oh, and a big thanks to Jet Pens for the ink and paper. I am always a sucker for both.

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Yasutomo Niji Pearlescent Watercolor Set

04/10/2014

On occasion a company sends a truly fun product to explore. Jet Pens did so this time with the Yasutomo Niji Pearlescent Watercolor set. It is a kick to use and a very cheap thrill at $5.25.

The colors are a challenge to photograph since the pearlescent effect is light-dependent. But at just the right angle, some of the reflective properties show very well. The darker colors can be used alone while the paler ones work better over another color like black paper, marker or paint.

Excellent for a background if your journal is friendly to water. Fountain pen inks write just fine over Niji Watercolor even when the ink is applied thickly. Other writing tools are good as well. Layering colors proved intriguing and worth exploration.

It takes some pre-wetting to get a good load of color on a brush. If you don’t have a watercolor brush, a waterbrush is an easy to use tool. Just squeeze a drop or two into the dry paint and give it a minute to saturate the surface. Then swish the brush around to create a creamy consistency. A spray bottle is another way to wet the paint and works great with a standard paint brush.

A thin layer of paint can be used for glazing. Many of  the colors are very transparent and will shine on dark paper. Combine with a white or metallic rollerball pen for some very unique pages.

The paper used in the tests is Canson Mix Media, 98 lb, which is suitable for pen, pencil, watercolor, and acrylics. Paper weight is what counts, but most sketchbooks should work especially if you don’t overdo the water to paint ratio. Once fully dry, add words. My Stillman & Birn Epsilon Sketchbook is getting a number of pages decorated for future use. When the perfect words come along, the page will be ready for them. If the muse doesn’t strike, the colorful pages have their own appeal and can be filled with doodles or famous or perhaps infamous quotes.

Add something extra to a handmade greeting card or decorate stationery with a metallic  swash or doodle. Use a template if freehand won’t do. Just let each color dry thoroughly before adding another so they don’t mix on the paper unless that is the effect you want. Even a stamp dipped in paint could pick up enough pigment to leave a colorful impression.

The Yasutomo Niji Pearlescent Watercolor kit is an inexpensive way to dress up your journal or add a flourish to your correspondence or a crafts project. At the price point, the set is an easy addition to add to an order of a bottle or two of fountain pen ink. Not that you couldn’t meet the minimum order for free shipping with other goodies. Just sayin’…

See also Ardith’s Art Journal Review.
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Jackson’s Professional Watercolours

04/02/2014

Jackson’s Art Supplies sent a box of Jackson’s Professional Watercolours months ago and it has been a real pleasure getting acquainted. Whether the assembled kit or a custom set based on your specifications, the paint is artist quality and reasonably priced which makes it suited to the novice as well as the pro.

My box of full pan watercolors:

471 Chinese White PW4 PW6 – Series 2
103 Lemon Yellow PY3 – Series 2
129 Naples Yellow PY 35, PW4, PW6 – Series 2
160 Cadmium Red Light PR108 – Series 5
187 Genuine Carmine PV19
257 French Ultramarine Blue PB29 – Series 2
277 Phthalo Green Deep B.S. PG7, PB 15 – Series 2
282 Hooker’s Green PG7, PY83 – Series 2
362 Burnt Sienna PBr7 – Series 1
382 Venetian Red PR101, PY43 – Series 1
424 Payne’s Grey PBk7, PB15, PV19 – Series 2
445 Ivory Black PBk9 – Series 1

Highly pigmented watercolors can be toned down by adding another color like Neutral Tint, but muted or less saturated colors cannot be made brighter. Artist quality paints contain more pigment which is one of the best reasons to purchase them. All of the paints in my Jackson’s kit are very saturated though Burnt Sienna took more effort than the others to reach its full potential.

The plastic pans that hold the paints are identical to those from Daniel Smith, so they will fit many boxes besides those from Jackson’s. There is a sticky label with the item number, color name, and pigment formula on the bottom of each pan. Each color arrived individually packaged in a tiny plastic bag. It’s up to you to assemble the pans in whatever order suits your style. The plastic tray comes out easily so the box can be thoroughly cleaned without harm to the paint. There is a slot for a full-sized brush and four wells for mixing colors. The box opens flat so it is well set up for painting on the road.

My kit came with a different set of paints than the set pictured on the website. However, you can get the same light-weight metal tin free when you order your own selection of colors. It’s the best deal I’ve seen for a custom palette.

Jackson’s Watercolours are preserved with honey in addition to the usual gum arabic. Just as it can make the paint flow better, honey can cause it to harden more slowly. For those who fill pans with tube paint to set up their own kits, note that the paint may stay soft longer than you might expect. Store your kit in a horizontal position so the paint doesn’t migrate. The formed cakes don’t flow unbidden, but the surface can stay moist for days.

