Friday, May 6, 2011

Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens - First Impressions

I'm having trouble adjusting to pen sketching of landscapes because it is so difficult to obtain a sense of depth in the work.  With paint and pastel, one just gets paler and mauver as the eye progresses into the distance.  Everyone knows about the misty purple hills right?  Black pen -  no depth.  I tried drawing with a finer tip for more distant objects and it works to a point (no pun intended), but really isn't very satisfactory to this ham fisted sketching beginner.

Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens.  Grey on left, Sepia on right
I needed a set of grey pens, or grey ink for my fountain pen that would wash well, plus a set of permanent grey pens that would not wash and would allow me to use them in conjunction with watercolour washes.  Cheapest option, but no washability, was to try the wallet set of six Faber Castell Pitt Artists Pens in grey.

I duly purchased a set of the grey and a set of the four Sepia coloured pens on  Couldn't find the Grey set of Pitts in Australia, just the Sepia.  Besides, it was cheaper to buy overseas than here as not many places stock them in this country.  Our domestic postage charges are higher than those charged by other countries when sending parcels thousands of miles by air, to our shores.  Madness!

Anyway, the Pitts arrived this morning and true to habit, I curled up in a chair, coffee beside me as was my test record journal with it's crappy 80 gsm paper - $2.95 at Aldi.  (You get what you pay for but they claim it's acid free).  Lighting was not brilliant, but the fire was warm and I was comfy.

Well, first major disappointment was that the Faber Castell Pitt definition of a brush tip doesn't match mine!  These are a felt tipped set of markers.  Granted it is a reasonably fine felt tip until it wears a bit anyway, but it is not a brush in any way, shape or form and it makes that hideous scratchy noise as it writes, like any other felt tipped pen.  Puts your teeth on edge to use them, or maybe I'm just weird, but I do not like that sound.  I was expecting all the same brush tips in the Grey set, and received no surprise there other than it having no brush-like qualities.  As I laid down my test samples, I became very confused.  I seemed to have two almost black pens the same shade, three medium grey pens ditto and two pale grey pens in a warm and a cool tone.  Did I have a dud set?  I peered at the barrel of the pen, trying to distinguish the white writing on the pale grey barrel.  Couldn't read it.  I looked at the top of the pen and it only had a 'B' for brush tip.  I looked at the caps and the colour dots on the tops seemed to match my conclusions from my test page, being three shades and not six.  Aah well, just my luck to bring them so far and not have a complete set of Greys.  I thought them well named as they were the pits.

Pen caps showing slight colour variation between the six shades of Grey.
Then I took them to the window to photograph them and lo and behold, I could read the writing on the darker pen barrels and it said Warm Dark Grey and the other, Cool Dark Grey.  Further investigation revealed that all the pen barrels had their colours written on them in tiny white print which was impossible to read if not in an excellent light.  With use, it will quickly wear off anyway.  The barrels are different shades of plastic, but some of them look identical even in a good light.  Perusal of the pen's lids also showed a faint distinction in the shades of grey that had been impossible to spot indoors.  You wouldn't want to have the caps off several of them and then try to put them back on the correct pen.  It would be a nigh impossible job.

There is a colour differentiation in some of the pen barrels.
PROS:  The Faber Castell Pitt Company claims they are "lightfast" and "fadeproof".  Just what the distinction is between these two terms still has me scratching my head.

These pens are super waterproof immediately after laying down the colours.  Sloshing on the water did not budge one hint of colour.

Ink flows very well. Dries immediately.  No smudging.

Nice range of useful Grey shades.

There is no discernable chemical or any other type of odour.

CONS:  Faber Castell Pitt need to use black printing on light coloured pens and white on dark shades to enable artists to quickly grab the correct pen they need.  The colour dots on the caps might work in a studio situation where everything is in it's place in a nice storage case such as the bigger colour sets come in.  It does not work for sketching plein air or anywhere other than under a strong daylight globe or bright sunshine.

They need to redefine their definition of a "Brush"!  These are not brush tipped pens, they are felt tipped permanent markers.

Pitt Artist Pens test page
These pens are more suited to the illustrator and manga artist than to the pen and ink or pen and wash artist.  If the line was finer, they would probably have a place in the kit of a line and wash artist too, as we like a permanent ink that will not discolour the watercolour washes, but the cluncky felt tip is not good for this purpose.  I need to find a fine tipped set of permanent grey shades  -  still looking.  They might also be interesting for filling in solid blocks of colour when Zentangling®, Zendoodling or just plain messing about with doodles.

 At left is the page from my test journal, showing the Grey set of Pitt Artist Pens at the top and below them the Sepia set which I'll review later after I have given them a work out.  My comments indicated my confusion over the colours as do the crosses out of my numbers.  At that stage I could not find the colours written on the pen barrels in that light by my fire, on a sunny morning.  I could barely distinguish the difference in some of the dot colours on the top of the caps and I hadn't noticed any difference in the barrel colours because I was fishing them out of their wallet one by one and replacing after testing. The vertical  row of cross hatching on the extreme right of the page has been thoroughly wet with a flat watercolour brush, hence the cockling.  

Click to enlarge the pics.


  1. Great article! Thanks for providing important information about the small brush tips. I love them but I'm not heavy handed, was able to get the brush tip effects in miniature. Recently they've added Big Brush versions with a fat marker-like handle and a tip the size of the Tombow brush pens, a lot more like brush pens as you know them.

    I adapted to the labeling problems but you brought to mind all the confusion I had before I sorted that out! Also the lightest Cold Grey in the wallet set is substantially darker than the lightest Warm Grey, which made for a lot of confusion when I first tried to sort mine.

    Great blog, I've just followed you.

    Robert Sloan

  2. Thanks for the extra info on these pens Robert. I am heavy handed but that works well with an almost real, flexible brush tip such as that found on the Pigma Brush Tip pens, as I can so easily vary my line. Suddenly fat lines also serve as a reminder to back off on my pressure.

    I think the only way I am going to keep these Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pen greys sorted is to invest in a labelling machine and write notes to myself and stick all over them!

  3. Forgot to mention that I have a link to Rob's Art Supply Reviews in the righthand column of this page under "Blogs I enjoy". Lots of good reading there.

  4. Oh Robert, I am heavy handed much to my chagrin. Do wish I had a light touch.

    Thanks for the info on the Big Brush versions of these. Might be a while before I invest in some. I see that they are available here in Australia from:

    They are kinda pricey though!

    I think it might be a while before I too can adapt to the secret labelling and colours on the set of Grey Pitt Artist Pens.

    Welcome new follower.

  5. I have the sepia set and the sanguine set. I don't use them much. The sepia colour is too dark for me. It looks black in a lot of lights. I have yet to find a good sepia pen that is waterproof.

  6. I have to agree that the sepia coloured ink in these pens is way too dark. I'm beginning to wonder if the sepia colour I have in my memory is way out of whack? Nothing seems to be what I call true sepia of an old photograph. The sanguine was next on my list to try, but I suspect it's going to be too red.

  7. If you want an actual brush-tipped pen brush, I highly recommend Pentel's Pocket Brushes. My personal favorite uses synthetic bristles and a replaceable ink cartridge similar to a calligraphy pen, and lasts for years. They also have disposable ones with neutral grey and sepia tone:

  8. Sounds nice. Do you know anything about water solubility or lightfastness with the Pentels?


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