Spectrum Noir Artline Pens – a review

“These quality fine line pens are perfect for sketching, outlining and colouring fine detail.  Various line widths and colours.  Quality micro-pigment inks.  Light-fast and Water-proof.  Quick drying and smudge-proof.”

That’s what it said on the back of the pack of these pens.

After reading that information and watching a video on YouTube reviewing the pens, I thought ‘marvellous – I’ll give them a go’.

So, I ordered a set on Amazon and they arrived yesterday.

I was particularly interested in their waterproof and  quick drying smudge-proof claims. I tend to use a lot of water-based media in my work, my Sakura Pigma Microns and Uniball UniPin pens work perfectly adequately.

Naturally, I wanted to test them out.  In the back of my bullet journal (BuJo) I have pages set aside for testing media.  So, I drew some lines from each pen, and a pattern with the brush pen.  The pens wrote smoothly, though the nibs feel rather soft and I don’t know how they’ll hold up with  using them with my not very light hand.  Time will tell on that one.

The ArtLiner pens didn’t bleed through the Leuchtturm paper, though there was some ghosting, which happens with many pens.

The brush pen was not pleasant to use, but that’s down to personal preference.  I write/draw with quite a firm pressure, and this pen just doesn’t suit me at all.

However, I did manage to smudge the lines because the lines remained wet for quite a while.  I was disappointed with that.  Maybe these pens were a bit too ‘juicy’ to dry quickly, or maybe it was the smooth nature of the Leuchtturm paper that resulted in them taking a little longer to dry.

To test this out, I drew a design on some Canson Mixed Media Imagine paper using the 05 and 03 Spectrum Noir Artliner pens. Here’s a photo of part of the drawing.

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First thing I noticed was that the ink took a while to dry on this paper too, and though you can’t see it on this image, I did manage to smudge the ink on some of the leaves at the top.

I left the drawing to dry for a goodly amount of time (my cat, Cuffs, needed a long cuddle before he settled back down for big sleeps) and came back to colour it.

I started off using Faber-Castell’s Pitt Artist Pens, which I used to colour the top part of the image.  I noticed that the colours looked a bit duller than usual.  That signalled some warning bells in my mind.

I switched to Zig Clean Colour Real Brush pens with a Tombow Dual Brush blender pen.  I definitely noticed the black ink spreading.  You can see that in the rows of leaves dangling down, especially those on the right side.

I left this drawing overnight and went back to it not long ago.  I added just clean water to the bottom leaf on the right.  You can see how much the ink bled and smudged.

Not happy. But I wondered if it was the paper.  So I went back to the test I did in the back of my BuJo, and you can see here the results of that.

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The Tombow blender pen, Zig Art and Graphic Twin pens, Zig Clean Colour Real Brush and Pitt Artist pens all caused the ink from the ArtLiners to bleed.  All of these are water-based media.

So, from my little tests, these are not what they claim.  Maybe I had a dodgy set, but for all the pens to behave in a similar way?

I won’t be buying them again. I’ll stick to my trusty Sakura Pigma Micron or Uniball Unipin pens, and they are pens I would recommend to anyone.

Just to emphasise, I don’t have any connection with Spectrum Noir, I bought the product myself, and I just wanted to share my thoughts with you on these.

Doodles and zentangles…not digital!

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That’s right!  Not digital, but drawn using Pitt Artist Pens from Faber-Castell.

Something inside me told me I needed a break from playing around with digital art, and that my pen wielding skills needed a bit of a dusting off.

If anything, drawing digitally has resulted in me being a bit more confident and fluid with my pen strokes.  I also realised that it’s a lot easier for me to work out designs on paper (though I’m not happy with all of the drawings above – a bit out of practice, maybe).

I’m  my latest drawings for the Dover Publications project, I have been drawing out the bare bones of a sketch on paper, scanning in and then working on it digitally.  That has helped me with size and layout of the design for sure.

This makes me hanker after a Surface Studio even more, as I’d be able to work on a digital image at a 1:1 scale for A4 drawings at the very least.

