My Favorite Dip Nib Holder

I first came upon River City Pen Company during last year’s DC Pen Show. Richard had several trays of fountain pens and I zeroed-in on one fountain pen that had a silver turtle roll stop on the cap. It was tempting, but I had to pass as my budget was small and I had already purchased two pens from another pen maker. I kept glancing over at Richard’s table and made a mental note to visit his website.

One day, I was perusing my social media feed and stumbled upon a few unique and interesting dip nib holders made from a lovely resin. Lovely swirls of colors with bits of chatoyancy and shimmer.

The shimmering stars were starting to align when I saw River City Pen Company was selling the special dip nib holders. I was clicking through Richard’s pictures on IG and one resin immediately grabbed my attention.

I went to his website and saw all the lovely resin offerings. I saw Barrier Reef was still available and I immediately knew that was meant for me. Yes, all the shimmering stars were now perfectly aligned.

I could not wait to receive my nib holder. I had put my remaining Anderillium inky reviews on hold (writing sample and sketches). My Kakimori stainless steel nib was patiently waiting to be used in my new nib holder. I know I could have used my old beat up Tachikawa nib holder, but why use plain wood when I can use something really colorful.

Look at this lovely combination!

I was not surprised to find Richard’s nib holder fit beautifully in my hand. The grip area is roughly 10.75mm which is in my favorite grip size range. The length is around 140mm or 5.5 inches in length. My nib holder weighs about 16 grams without the nib. With the Kakimori nib installed the total weight is around 19.5 grams.

Enough of the specs, let’s move on to the writing experience.

Just as I suspected, the nib holder feels as though I have a fountain pen in my hand. There is something familiar about it and it just feels like I’m at home with it.

Some of you are probably wondering what is that strange nib I’m using. It’s a stainless steel nib that has groves in it. I was able to write the small paragraph in the previous picture with half a dip. Meaning, I only dipped the nib in ink half way up the nib. That is quite a bit of writing for a dip nib. I will provide a review of this nib (and the brass one) a bit later.

I was wondering what other nibs I could use and I decided to place my Tachikawa G-nib in my nib holder. The G-nib fits perfectly.

I am so happy to be able to use this with my G-nibs. I have other nibs I need to try and I will update this blog post to include the nibs that fit.

For now, I’m using fountain pen inks with my Kakimori nib and this nib holder for writing and sketching. I’m also using this combo for testing ink colors. I can actually get this nib and holder into the bottom of my sample ink vials without any issues. I am one happy camper!

I do want to mention any inky residuals on the nib holder is easily wiped away with a towel. Just like a fountain pen.

Take a look at the available dip nib holders at River City Pen Company.

Pen: Dip Nib Holder by River City Pen Company in Barrier Reef

Nibs: Kakimori Stainless Steel Nib. Tachikawa G nib.

Inks: Van Dieman’s Ink Devil’s Kitchen. Robert Oster Australian Blue Opal.

Papers: Rhodia Dot Grid and Graph

Using a Fine Liner Pen in My Pen & Ink Sketches

As a few of you know, I enjoy using my Platinum Preppy (02) with Platinum Carbon ink to create my initial pen & ink sketches. I was struggling a bit and recently had a fall-out-of-love feeling with my Preppy. I found my Preppy fountain pen a bit too sharp to use on my Stillman & Birn Journal paper. I was not able to create some fine, continuous, and clean lines on my slightly textured art paper.

I dug around in my art drawers looking for a “pen” with permanent ink. I have a bunch of Sakura Microns, but they have brush tips that I used for my calligraphy. I finally came across a Faber-Castell PITT artist pen I had purchased several years ago. I was amazed that this pen still had some ink and I was able to do a few sketches including this gnome.

In the above sketch, I used my PITT fine liner pen with black ink to sketch the outline of my gnome. I also used the pen to add in some lines in the gnome’s beard. Sadly when the ink ran out of my PITT pen I had to dispose of it.

I watched a few art lessons and saw an interesting art pen other artists used for their sketches. This particular fine liner pen uses pigment ink and is waterproof. It’s the Copic Multiliner SP and it’s made in Japan.

This pen comes in 10 different nib sizes including a brush nib. The sizes start from a very, very fine 0.03mm to a 0.7mm line size. It took me awhile to figure out which nib size to get and I ended up getting three different pens in 0.1, 0.3, & 0.5 nib sizes. Copic also carries their Multiliner SP pens in a 10-pen set with all the different sizes one could need to sketch with.

Once my pens arrived I could not wait to try them out. I did a writing sample to compare the different the nib sizes. Initially, the 0.3 and 0.5 nibs appear to write very similar on my paper. When I looked at the nibs close up, I could see the 0.3 nib was slightly smaller than the 0.5 nib.

