I am completely a pen person. Bics, felt-tipped pens, markers, double-tipped pens, pens with nibs large and small; I have tried hundreds of different types and styles. I especially like to try out the test papers in stores.
It’s a relaxing shopping venture. Like when I try on a shirt at Zara, and I’m already imagining where and with what I will wear it, shopping for pens is a similar process.
If you are a pen lover, grant yourself a small pen-buying budget. This will enrich and sharpen your “line-drawing expertise” and your range of drawing materials. You could experiment different drawing styles by swapping a pen from an other.
Try it yourself:
When you try out drawing materials, don’t just draw lines, circles, or other abstract shapes. Draw a form, an object, a manga character; anything you can think of. That will give you a better idea of a pen’s worth. Test them in real world conditions!
The ballpoint pen
The ballpoint pen is my favorite. It covers the majority of my daily needs, and in addition it’s cheap and offers remarkable quality rarely found in its price range. The ballpoint pens offered at formal events, conventions, and hotels are often very good. Even if they’re commonly available, I consider the ballpoint a jewel of a technology.
How does this work?
Let’s look more closely at figure 2.
- The ball
- The ball carrier
- The ink supply tube
The ball rolls when it makes contact with the paper, carrying with it a thin viscous layer of ink, which is then deposited on the paper throughout the entire length of a pen stroke. The more a pen is pressed to the paper, the thicker the ink layer the ball will deliver. Ballpoints are ultra-sensitive to pressure. Like a pencil, they can cover a large gradient from gray to black.
When we write with a ballpoint we use a constant, even pressure. However, in light of the myriad advantages associated with ballpoint pens, thousands of artists have adopted them in order to take full advantage of their properties.
The ballpoint’s biggest fault: IT STAINS
The ball warms up from the friction of the paper against the pen. After a few minutes, the ink thins due to heat. It accumulates at the edge of the ball and deposits a blotchy residue on the paper. This deposit takes a long time to dry. Be careful, or your drawing wrist and hand will smear these drops of ink across your paper.
1- Regularly clean the pen tip on scratch paper, or slip blotting paper under your wrist to minimize smearing.
2- Alternate between ballpoints while you let the other pen cool down.
• Ballpoints bleed and turn purple with the application of a Pantone marker.
• They don’t work on a vertical canvas, as ballpoints require gravity to pull the ink towards the tip.
• They will stain clothing.*
* If anyone knows how to clean these stains efficiently, drop me a line in the comments. Thanks!
Avoid gadget pens, including:
• Mini-pens. These are portable but hard to handle. They’re cute, but cost a lot, and have a very feeble anatomy.
• Pens with a large diameter, like those with four or ten colors in one.
- You will use up the black ink before all the others.
- Banish all the wide-diameter pens as they’re too large for small hands.
• I don’t use crazy technical pens like Stabilo Moves, which are reputed to be especially ergonomic. I like being able to immediately grab a standard pen, and they seem just as good as the fancier models to me.
A small note on product design
The cosmetics industry imported the ballpoint system by offering skin care products like eye lifters and roll-on deodorants, which use a modified ballpoint system with a much larger ball.
If you too think this transfer of technology incredible, you have the makings of a product designer.
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