Posts filed under Pen Reviews

Uni-ball Signo Limited Edition Hello Kitty Gel Ink Pen Review

Image via JetPens

Image via JetPens

I have a Hello Kitty pen, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I mean look at this pen - it's amazingly well done. I wouldn't expect anything less from Uni-ball, especially with their premier gel ink pen lineup in the UM-153. And including one of Japan's most timeless characters in Hello Kitty they had to get this right. And they did.

The Uni-ball Signo UM-151, also know as the DX, is the best gel ink pen on the market, especially in the sub-0.5mm range. It has been atop the rankings in my Top 5 Pens list for ages, and is a joy to use. Pilot Hi-Tec-C owners may want to challenge you to a duel over statements like these, but their pen will likely misfire when challenging you, leaving you to walk away unscathed. I should know, I used to be one of those people.

What makes the DX so good is the consistency and sharpness of the line. It is always ready to write, and when it does, it does so perfectly. The colors are brilliant too. Uni-ball has the best non-standard colors in my opinion, just like the orange seen here.

In a non-surprising twist, the Hello Kitty Signo DX is fyling off the shelves at JetPens. Five of the eight colors are out of stock, and being a limited edition, I don't know if and when they will be back. If you are interested in picking one, or several, up keep your eyes peeled.

(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)

Posted on April 6, 2015 and filed under Pen Reviews, Signo DX, Uni-Ball.

An Introduction To The Brush Pen Sampler

(Jeff Abbott is a regular contributor at The Pen Addict. You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution and Twitter.)

A few months ago, I wrote about my introduction to the brush pen genre with the Pilot Petit3. Shortly after that, JetPens began offering a sampler pack of 5 popular brush pens under the $30 mark. I ordered one right after seeing it, and I've been trying them out since. The main thing I've learned? Not all brush pens are created equal. Each one has a purpose, and as long as you understand that, you'll get along just fine.

The criteria

Recently, JetPens released a fantastic video that explains the different qualities of brush pens and how that affects the writing, drawing, lettering, etc. experience. I'm using the same qualities in my review, so let's have a quick look at what they are:

  • Tip type: This describes what the tip is made out of. This could be natural hair bristles, synthetic bristles, or felt. Depending on the type of material used in the tip, the rest of the characteristics of the pen will vary greatly.
  • Firmness: This can range from soft, medium, and firm. Soft tips will create wider line variation, but require more control and finesse. Firm tips are easier to use, but do not have great line variation.
  • Fineness: This can range from fine, medium, and broad. This refers to the line width the pen produces, similar to your fountain pen nib sizes. Brush pens with a soft firmness can hit all three line widths.
  • Elasticity: You guessed it, this refers to how well the brush tip can hold its original shape after being expanded with additional pressure. Basically, bristle tip pens will maintain the wide shape once you let off, and you'll have to fiddle with it a bit to make it fine again, whereas a felt tip pen will immediately return to its original width when the stroke is complete.
  • Ink flow: Again, if you're familiar with fountain pens, this one will make sense. This refers to how much ink comes out when making marks, similar to how we refer to a nib as "wet" or "dry."
  • Saturation: Another common term with fountain pens. This refers to the coloration of the ink. In the case of a black ink, a saturated ink will create a deep, dark black on the page, whereas a not-so-saturated ink will make a gray or brown shaded black mark.

Now, with that out of the way, let's take a look at these 5 pens.

Kuretake Disposable Pocket Brush Pen, Fine

The Kuretake brush pen is a fine felt tip pen that is really easy to use. It's disposable, which means that once the ink dries up, you throw it away. The barrel is a sparkly dark blue color with gold text. The cap sits firmly on the pen when closed.

  • Tip type: Felt.
  • Firmness: I think this pen errs on the side of firm, but you can get some decent variation if you press hard enough.
  • Fineness: Fine
  • Elasticity: The tip returns to its original shape immediately.
  • Ink flow: Very good ink flow, as it requires the slightest pressure to put ink on the page.
  • Saturation: Very dark saturation.

Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen, Soft

Of the felt tip brush pens in this pack, the Tombow is my favorite. I love how it writes, even if it isn't so pretty on the outside. This pen also comes with a handy little lettering guide, but I honestly haven't found much use for it. The body is a dark gray color with white text and lots of little graphics.

  • Tip type: Felt.
  • Firmness: I'd call this a medium because you can get a bit of line variation fairly easily.
  • Fineness: Fine to medium.
  • Elasticity: The tip returns to its original shape almost immediately.
  • Ink flow: Very good ink flow — requires almost no pressure to make a mark.
  • Saturation: Very dark saturation.

Zebra Disposable Brush Pen, Super Fine

The Zebra, even though its called "super fine," is very similar to the Tombow. You can get a decent amount of line variation, but it doesn't write as well as the Tombow. It's an excellent pen, but just a couple marks behind the Tombow. The body looks very similar to the Kuretake — dark sparkly blue with gold text, so it's very easy to confuse them.

