Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Playing Around With White Pens, Pencils, Markers, and Ink—Comparison

Experimenting with every "white-writing tool" I could find in the studio
I've had a white-lettering-on-black-paper project simmering on the back burner forever or so it seems. One of the things that has me dragging my feet is not knowing which tool (pen, pencil, marker or ink) to use. While cleaning up in the studio this weekend, I stumbled across the sheet of paper you see above (Arches text weight) as well as a couple of white pens I'd just purchased.

Deciding there was no time like the present, I sat down to play after I'd gathered as many white mark-making tools as I could find. In no particular order, I've posted close-ups of the results:
 I've been doing a lot of work with dip pens lately, so I gave a generic bottle of white ink I had a go on the left and right. Smears easily. Takes forever to get the right consistency and it took a long time to dry…hence the smearing. Could work well if you're the patient type. In the middle, I experimented with a Uni•POSCA® brush pen. Horrible control with no consistency to the ink…it's possible the ink is too old to be consistent as I've had the pen a while.
Using a Sakura® Gelly Roll pen worked very well. It takes patience to get a smooth line if you're attempting to create faux calligraphy. The Uni•Ball® Signo Angelic was the easiest pen I used and I like the results. The downside is it's a fine point and it would be really hard to do large lettering with this tip.
Since the Uni•Ball Signo Angelic worked so well, I thought the Uni•Ball Signo Broad would be even better. Wrong! You can see where the ink separated if you look at the graphic at the larger size. It also skipped like mad. Again, it's possible that the ink is old and with a new pen, it might work as well as the Angelic. (Hint: White gel pens get crotchety in their old age which is usually about 6 to 8 months.)
If I decide to go with a "chalkboard look," I will probably use a white charcoal pencil. This particular pencil seemed to have a hint of wax to it and the smearing was limited. Just below that is an example created by a Conté Pastel Pencil and it definitely, EASILY smeared! It would require a spray fixative to keep this from being a major pain in the backside and even then, it may still be smeary. However, it worked best for a chalk look.

Speaking of chalk, this Hampton Art® chalk marker gave a good result. It is not a truly opaque ink and allowed the paper to show through from below. I can think of several fun things to try with this effect.
Another great "chalk" example is a good, old china marker. Two caveats…it's hard to get good clean edges due to the challenge of sharpening the tip and second, if you make a mistake, it's there to stay due the large amount of wax in the lead. The Faber•Castell® Pitt Artist Pen was great for opacity coverage but the nib does not lend itself to any fancy writing. Also permanent. The Faber•Castell watercolor pencil would be wonderful for a chalky piece of work, especially shading. This has no water added to it. Not opaque, but still some fun possibilities there.
I think the most opaque and easiest pen to use was the Sharpie® Poster Pen. Once dry, you can easily fix any light areas. However, once it's dry, you're done because it's acrylic ink. The generic watercolor pencil was another good "chalky look." The Reminise® pen was easy to use and gave excellent results.
My final example is a Stablio® white watercolor crayon encased in wood. The dry result was awful so I added water. It didn't help much. For expressive marks these crayons make are fabulous, but they're not meant for this type of lettering.

Before you pick you tool, think about the final look of the project you're after to help you decide which tool to use. Test, test, test out your tools on your substrate before committing to the project—it can make a huge difference in the look and behavior of the pen or pencil you're using. I would have defaulted to the Uni•Ball Signo broad as it is my "go-to" white pen and I've have probably pulled my hair out before I was finished!

If your project is not going to be handled and touched, the charcoal and pastel pencils give excellent results and were great fun to play with if you're looking to create a chalkboard look.

Now that I've experimented and played, I'm more anxious than ever to get started and see what I can come up with on my project. I hope these results will get you to thinking about what you might do as well!

11 comments:

  1. The faber castell is my favorite! Along with the chalk marker! Letter is so difficult you do a beautiful job!

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    1. I think I'd be hard pressed to pick a favorite. I guess it would come down to the project I was working on. All of the lettering in the examples except the dip pen is "faux calligraphy" and not the real deal.

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  2. My Uniball Signo Broad is actually my most favourite white pen because it's one of the most opaque whites I've ever come across. So maybe you might consider buying a new one to try out?

    The Sharpie poster pen looks pretty good, though. Gonna' need to buy one to try out soon. :)

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    1. Stephanie, it's on my list to get a new one because I really did think it was going to be my favorite. I was quite surprised! Sharpies are wonderful!

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  3. This is a great instruction page, Laure ... I have been wanting to try "white" on color and there are so many different pens. Good to have this research. You have wonderful info on your pages. Lovely lettering too. Thanks for posting.

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    1. Thanks, Carole, it was fun and quite enlightening. I had no idea I had some many "white tools" in the studio!

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  4. I learned from lettering guru Joanne Sharpe that the Uniball Signo broad works best when warm. You can roll it between your hands and that seems to help. They also work best by writing slowly. You definitely get skipping if you write too fast. I buy them by the case (10) and they last me a long time.

    Interesting how opaque your Sharpie paint pen is. I've had trouble with that one, until I remembered to shake it up really well. I have some of the others you show here too. I tested them a long time ago but I don't think I saved my results. I need to do it again and put it in my journal so I can find it again!

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    1. Interesting, Cheryl, I'll have to give that a try. My Signos usually start to separate and then they're a bear to work with. And yes, you definitely have to slow down with them!

      As for the Sharpie, I've found vigorous shaking and them blotting the end on a paper towel a couple, three times is what it takes to get a good feed of white ink/paint to come out.

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    2. The other thing that seems to help the Signo is to dot them in the palm of your hand. Sound weird I know but I think it helps to warm the ink. I don't think I've ever had one separate.

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  5. Dear Laure - thanks for sharing these results. I was disappointed when I used FW white acrylic ink with dip pen on black stonehenge...it just seemed to soak in and not leave much white. The watercolor pencil worked the best for me but will experiment with some of your suggestions. Hope you have a delightful day.

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    1. Debbie, did you stir the ink often? I found that it tends to settle quickly to the bottom and then I would get the same as you—watery results. It also may be that the paper doesn't have enough sizing to keep the ink on the surface. I've heard you can spray paper with a matte sealer and get better results, but I've not tried it.

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