I can definitely see the 0.1 nib writes extremely fine compared to the other two sizes I have. Depending on the paper I use, my Copic pen with 0.1 nib makes a tiny noise when I sketch with it. Maybe I need to lighten my grip on the pen and put less pressure on the paper. I’ve read a few comments where other artists mention how delicate the finer nibs are especially the 0.03 and 0.05 nibs. My pen with 0.1 nib might fall into this category.

Here’s a close up picture of the Copic nibs. You can definitely see how delicate the 0.1mm nib is. The 0.5 and the 0.3 nibs are very close in size, but you can see a slight difference.

The nibs: 0.5mm, 0.3mm, and 0.1mm

Here’s my colorful gnome sketch where I used my Copic Multiliner SP to draw the outline of the gnome and a few lines around the beard.

I used my 0.1mm pen to outline the beard.

Here’s a pen & ink sketch of my fountain pen using my Platinum Preppy to create the outline of sketch. Notice the broken lines on the paper (left side) and in my fountain pen sketch.

The Copic Multiliner SP pens have an aluminum body. It’s lightweight and feels good in my hand. You will notice that I have been calling the Copic pen’s tip…a nib. That’s because the nibs are replaceable and can be pulled out of the pen. That is so cool! The ink inside the aluminum body contains a black ink cartridge that can also be replaced. When the ink runs out all I need to do is pull out the cartridge and put in a new one. I saw the spare nibs and ink cartridges are available online. It will be interesting to see if my local art shop carries them as well.

I can now say I’m a Copic Multiliner SP fan. I like the clean lines this pen creates on the various art papers I use. It’s a pigment ink pen. The ink is water- and Copic-proof meaning it will not smear when water or other Copic alcohol-based pens are used to draw over this ink. I like the idea I can replace or swap around the different size nibs. I also like the ability to replace the black ink cartridge when needed.

Fountain Pens: Lamy 2000 Makrolon with EF nib. TWSBI Swipe Salmon with Stub 1.1 nib. TWSBI GOs with Stub 1.1 nibs. Platinum Preppy with 02 nib.

Fine Liner Pens: Faber-Castell PITT artist pen in size S with black Indian ink. Copic Multiliner SP in sizes 0.1, 0.3, & 0.5 with black pigment ink.

Journal: Stillman & Birn Alpha Hardbound (4″x6″)

My Rugged Art Case for Fountain Pens

I have several fountain pen cases I use for travel. For my everyday writers or EDWs I like using my 3-pen case from Franklin-Christoph. I use my EDWs for my daily/weekly/monthly BUJO, for journal writing, and taking notes for online courses.

For my “durable” artsy fountain pens (e.g. TWSBI GOs), I have to use a completely different pen case. I like having several different ink colors available when the sketching urge hits me. This is where function overrides a nice looking case. I mentioned some time last year I was using a pouch like case like this one pictured below.

This case had served it’s purpose as it could hold a number of fountain pens in the main zippered pouch. I think at one point I was able to cram about 20 TWSBI GOs. Over time I found the pouch was cumbersome to use.

The main issue I had was I could only see a few pens on the top and I had to dig around inside the pouch to look for an ink color. Many times I had to dump all my pens out to see what I had or wanted to use.

I did some research (because that’s what I enjoy doing) and followed a few other artists to see what tools and cases they had in their art bag.

I came across a watercolor artist who was using a Maxpedition Beefy Pocket Organizer case. This case looks quite rugged and durable. I actually bought two of these when I came across a BOGO sale at the manufacturer’s site. One in black (shown here) and another in a pretty olive green color that I use to carry my watercolor brushes and paints.

Here’s the front of my case. I lightened the picture slightly to show off the stitching and how well made this case is. Remember I am a sewist and I look for good stitching. The front has two velcro pieces at the top if I wanted to add a personal patch. There is also a front pocket made of netting that is secured with velcro behind the Maxpedition logo. I added two fountain pens and a blotter card to show the pocket size.

Let’s start with the left side of my case. Immediately you can see the horizontal elastic loops. There are two sets of elastic loops with the narrower loop sewn on top of the wider loop. The top narrow loops (six of them) hold my individual pens in place. Behind the narrow loops are three wide loops. There’s an open pocket behind my pens that can hold more pens, pencils, a small notebook, or folded paper towels.

Here’s the right side of my case and there is another set of elastic loops. It’s a similar set up to the right side except the loops are sewn in vertically to maximize storage space. It also looks like the elastic loop space is wider. I removed my pens to show the configuration better. There’s a zippered pocket behind the loops for another small notebook or other accessories.

There’s a horizontal elastic loop at the interior edge of the case. This is a large loop that holds my three water brushes and my Platinum Preppy filled with Carbon ink.

