Review: Sai Watercolor brush markers

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My friend Madeline of Tag Team Tompkins introduced me to the Akashiya Sai Watercolor Brush Pens and within minutes, I had to order a bunch of my own. What makes these so awesome, you ask? Well, for starters, these brush pens have real bristles at the tips so they will behave more like a real brush than any of the brush pens with felt tip or polyester points.

Then, there are the amazingly awesome colors! There are complex colors like the yellow ochre, pale-almost-there colors like the pale orange and vivid brights like the vermillion orange and lime green. Individual colors are $3.50 each but sets are also available in seasonally-inspired sets of five ($17.50 each) or a 20-color set ($70).

Water test with Sai Watercolor Brush Pens

These pens are water soluble which means you can thin the colors with water to make lighter wash or blend two colors together. I used a water brush to blend through and only lightly brushed the color with water to make the color all washy here.

If you’re not falling over in your chair with the urge to buy one or a whole set of these wait until I tell you a few more things.

Sai Permanent Outline Brush Pen

What if I told you there is also a permanent outline brushpen ($5.25) that can be used to create permanent lines like the leaf I drew in the top writing sample and then applied the water soluble colors over it? Now are you excited?

When I flipped this writing sample over… there was no bleed through, or even any show through. Seriously. Keeping in mind this writing sample was done on good quality Rhodia paper stock but still… that’s pretty cool for thick, juicy markers to not show through at all. Or maybe that just speaks very highly of the Rhodia paper?

Okay, one more thing and then I think my case should be made. There is a special assortment of extra fine line pens called ThinLine ($4.95 each or a set of all five for $24.75) that come in a few select colors of deep rich hues that are also waterproof when dry and perfect for outlining. With colors like Greenish Indigo and Sumi Black, how can you resist the temptation?

Are you suitably enticed?

 


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Jet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Review: Etranger di Costarica Memo Book

Etranger di Costarica Memo Book

The Etranger di Costarica memo book is a simple, little, pocket-sized notebook. The appealing thing for me was ,of course, the transparent plastic cover in a gorgeous lime green. I was really hoping that the cover would be the right size to fit over a standard Field Notes. Sadly, the Etranger di Costarica memo book is a tiny bit smaller than a Field Notes (or other pocket notebook) measuring at 3.3 x 5.4″.

The cover is printed with a little mail carrier icon and the words “mettre le courrier à la poste le courrier est arrivé”, which roughly translates to “put the mail in the post, the mail has arrived”. How can I not like a postally-themed memo book?

The book itself is a white gloss-coated cardstock cover, inside a transparent flexible plastic cover adding a little durability. The book has black paper end papers and a stitched binding (not staples, actual stitching). Inside the paper is white with grey lines and red margin lines, top and bottom. The lines are spaced at a snug 5mm, good for people like me who tend to write smaller than most. The book has rounded corners which I always think make a book look “finished”.

Etranger di Costarica Memo Book

In writing tests, I was pleased with the paper quality. There was no feathering or bleeding though my line widths looked a bit wider on this paper than in other instances. Ah, the strange and wonderful mysteries of paper!

Etranger di Costarica Memo Book

Despite a bit more absorption on the front of the paper, thus creating a but wider line, from the back there was no noticeable show through or bleed. I did not challenge it with a Sharpie marker as we can all assume it will bleed through as it does on any paper that is not corrugated cardboard.

At $3.30 per book, its only slightly more expensive than the standard pocket memo book and since is has a plastic cover, I assume that’s the additional cost. There are eight other cover colors plus clear and refills can be purchased for $1.65 each. Excellent value!

I like the size, the simplicity and the lines. While this won’t replace my Field Notes in the long run, its a nice addition to my notebook arsenal.


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Jet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Review: Banditapple Carnet Notebooks

Banditapple Carnet

Banditapple Carnet

I recently got a selection of Banditapple Carnet notebook samples. I wanted to see the whole line so I got all the samples that were available. Two of the book were the “handy notebook” which is 11x21cm, the same size as the large Midori Traveler notebooks. The smaller book, the “peewee”, is the same size as the Midori Traveler Passport refill. The last book is a bit wider than the “handy notebook” approximately A5 (13x21cm) and is an undated weekly planner notebook.

