Thursday, July 17, 2008

Making the Faber brush pen last longer

At least twice as long that is.

Hack that pen.

The thing about materials for drawing cartoons is that they cost a lot more in the UK than they do in the US. The translation is usually along the lines of - well, let's take the Sakura Pigma Micron pen as an example. The Micron costs $1.50 in the US, which is around 75p. However, in the UK the pen costs £1.75 at least, which is about $3.50. It's fairly typical as Britain is one of the most highly-taxed countries in the developed world.

As I was scouting about looking for Micron Pigma pens over here I discovered two things, you are much more likely to get them in craft shops here, as most art shops don't stock them, and you can pay up to £3.75 per pen. Now that translates to about $7.50, so if you bought in bulk and bought 100 Microns in the US they would cost you about $150 or about £75. If, on the other hand, you bought 100 Micron Pigma pens here in the UK, from that particular craft shop, the same 100 pens would cost you $750 or about £375 - that is 5 times as expensive. It is the same story here with ink.

There is a similar difference in the cost of the Faber Castell-Pitt artists pen, with a brush tip; which we cartoonists tend to like because it's easier to handle than a brush, and smoother than a pen or nib. So given that there is a squeeze on, and that ink and plastic will undoubtedly cost more money as the months go by - I'll show you how to make the Faber pens last twice as long. You'll need the following tools:

(I can't believe I forgot my Pental Brush pens, so I've added them)

A bottle of FW Acrylic ink (must be Acrylic ink).

Your Faber pens - hope you haven't thrown them away.

A pack of handy wipes.



Optional extras: Your Pental Brush Pen, Koh-I-Noor or Rotring pens, Prismacolor Markers and a syringe from a home inkjet-filling kit.

1. Okay, make sure your work surface is clean and tidy and that your paper and pads that may be lying around are in plastic pouches (okay mine is messy so do as I say, don't do as I do), and get your pens ready and have your tweezers available.

2. I think someone went as far as to make a Youtube movie about this, but I'm not going to patronise you, take the tip in your tweezers and yank it out of there. Now look at the nice pointed tip that was hidden inside. Lovely isn't it? Okay, pick it up and stick the old blunt end back in the pen, so that you have a nice new tip.

3. Grab a handy wipe and get the dirty, filthy, ink of your little fingers.

4. Now that you have renewed your nib, put the pen lid on and move your attention to the other end of the pen. Take your pliers and remove the top - a quick yank and it comes out.

5. Now open your FW Acrylic ink, take your dropper and drop 3 or 4 (no more), drops of ink into the top of the pen, and then put the top back in place.

Rotate the pen once or twice, stand it on its head for about 10 minutes, and it should be good to go.

The Optional Extras:

6. I was actually sitting at the drawing table, well I was hoovering it, when I remembered I'd forgotten my Pentals, that's because I filled them already. Anyway, same deal as the Rotring or Koh-I-Noor. Fill the empty Pental Brush pen reservoir with FW Acrylic ink using the syringe from an inkjet refill pack. It takes surprisingly little ink and never clogs and flows real sweet.

7. Take that old Prismacolor marker and pull the chisel tip nib out with your pliers. Do just as you did when filling the Faber pen and drip 3 or 4 drops of ink into the thing. You won't be swapping the tip round this time, but your old dry pen will be working like a new young 'un again.

8. When your Koh-I-Noor or Rotring is empty, take it into the kitchen and do this in a metal sink or in a plastic basin. Clean the plastic reservoir by rinsing it clean. Fill the syringe with about an inch of FW Acrylic ink, and put the needle in the reservoir and slowly fill. Squirt the left over ink back in the bottle.

That little bottle of FW Acrylic ink will fill 100 Fabers, your Pental, Koh-I-Noor and your Rotring and a dozen Prismacolours and it will make up all your washes and you'll still have ink left to do solid blacks on pages and pages of drawings. It goes a long way, and I have never, in the past 2 years, had a blockage in any of these pens.

(Does anyone else notice how weirdly fetishistic this all looks, and how much it all resembles drug paraphernalia?)


Adam_Y said...