Like other brands of paint, Jackson’s did benefit from pre-wetting. A light spritz of distilled water from a spay bottle and a minute later, the colors were ready to go, fully saturated and at their peak. Jackson’s Watercolours have a lovely depth and brilliance. They mix easily for lively colors and produce clear pastels when diluted. Genuine Carmine is the only color used for the flowers which demonstrates the range it can achieve.

The blue blob was painted with French Ultramarine, Phthalo Green Deep, and Hooker’s Green to see how the colors would flow together.

The trees were painted to play with the range and to test a couple of new brushes. The center painting was done with an Isabey #0 Mop while the others were done with a variety of brushes. The 6 x 9″ paper for the left and middle paintings is Canson XL Aquarelle 300gsm. The sketch on the right is on a scrap of junk paper. The main colors are Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Red Light, French Ultramarine, Hooker’s Green, Burnt Sienna and Payne’s Gray.

Often I put together a simple palette with three paints and then let the resulting mixes suggest the subject. Mediterranean landscape on a stormy day? Desert at dawn? Mountain range in autumn? Tea and biscuits on a cafe table? Three colors are all it takes. There are no limits save skill at execution. Make it an abstract or loose interpretation, especially in a journal, and skill becomes less a factor.

If color moves you, then make that the focus. All you need is a watercolor kit like Jackson’s, a brush for washes, a detail brush, paper and a cup of water. It really is as simple as that. Add a fountain pen with a neutral ink to put words on your painting and you’ll have a mixed media composition. You may not consider yourself an artist or painter, but you are a creative person as your journal will attest.

My thanks to Jackson’s Art Supplies for sending the watercolor kit and giving me the opportunity to explore what their paints can do. My doodle journal will never be the same.

Note that the last image is watercolor on Tomoe River paper, but done with a dry brush since the paper is very thin. Still I must say it held up well with only a tiny amount of buckling that was easily pressed out tucked in a book.

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Moleskine And Fountain Pen Ink

03/23/2014

Another test with Moleskine and fountain pen ink, but this time with italic nibs.

Noodler’s Blue Eel isn’t bad though the bleed-through limits writing to only one side of the paper. Noodler’s Black paired with a Pilot Prera and a Plumix medium italic nib performed so well that there wasn’t even a dot of bleed-through. No feathering to speak of either.

Writing with a wide nib on both sides of Moleskine paper? Shocking I tell you. Shocking!

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Jackson’s Watercolors Meet Tomoe River Paper

03/14/2014

More experimentation with watercolor and ink last night with Tomoe River paper, Jackson’s Watercolors, and Noodler’s Black ink. The paint was fully dry before writing over it with a fountain pen. The paper buckled surprisingly little for its weight and held up much better than expected. Of course, Noodler’s Black is perfect on Tomoe River, but that’s no surprise. No doubt many inks would work well, but I like the crisp look of black on watercolor. My Paper For Fountain Pens journal with Tomoe River paper was not destined for life as a Doodle Journal, but perhaps I underestimated its capabilities. Hmmm.

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Clairefontaine 1951 Notebook And A Giveaway

03/09/2014

Clairefontaine paper is always fountain pen-friendly and the 1951 notebook is no exception. Exaclair sent the red, cloth-bound version for review, but what do you say when something is perfect?

The Back to Basics 1951 reintroduces Clairefontaine’s original notebook covers plus
  • 90 g pH neutral, acid-free paper
  • Smooth satin finish, white paper
  • Grained paper cover with front label
  • Vintage look and feel
  • Clothbound comes with 96 sheets, lined, in one size (A5)
  • Clothbound cover colors include black, violet, red, green, blue, turquoise
  • Also available in staple and wirebound versions

The Pilot Preras look and work especially well with the red cover and white paper. The images tell the tale.

My nibs and handwriting are large so the 0.8mm line spacing works fine though it might be a bit generous for some writers. When I wrote with extra-fine nibs and much smaller handwriting, I could write two lines in that space. Needless to say I got my money’s worth out of a notebook back then. I’m more of a paper snob these days and Clairefontaine’s smooth finish is just right for my stub and sharp italic nibs.

Easily one of the best notebooks on the market for FP nuts, the 1951 won’t disappoint. Want to give it a try? Clairefontaine’s U.S. distributor Exaclair is sponsoring a giveaway through An Inkophile’s Blog. Cool, eh? To enter simply post a comment below about how you would use a 1951 notebook and which color strikes your fancy. Please include your email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you are the winner. This giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. only. The winner will be selected via Random.org. The contest closes at 6 pm PDT on March 17, 2014. The winner will be announced thereafter and will have until March 24, 2014 to claim the prize.

Comments are moderated to eliminate spam, so allow time for that step. Only one entry per person and duplicate postings will be removed.

My thanks to Karen at Exaclair for sending the 1951 to review and for sponsoring a giveaway. Let the contest begin!

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