Banditapple Carnet

Banditapple books are handmade in Vietnam and distributed by the Banditapple Company out of South Korea.

Each book features a card stock paper cover and a matching stitched binding. The books I received are in the Finland Pine, Gingerbread and Hanoi Red.

Banditapple Carnet

The inside papers are different. The grid passport-sized and the weekly planner had white paper while the blank and lined books have ivory colored stock. The ivory stock is described on the packaging as 3G Heritage NT paper while the white paper is just listed as Heritage Paper. All the stocks are 80gsm and printed with soy inks.

Banditapple Carnet

The Weekly planner has 52 weekly + blank pages and all the other books featured 64 pages of paper.

 

Banditapple Carnet

The grid paper is 5mm grid lines. There’s some debate at my house whether the lines are dark blue but I think they are. The paper is really pleasing to write on and there was no bleeding or feathering with any of the pens I tried.

Banditapple Carnet

From the flipside of the paper, there is no show through at all.  Not even a hint.

Banditapple Carnet

I also tested the lined paper of the larger “handy” notebook. The lines were spaced at 6mm and look more grey than blue. I decided to up the game and try the alcohol-based Copic Superbrush to see if the ink would bleed or showthrough since the stock is the same weight as the white grid stock.

Banditapple Carnet

The Copic Superbrush did bleed through but it was the only ink that did. From a daily use standpoint, I prefer the soft, warm color of the ivory stock. And I prefer the grey lines of the lined paper over the darker blue lines of the grid paper.

Banditapple puts its books through their own tests on their Tumblr page. But I am already sold. Especially if you are a user of Midori Traveler leather covers. The Banditapple notebooks area little less expensive than the Midori refills and I like the paper in the Banditapple Carnet notebooks much better. Now I guess I need a large Midori Traveler. Oh, darn.

The best US source for Banditapple Carnet notebooks is Goulet Pens, prices range between $3.50-$5.50. If you know of other shops or online vendors who are stocking Banditapple Carnet notebooks, leave the info in the comments.

Review: Moleskine Art Plus Sketch Album

Moleskine Art Plus Sketch Album

I spent the better part of the last week trying different tools on the new Moleskine Art Plus Sketch Album (large, 72 pages, $13.95) as well as comparing it to the standard Moleskine paper and the “Sketchbook” paper. The reason I spent so much time with it is that it is the first big push Moleskine has made to tout a “better” paper stock. It is listed as 120gsm/81lb paper. Moleskine has also started listing the weight on the Sketchbook paper. I think it says 165 gsm but its hard to see the label on the site.

Moleskine Art Plus Sketch Album Comparison

I purchased the A5-sized book. Its a horizontal or reporter-style format. The new Art Plus Sketch Album does not have many of the elements usually associated with Moleskine notebooks. It has cardstock paper covers, no elastic and only a slit pocket in the back cover. Every page is perforated. The Art Plus Sketch is only available in a few sizes, blank paper only.

Moleskine Art Plus Sketch Album

The first thing I noticed when comparing all three books and papers is that the shade of ivory paper is different for each book. The classic “sketchbook” paper is the most yellow, than the traditional plain paper is a little lighter and the new Art Plus paper is the lightest cream/ivory of all three.

Moleskine Art Plus Sketch Album Comparison

At first, I tested just the Art Plus Sketch Album paper and while the tools I was trying seemed to work well I couldn’t be sure how it compared to the original paper or the “sketchbook” stock so I had to switch to a head-to-head comparison.

Moleskine Art Plus Sketch Album Comparison

I wanted to test an array of materials as Art Sketch Plus somehow suggests an ability to withstand art-grade materials, possibly ink washes, markers and other tools. It’s more firepower than I would normally throw at a notebook but I really wanted to put it through its paces.

