Staedtler Pigment Liner Review

I somehow managed to not review my favourite pigment/fine liner, despite it being one of the sketching tools that I use the most. While I know that the pigment liner from Sakura is more popular is stationery blogger circles, and Copic is thought to be the elite offering (it sure is in terms of price), Staedler’s pigment liners have been my go to pigment liners since I was a teenager, and they have always been the ones I compare all others to.

Pigment liner set bought at Cass Art in London

All pigment liners are expensive to purchase here, and Staedler is no different, which means that I always stock up on them when I go to Cass Art in London. This 6 pen set is always on sale, and you get a useful selection of pen widths. However, if you are just starting out, don’t buy a set – buy a 0.3 and a 0.5 and if you want to splurge add the 0.1 and the 0.8.

The full set: Calligraphy, 0.8, 0.5, 0.3, 0.1, 0.05

Whether you use Staedler pigment liners or ones from another brand (Sakura, Faber Castell, Copic, Uni-ball, etc), the 0.3 or 0.5 will likely be your base, bread and butter pen. I generally use the 0.3, unless I’m feeling shaky, I’m in a hurry and want to churn out sketches/illustrations, or I want to go for a dramatic effect, in which case I go for the 0.5 or the 0.8. The 0.1 is a pen that I use for the opposite effect – when I plan to use watercolour or an ink wash and I want the colour or wash to take precedent. The 0.05 is a pen that I used to use when I was younger and drew comics (it’s excellent for fine details), but I hardly ever reach for it now, unless it’s to work in small format with a colour wash of some sort following. It’s a fragile pen, so if you tend to lean on your pens, this one is not for you. How can you tell if you put a lot of pressure on your pens? Write a page with a gel ink pen and check the back of the page. Does it feel like braille lettering? Does your wrist hurt? Then you’re putting to much pressure to use this pen without ruining the tip, and you may have issues with the 0.1 tip as well. I used to write like that and it took some practice for me to be able to use these ultra fine tipped pens.

Line samples on a Moleskine pocket sketchpad.

So, why do I love the Staedtler pigment liner so much?

  • It puts down a consistent, black line. This seems obvious, but I’ve tried more than one pigment liner that puts down a dark grey or washed out black line and it’s always disappointing.
  • It’s a rock solid pen that won’t dry out, and has a robust tip. I’ve had terrible luck with Faber Castel and other makers where a capped (mind you, capped) pigment liner stopped writing reliably after a month or two. This has never happened with my Staedler’s, and I’ve had some for years.
  • The pen body. This is what makes the Staedler’s the best of the best in my personal opinion.
The Staedtler pigment liner’s pen body.

So, what makes the Staedler pen body so great? It’s a whole lot of small things that just add up. It’s light weight but doesn’t feel flimsy, and it has a matte finish with a subtle lined texture all around, so its easy to grip. It’s also a bit wider than many of its competitors, and unlike many of them, it has the pen width clearly marked on both the pen body and the pen cap. It also doesn’t have any sharp edges, which you’d think would be an obvious in pen design, but sadly isn’t. Finally, it caps and posts and uncaps with a solid click, and without having to apply a lot of pressure. You know the pen is capped and the pen is uncapped when you need it. And if you so care to uncap it with one hand, you can.

Here’s the 0.1 Staedtler in action. There’s a photo of the sketch I made after applying an ink wash (Sennelier Burn Sienna India Ink diluted in water and applied with a brush pen), and one of the same sketch after I applied blue watercolour.

Staedtler 0.1 pigment liner, and ink wash.
Staedtler pigment liner 0.1, ink wash and watercolour.

During a private tour of Nazareth last year (a present from my wonderful family in between chemo treatments), I met the guide’s young boy. His father told me that he wanted to be a clothing designer when he grew up, so I broke out my sketching kit and gave him every Staedler pigment liner that I had on me. His eyes lit up once his father explained what these pens were. If you have a budding artist, designer, sketcher, doodler in your life and you’re wondering which gift to give them, two or three Staedler pigment liners will always be welcome.

Weekly Update: New Job

There’s been a dearth of new posts this week because I just started a new job, and while it has been great so far, I still haven’t adjusted to it. After being a recluse (out of necessity) for the past year or so, it was a bit of a shock to the system to meet so many new people face to face. I’m not sure yet how my posting schedule or content will change in the coming days and weeks, but I’m hoping that it won’t change too much.

