Pretty Pinole from Peets, Ink and Watercolor

Pretty Pinole from Peets, Ink and Watercolor

Warm sun, green hills, blossoming trees and a great Peet’s cappuccino to sip at an outdoor table while sketching was made even better by a pen that actually worked in my sketchbook. After struggling to find a pen that would not skip, scratch, smear, show through or bleed on the Arches 90 lb cold press paper I’d bound in my journal, I discovered that my Lamy Safari fountain pen was just right.


All of the pens I normally use were giving me problems. The Sakura Pigma Micron skipped, scratched over the textured paper when drawing, and was even worse for writing in the journal, whether I used my favorite .01 or a fatter-tipped .05.

Pitt Artist Pen and Sharpie tests

Pitt Artist Pen and Sharpie tests

I tried using an Ultra-Fine Point Sharpie since it would at least produce a strong line (above). But I found that the ink flowed too quickly, bleeding and spreading if held in one spot and worse, showed through to the other side.  I also tried the Pitt Artist Brush Pen on this page, which worked OK but was a thicker line than I like for general sketching. The black ink in the finer-point Pitts seemed paler than the Microns, but it might also be that they resist the sizing on the paper more.

Testing Prismacolor .05 Pen

Testing Prismacolor .05 Pen

Prismacolor Illustration pens are similar to the Sakura Pigma Micron and Pitt Artist Pens and are very nice and comfortable to hold. But they too performed poorly on the Arches CP. In the sketch above I was trying to do a contour drawing of what I saw on the BART train but my lines were barely visible until I redrew them with a Sharpie.

Testing Noodlers & Carbon Platinum Ink

Testing Noodlers & Carbon Platinum Ink

Then I tested my Lamy Safari F-point fountain pen and was delighted to see that it was a pleasure to write and draw with on the Arches CP paper.


I’d last filled the Safari with Noodlers Black Bulletproof ink, which is supposed to be waterproof but actually bleeds a fair amount when a wash is applied after it’s dry. I used a dip pen to test Platinum Carbon Ink and it held up better, barely bleeding at all.

So I squirted out the remaining Noodlers in my Lamy and refilled it with the Carbon Platinum ink. I’ve been a happy sketcher ever since. The ink is a rich black, doesn’t bleed, is great to write with on this bumpy paper, and is comfy to hold. Yay!


Now that I’m halfway through my journal it’s time to prepare for binding the next one. I’ve been testing papers and I think I’ve found the one. When I finish my tests I’ll post them. I have a feeling I might have found the perfect paper for ink and watercolor journaling.

Art supplies, Bookbinding, Drawing, Ink and watercolor wash, Outdoors/Landscape, Painting, People, Pinole, Sketchbook Pages, Subway drawings
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Join the conversation! 22 Comments

  1. Thanks for ther pen tests, Jana. And your pictures are always such fun along withthe information.

    I am eagerly waiting to hear about that perfect paper for ink and watercolor journaling.


  2. Your posts are enjoyable and informative. You’re doing my legwork! (ha ha) I especially like your “Testing Noodlers and Carbon Platinum Ink” page… The washes are great!

    • Thanks Rita, And I’m grateful to those who’ve done the footwork before me, such as Martha who told me about the Carbon Platinum ink. Jana

  3. Hi, Jana—I’m also interested in seeing what you’ve found to be the perfect paper for bookbinding….I’ve just torn down several pages of Arches 90lb!!! S’okay, I’ll use it…but am interested in hearing what you prefer. I agree, your posts are informative! Besides having lovely pictures!

    • Good for you for getting started and tearing down the paper. The Arches 90lb is very nice, as long as you use a suitable pen. The Lamy Safari is very inexpensive for an artist quality fountain pen — about $25 I think. You also need the little adapter that lets you use bottled ink instead of ink cartridges. You may be happy with a fatter line or find another pen that works well too. (Or maybe you draw with pencil which would be just fine). Jana

  4. Great post, loved reading the information! Is Carbon Platinum Ink the name brand? And, do you have problems with the flow through your Lamy? (It doesn’t sound like you do. I sometimes do with the Noodlers, but only if it’s waterproof.) Cannot wait to see what you have for perfect paper!

    Wonderful sketches…and wow, that girl has a LOT of hair to do that!!! Great job on the man with the hat.

    • Hi Raena, The brand name is either Platinum or Platinum Carbon (not sure, it’s a Japanese company) and it is pigmented carbon ink for fountain pens and it is waterproof. It flows beautifully through the Lamy, just perfect! No clogging at all. I just came back from 3 hours of sketching with it after not using it a couple days and it worked flawlessly. Jana

  5. Hi Jana,

    I look forward to receiving your blog each day. Today’s post is an exceptionally good one.

    Thank you for giving us information about the best pens to sketch with.

    Also, I’m looking forward to your post that tells us about the perfect paper.

    Ellene Breedlove Davis

    • Thanks Ellene! I still have a little more testing to do before I’m sure about the paper but I’m getting excited about binding another journal with the expectation it will be much easier the second time. Jana

  6. Your work is great!! I really like your drawings! the line is dynamic and humorous!!

    • Thanks so much. I’m so happy you thought my lines were “dynamic and humorous!” I can’t think of a better compliment! Jana

  7. Sharpie now makes a fine point pen, not a marker that I am finding works really well both for writing and drawing, they are inexpensive and you can find them at any office supply store. They come in a retractible and regular capped variety. Give them a try for and see what you think.

    • Thanks for the suggestion. But the guy at the art store told me that regular Sharpies fade quickly and that, on top of the other problems, discouraged me from further experimentation with Sharpies. I did read about the new ones, but the specs about them on Dick Blicksay they’re “smudge-resistant, fade-resistant and water-resistant.” That is not the same as “light*fast* and water*proof*” as the Pitts and Microns are. I don’t think they’re archival or artist quality, which I prefer to use when possible. Jana

  8. Hi Jana
    thanks for your comments about my work! My mother tongue is spanish, therefore I write sometimes in spanish; since two years now I live in Berlin.

  9. […] Pinole and Pen, Paper, Ink Tests « […]

  10. Very fun — this is a subject I love, ink, pens, paper. I’m still using the Noodler’s ink, but the American Eel black, which is waterproof (Mattias Adolfsson turned me on to it). The only drawback is you have to wait a bit before applying the wash; it seems to need to “set” first. I’ll have to try the Platinum Carbon Ink, although the last carbon-based ink I’ve tried was too gray. Great post!

    • Hi Anthony, Thanks for the note. I love the name American Eel black! Is it suitable for fountain pens? The Platinum Carbon is very nice and black. Martha of first showed it to me. She brought her fountain pen collection to dinner one night and we sat and played with pens and ink all evening. Jana

  11. I’m very happy for you that you seem to have nailed the paper/pen/ink conundrum.
    And if your choice is something available here (Australia) I’ll ceertainly be doing the happy dance!

    One of the pens I like best is a cheap ball=point (Around $3) with a click-button for on-off. It’s great for scribbling shopping lists and fine contour sketches and IT’S WATERPROOF!

    • I just read in a book about journaling to never use ballpoint pens because the ink is acid, never dries and is not archival. The book was several years old so maybe things have changed (or not?) Jana

  12. good idea for make picture

  13. wow… good pic. how money ?

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