Monday, May 16, 2011

Even Pigs Have Dreams - a review of Uni Pin Pens

Meet Boris.  He is a pig of exquisite tastes, lofty dreams, a puckish sense of humour and no dental plan.  I have drawn him several times and he seems to come to me when I am at my lowest point.  He makes me smile and I'm always satisfied with the way he turns out.  He is always born of an inspiration blocked idle moment, with a goodly dose of self pity happening.

In the past, Boris has been drawn on newspaper with madly bleeding Sharpie pen, on printer paper with a smeary ballpoint.  This incarnation was drawn on a bit of 10" X 14" (25 X 35 cms) leftover hot pressed Arches 300 gsm Watercolour Paper using a couple of Mitsubishi Uni Pin Permanent Ink, Fine Tipped Pens (which are water and fadeproof and claim to be lightfast too), in my hand.  Boris was then washed, (much to his disgust because he wanted to be tan coloured), with a hint of pink Caran d'Ache Neocolour II Water Soluble Wax  Crayon borrowed from a fellow artist working beside me.  I had to explain to Boris that his ears and snout were all wrong for him to be a tan coloured Tamworth pig.  He was not impressed!  The wash is not showing up very well in this scanned image at left.

I'm saving my pennies for a set of these Swiss made Neocolour II sticks.  They are amazing, boast a great pigment load and dissolve completely and so easily with a touch of a waterbrush.  They even claim to be lightfast which is more than can be said for Derwent Watercolour pencils and Inktense pencils and sticks.  Although labelled "wax crayons", the Neocolour IIs are not at all waxy after being wet and ordinary water colour paints will happily blend with them.  If you are chasing the Neocolour II crayons, just Google them and you will be inundated with purchasing choices.  Every art supplier's seems to stock them.

 Disclaimer:  I have no affiliation with the above two links.  Just included them for the convenience of blog readers. The first Art Shop link is an Aussie one and is where I prefer to buy a lot of online supplies because their prices are better than most, the service is excellent, their postage charges are a reasonable flat rate, they actually have a physical art shop (in which you can personally shop if you live in the area), crammed with terrific stock and they answer email queries very quickly.  The second link is good old reliable, sensibly priced, Dick Blick for US readers and international shoppers. 

Uni-ball and Uni Pin Pens versus Others

I really think the Mitsubishi Uni Pin Fine Line and Uni-ball Micro Deluxe rollerball pens are my favourite drawing tools.  Absolutely waterproof, non-fading, lightfast and with wonderful tips with which to draw.  No idea if they are archival but they are supposed to be acid free which simply means that the ink is PH neutral and should not cause your paper to deteriorate over time if you have gone to the trouble of sourcing archival papers on which to work.

Archival and Acid Free are different kettles of fish.  The terms are not interchangeable.  An archival paper is also acid free but an acid free paper may not be archival.  Lignin found in wood pulp papers is the culprit that can cause yellowing and brittleness in aged papers.  Cotton and rag papers are free of lignin.

I have Sakura Pigma pens, Zig Millenium pens, and Pitt Artist Pens  -   all of them almost equally as permanent as the Uni Pin ones, all claiming to be archival, but the Uni Pins seem to flow better and not feel as scratchy when using the very fine tipped ones.  This may have something to do with the fact that I rarely draw on good quality Bond or cartridge papers, as I seem to prefer a watercolour paper of the smoother hot pressed variety.  It is asking a lot of a very fine tipped pen to draw smoothly on these rougher surfaces designed for watercolours.

I find that the Pigma pens do not keep their nice tips for as long as the Uni Pins or Zig Milleniums.  The Milleniums are not as durable as the Uni Pins and, in addition, will give off a smidgen of colour if wet.  Pigma and Uni Ball/Uni Pin do not bleed or give off any hint of colour when you apply a wash to the lines.  Here I must add that I am hard on pen tips.  Nothing gentle or subtle about me.  I have a very heavy touch and have to constantly remind myself to back off.  Any fine tipped pen that stands up to a lot of use by me has to be a bit of a miracle pen.

The other great advantage Uni-ball and Uni Pin has over the other manufacturer's Permanent Ink Fine Tipped Pens is that here in Australia, you can find the Uni Pins in every little suburban newspaper agency.  Zigs, Pigmas and Pitts have to be sourced from an art supply or scrapbooking outlet and are more expensive than the Uni Pins.  Uni Pins finest tip is 0.01 mm followed by 0.02, 0.03, 0.05, and 0.08.  All seem to be readily available.

For very fine linework I use a Pigma 0.005 tipped pen as it is the finest I own.  I much prefer drawing with any of these disposable permanent ink pens than messing around with a touchy, messy, refillable drafting pen that makes a horrible scratching noise and shows how much it despises my watercolour papers by burrowing head first into the paper fibres.
Uni Pin Micro Deluxe I have mentioned above because it is a great rollerball pen with permanent ink, reasonably fine tips  of 0.5 and 0.7 widths, is pleasant to use and also seems to be easy to buy, so you need never be stuck without a decent drawing implement if your own favourite spits the dummy when you are off on a sketching jaunt.  Purists may throw up their hands in horror at anyone drawing with a rollerball pen, which is a load of pretentious rubbish.  Draw with whatever suits you the best.