Moleskine Art Plus Sketch Album Comparison

Moleskine Art Plus Sketch Album Comparison

There was a little  feathering with my TWSBI Mini EF and the Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku ink. The Copic alcohol-based CIAO superbrush pen bled through to the back vividly but did not smear or bleed on the paper. The Noodler’s Creaper flex nib was all kinds of feathery mess. I had a bit of a drying issue with the Retro 51 though I did not time it, within the normal time it took to switch tools, my hand did smear the ink. I didn’t see any other notable dry time issues though.

Moleskine Art Plus Sketch Album Comparison

Moleskine Art Plus Sketch Album Comparison

In comparison, the traditional Moleskine plain paper (large reporter, 240 pages, $18.95) had similar results with most tools. The Noodler’s Creaper splines and feathered way worse but the results of the other fountain pens was consistent to the Art Plus Sketch Album stock.

Moleskine Art Plus Sketch Album Comparison

Moleskine Art Plus Sketch Album Comparison

The Sketchbook (large, 80 pages, $19.95) stock had the best results with pen and ink with the least amount of feathering or bleeding.

The bleed through and show through for all three books was as to be expected. The plain paper had the most show through and bleed through making the reverse of the stock useless. The Art Plus Sketch Album had visible show through with all fountain pen inks, the worst being the flex nib and the big, bold Copic brush. If you’re only using felt tips, gel pens and the like, you might be quite please with the usability of the Art Plus Sketch Album. The sketchbook paper had the best two-sided usage. Only the Creaper and Copic had show through on the Sketchbook paper.

After all the testing, I will admit that the Art Plus Sketch Album stock is a minor improvement over the original Moleskine paper but the sacrifices (no hard cover, lines/grid, no elastic or gusseted back pocket) don’t really validate the increased price and loss of features.

There will not be a bonfire after all but I’m not blown away by the new Art Plus Sketch album either. Can I rate it “meh”?

Ink Review: Noodler’s Bad Green Gator

Noodler's Bad Green Gator

I was so excited to get a bottle of Noodler’s Bad Green Gater ($12.50 for a 3 oz. bottle). A bulletproof green? This should be a win-win for me. But I have to confess that I was severely underwhelmed by this ink. Yes, it is waterproof. Yes, it is green. But the color is very flat and dull. It lacks a richness or a pizazz. When its wet, it has more depth and  zing so I had such high hopes. When its dry, its just BLAH. The hunt for the perfect green ink continues.

This ink was tested with a hacked Pilot Prera with a Plumix calligraphy nib on Rhodia plain paper pad.

Ink Review: J. Herbin Rose Cyclamen

J. Herbin Rose Cyclamen Ink

As the weather warms up and I’m seeing the first peeks flowers and trees budding, I decided it was time to get out some brighter inks. I had this J. Herbin Rose Cyclamen ($9 for a 30ml bottle) from the massive ink haul I won last year from Julie B over at Pens Paper Inks … Whatever. I’m not normally inclined to purchase pink inks, Pelikan Edelstein Turmaline Color of the Year not included, but I was getting the itch to use an ink that wasn’t blue-black. So the J. Herbin Cyclamen found its way into circulation and, boy, am I glad it did.

I painted the title with a paintbrush and then wrote the writing sample using the Pilot Plumix calligraphy nib currently residing on my “spare” lime green Pilot Prera. Following the nib hack a couple weeks ago, a reader (Denis) mentioned that this hack also worked with Preras. Since I had a Prera with a too-fine-for-me F nib, this seemed like a great way to make it useful again. Besides, the pink ink in the lime green pen made me think of Lilly Pulitzer summer resort dresses.

J. Herbin Rose Cyclamen Ink writing sample

It’s a very purple-y pink, more raspberry than a fuchsia or hot pink. It really is the color of a Cyclamen flower.

(via Wikipedia)

The ink has a little shading but not much and its not as noticeable once the ink is dry either. But overall, J. Herbin ink is very reasonably priced and offers vivid colors that brighten my day.

J. Herbin Rose Cyclamen Ink Pink comparison

For comparison, here are some swatches of other pinks I had on hand. From left to right, Diamine Deep Magenta, J. Herbin Rose Cyclamen, J. Herbin Rose Tendresse, DeAtramentis Dianthus, Platinum Cyclamen Pink (actually neon which was hard to capture in a photograph), Diamine Hope Pink (also neon bright) and Pelikan Edelstein Turmaline (no longer available).

