I decided not to take part in Inktober this year. Instead I’ll be drawing at least one page a day in my Stillman and Birn Pocket Alphas. You can see days 1-5 here, days 6-10 here and days 11-15 here.
I drew the first four of these days as scheduled and then the last drawing took much more time than I planned, so I decided to invest a little more time in it. While I was working on that I had an opportunity to submit a short story to a collection that doesn’t usually accept submissions. The deadline was tight, but I decided to go for it, which meant putting this challenge on hold. As I’m refocusing my energy on my writing I’m going to stretch this challenge to December (more on that in a later post). So far it has worked to get me more comfortable with working directly with ink and with a pared down palette and brush selection, so I’m happy with that.
All these were drawn on a Stillman and Birn Pocket Alpha with a 0.3 Staedtler fineliner and Schminke Horadam watercolours.
Black erasers have become more common in recent years, with the Boxy perhaps being the most well known of the bunch. I have a few that I use regularly, and a few that just lounge in my stationery drawers waiting to be used. As I’m streamlining my sketching kit and the boxy is now the eraser I carry in it, I decided to test it out against the competition, starting with other black erasers.
In terms of price they’re all around the same price range with the Muji eraser being the cheapest of the bunch, and the dust catch and boxy being on the more expensive side of things.
I took out my Baron Fig Confidant, since I do all my pencil tests on it, and scribbled in it in a variety of pencils and even using a Caran d’Ache red blue pencil, though I don’t expect regular erasers to do well with coloured pencils.
The pencils that I used were the Blackwing 811 (a darker, softer pencil), a Viarco 3500 No. 2 (a standard HB pencil) and a vintage Eagle “Chemi-Sealed” Turquoise H pencil. These seemed like a fairly representative bunch of general writing pencils, at least in terms of graphite behaviour. Though I did later check them for art use, these erasers are meant to be used when writing more than when drawing.
I did a single eraser pass on the left hand side of the page, and on the right side I split each scribble into two and tried to erase it completely (leaving an untouched graphite barrier in between each side).
Then I tried to erase the coloured pencil, which I wasn’t expecting much success in, and here are the results:
A closeup on the one pass side. You’d normally not erase this way, but it does give a good indication of how good the eraser is going to be:
A closeup on the H pencil one pass attempt. I deliberately pressed down on the H pencil, because from my experience H pencils are easy to erase when you apply little or no pressure to them, but they’re pretty tenacious if you apply normal or strong pressure on them.
Here’s the split scribble test above and the H scribble test below:
Finally the Caran d’Ache red/blue eraser test:
At this point I was ready to give the victory to the Boxy, with the Mono Dust Catch a pretty close second, the Staedler Rasoplast in third place and the Muji eraser trailing behind. The Boxy and the Dust Catch also had the easiest “eraser crumbs” to clean (long threads of the stuff, easily brushed aside), and the Muji had the smallest and the worst. None of the erasers damaged the paper, which perhaps isn’t surprising considering that they’re all pretty soft.
I’d also point out that none of these erasers are what I’d call “best”. They’re good erasers, but even the boxy left graphite ghosts behind. There are better erasers on the market, but these in general behaved better than average (even the Muji), and the Boxy and Dust Catch are pretty good. They held up well even against the Caran d’Ache red/blue pencil, which surprised me.
Even though these aren’t “art” erasers, I decide to try to draw some doodles in pencils, ink them with a fine liner and check how much ink each of these erasers lifted.
Here’s the inking. You can see the pencil marks beneath, and I waited for the ink to completely dry before trying to erase the underdrawing.
The results were “ravishing” as to be expected:
You can look at the closeup below and see just how much ink was lifted. These are all terrible for art use, which again, isn’t surprising. I drew an ink line for reference under these, just so you can see how much ink was lifted. Also the top line of left hand dude’s sleeve wasn’t erased so you can compare that too:
The Muji erased faired the best at this part of the test, although I still wouldn’t recommend using it to erase underdrawings.