I’ve started the SketchingNow Watercolour course, and I’ve done the first week of classes. This week is all about washes, so I created a grid of all the colours in my palette, showing how each one looks as a watery wash, a juicy wash and a pasty wash (what Mark Taro Holmes terms tea, milk and honey). This was a lot of work, but it did give me a better feel for the potential of the paints in my palette.

There was also an exercise that involved sketching vegetables with a set of juicy washes. Here’s the sketch in progress:

And after it was done:

This was a pretty simple exercise, but nevertheless a lot of fun.

Reading

My reading has been quite eclectic lately. I finished reading “Our Country Friends” by Gary Shteyngart and it turned me off the Tournament of Books list for this year. I’ve got very little patience for the plights of unlikable privileged characters that potter about a story with zero plot except having sex or trying to have sex with each other, and whining about their lives all the time.
I’ve read “Drive” by James S.A.Corey , the first short story in “The Expanse”. It’s completely skippable, so don’t feel the need to read it if you want to get into the series. Also, please don’t start “The Expanse” from this story – it may be chronologically first, but it’s their worst piece of writing so far.
I’ve started reading Ali Smith’s “Companion Piece,” which is a companion piece to her fantastic seasonal quartet of novels. I like her writing so much that I bothered to get a signed hardcover of this book. So far it’s shaping up as an interesting read.

Finally, I’ve plunged back into Henry IIIV’s England with “The Mirror and the Light” by Hillary Mantel. Her writing is mesmerizing and she really brings Cromwell, his peers, family, rivals and the entire period to life.

I’m experimenting with various kinds of new sketchbooks and sketching materials (as well as pens and ink) and I have thoughts about them. I just need to find some time to organize them into something coherent and write it all down. Meanwhile, here’s a quick sketch that I did on a paper bag during a zoom call, using a new brush pen that I’m trying out.

Have a great week!

SketchingNow Watercolour Course Introduction

I’m starting Liz Steel’s SketchingNow Watercolour course next week, and so I spent the weekend completing the three intro lessons to the course. It was nice practicing a bit of brush control after such a long time (for over 6 months I haven’t been able to properly hold and control a brush because of my peripheral neuropathy), and I cleaned my palette after a long time.

Metal watercolour tin filled with half pans of paint.
Clean palette
A sketch of the paints in my palette with a legend.
Intro lesson 1 exercise

My palette is large and I still have 3-4 colours on it that I’m still not sure about. This is the first page of a brand new Moleskine Large Watercolour Sketchbook, the new one in portrait format. Drawing your palette is a great way to start your sketchbook and get over the initial fear of “ruining it”.

Intro 2 exercise – testing the brush

The brush is a Rosemary & Co Kolinsky Sanle one, and I haven’t used it before.

Intro 3: testing the paper. Check out the granulation on the ultramarine.

Overall these were good intro lessons to watercolour sketching and good warmup exercises.

Weekly Update: Open House at the Municipal Nursery

The past two weeks were a bit hectic, with various social gatherings (I’m not used to meeting people after being isolated for so long due to Covid and chemo) and getting ready to leave my old job and start my new one. The weather is still pretty good, and I’ve been relishing it: running, walking, and sketching a lot. As I’ve gotten used to writing and sketching with this level of neuropathy, I’m trying to take advantage of the pre-summer-heatwave weather to get as much outdoor on location sketching done as possible. I also have a backlog of London and Paris sketches to go through, complete where necessary and post.

I’m back at the gym (I had to freeze my membership during treatments), and enjoying getting back to lifting weights. And I went to see a movie for the first time in more than two years. “Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness” was pretty good, but it had a few too many horror elements for my liking. Another first after a very long time was an evening out at an escape room with my friends. It was a lot of fun, and something that I really missed.

Yesterday I went an Open House Tel Aviv event at the municipal plant nursery. I learned that the nursery serves a wide variety of organizations and gardens all over the city, that urban environments, and particularly seaside urban environments are rough on plants, that the nursery is one of the few of its kind in Israel, and it has been around for 100 years. We saw plants grown from cuttings, talked about plants that can survive the salt and sand and harsh sunlight of beachfront gardens, as well as plants that can thrive in the shade. We saw plants that are pollinator friendly, and talked about local plants vs. imported and invasive plants in the city. It was fascinating, and I could have spent the entire day there. The nursery isn’t normally open to the public, so visiting it and getting such a wonderful insight into it was a real treat.