I went ahead and put my pens back into the case. Again I’m only using the upper loop configuration to hold my pens. I can slip two pens into each loop.

Here is the backside of my Maxpedition case. It has a grab handle and another set of loops to hold more stuff. The loops on the back are not elastic and made out of webbing material just like the handle.

Since I use mostly TWSBI GOs for artwork, I have no issues with throwing those pens into this case and hit the road with them. My GOs are durable and can take the jostling around in my backpack.

This is a rugged and durable case. Think tactical gear. The material in the Maxpedition feels a bit rough. The elastic loops are stiff and have a rough feeling. I found the roughness eventually lessens the more I use my case. As you can see in the pictures, there is no padding in the case.

It’s perfect for my use to hold and carry all my artsy fountain pens (TWSBI GOs). When I open my case I can see all my pens and art tools and can quickly get to work creating art.

I will be back with another review on how I use my green Maxpedition case for my watercolor supplies.

Case: Maxpedition Beefy Pocket Organizer in Black

Pens: TWSBI GO, Eco, and Diamond 580. Monteverde Innova Carbon Black with Rainbow trim. Conklin All American Lapis Blue and Duragraph Matte Black with Rainbow trim. Maiora Impronte OS Posilippo. Esterbrook Estie OS Dreamer Purple. Turnt Pen Co Pynchon PM4. Pilot Stargazer Black and Prera Pink. Lamy 2000 Makrolon.

Other: Pentel water brushes. Pentel Energize pencil.

Sketching with Graphite

(Edit: Added additional information & pictures of the graphite leads used with my clutch pencils)

I have to confess. I did partake in one of the sales on Fountain Pen Day. It was not a fountain pen purchase, but a clutch pencil that I had my eye on. Who knew that one of my fave fountain pen shops carried clutch pencils. More on that in a few minutes.

To make sure I was keeping with the fountain pen theme on that day, I purchased a bottle of Van Dieman’s red ink that was on my wish list. It’s part of their Original Colors of Tasmania ink series. It’s a gorgeous reddish ink color and I paired it with one of my Leonardo MZ fountain pens. Ink swatches will be in my next ink review post.

Back to my non-fountain pen purchase. I have a thing for the Koh-i-Noor clutch pencils and I have managed to collect a few in different colors and styles. This new one is quite unique and it did not hurt that it came in a beautiful blue color with gold trim. It’s absolutely gorgeous!

Can you see why I was attracted to this pencil? This metal clutch pencil holder has some heft and weight. The weight reminds me of brass. It is chunky looking and easy to hold in my hand. I noticed I have a looser grip with this style of pencil. Here’s a picture of my new blue pencil sitting in between my two standard looking clutch lead holders.

My clutch pencil holder uses the 5.6mm graphite leads and they typically come in the softer lead offerings: HB, 2B, 4B, 6B, and 8B. I pulled out the included lead from my pencil and could not find any markings and I assumed it was an HB or 2B.

I used my new pencil to create this initial grape sketch. Yes, I’m still in the grape sketching phase.

This HB/2B lead produced some hard lines in my sketch. I used my two other clutch pencils with softer leads (e.g. 6B) and was able to blend the hard lines and soften the grapes. You can see a difference in the following picture.

Graphite Leads:

I wanted to add that the Koh-i-Noor graphite leads come in two lengths: 80mm and 120mm. Each box contains six (6) leads and you’ll notice the longer leads need extra protection and come in a plastic box.

Here’s what the leads look like outside of their boxes.

Here are the leads next to my clutch pencils. My Koh-i-Noor Versatil 5340 Clutch Pencil (bottom) can take both lead sizes and retracts them fully into the clutch holder.

My new clutch holder can easily take the 80mm lead size and retracts fully in the clutch holder. The 120mm lead can also be used, but when fully retracted the lead will still show/protrude from the clutch. For me it’s not an issue as I store my pencils in a wrap case. It might an issue for those who carry their pencils in their pockets or in a purse/backpack.

I really enjoy using my clutch pencils as I can easily swap out different lead types. I can use sepia, charcoal, and chalk leads as well as metallic and “magic” leads for sketches that require color.

Clutch Pencil: Koh-i-Noor Mechanical Drop Clutch Lead Holder in Blue with 5.6mm x 80mm Lead (HB or 2B)

Journal: Leda Art Sketch Book

The Art Toolkit – Folio Palette

I came across what I would call the ultimate portable palette. It’s called the Folio Palette from Art Toolkit.

It looks like one of my other pocket palettes, right? This folio palette is actually a larger version that holds more pans of colors. Some folks actually use it on their desk/table and then take the pocket version for travel or plein air painting.

