Testing Stabilo point 88 (fine 0.4) pens

March 23, 2013

stabilo88 fine 0.4

Six Stabilo point 88 fine 0.4 coloured pens, tested on cartridge paper with Winsor & Newtown watercolor.

I’m currently under the spell of Ian Sidaway, a British landscape/oudtoors on-location arrtist who does b&w pen drawings in a landscape Moleskine sketchbook. Sidaway reserves his colour work for pure watercolour sketches with no added penwork. Sidaway wouldn’t combine pen and colour the way I have here, but I’m curious about the possibilities.

Yesterday I did a sketch using five out of these six ‘coloured biros’. The bright blue and green gave the overall impression of a “coloured biro sketch” and because I was observing some very lovely lawn greens and yellow sandstone, I got thinking about either adding a watercolour wash over the penwork or laying down the watercolour first.

I liked the Stabilo pens because they didn’t clot or splutter on the page. The line was continuous and not scratchy. What I particularly appreciate is that the line is not unlike that produced by a fountain pen (though without the think or thin you get with a flexible nib). Plus there are no transportation problems – I can carry these anywhere without the threat of them leaking on me or worrying about ink levels.

I have no problems at all with the grey, charcoal and black pens. The three colours I’ve got at the moment are a bit too “fluoro” for my taste, but it’s nice to go out with a bunch of pens in my top pocket which will roughly approximate buildings, vegetation and sky. Normally, if I can step out with an A4 sketchbook, then a watercolour field set can usually tag along as well.

With these three black-and-white colours, I can pass off an on-site sketch as done in “pen”; the polychromatic colours take on the air of “biro” sketches, by contrast.

In terms of scanning and reproducing, they are a big improvement on graphite pencil. I love graphite pencil, but it simply doesn’t can for posting to online galleries or weblogs.

While I give up the sensuousness of the pencil mark with any sort of penwork, I know what whatever mark I set down with these Stabilo pens will be picked up by my HP Scanner, making them ideal of digital reproduction. The light grey is light enough for foundation lines not to impose itself on the finished product, working a bit like a grey watercolour pencil or a H or F graphite pencil. I can work in my personal method of laying in some light foundation lines, coming in with my darkest darks then creating texture and gradation through the mid-greys and colours.

From left, the pens by themselves on white cartridge paper; (centre) pen work over a watercolour wash laid down first, and (far right) pen with watercolour wash added later.

Despite the ink being water-based, it obviously doesn’t run.The only thing I have to watch out for is to let the paper THOROUGHLY dry. The pen line will fuzz when the paper is wet, either before or after a watercolour wash.

Eckersley’s sells them for $1.70ea; Officeworks in sets of 12 colours for $13.48.

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