Of the four erasers that I tested, the Boxy and Dust Catch are the best, and of these two the Boxy is the one I would choose, because of its compact size and its slightly better performance. None of these erasers are terrible, but if you’re investing in a good box eraser (and you should) the Boxy is definitely one to consider.
And why are these black? Presumably to not show dirt, though I find that both frivolous and counterproductive. If the eraser shows dirt, then you know that may need to clean it on a bit of scrap paper before using it, so that it won’t transfer that dirt onto your clean paper. However, I suspect that the real reason is that black erasers just look cool, and the rest is just plain marketing.
I decided not to take part in Inktober this year. Instead I’ll be drawing at least one page a day in my Stillman and Birn pocket Alphas. It happens that there are just a few pages left in my first pocket Alpha, the one I got gifted by Stillman and Birn as part of their sponsorship of Gabi Campanario’s Urban Sketches Porto 2018 symposium class. I use multiple sketchbooks at the same time, and finishing and starting a notebook is always the hardest part for me. So I decided to challenge myself to finish my old Stillman and Birn pocket Alpha and start on a new one, by challenging myself to draw at least a page a day for 30 days straight.
I will be batch uploading these 5 days at a time, so here’s what I drew on the 17th of September until today, the 21st of September:
Since I’ve been working from home I’ve had more time to dig into my stationery and art supply stash and add new things into my rotation. My favourite lead holder is a vintage Eagle Turquoise Prestomatic 3377, which is all metal and a little on the heavy side, but it’s a fabulous sketching tool. If I want to carry something lighter around I fall back to the all time classic Staedtler Mars technico.
I use these lead holders as sketching tools, and so they normally hold B or 2B leads from Staedler, Mitsubishi, or Caran d’Ache. Good quality leads aren’t cheap, so I expect any lead holder I use to protect them sufficiently well, as well as provide a solid grip that works in many drawing angles. Any added bells and whistles, like clips, a lead sharpener or a built in eraser, are just not things that I’ll use, so I don’t take them into account when I decide whether to purchase a lead holder or not.
The Caran d’Ache Fixpencil is not a new lead holder on the market, but it is a new lead holder for me. Something about its price range and design made me think that it’s a lead holder for people who like to write with lead holders, not so much for people who like to sketch with them. Lead holders ordinarily have a very functional, “tool-like” vibe to them, and not a lot of polish. Contrary to that, the Caran d’Ache Fixpencil is a sleek and polished thing of beauty.
Having used the Caran d’Ache 849 I was worried that the Fixpencil would have the same slippery texture, with a grip that isn’t up to the task. If I’m drawing with a lead holder, then I’m working fast and loose, and the last thing I want to worry about is the holder flying out of my hands. Unlike other lead holders, the Fixpencil doesn’t have a knurled or striated grip, but rather uses a sandpaper like texture on its grip section instead. As I shift my drawing angle a lot, I find that texture really unpleasant. I also wonder how superficial it is, and whether it will wear down to sleekness after a relatively short time.
The Fixpencil is a thing of beauty, with the same minimal branding as the 849, and the same clip and body design. Apart from the clip, there are no bells and whistles here, but that doesn’t detract from the holder. It comes with a B Caran d’Ache technograph lead, which is excellent.
I watched an live streamed concert from Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London, and sketched the singer using the Fixpencil and a Leuchtturm1917 Sketchbook and it worked well. I would never use it as my main lead holder, as I don’t like the grip, but your milage may vary, especially if you plan to write and not sketch with it.
If you’re just starting your sketching journey I’d recommend the Staedtler Mars technico line, whether vintage or new. They are ugly ducklings, but they are great, relatively cheap workhorses. I’d recommend trying the Fixpencil before you buy it, as you may find its grip section as unpleasant as I found it, or it may be one of your favourite tools.
A sketch on location of my polling station in Tel Aviv (don’t be creepy) on election day.