Here’s a picture that shows the size comparisons. On the left is the regular Pocket Palette. On the right is the new Folio Palette.

There is quite a difference in the size. To give you an idea, the Pocket Palette holds 14 standard (small rectangle) pans while the Folio Palette can hold 30 standard pans.

Here’s a picture from an earlier post in regards to the different pan sizes.

Here’s the care and maintenance instructions for the Art Toolkit’s palettes.

Along with the new palette size, there is also a new XL mixing pan. It’s their largest square size mixing pan.

My Folio Palette came with these assorted pan sizes

Remember my “mini doodle kit” metal container that I reused to store all of my metal pans of paint? Well, here it is next to the Folio Palette.

I was able to fill my Folio with all the pans I had filled previously. I like having a larger mixing space.

If I need additional mixing space, I can always reuse one of my Pocket Palettes as a mixing palette.

My Pocket Palette with a standard mixing pan and the new XL mixing pan

Once I’m done with my current projects, I hope to get back into watercolor painting and actually use my new palette.

Filling My Half Pans With Paint

I had found a few empty half pan palettes sitting in my storage bin waiting to be filled with paint. I hate to see an empty palette not being used. I pulled out my 24-pan palette case and decided to fill them with my tubes of Daniel Smith colors.

Look at all the lovely colors!

I sorted through my tubes of paints and selected my must use colors. I took my empty half pans and labelled each one with the paint I was going to fill them with. Then I arranged the tubes of paint according to how I was going to arrange them in my palette case. I started with my primary cool and warm colors in yellows, reds, and blues.

My half pans waiting to be filled

I used the smallest Avery labels I could find and wrote out the color names using my Platinum Preppy with Carbon (permanent) ink.

I spent a little over an hour filling my half pans with paint. I tapped the sides and corners of the pans to get the paint to move around and spread out to the corners and edges.

The initial fill can be a bit lumpy
Tapping the sides and corners will spread the paint in the pan
The last sharp tap on the bottom of the pan smooths out the paint in the pan

I let my pans sit in the palette case to dry overnight. The paint will shrink along the edges and a few may crack as they settle into the pan and dry. I could tell that the first few pans I filled were not as full.

I pulled out a few pans that had shrunk quite a bit and filled them with a second layer of paint. My New Gamboge pan was a good candidate for another fill.

My pans requiring a 2nd layer of paint
The 2nd layer of color added and more tapping
Here’s a pan with a crack or separation in the paint
A quick fill and a few taps….
A few of my pans after adding the second layer of paint
My lovely 24 pans of color

To keep the dried paint from falling out of their pans later, I made sure the paint touched the corners as well as the bottom of the pan. That’s why I spent some time tapping the pans to get the paint to settle.

I started to notice some colors (e.g. Phthalo) will stain the metal palettes.

This palette has become a favorite of mine. It has generous mixing areas and I have the ability to swap around the pans to fit my painting style.

Yes, my 24-pan palette is a bright pink color! I plan on decorating it and using my Cricut Joy to add some personalized vinyl stickers.

Paints: Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors

Palette: Meeden 24-pan watercolor palette

An Automatic Pen, a Pilot Parallel Pen, and My Opus 88 Pen Hack

I’ve changed up how I do my fountain pen ink swatching by using a way cool tool called the automatic pen. I’ve mostly used it to swatch ink colors in my ink journal which I have posted a few pictures from my previous blog posts.

My automatic pen used to create my ink swatches in my Stalogy 365 ink journal

I saw someone use an automatic pen to create their swatches on their Col-o-ring cards and also in their fountain pen ink journal. I thought that was the neatest thing to use and had to try one out. The automatic pen puts down enough ink to see any sheening properties the ink might have (depending on paper). It has improved my swatching process as well as saved me from using q-tips to smear the ink on paper.

I like how the automatic pen holds the ink in it’s “nib” area (sandwiched between two metal plates) and how easily the nib can be cleaned. I dip the nib in some water, swish the water around, and dry off the nib. I know many folks use this type of pen for calligraphy and have to re-dip the nib when the ink runs out. That is a similar process for pointed pen calligraphy.

Side of the nib

The automatic pen reminds me of my Pilot Parallel pens. The only difference between the two, my Pilot pen can use a cartridge, converter, or be used as an eyedropper pen.

I use my Pilot Parallel for decorative writing (cards, small signage, etc) and for sketching. The nib on this pen uses a lot of ink. I could easily go through an ink cartridge within a few short hours of writing and sketching.

Close up of my Pilot Parallel pen with 1.5mm nib

Then I came across a “hack” for my Parallel pen. I could put my Pilot Parallel nib into my Opus 88 Omar fountain pen. What?! I immediately saw how beneficial this hack could be with using a larger ink capacity pen with a decorative writing nib. This combination would allow me to write and sketch longer than a few hours or even a day or two.