Another possible choice from Mitsubishi is their Uni-ball Eye Fine/Micro pen which comes in 10 colours and 0.5 and 0.7 tips too.  I really wouldn't call a pen with the finest tip being 0.05, a "micro" tipped pen, but it doesn't alter the fact that they are nice to use if you don't need anything finer.  I've only sourced the black ink version of these, but they seem just as pleasant to use as the other pens in this Mitsubishi range, but not quite so easy to find as the other two pen types.

I freely admit to pinching the images of the pens and the tips from the Uni-ball web site for the legitimate purposes of this review.  It's such a glowing review that I feel they owe me one or two pics and if they send me a copyright infringement notice I'll scrub this review from my blog  -  so there!


  1. This is a great post (and so are the others that I have read so far - I will continue to read my way back through.)

    I am normally a micron pen gal, but I tend to go through pens pretty quickly so I appreciate this review!

    I also enjoyed your "art journaling or visual diary" post. I keep everything in one sketchbook... drawings, paintings, my calendar, written and visual brainstorming, recipe ideas and even ticket stubs! It's my all in one go to place... I really wouldn't know what to call it! ha!

    I look forward to finding out about new supplies through your blog :)

  2. Welcome to Everyday Matters Dale. You will be a great addition to the community. I looked at all of your entries on your new blog and love the drawings and all of the art supply information. Now I need to check for the two new pens you mentioned - for now I've been using Pigma micron and Zig Millenium.

  3. Hi Kristin. Thanks for commenting. When a blog is so new, it's a so exciting to receive comments.

    I do hope you can find the Uni Pin/Ball pens as easily in the USA as we can here. You can buy them in every little tinpot town here, but to find the Zigs and Pigmas is a major hassle.

    You have to love the longevity of these disposable pens. I found an old box of Zig Milleniums, Pigma Microns and UniPin and Uni-ball pens the other day. They were in unpacked moving boxes out in our shed and at least 15-18 years old. What is amazing is that all of them still worked despite soaring temperatures and chilly nights.

    I wish I had the discipline to keep all my work in one Journal. I draw on whatever I first pick up, or a surface that I want to test out. One day I'll try to collect all these bits and pieces and paste them into the one journal, but I really haven't found the perfect blank journal to use for this. Those with nice paper for watercolour washes do not contain enough pages, or have crappy binding or binding that won't expand enough to hold embellished pages.

    I just adore the whole look and feel of your blog. The colours just sing and the work makes one feel happy. Readers can visit Kristins blog here:

  4. Hi Shirley. Thanks so much for commenting and the kind words. I am in awe of your wonderful way with human figures on your blog. Just the thought of trying to draw anyone freaks me out!

    Readers can visit Shirley's blog here:
    Be sure to check out her absolutely beautiful collection of bound journals in the "Bookbinding" entry. They look fabulous on her shelf.

    I do hope the Uni pens are easy to source and as reasonably priced as they are in Australia. It would be very weird if they were hard to find and madly expensive because Australia would have to have the most expensive art and stationery supplies in the world and the most limited choice! We are ripped off right, left and centre. It's the reason I buy so much overseas.

  5. Nice sketch! Nice review, and welcome to EDM Dale =) It's great to see such technical post

  6. Groannn....another super blogger and amazing portrait artist amongst other things. It's people like you Alex that give me an inferiority complex!

    Alex's truly amazing art blog can be found here:

    Thanks for the kind words and the welcome.

    Wish I could work out how to make these links live in the Comments section. Anyone know if html code works here? Bumbling around in the dark with this blogging thing.

  7. Boris is a doll! I can see why you like him so much, even without the dental plan. Don't worry Boris, I'm planless as well.

    Welcome to EDM. I've enjoyed my visit to your blog.

  8. Hi Dale, I like your blog, it's really informative. I'm an art supply junkie, too. I have loads of stuff I hardly ever use, but I sure have fun looking at it, lol!
    Thanks so much for your comments on my blog. About the intricacy? Small brushes and lots of patience, lol!

  9. I really enjoyed my visit to your blog too Pamo. It's a "feel good" place hang out.

    Thanks for the welcome.

  10. Welcome to EDM, Dale! I love pigs, and I love your drawing of Boris (also your dialog with him). Your review of the pens was interesting and informative. I'm glad you've joined us. nancy

  11. Thanks for the welcome and kind words about Boris Nancy.

    That's one spunky looking grandson you've been sketching. Babies must be so hard to draw.

  12. Boris just didn't want to be type cast as another pink pig - he looks a real character!

    I'm enjoying your reviews and will be trying out some of the pens you mention - it's nice to get some Australian input, I know we have the buying power of the www so it's no excuse for me to say I can't find good pens.
    I'm off to read the rest of your blog now

  13. Erica, welcome Aussie.

    You must be a person of extreme sensitivity to instantly understand Boris' psyche. Your understanding is helping him come to terms with being pink. Thank you.

    Love your Gramarye blog.

    You are a very accomplished fibre artist with a fabulous sense of colour.

    As an old cloth doll maker, dyer of vast quantities of wool, yarn and cloth and creative knitter, I have a three car garage chock-a-block with my old stash of fibre stuff going back about 15-20 years. I really must get around to selling some of it on eBay so that I can fit the cars in their home.

  14. Wow, what an excellent post. The only thing I'd like to say is that Uni pin fine pens are not archival. I am currently using one to draw. I like the scratchy feeling. In my opinion, the finest micro pigment ink pen is Sakura's Micron 005 pen which I have have been using for years. If you want to see samples of my drawings you can check them out here: or


Thanks for taking the time to comment. It's nice to know what other people are thinking.