"Does anyone else notice how weirdly fetishistic this all looks, and how much it all resembles drug paraphernalia?"

Yes I did... and in many ways it is habit forming.

Thanks for the tutorial, I go through those pens at a fair rate and whilst I had wondered about taking them apart I don't think I would have bothered otherwise.

Mike Lynch said...

Wow! What terrific information. I don't use the brush pen and now I'll have to see if I like it cuz now I have your cost-saving insider info. here, Rod!

My minor quibble is about the price of the price of the Micron pen. The US national arts & crafts chain superstore Michael's prices individual pens at around $2.99. I have seen it for less ($1.84 per pen; $4.99 for a 3 pack assortment) from, but then there's shipping, of course.

Let me know if I'm wrong.

Thanks as ever for what must have been a time-sucking piece what with the taking of photos and all the easy to understand step by step instructions.

Oh, yeah, I laughed out loud at your comment about studio mess ("okay mine is messy so do as I say, don't do as I do"). Glad to know we are both slob cartoonists, Rod!

Rod McKie said...

Hey Adam,

you're welcome. Thanks for looking in.

if you're anything like me you will just hate parting with any of these things. I have pens I have absolutly no use for because they are long dead. The 'putting useless things out when I'm not looking fairy' has to visit to sling the stuff before I'll part with it.

I have 2 other tips that are probably too stupid to mention out front. One is when you buy new boxes of pens, like Microns, mark the box you are using with an X (see first pic) and the other is, the pen you are using, wrap something like a red elastic band around it so you can tell it apart from the others.

Can you believe I was sitting there trying to measuer the Micron points against each other to see which one I had used.


Rod McKie said...

Hey Mike, I like the front of the cartoon address info. I stick it along either the left or the right side now, in size 8 type. I think it adds something, it looks neat.

I got boxes of them from Dick Blik Mike, it may have been only around $1.25 a pen. The postage was real fast but every expensive (UPS), however, I got Koh-I-Noors, ink, Bristol Board pads and manga transfer sheets and the like, so it divided up pretty well per item.

The Koh-I-Noor alone was only something like $12 or $15 dollars, and the Rapidograph equivalent over here (a fatter pen that needs more gripping) is about $44 so I saved money overall, even with the postage.

I would not have saved much if I had paid the sales tax that they tried to make me pay over here. After it arrived I got an invoice for about $80. That was because Dick Blick refuse to send packages marked 'gifts', which are exempt from sales tax, presumably because nobody ever gets art materials as a birthday present, or for Father's Day?

Until that policy changes, I'm not shopping with them again. I'll swith to the new refillable Copic that you can get over here at Cult Pens.

Adam_Y said...

I've certainly been there with the microns... theres nothing worse than when I start to letter with a 0.1 instead of a 0.3... except when I start with a 0.5.

I'm pretty sure that last sentance will mean nothing taken out of context...

I like the tip about the elastic band too, I can't believe that I hadn't thought of something simlar, thanks.

Margaret Shulock said...

Hi Rod, Yes! pens are addictive. I just bought a gross of discontinued hardpoints because I missed them so.Aside from those I use the same pens you do and loved the photos. Found your site on Sandra B Lundy's links. I'll be back.

Narasimha Vedala said...

I'm always jealous of people in US. Arts supplies there are wonderful. In India, it is hard to find a single shop who caters full range of materials to artists. All you get are standard office supplies stuff. I draw with 2B pencil and scan it to work with editor.
BTW, Rod, would you be kind enough to visit my new cartoons site (started recently) and give me some feedback? Thanks in advance.

Rod McKie said...

Narashima, that is very true. The US art shops are like art-supply Nirvana.

I'll pop over soon - just playing catch-up. Thanks for dropping by.

Julia said...

Really useful! I just refilled my PITT brush pen, but I didn't read your blog yet and I filled it from the front end drop by drop after taking the tip out with my tweezers.

What I would love personally if someone could come up with a way to stop the tip from pushing back into the metal barrel for plastic-tipped pigment liners like Microns. It would bug me so much since their was obviously ink left but the tip was completely gone! ):