Pilot nib unit with a tiny o-ring

The Pilot nib and feed can be removed easily by pulling out the nib from the grip/section. On the Opus 88 Demonstrator, just unscrew the nib unit (nib/feed/collar) from the grip/section. There’s a tiny o-ring that also needs to be removed and saved with the Opus nib unit. Take the Pilot nib and feed unit and push it into the Opus grip/section until you can feel it click into place. That’s it!

My Opus hack!

I put my Opus nib unit along with it’s o-ring and store it in a zip lock bag for safe keeping

Here’s a writing sample from my hack:

Oooops! Correction “to”= “too”

Why do this hack?

  • Personally, my hand prefers a girthy pen and my fingers relax more while I write
  • The Pilot Parallel nibs lay down a lot of ink
  • Opus 88 pens have a huge ink capacity that allow for longer writing sessions

The Pilot Parallel nib and feed fits into the Opus 88 Omar demonstrator and the Opus 88 Koloro Demonstrator pen as long as they use the JoWo #6 nib unit.

Pens: Automatic Pen, Pilot Parallel 1.5 mm, and Opus 88 Omar Tainan

Ink: Pilot Iroshizuku Ku Jaku

Paper: Ayush Paper pad (fountain pen friendly)

Painting a Sea Shell Card and My DIY Watercolor Paint Palette Case

I collected a few sea shells from Hubby’s glass jar and I wanted to paint a special card for him. I spent a few minutes painting a practice piece and to warm up my fingers and hand.

My practice sketch and palette cases of colors

For the actual card, I decided not sketch the outlines with my carbon ink and fountain pen and instead used my watercolor paints to create the sea shells. I also added some shimmering colors over the shells to make them “pop” on the paper.

A simple card for Hubby

If you noticed in my pictures, I had a few of my pocket palette cases sitting on my desk where I was grabbing various paint colors and mixing them in my porcelain palette. I spent way too much time creating this card and found myself stopping and pausing while I was looking for colors across several palettes.

I’m always looking for ways to improve my processes or steps. What can I do to improve my prep or setup time before I paint? Or how can I consolidate my pans of paint into one case?

I realized I needed a larger metal palette case to hold my frequently used watercolor pans.

I was digging around my studio and saw a nice size metal case that contained a mini doodle kit I had received as a gift a few years ago. I enjoy reusing what I have and repurposing for my current needs. I knew this metal case would be large enough to hold all the colors I needed and still be portable.

My mini doodle case repurposed as a watercolor palette

Once I removed all the included art pencils, accessories, and the plastic tray I was left with an empty metal tin case. I measured the bottom of the case and started to research something called “magnetic sheets”. I started with adhesive magnetic sheets and decided the adhesive was not be an added bonus and more of an issue as the reviewers found the adhesive over time would eventually stop working. My mind knew that the thicker the magnet, the better it would stick to metal. I settled on the 4″x6″ size sheet and found a few 60 mil offerings in quantities of 10 or 25 sheets.

When my Marietta Magnets package of 10 magnetic sheets arrived I could not wait to create my custom palette case. This 60 mil magnetic sheet is slightly firm with a little flex. I was able to use a household scissor to trim the sheet from 4″ x 6″ down to a 3-3/4″ x 5-3/4″ size. I decided not to completely cover the bottom of my case with the magnetic sheet, but to leave a slight gap so I could easily remove the magnet if I needed to. I’m happy that I went with a thicker magnet as the pans stay in place. Mission accomplished.

Close up of the 60 mil magnet under the pans

I grabbed my pocket palettes and removed my frequently used paint colors. I placed the pans in my new custom case and rearranged them several times to figure out the best color groupings and arrangement to fit my needs.

My new custom palette case

Now a few of you are probably wondering how I can tell the colors apart as some of the pan colors look very similar. I came up with a system and labeled the back of the paint pans. I used my Avery 5422 labels to write out the colors and then cut up the labels to fit the pans. There was a good reason why I went with a stronger or thicker magnet as the labels cover up a bit more of the underside of the metal pans. The pans were sliding around a bit in my pocket palette with the thinner magnet. Now with my new custom case and stronger magnet, I do not have to worry about the pans moving around.

The labels on the back side of a few of my pans

I enjoy seeing all my colors and there is definitely more room for me to rearrange my pans and swap out different colors depending on what I’m painting.

I’m happy with the magnetic sheet I found and it’s working beautifully holding my pans in place.

I still have two Pocket Palettes that are used for my Iridescent paints and for my Primatek paints. I plan on reusing my other empty Pocket Palettes for other paints I have from Winsor & Newton and M. Graham.