To be honest, I found very little difference between the J. Herbin Rose Cyclamen and Rose Tendresse. I find the Cyclamen a tiny bit deeper and a little more complex and the Tendresse a tiny bit brighter. I think the Tendresse looks like it would shade a bit more. The De Atramentis Dianthus is very similar in hue, maybe a tiny bit brighter and it is a scented ink. I could only smell it slightly when it was wet and was lightly floral. When dry, there is no scent. The only other color close (in my collection) was the Diamine Deep Magenta which was more of a deep, dirty pink not as raspberry purple as the other three mentioned. The Platinum Cyclamen, Diamine Hope Pink are much pinker and neon when wet. They both dry to a vibrant pinky-red. The Pelikan Edelstein Turmaline is the most subdued as a deep, complex red/pink/brown.

Do you ever use pink ink? What’s your favorite?

Review: Campus A4 Pad

Campus A4 Pad

Beneath the rather banal cover of the Kokuyo Campus Report Pad A4 ($4.10), hides some pretty amazing paper. When I first peeled back the flimsy cover, I was greeted by the undersheet and went “Hmmm, is this what I ordered?” After flipping past that, I realized that the paper was actually blissfully blank and a very lightweight. It reminded be a little of the Tomoe River paper found in my Hobonichi Planner. Do I have you attention now?

Campus A4 Pad

The undersheet is conveniently printed on both sides. One side is just lined, the other side is marked with a grid.

Campus A4 Pad

The paper is lightweight enough that you can easily see the lines or grid undersheet through the paper. The undersheet is more heavyweight than the paper so it feel like it will be durable enough for use through a full pad of paper, even with the possibilities of ink transfer.

Undersheets are one of the reasons I love blank paper. If the paper light enough, or your undersheet is dark enough, you can quickly have lined or grid paper to work from but then not be distracted by the lines once you’ve written on the paper. If you’re sketching, you can skip the undersheet altogether and you have a clear, blank of expanse to inspire you. With blank paper, you get the best of all worlds.

Campus A4 Pad
Now, how well does the paper perform in writing tests? Excellently, that’s how. I put it through its paces with gel, rollerball, pencil and fountain pens and not one bled or smeared. I didn’t track dry times but even with my smeary, left-handedness, I didn’t have any smudges. The only pen that led through was a Sharpie marker but I tried it just to see if it would.

Campus A4 Pad

From the reverse of the paper, you can see that there is quite a bit of show-through because the paper is so lightweight but nothing leaked through except the Sharpie, which I expect on all paper but cardboard boxes. I like this paper so much, I considered putting it in the queue as a regular pen testing notebook so I thought I better compare it to the current reigning champ, the Rhodia No. 18 Uni-Blank.

Rhodia Pad vs. Campus Pad

The Rhodia pad paper is on the left, the Campus pad is on the right. As you can see, the Rhodia paper is considerably brighter white. The Campus pad is a soft white. Which, for my purposes, rules the Campus out for ink testing since I like to be able to clearly see the colors without any color pollution as a result of the paper.

Rhodia Pad vs. Campus Pad

From the reverse, its easy to see that the Rhodia is a thicker stock so there is little show-through. I added the Sharpie marker just to have something bleed through so my camera had something to focus on.

If cost is an issue and you are looking for a lay-flat writing pad with easy, tear-away sheets AND is fountain pen-friendly, the Campus Report Pad is a great option. Its considerably cheaper than a Rhodia No. 18 pad and very similar size. For US folks, the A4 size is about an inch taller and a quarter inch narrower than “letter-sized” paper so fitting the sheets into a 3-ring binder or standard file folders might not work as well as the Rhodia No. 18 which perforates down to a standard letter-sized sheet.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Word Cards + Ink Drop = Ink Organization

Word Cards

I picked up this stack of Kyokuto Word Cards at Maido in San Francisco. They are small cards measuring just 1.5″ x 3.5″ (3.7 x 9 cm) and contain 100 sheets. I paid $2.75 for them. They are hole punched  at the narrow end and held together on a clamp ring making them perfect to store and collect ink sample swabs. Because the clamp ring is easy to open, ink samples can be rearranged by color or manufacturer on a whim.

