Pens That Write On Arches WC Paper

10:56 AM

I have not drawn,
I have not sketched,
I've had no fun
In my sketch book

I have not painted,
I have not splashed,
No washes have escaped,
from my brush!

It makes me unhappy
It makes me sad,
It makes me grumpy,
Not to mention mad....

Technology wrangling is not for the faint of heart and I am currently embroiled in a techno-nightmare that started as a dream. I am keeping faith that this dream will right itself to fly swift and straight.

Until it does, my painting/sketching opportunities are limited.

However, I did do something for one of my classes that I thought might be of interest to you...pen tests on Arches watercolor paper. In particular Arches cold press paper.

Sketching with pen on Arches paper can be a challenge and I hear a lot of frustration from folks about getting a pen, any pen, that will draw without skipping....and I've found one!

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For some reason my scanner had a very difficult time scanning the pen tests that I did. I've left the file size a bit larger than normal in the hopes you'll be able to read it and I've also added close-ups below.
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The group above is the "waterproof/water resistant" group of pens I had on hand. I love Copic Multiliners as they are refillable, but at best, you get a dry brush effect on the Arches paper. The same thing happens with the Faber Castell Pitt Pen in a Fine Tip. Knowing that I can get this dry brush effect, if I needed that type of effect, is useful, but not helpful when I want a pen that draws without skips!

One of things I have noted is that the larger the pen tip, the better results I seem to have. The 05 pen tip (and larger) offered the best results. I tried Micron Pigma 05 in black and green with the same scratchy, skippy results.

I also tried my Lamy fountain pen with an extra fine nib. The ink was Carbon Black. The tip was much too fine and the ink also lifted when I washed it with water. Not enough to cause a problem, but not 100% waterproof.

The Zig Millennium 05 wrote quite well. There were no skips and no additional fuzzing of the ink as it crept into the paper fibers. Oddly enough, when I ran water over the ink, I got a very light bleed. Not enough to cause a problem, but enough to let me know it's not 100% waterproof.

My next test was of Non-Waterproof type pens. All of them are classified as "gel ink" or roller-ball type pens.
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Imagine my surprise when ALL of them not only wrote better than the "waterproof ink pens" but bled no more than those in the waterproof category!

The Pilot Frixion 07 bled and faded to a lighter gray. It did NOT lift enough to make me think it would be a problem with sketching in a journal*. I would be a little more concerned if I were doing artwork outside of my sketchbook.

There was very slight bleeding with all of these pens, but not so much that it caused a concern of muddy or grayed watercolors, but something to be aware of if I need a very clean sketch.

The other thing to note here is that ink behaves very differently on various paper types. Just because you test it on Arches doesn't mean the same pen will work well on Fabriano or Strathmore.

To avoid surprises, I usually dedicate the back page of any new journal to test out pens, especially if I am not familiar with the paper.
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The list of inks above was created on the last page of a journal I picked up while I was in San Francisco (unfortunately, there is no information on the paper content). The inks are identical to the list on the Arches paper, but if you enlarge the image, you'll note that many of them bled and they bled worse than on the Arches paper regardless of whether they were waterproof or not.

Sometimes, we get "happy" accidents when we try new mediums in a different way, but the time to be finding out a pen bleeds is usually not if the field! I hope this will encourage you to do your own tests and save yourself the aggravation of temperamental, bleeding pens!

*I would strongly suggest a light test in a southern facing window to see if the ink is lightfast if longevity is a concern for you. Create two lists of pens to be tested on the paper you intend to use it on most. Add water to part of the line work. Cut the page in half and post one half in the southern-facing window. Place the other half in a closed book.

After two weeks, check for fading by comparing the two pages in good light. Check again at three, four and six weeks. The color may fade or simply shift from a true black to a purple, brown or green.

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15 Creative Thought(s)

  1. Hi Laurie, computers and their programs are wonderful when they are working properly. I hope you get your setup done soon. It is frustrating not to be able to keep on with ones routine. I have been in something of a slump. I am beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel. Keep cool. I just received a couple of packages of gel pens as a gift. I will have to try them out. Thanks for all the work here.

    1. Lisa, glad to hear the end is in sight! Slumps are no more fun than wonky technology.

  2. Great test, and what a simple-but-fantastic idea about using the last page of the journal for an ink test. I would probably also like to do a paint test on a new paper, too, since I am still learning about the properties of different papers, too.

    1. Kj, I also do pigment tests on the last page if I have some question about how the pigment will react to the paper.

  3. Wonderful post Laure! I know a lot of people beside me have a problem with which pen to use on WC paper. Love the idea do a dedicated page for testing. S easy I never thought of it.
    Good to see you posting. Take a deep breath.

  4. Hope you are back to painting soon! Thanks for sharing all of the work with the pen test.

  5. Hope you work out the Techno nightmare works out soon. Miss your lovely work. I went to our summer Art Festival recently and talked to a man who did in and watercolor paintings. I asked him what he used and he said HOT PRESSED PAPER not cold pressed. He said he can draw on it without the inks feathering in the paper and still paint on it. I forgot to ask him what ink he used. It was interesting.

    1. Hot press does a great job with pen though it probably would have much different results with regard to what is and is not waterproof. The challenge with hot press is the way watercolor goes onto the page—very different from cold press. I would recommend trying a sketchbook or just a single sheet until you knew if you would like it.

  6. oops.. thats he did INK AND WATERCOLOR paintings.

  7. A very interesting post, Laure, especially about the non-waterproof pens not bleeding more than the others!
    I know the frustration of not getting any drawing or painting done(or rendering photo's in my case as well)and hope your technology nightmare soon changes into sweet dreams.

    1. Forgot to mention: your little poem at the top of this post could have come straight from my heart

    2. For what it's worth let me share a secret with matter how much I have to do, no matter how insane things are, I cope so much better when I do something creative...just for me.

      Does it seem selfish? Yes, in the short term. But in the long term, it really pays off when my temper is not so short and I'm not feeling like I'm going to explode.

      So take some time and do some sketching or drawing or photo'll be glad you did and so will those around you!

  8. i love Zig pens... they always seem to dry up on me though. I go through them like crazy. Thanks for sharing your experiment!


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