Tip:

Any metal case can be converted into a palette case including an empty Altoid mint tin or a Kaweco metal tin.

The magnetic sheet should not be too flexible or too thin as there might not be enough holding power. I went with the 60 mil as I knew I had a label on the backside of my pans and label would sit between the magnet (palette) and metal (pan) reducing the magnet’s strength.

Metal Paint Pans: Art Tool Kit

Watercolor Paint: Daniel Smith Extra Fine

Brush: Cheap Joe’s American Journal travel brush #10

Porcelain Palette Dish: Home Goods or Tuesday Morning appetizer dish

Porcelain Flower Palette: Local art shop

Card: Strathmore Watercolor cards & envelopes, cold press, 5″ x 6.875″

Clutch Pencils (updated)

(Edit: I have updated this post to include additional pictures and a quick graphite sketch using my clutch pencils)

Happy National Pencil Day or NPD!

This National Pencil Day showed up in several social media outlets and I thought it would be appropriate to publish this post about my Clutch Pencils.

There is something enjoyable and rewarding about using graphite pencils for creating sketches and drawings. For me, it’s the most basic and much needed tool to create quick gestures or outlines for most of my artwork. For many years, I used mechanical pencils that came with leads in .5mm and .7mm sizes.

My graphite version of my Rose

When I went through my Kaweco fountain pen phase, I noticed they carried something called a clutch pencil lead holders and they came in two different sizes: 3.2mm and 5.6mm. I decided to do some further research before jumping on Kaweco clutch pencil band wagon.

So what is a clutch pencil? It’s one of the oldest type of mechanical pencil. They are also referred to as lead holders. They differ from the modern mechanical pencils in that only one piece of lead is used in the body of the pencil and the lead is not advanced via a push-button mechanism through a sleeve. Instead, the lead is held in place by a spring-loaded clutch mechanism. When the push button is pressed, this operates the internal clutch by opening the jaws of the lead holder and allowing the lead to drop freely from the pencil until the button is released. As the push button is released, this closes the clutch mechanism and the jaws hold the lead firmly in place. This type of clutch pencil is known also as a drop clutch pencil.

The “jaws” of my clutch pencil (5.6mm) and where the lead is inserted and held in place
The smaller “jaws” on my 2.0mm clutch pencil

There is also another type of clutch pencil called the incremental clutch pencil. It has the similar clutch mechanism and jaws like a regular clutch pencil, but by pressing and releasing the button, the lead advances incrementally and does not fall out.

There were several criterias I was looking for in a clutch pencil. The first was to find common lead sizes. In my research, I kept seeing several different size leads from 2.0mm to 5.6mm. I had to figure out which size would make sense to use in my artwork. The second criteria was how comfortable the lead holder would be in my hand. Based on my experiences with fountain and ballpoint pens, I knew I had to stay away from thin and narrow grips. The third and last criteria was quality/functionality of the holder as in how easy was it to install, advance, or remove the lead.

I held off getting the Kaweco brand and decided to go with a few well known graphite pencil brands. Additional research lead me to the KOH-I-NOOR brand. I knew I wanted to use the 5.6mm leads as I could get various line and shading coverage. I also knew I wanted the lead hardness to be in the “B” range or soft lead so I could get light and dark shading when applying various degrees of pressure to the lead on my paper.

I started with the KOH-I-NOOR Versatil 5340 model with a matte blue finish. It’s an aluminum shell over a brass octagon shaped body and with a weight around 46grams. This classic style holder is well balanced and most importantly fits well in my hand. This is a drop clutch design with a sharpener in the cap.

My clutch pencil collection. The top four lead holders use 5.6mm leads. The bottom holder uses 2.0mm lead.

When I was doing my initial research, a multicolored Versatil 5340 version kept showing up on my radar. It’s called “Magic” because the single piece of lead contains a variety of colors that run the length of the 5.6mm lead. This is the same model as my matte blue, but with swirls of green, orange, and yellow colors on the body. Oh my! I’ve used this colorful pencil lead to create greeting cards and write colorful notes. What a fun pencil to use!

I came across a much smaller pencil with a metal clip (rare design) at a fantastic price and added the 5311 model to my collection. This is the shortest clutch holder I have and it appears to be a mix of a modern and retro design. It’s a nice black matte metal triangular shape barrel with indents running most of the length of the holder. This allows my fingers to rest in the indents while holding the pencil. There’s a lead sharpener in the cap.

Another pencil caught my eye. This interesting clutch pencil had an unusual body design with an ergonomic looking grip.

My Cretacolor ergonomic clutch pencil with top down view.