  • Tip type: Felt tip.
  • Firmness: Firm to medium, but not as soft as the Tombow.
  • Fineness: Fine with the ability to reach medium.
  • Elasticity: Returns to original shape very quickly.
  • Ink flow: Very good ink flow, but a tad drier than the previous two.
  • Saturation: Very dark saturation.

Pilot Pocket Brush Pen, Soft

Ah, the Pilot brush pen. Of the broad, "lots of variation" group, this is my favorite. The pen is black with gold Japanese lettering on the body and red lettering on the cap. There isn't a word of English on this pen, so I only know it's the Pilot from a process of elimination.

  • Tip type: Felt.
  • Firmness: Very soft.
  • Fineness: Capable of making fine to broad lines easily.
  • Elasticity: Returns to original shape fairly easily, but might need some help after making broad lines.
  • Ink flow: Exceptional ink flow for such a wide tip.
  • Saturation: Very dark saturation.

Pentel Pocket Brush Pen for Calligraphy

Of the bunch, this is the only bristle tip pen, and it's a hoot to use. This one takes the most practice and patience when using, and it's absolutely not suited for writing. The pen body is black some minimal silver text on the cap. Also, of the bunch, this pen uses an ink cartridge, so you can refill it after its empty.

  • Tip type: Synthetic bristles.
  • Firmness: Soft — very soft.
  • Fineness: Medium to broad. You can get an insane level of variation from this one.
  • Elasticity: Needs help returning to a medium point. It likes to stay pretty broad when making lines.
  • Ink flow: The ink flow is "good enough" for most things, but it's not nearly as good as the other 4.
  • Saturation: The saturation also leaves something to be desired, as the lines can look a bit brown on the page.

Conclusion

All in all, this sampler pack is a great way to break into the brush pen genre. For me, I still feel like I have no idea how to use these properly, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy the heck out of them. I don't consider myself an artist, but these pens make me want to draw, and for that I'll eternally love them.

If you're curious about brush pens, I highly suggest you start here.

Posted on April 1, 2015 and filed under Tombow, Pentel, Kuretake, Pen Reviews, Pilot, Zebra, Brush Pen.

Zebra Sarasa Gel Multi Pen Review

(Jeff Abbott is a regular contributor at The Pen Addict. You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution and Twitter.)

In the world of multi pens, there are probably hundreds (thousands?) of different pen, refill, maker, body, and color options available. For the most part, the multi pen version of your favorite gel or ballpoint will likely be just as good as the regular single refill pen. But, there are still differences, and that's why picking up multi pens can be so much fun.

As a kid, I always treasured my Bic 4-Color because of the versatility of having 4 colors (4!) in a single pen. But, as you probably know, those aren't the best refills. Luckily, there are many, many options out there to fit your needs/wants.

The Zebra Sarasa gel multi pen fits a specific genre for my uses: it's inexpensive, it has gel refills, and it writes really well. In this genre, the Zebra is my absolute favorite (possibly until Pilot decide to offer a Juice multi pen, but who knows if that will happen). With that said, let's get into a bit more detail on this little gem.

Options

Like any good multi pen, the Sarasa has plenty of options for you to choose from. As far as the internals go, you can get a few different configurations (every option is in 0.5mm): - 2 gel and mechanical pencil - 3 gel - 3 gel and mechanical pencil - 4 gel and mechanical pencil

After the internals are chosen, you still have more options for body colors. The colors are slightly different for each configuration.

Feel

To be honest, some multi pens can feel cheap, uncomfortable, or make rattling noises when writing. This isn't the case for the Sarasa. The plastic body has a sturdy build with a nice strong clip — similar to the single refill Sarasa version. There's a nice rubberized grip section that makes writing just a bit more comfortable, and the barrel is a nice width for writing comfortably. I've used this pen for some long note-taking sessions, and it's never been uncomfortable to use.

Oh, and the clip has an auto-retract feature that retracts the refill if you clip it onto something (like a shirt or bag pocket).

The refills

Ah, yes. The refills — one of the most important aspects. If the Sarasa multi pen refills write any differently than the original Sarasa Clips, I can't tell. They're really good.

The ink flow is smooth and consistent, there are never any skips or hard starts, and the lines on the page are super crisp. For me, it's an absolute pleasure to write with. I've never had the ink act in a way that was undesired or unpleasant. Again, it's really good.

Now, these aren't the same refills as you'd find in the Zebra Sharbo X bodies, so just be aware of that going in. As far as I know, the Sarasa refills are proprietary and only fit this one series, but I could be wrong. I only have so many multi pens around to test.

At the end of the day, the quality of the refills for the price make this a stupid-good value. You're spending between 6 and 10 dollars for the pen and refills, which is a bargain. The refills are also inexpensive at just over a buck. Of course, these refills are skinny and won't last anywhere near as long as a regular pen, but that's the price we pay for having options.