A sketch of a lady in black work clothes and purple hair, a shaded set of growing tables and a patch of nasturtiums.

Here’s a closeup of Liat, who manages the nursery and was our fantastic tour guide for the day.

A close up of the lady in black work clothes and purple hair from the sketch above.

I’m 3/4ths done with “Our Country Friends” by Gary Shteyngart and I’m probably going to give up on the Tournament of Books reading list once I’m done. I have so many good books that I want to read, that I don’t feel like chancing another tiresome one. What will come next is Ali Smith’s “Companion Piece”, and then “The Mirror and the Light”. There are a few classics that I want to catch up on, and some very good sci fi that’s waiting for me, so as much as I’ve discovered some fantastic books through “The Tournament of Books”, I think that this is where our ways will part, at least for a while. Oh, and Agatha Christie is an excellent writer, and very addictive. I may return to her books in the near future.

I’m exploring various ways to manage my projects, and so far I’m unhappy with all of them. When I was in London I picked up this Penco leadholder and some leads (I have another one in shades of green that part of a sketching kit that I don’t want to break up), and I’m giving the good old PigPogPDA another try while I work things out. This is always my “palate cleanser” system, something that I use while I tweak other, more complex systems into relative perfection. I’ll be using this leadholder and a Moleskine plain pocket reporter.

The Penco Prime Timber 2.0 leadholder in red with brass hardware.

I’ve enrolled to Liz Steel’s Watercolour course. It’s starting a runt through on the 8th of June, and as I’ve had such a long sketching break while my hands were bad, I thought that it would be a good way to refresh my skills and pick up a few tips and techniques along the way. I like Liz’s loose, non standard watercolour style, and her courses are excellent.

Next week on Tuesday is my last day in my old job, and the week after that I start my new job. Exciting times 🙂

Cocktail Party

Quick sketch of people making cocktails in the dark. Uni-ball Jetstream Edge 0.38 on a Stillman and Birn pocket Alpha.

Surfers in the Sea

I went on a walk this morning, and as the wind was up, the surfers were out in full force. I decided to take a quick break and sketch them in my pocket Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook, and I used a Staedler 0.05 fineliner for a change. I used to love the 0.05 for the fine line it gave, but I haven’t used it for years, and while my neuropathy was bad I couldn’t have used it. As my neuropathy is improving with the weather, I decided to give the 0.05 a spin.
This was sketched on location and painted later on.

A sketch of surfers and a yacht in the sea, enclosed in a drawn frame and with a bit of text describing the scene on the top left corner.

The sketch as it was on location:

Surfers and yacht sketch as above, minus the text and with the sea not painted in blue.

And the original scene once I finished sketching:

A photo of a yacht in the distance and surfers in the sea

Paperchase Fine Liners and Sketching on a Paper Bag

On my last day in London I went to Paperchase, a local stationery chain, and “splurged” on some stickers and a set of fine liners. I say “splurged” with velociraptor quotes as Paperchase branded products are generally inexpensive, even if they do tend to be of middling quality. This set of fine liners proved to be no different: they can be described as OK at best. The caps require some force to snap back on, the clips quite easily (and unintentionally) pop out, and the colours are muted and pale. They would work well as muted, fine lined highlighters, but if you’re planning to sketch or colour with them, I’d opt for something from Staedler instead.

Paperchase Fine Liners. The packaging, as with all Paperchase products, is on point.

The set that I got had the following colours: Sky Blue (which is a turquoise), Deep Blue (which is a teal, and not at all deep or blue), Choc Brown (which is a reddish brown, and far too light to be named after chocolate), Fiery Orange (which is very reddish and not at all fiery), and Hello Yellow (the only aptly named pen of the bunch). You can see a writing sample on Maruman Mnemosyne paper.

Writing sample of Paperchase Fine Liners.

I was inspired to sketch a scene from one of my runs this week using only these fine liners and a used paper bag from the local farmers’ market (it had peppers in it). The set doesn’t have a green, so I layered the Deep Blue on the Hello Yellow to create the green that you see here. I kind of like the result, and as I have a few more used paper bags laying around I may play with them as well.

Sketch of the Reading Power Station on a used paper bag.

Gan Broshim

Quick sketch with watercolour pencils and watercolours.

Soccer Players

A quick fountain pen sketch with my vintage Waterman 52 fountain pen and Waterman Havana Brown ink (now called absolute brown) on a Stillman and Birn pocket Alpha.