I can say this Cretacolor looks a bit weird, but it is one comfy writing/sketching tool. The holder is made of light resin or plastic and feels great in my hand. In my picture you can see how the grip has unusual curves. It is molded to fit the contours of my hand and wonderful to use even with my finger joint issues. A sharpener is built into the cap.

Shading and writing samples from each clutch pencil

Here’s a slideshow of pictures to show how the clutch pencil advances the lead:

Eventually, I picked up a Staedtler 780 clutch pencil that uses 2.0mm lead. I was curious to see how well the 2.0mm lead would fit in with my sketching tools. Now I know I said I dislike thin and narrow writing tools, but this special holder has a lovely textured grip and I hardly notice how narrow it is. This 2.0mm style clutch pencil is great for sketching in finer details. This is a drop clutch with a built-in sharpener located in the removable push cap.

Why do I like using clutch pencils?

  • With regular wood pencils, they are sharpened over time and get smaller in size. While using the clutch pencil, the body/barrel remains the same size.
  • Ability to advance the lead length to use more lead for sketching broader strokes and shading larger areas
  • Thicker or wider clutch pencil body is easier to hold
  • Create consistent line widths
  • Can swap out the leads to change the graphite hardness or even use colored leads
  • When not in use or storing, can open the clutch and let the lead slide back into the barrel. No need to worry about protruding lead messing up my pencil pouch or interior pockets.

What do my clutch pencils have in common?

  • Drop clutch: Push the cap to open the clutch of the holder. Slide in the new lead into the holder and release the cap. To advance the lead, hold the clutch pencil at an angle and carefully click or push the cap to let the lead drop down and adjust to preferred length. If you hold the clutch pencil vertical with the clutch facing down and click on the cap, the lead will drop out.
  • Sharpener: Unscrew the cap. A lead sharpener is built into the base of the cap. The Staedtler is the only one that has a hole at the top of the cap (remove the cap to sharpen the lead.
  • Common lead sizes with a variety of lead hardness available

Tips/Tricks:

  • After sharpening the lead into the cap, dump the lead dust into a small container. Can reuse the lead dust/shavings to create some interest artwork using your finger.
  • It takes some practice to work the cap and clutch to advance the lead. If I push down on the cap all the way, the clutch opens to it’s maximum position and the lead will drop out. If I gently push or click the cap, the clutch opens part of the way and the lead will slowly release incrementally.

Clutch Pencils Used:

  • KOH-I-NOOR Versatil 5311 (5.6mm)
  • KOH-I-NOOR Versatil 5340 (5.6mm)
  • KOH-I-NOOR Versatil 5340 Magic (5.6mm)
  • Cretacolor Ergonomic (5.6mm)
  • Staedtler 780 (2.0mm)

My Art Toolkit Pocket Palettes

During my watercolor journey, I had tried so many different types of palettes to use with my tubes of paints. I started with the popular metal butcher pans which gave me huge mixing spaces, but hardly a good way to separate and organize my colors.

I expanded into plastic clam shell type palettes where my colors were arranged into organized slots around one side and the middle and opposite side contained mixing areas.

I then looked at empty plastic pans where I could fill the pans with my own color and fit the pans into a plastic case. The only issue I uncovered is that not all pans fit into the different plastic palette cases. There were no standards to the pan sizes. Also the pans would not stay secured. Most of the time, my paints would pop out of their pans.

Here is my watercolor setup from last year with my favorite palette

A year ago, I came across an interesting palette that a few artists were using for their urban and nature sketches. A rust-proof aluminum palette case that uses a magnet base to hold the stainless steel pans in place. Clever idea! The pans could be switched around and configured into a functional palette. The silver pans came in four different sizes along with a large mixing pan with a white base. This palette was called the Art Toolkit Pocket Palette by Expeditionary Art.

At the time I purchased my first Pocket Palette last year, one of their offerings (Essential Colors Edition) included the tiny square pans or “mini” pans with six Daniel Smith Extra Fine watercolors: Hansa Yellow, New Gamboge, Pyrrole Scarlet, Quinacridone Rose, Phthalo Blue (GS), and French Ultramarine. The case also included two large mixing pans.

Here’s a better view of the palette and pans:

One of my Pocket Palettes (upside down with logo showing) and the different size pans
Available pan sizes

Once I got the hang of using this palette, I was anxious to fill the empty pans with my own paint colors. It took awhile to fill all those tiny pans. I read somewhere that it was recommended to fill the pans in two stages. The first stage is to do the initial fill half way. Tap the pan to get the paint to settle. Let it dry for a day or two. During this time the paint settles a bit into the pan as it dries. The next stage is to fill the pan up to the edge. Let the pan dry for another day or two and then close the case.

My first attempt at filling the mini pans

Here is what my current and full palette looks like. It contains the main colors I use most often.