It’s not easy for me, it seems, to get my brain around the the fluidity of scale of drawing digitally as compared to the fixed scale on paper.

All the same, I really enjoyed wielding a pen with creativity on paper rather than screen.  It has it’s own pleasures, and challenges, including having to work with the mark you make when you put ink directly on paper; there’s no easy ‘erase button’ to be used!  So, it’s more about going with the flow and the creative opportunities that the permanency of ink results in (creative opportunities being the positive way to view ‘mistakes’; as I was once told, there’s no mistakes in art, only happy accidents!).

Oh, the boxes on the images.  Well, I do intend to scan these in individually and create files for printing out, the boxes being there where a greeting or message or quote can be placed.

Also, each drawing is approx. 4″ x 4″ (10cm x 10cm)

Mixed media

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Over the past two or three days, Ive been making ‘inchies’ and decided it was time to put them together as a mixed media artwork, which isn’t yet finished, as you can see above.

Inchies are 1″x 1″ pieces of art, though I have made some 1″ x 2″ tiles too.

There is something very satisfying in making such tiny pieces of art, and it’s nice to turn them into some kind of mosaic.  I’ve chosen inchie (and betwinchie) tiles that say something about me, some of them quite literally by the words on them, others more symbolically.

Making the inchies and betwinchies

To make the inchie and betwinchie tiles I started with mixed media paper.  My preferred brand is Claire Fontaine, and I used some sheets of white mixed media paper, and some that are natural in colour.

Distress oxide inks and a stencil brush were used to add colour to the sheets of paper, with a misting of water applied once this was complete to bring out the ‘oxide’ effect.  The Distress Oxides look quite different on the natural paper, more muted as the oxide ‘bloom’ is more apparent.

Next, I cut the sheets into 1″ x 1″ and 1″ x 2″ tiles.  I edged the tiles with black by using the edge of a wide tip on an alcohol marker.  Drawings and patterns were then added using Pitt Artist pens by Faber-Castell.  I wrote words on some of the tiles, on a few I used some ChitChat stickers from Tim Holtz’s Ideaology range.  Then,  Derwent Inktense pencils with a water brush and coloured pencils with a blending stick from Faber Castell were used to add colour depth to the tiles.  The next step was to add white highlights and metallic and iridescent details using gel pens and paints.

To finish the tiles, I added a layer of 3D Crystal Lacquer by Sakura Hobby Craft to give them a highly glossy, slightly domed finish.

I then had a small bowl filled with these tiles, and had to try to do something with them.  So, I thought I’d make a kind of mosaic of ones that said something about me.

Making the background and mosaic

I needed a background for this, so I took another piece of the  Mixed Media paper, in white, and added colour using ink blending tools and the Distress Oxide inks, followed by a light spray of water.

I used various stencils, again with ink blending tools and Distress Oxides to add patterns.  After each stencil, I sprayed the stenciled areas quite liberally with water so that the dye part of the Oxides inks ran, but the pigment ink remained in place.  I also let any puddles of water form or run as they wished to do so.  Finally, I edged the piece of paper with Vintage Photo Distress oxide ink, again using a blending tool, and then sprayed with water once again.

I didn’t take a photo of the background, which I was really pleased with and almost didn’t want to do anything with other than keep it and look at it.

However, I gritted my teeth and started to choose the tiles I wanted to use and to lay them out on the background.

I then used a collage medium to stick the tiles down, and the result is what you see.

It’s all a bit wibbly-wobbly, but that’s quite representative of me!

Learning points

I know it’s not finished yet, but it’s drying as I found that if I got the collage medium on the Crystal Lacquer finish I got dull patches, so an extra layer of Crystal Lacquer has been applied to the affected tiles and these are now drying.  So, I need to make the inchies and not finish them off before I adhere them to a project, or I need to find a different way to adhere them!

The background has warped – a lot.  I need to think about how to either keep it as flat as possible through all the repeated sprayings and dryings of the paper when the background is made, or I need to find a much thicker paper/card to use for this.