While I was sketching an elderly volunteer came for a chinwag in the shade, and then stayed and chatted for a good long while. I guess he was lonely. And later two girls came around selling cookies and lemonade for charity, so I bought a cookie and talked to them while they watched me draw and tried to sell their wares.
I have been using the Deleter Neopiko Line 3 felt tip pens for a while now as myjournalcomicspens, just to trythemout. I didn’t bother buying all of the lineup (pro tip: you never need all of the tip sizes in felt tip pens), instead choosing to focus on the tip sizes that I would use the most.
First thing first: the barrel design. These are wide enough and light enough to be comfortable for long use, but otherwise the Neopiko Line 3 has a terrible design.
You can’t tell which pen is which without looking at the cap, which is a fatal design flaw in these kinds of pens. I normally use several felt tip pens at the same time, and can oftentimes accidentally cap one pen with another one’s cap. That’s no big deal with the Staedtler, Copic or Faber Castell felt tip pens, as you just look at the pen body when using them to know which is which, but you just can’t afford to make this mistake with the Deleter Neopiko’s. You won’t mix up the 2.0 with the 0.2, but try telling between the 0.3 and the 0.5 when you’re in the middle of a drawing.
Another design drawback is also related to the cap: it’s requires a lot of force to use. This means that you can’t easily cap it with one hand, and if you draw to any extent with felt tips you know how bad that is.
These two choices on Deleter’s part meant that when I was using these pens I had to change my drawing method, working not panel by panel as I usually would, but pen by pen. You’ll see what I mean in a moment, when I review each individual pen.
The Deleter Neopiko Line 3 comes in the following tip sizes: 0.03, 0.05, 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.5, 0.8, 1.0, 2.0, and Brush. These are pretty common tip choices in this kind of pens, with perhaps only the 2.0 tip size being unique to Deleter. I recommend not buying the 0.03 or 0.05 because they are much too fine (in any maker), and skipping the 0.2, as these pens do allow for some line variation (as all felt tips do), so you won’t be able to tell the difference between the 0.2 and the 0.3 in use.
To showcase the pens in use, I decided to create a journal comic and show step by step how and when I use each of these pens.
The Deleter Neopiko Line 3 2.0 pen is what made me try out this pen lineup. It’s a fun and unique tip size that’s just perfect for comic borders or if you like big, bold lines in your drawings. This is the only pen in the Neopiko line 3 lineup that I recommend buying, despite the barrel design flaws.
The 0.8 tip size got very little use in my first journal comics with this set. Normally I would use this tip size for the panel borders, but I was using the 2.0 for that, so I had to remind myself to use it in other places. This is my least favourite of the lineup, as it was scratchy and gritty, and offered a lot of resistance, especially when drawing vertical or rounded lines. It was as if the tip had split, although in reality it hadn’t.
The 0.5 Deleter Neopiko Line 3 (wow to Japanese companies like long names for their products) is one of their most useful tip sizes. You can basically do with the 0.5 and the 0.1 for very fine detail, and the 2.0 for absolute fun, and you’re set for 99.9% of what you’d need for comic line work.
The 0.3 Neopiko is the second most useful pen in this lineup, and one that I used probably the most. If you don’t draw super small, it can probably even replace the need for a 0.1 tip pen for you.
As you can see, the 0.1 Neopiko Line 3 didn’t get much use in this comic, but when you need it, you need it. This is as fine as I would go, though, as already the tip is tiny and fragile, liable to break with too much pressure.
The Deleter Neopiko Line 3 brush pen is useful for filling in black areas, and not so much as a brush pen. It’s very firm, offering very little line variation or brush-like qualities. The only reason to buy it is to get big areas filled with black that is identical in shade to your other line work.
So, is the Deleter Neopiko Line 3 a contender against the Staedtler pigment liner? No, not even close. It is, however, worth giving the 2.0 a go, and if your drawing method is already a pen size by pen size one, then you might want to give these a go. They are waterproof, marker and eraser proof (once dry), and archival.