My first palette case with the “mini” and “standard” sized pans. You can see a few of the mini pans where the paint has shrunk and moved away from the sides
My color swatches to go with my first Pocket Palette

After using this portable palette for a few months, I knew this was going to work well in my small studio space setup and also when I paint outdoors. I found the mini pans were a bit small to use with my larger brushes.

At this point, I was not sure which pan size would work well with my painting style. I decided to purchase another silver case, but with the slender rectangle pans or what they call their “standard” pans.

Here is my second pocket palette with the “standard” pans
My color swatches for the my second Pocket Palette

As you can see I had to create swatches for each of the Pocket Palettes I own. In the pan, the dark colors are undistinguishable between the dark blues and dark greens.

Now that I’ve had some time to use both palettes, I do have a preference for the “standard” pans. First, it is easier to fill as there is more room to get the tube opening into the pan. Second, I can get larger brushes into the pans. Third, it holds double the amount of paint versus using the “mini” pans.

As my tubes of watercolors multiplied, I decided to add a third palette to my collection. My next order included a black palette case with standard pans. I knew this black case would hold special or unusual colors in my collection. It now holds my Duochrome and Iridescent paints. The sparkling paints.

Here I have a “large” pan (lower left) in my case acting as a place holder until I fill this case with additional paint colors
My color swatches for my black Pocket Palette

I have to share this. I was able to get all my swatches from the three Pocket Palettes into one 5″x7″ watercolor sheet of paper. It’s easier for me to see all the colors at one time.

Look at all the gorgeous colors!

Now that I’ve spent some time talking about these beautiful Pocket Palettes, I wanted to spend a bit to time showing how I fill the pans with paint. I had planned to fill the pans in two stages, but it turned out I was able to fill the pans full on the first pass.

Getting ready to fill my pans with Daniel Smith paints

I fill my pan with enough paint to reach the top edge of the pan and down the middle of the pan. I don’t worry about the paint reaching the sides. My main goal is to get the paint into the pan without making a mess.

I squeezed out a blob of paint into the pan

I took a my fancy toothpick and tamped down the paint into the four corners of the pan. Then I ran the toothpick through the edges of the pan and then towards the middle of the pan. This helps to eliminate any air bubbles between the paint and the bottom of the pan. I also take the pan and tap it on my desk to help the paint settle into the pan.

I smoothed out the paint in the pan with a toothpick. You can see how glossy the wet paint looks fresh from the tube

I did come across a tube of paint that showed some extra handling. Like the tube has been slightly squeezed or handled a bit more aggressive before arriving at my studio. I had a hard time opening the tube and had to use a piece of rubber grip to open the cap. This is what the cap and tube looked like after opening:

Had to use a rubber grip pad to open this tube. You can see the paint that dried around the tube opening and bits of dried paint sitting on my shop towel

After filling each pan, I make a point of cleaning out the cap and tube opening with a damp paper towel. When I use the tube at a later date, it will be easier for me to open. I will also squeeze the sides of the tube to suck the paint back into the tube. Yes, I have a thing about opening a tube and have paint gushing out.

The cap and tube looks brand new!

You can see how quickly my pans started to dry. The wet glossy sheen on the paint has started to turn matte-like as it dries (except for the sparkling paints). That’s what I call the initial “top skin” and it will take a few days for the whole pan to dry.

I’m getting the hang of filling the pans with paint without creating a mess
My standard pans filled with fresh paint

I’m enjoying the new colors!

Summary

I love using my Pocket Palettes. For me it’s all about function and use. The palettes are small that I can stack them on my desk when not in use or lay them side by side in my portfolio or tote bag. They are extremely durable and a joy to use for outdoor painting sessions.

The bottom of the palette displays the logo

  • Thin and small and very portable
  • Size: 3-5/8″ x 2-1/4″ x 1/4″. A bit larger than a standard size business card
  • Aluminum case is durable: silver or black
  • Built in mixing area on the inside cover
  • Magnetic base inside the case to hold the pans
  • Current Pocket Palettes offerings are available with 14 standard pans, 28 mini pans, or a combination of assorted pans. They also have a mixing palette version.
  • There is also a much smaller Demi Palette that comes with 12 mini pans (future blog post)
  • Extra stainless steel pans can be purchased: mini, double, standard, large, & mixing
  • A case can hold different combinations of pans sizes to suit individual painting needs

Supplies Used

Miscellaneous: Flat top toothpicks in a plastic canister (Dollar Store). Rubber grip roll (Dollar Store). Blue shop towels.

Paints: Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors

Palette & Pans: Art Toolkit Pocket Palette by Expeditionary Art

Mixing Palette: Round porcelain dish

Paper (140lb/300gsm 100% cotton): Strathmore Series 500 Premium 5″x7″ sheet