Wrap up

I've tried a lot of multi pens, and I've always been impressed and happy with the Sarasa. If you're looking for a 0.5mm gel ink multi pen, I'd highly recommend these.

Posted on March 25, 2015 and filed under Multi Pen, Pen Reviews, Zebra.

Zebra Sharbo X LT3 Review

(Please welcome Susan M. Pigott as the latest addition to the Pen Addict family. Susan is a fountain pen collector, pen and paperholic, photographer, and professor. You can find more of her work at Scribalishess.)

The Zebra Sharbo X LT3 is a brass-body multipen with three interchangeable components. I chose the pen in Cobalt Blue, but you have a choice of other colors for the exterior (black, silver, champagne gold, and azure blue). The pen feels solid in the hand because of the brass construction. It isn't heavy, weighing 22.9 grams with the refills inserted. At only 9.3mm in diameter, it might be a bit thin for those with larger hands.

The pen allows for three components: a mechanical pencil (0.3mm, 0.5mm, or 0.7mm) and two pens or a pen and a stylus. The stylus is only for resistive touch screens, so it won't work with iPads, iPhones, or other capacitive touch screens. Pen refills come in a variety of colors and sizes. You can choose gel inks in 0.3mm, 0.4mm, and 0.5mm or ballpoint refills in 0.7mm and 1.0mm (these are the only sizes I could find for ballpoint refills on JetPens, but I did find a 0.5mm ballpoint refill on another site). Colors include Royal Blue, Carmine Red, Blue Black, Black, Blood Red, Blue, Magenta, Sepia, Mandarin Orange, Evergreen, and Emerald Green in the gel inks. In ballpoints you can also choose Fluorescent Pink or Green. Refills come in small cellophane packages, one refill per package. Gel refills cost $2.75 each, ballpoint refills are $2.65 each, and pencil refills are $5.00 each. If you want the stylus it is $5.00.

One of the benefits of the Zebra Sharbo X system is you can mix sizes for the components in each pen. For instance, you can have a 0.5mm mechanical pencil, a 0.4mm pen, and a 0.3mm pen in different colors.

The Zebra Sharbo X LT3 comes with a small eraser underneath a screw-on cap on the end of the pen. If you do lots of erasures, you may want to leave the cap off (but put it in a safe place because it is small and easy to lose). With such a small eraser, you'll either need to buy refills (pack of 3 for $1.65) or use a larger, separate eraser.

The pen does not come with any pen components, so you'll need to order those along with the pen. Inserting the refills is fairly simple (which is good, since all the instructions are in Japanese). Just unscrew the barrel portion below the Sharbo X logo and push the refills in.

It took me a while to figure out how to get the pencil refill in it takes a bit of force to push it onto its barrel. To select which pen/pencil you want to use, twist the barrel to one of the marks on the outside. When you want to advance the lead, push on the back of the pen with your thumb on the eraser cover. To retract the writing implements, twist the barrel so it is between the exterior marks.

I never use a clip with my pens, but the clip on the Sharbo X is flexible and should work fine on a shirt pocket.

I bought the Zebra Sharbo X LT3 for underlining and making marginal notes in textbooks. I'm not a big fan of highlighters, but I wanted to underline in different colors and make notes using a color code. I use the pencil if I want to erase my marks (for instance, in a library book). The pen works quite well for this purpose. Underlining and making brief marginal notes does not tax the hand. However, while writing this review, I found my hand cramping. This may be due to the pens small barrel size or the fact that I am using 0.3mm pen sizes that make me write smaller than usual. I ordinarily write with fountain pens, so I am accustomed to larger barrels and larger nibs.

The Zebra Sharbo X LT3 is well made as it should be for $49.50. The brass construction is solid. Nothing about this pen body feels cheap.

However, I am very disappointed in the quality of the gel ink refills. They run out or dry out quickly. I've had to discard one refill that refused to write at all. At $2.75 a pop, they aren't inexpensive you could buy a full-sized gel pen for that much. I haven't tried the ballpoint refills yet because they only come in larger sizes, but I may resort to them if the gel refills continue to drive me crazy. My first multipen was the Pilot Hi-Tec C Coleto. That pen is plastic and much cheaper. But the refills worked like a dream and the pen was a bit wider, lighter, and easier to hold. I may wind up going back to that pen in the future even though I didn't like the Coleto's plastic construction.

Conclusion

Pros:

  • Excellent construction, solid pen
  • A selection of pen body colors; I love the Cobalt Blue
  • Easy access to the pen/pencil components
  • Easy to refill

Cons:

  • Refills are fairly expensive
  • Gel ink does not last long and dries out quickly; sometimes it doesn't work at all
  • The thin diameter of the pen caused hand cramping at least for me

The Zebra Sharbo X LT3 is available at JetPens for $49.50. Pen/pencil components are not included with the pen.

Handwritten Review (Paper: Rhodia Dot Pad)

Posted on March 20, 2015 and filed under Pen Reviews, Multi Pen, Sharbo X, Zebra.