The shop is larger, smells fresh and new, has more space for stock and much more space for classes and demos. The warm welcome was very much the same.
I had gone there to stock up on paper for my printer; I like their own range of acid-free heavy-weight paper (usually 160g/m²) and found the Spectrum Noir Illustrator twin-tip alcohol markers in stock.
I bought the six packs of pens, which cost £12.99, so the pens work out a little over £2 each, which is about half the price of a Copic Sketch marker, Promarkers you can get for a little over £1 each at the moment.
Debbie, the lovely lady in charge today, told me they’re supposed to be a new formulation of ink that blends more easily with quality Japanese nibs. One of the nibs is a bullet nib, the other a brush nib.
On the Illustrator marker packaging it says:
For smooth, natural linework and detailed colouring. Fully blendable, streak-free coverage. Perfect for drawing and illustration.
So, I just had to buy and try them out!
I drew the design using the True Black marker and the bullet tip.
The bullet tip isn’t as fine as I thought it would be. The tip is softer than the bullet tips found on the Promarker pens. Personally, I’d prefer the bullet nibs to be firmer.
The pen drew nicely with plenty of ink in the new pen (something that hasn’t always happened with my experience of Spectrum Noir pens in the past). Also, the ink seems jucier in a different way that I can’t describe. It does seem to be a different formulation.
The black lines are thicker than I’d usually draw, but I’m hoping they’ll give a stained-glass kind of feel to the art.
Once I’d inked out the design on 160gsm smooth white card, I started to colour in the design using just two colour blending. That was going to be a bit of a challenge as I have eight of the six pen sets which aren’t the full range of colours in the Illustrator pens.
What I did notice is that the colours do blend much more easily than the original Spectrum Noir markers, and also the Promarkers and the Copics! The ink in the Illustrator pens is definitely different to the others.
Also, where I coloured fairly large areas with one colour, there was no streaking! Admittedly I didn’t colour a huge area, but so far so good. The lack of streaks was the case with both the bullet nib and the brush nib.
For the green leaves, I also used a tip-to-tip method to transfer a little of the darker colour on to the lighter colour to help blending with two quite different shades of green. That worked well.
The brush nib is made up of fibres that do spread out – more like the Chameleon pen nibs than Copics. I don’t now how that will affect their ability to get into small nooks and crannies as they are used over time.
I also noticed that the inks are a lot more vibrant and ‘cleaner’ in colour than the original Spectrum Noir pens, which is a huge plus for them.
The only downside is that as I was colouring, the inks would blend out the black ink, so some of the lines have bled where I don’t want them to bleed.
I do need to test them out with the usual pens I use for drawing and also with the Epson Ultra-brite ink I favour, which hasn’t been affected by alcohol markers previously.
Overall, I’m happy with the pens. I most probably will get the full set of 96 and will use them along with my other alcohol markers as I’m sure they’ll work well with them.