I’ve started using them to have swab references of the Ink Drop colors I receive. I plan to go back and do all the previous color swabs so that I can get all OCD and mix and match them by color, which ones I’ve purchased and manufacturer at a whim.  The paper quality seems good, only one ink swab of the ten I tried showed any bleeding or feathering. Its bright white and my printer husband estimates the paper weight between 60 lb and 80 lb cardstock. Think of the card stock used for magazine blow-ins (those subscription cards that fall out the first time to open it) for a comparable weight. The cards are very smooth paper, there is little-to-no texture.

The nice thing about this set (or any of these mini-flash-cards-on-a-ring) is the ability to add more cards as needed. If they exceed the ring capacity, larger rings are available in most office supply stores or I can split the colors between multiple rings or divide them into smaller rings — all the reds, all the blues, all the blue-blacks, etc. I just love how easy it is to review, sort and be as anal about my ink collection as I want to be.

The closest product I could find online is the Maruman Mnemosyne Word Cards which measure 4.1 x 2.1″ (5.4 x 10.5 cm) with 100 sheets for $4.95. For more about the Maruman Mnemosyne Word Cards, check out the review on The Pen Addict. Have fun and nerd out with your new ink cards!

Word Cards Ink Drop

Review: Mitsubishi Hi-Uni HB

Mistubishi Uni Pencil writing sample

The Mitsubishi Hi-Uni HB is on of those pencils I’ve always wanted to try. I found this one at Maido in San Fransisco. Hi-Uni pencils can be purchased individually on Jet Pens for $2.35 each.

The lead has no friction on the paper. I definitely see the appeal of this pencil. It feels fabulous in the hand and lays down a smooth line. The HB lead smudges only slightly and it erased completely with the Staedtler Mars plastic eraser.

The red-brown lacquer on the pencil feels silky in the hand. The branding is stamped in a crisp, gold foil including the grade on the black lacquer-dipped end. The branding includes the tag “Established 1887″ as well. There is a gold foil ring around end of the pencil just before the end. The Hi-Uni line does not have an eraser tip, just the lovely black lacquer end.

On the very end of the pencil is a bright yellow dot. I did not look closely when I purchased the pencil to see if each grade had a different colored dot or if they were all the same but its an interesting design detail.

There is a white bar code stamped on the reverse side of the pencil from the branding, near the point. I’m not sure if this is just on the pencils for individual sale or if it would appear on pencils purchased by the box. It’s the only eyesore on an otherwise beautiful pencil.

Mitsubishi Hi-Uni HB wood pencil

Mitsubishi Hi-Uni HB wood pencil

Review: Beans Cut Mini Scissors

Raymay beanscut

While in San Francisco, I picked up the Raymay BeansCut mini scissors. It is a teeny tiny pair of snippers and a side slit for opening envelopes. Its extreme portability and fine jelly green color made it something I really wanted to try. At $6.50, it seemed like a reasonable investment, one way or another.

Raymay BeansCut

I wanted to compare it to my usual letter opener and you can clearly see that the BeansCut is considerably more portable. The flipside is that the scissors are so tiny  (compared to a dirty pair of 4″ scissors I keep on my desk) that they are only usable for snipping threads, trimming washi tape and possibly opening taped packages. Alternately, as a knitter, its a perfect tool to snip yarn and its small size made it easy to fit in my knitting kit.

When I tested the slicer on the side for opening envelopes, it worked well on plain paper envelopes like bills and air mail envelopes, but if the envelope was even slightly heavier like a wedding invitation it really didn’t work very well. I ended up using the scissors to open heavier paper envelopes and the slicer for lightweight papers.

The Raymay BeansCut is available in four colors from JetPens for $6.50. I bought mine at the Maido shop in SF in Union Square.