About Pens and Inks

Hero Pens
Let's start with Hero Pens. With my newest and most recent purchase, I am now a proud owner of 3 Hero fountain pens. My most current pen is also the most expensive, costing SGD45. When I heard Straits Commercial carried new supplies, I went down immediately to see them. They recommended this pen to me when I asked about Hero. See picture below:

New Hero Pen
It looks very classic with gold chromed nib, and parts of the pen body. It feels very sturdy and weighty so it doesn't slip when I am holding it in my hand. Most importantly it comes with a screw type pen cartridge unlike the older versions. Straits Co. revealed they deliberately look out for such cartridge before they decide to import the pen. The pen cap snaps on easily too.

Before you purchase one, make sure you check the cartridge by filling it with water. Test the pen by drawing or writing on a blotting paper. The water should run well  but not overflowing. I filled it up with Hero fountain pen ink after I bought one and test tun it on my sketchbook. See result below:

New Hero Pen
The essential characteristic of a Hero fountain pen is its vast varieties of pen strokes and thickness, due to its special nib design. You may vary line thickness by changing the pen's inclination or writing angle as you draw or write. Most of the time I could use it to draw very fine lines (also depending on paper type) or simply using it as a brush by drawing very thick lines. At first you may not be used to this but soon or later you would love it. The lines give more life to your drawings but of course this really depends on how you like your drawings to be.

Here's the second Hero pen I have in my possession:

My new Hero
Before I bought the new pen, this pen followed me wherever I go. It has been a very faithful pen so far, working very well and I have used this to completed about 3-4 sketchbooks, and followed me to at least 2 countries. The characteristic of the pen remains the same. I bought a new one so I could fill one up with an ink of a different color. This cost SGD29 from Straits Commercial.

My third Hero pen, which is also the first I bought, cost SGD19. Unfortunately the latter does not work well for me. It clogs very often while the ink does not flow quite well. A friend, Tia used the same pen but it works so well for her she hasn't changed since she got one 2 years ago. Just my luck. It could be a manufacturing fault. Until I figure out what happened, I will give it a little break.

Why Fountain Pens are preferred?
If you wish to know, I am mainly using fountain pens for most of my sketches markers dry up fast, especially in Singapore when it is predominantly wet, humid and hot. Moreover they are expensive too... well it depends.... I seldom use pencil because I preferred black lines over grey lines.

So I switched to using fountain pens because they are refillable. Fountain pens come in different brands... I have Lamy (German made) and Hero (Shanghai), as mentioned above. Lamy comes in a variety of sizes, Fine, Medium, Extra Fine... I bought all three... Lamy is available in most big bookshop like Page One. I have 2 "Charcoal" versions that cost about SGD30, while the "Silver" version cost about SGD65 - also a birthday gift I received from my wife in 2010.

Fountain Pen Inks
My Noodler's Ink Collection
Fountain pen inks are important. They must not clog the nib. Noodler's Inks (Avail only @ Esthetics Bay, Ion Orchard beside Prologue) is good. There are 2 types - Bullet Proof or Waterproof, and Non Bullet Proof. I used both. According to http://pendemonium.com, "An ink designated by Noodler's as "bulletproof" means it stands up against bleach, UV Light, industrial chemicals, etc., making it impossible to forge a check! The cellulose reactive dyes are completely water soluble in your pens and in the bottle, but once the ink dries on the paper, it is totally waterproof and permanent!" The good thing about Noodler's ink is, there are are more than 100 colors to choose from. The downside is, they are expensive, costing about SGD30 per bottle. A bottle can last you pretty long anyway. They are archival too.

The picture above shows my Noodler's ink collection. From the left, Polar Brown, Judicial Black, Red Black and Black. Polar Brown contains lots of particles and they settle to the bottom of the bottle when placed static for sometime. Therefore it is important to shake well before you fill your pen with it. At the same time, do wash your fountain pen more often if you are using this brown. I like Red-Black a lot, but too bad it is not waterproof. My all time favorite would be Bulletproof Black.

China made Hero fountain pen ink

However, I have a cheaper alternative. Hero fountain pen ink (avail in Straits Co.) costs only SGD3.50 per bottle. It is waterproof, but you may need to wait for the ink to dry before you add watercolor. Drying time varies from paper to paper. For this, you need to try it out for yourself. Sometimes, the ink dries slower on watercolor paper as the latter absorbs more ink than other regular paper.

Chinese sumi ink is also good as it is really black. Its cheap and it gives a nice lustre when it dries. It is not suitable to be used in fountain pens. That said, recently I have been using dip pens with Indian ink for my location sketches. It is rather cumbersome as I need to hold the ink bottle in one hand and the other, the pen obviously. Henceforth, I would need to prop my sketchbook (preferably A3) on my lap. In other words, I need to be sitting down. These are some considerations in regards to choosing which medium to work with. By the way, I have mastered the art of holding the sketchbook and the ink bottle in one hand if I am standing up to sketch. I probably need to make a device that would hold the ink bottle at the same time clipped to the sketchbook or board.

Well, dip pens are fun as they allow for wider range of line width, weight or thickness on paper. Ink blotches are also a result of dipping and lifting the pen from the ink well too fast...the result is usually unpredictable, but fun.

Pen & Ink Sketching fountain pen
Beside Lamy & Hero, I was using the Pen & Ink fountain pen which I bought from the US while I was living there. I bought 2 different nib sizes. In comparison to Hero, the ink flow from the nib pales in performance. The pen feels a tad to rough on paper too. I still like it because it feels like using a pencil while I was drawing. The pen is shown below.

My new pen and ink set
So far, I am stuck to using Hero for now. If any good fountain pen comes along, I will be ready to switch or test it out.

Also read about my review on HERO 9018.

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