Thursday, May 05, 2016

Art Marker Review: Pitt Artist Pens and Pitt Big Brush Pens

This is a fairly in-depth post that includes a variety of tests as well as some video.  If you're interested in using Pitt Artist Pens as an illustration tool, I highly recommend you at least skim everything.  I go over a variety of important techniques for blending and layering in my videos, so if you can't watch them at the time of reading, I recommend you select the Watch Later clock in the corner of the video, and check them out when you can.  If you enjoy this blog, and the content I record and write, you can help support the continuation of content like this by backing my Patreon, watching at least 30 seconds of the ads on all my videos, and subscribing to my YouTube channel.  If you're interested in purchasing some of these pens for yourself, using my affiliate links (all Amazon and DickBlick links) would be hugely helpful in offsetting some of the costs this blog incurs, and would help repay me for some of the time I spend writing these.

Faber-Castells Pitt Pens come in a variety of sizes and tips, and are fairly commonplace in the art and illustration communities.  Most artists and illustrators are familiar with Pitt Pens as inking tools, particularly the black India ink Brush tip, but not many seem to be familiar with the wide range of colors Pitt Pens come in.  And despite being well known, not much focus is given to using Pitt Artist Pens to render as well as ink.



The Stats


  • India Ink- pigmented drawing ink
  • High Light Resistance
  • Water resistant, permanent when dry
  • 58 total colors (48 available in the studio box)
  • Acid-free, ph Neutral
  • Light colors are transparent
  • Available in a variety of tips
  • Inexpensive
  • Commonly available openstock at most art stores, many craft stores
  • Blendable while wet, on the right paper
  • Do not Bleed
  • Also available in Gold and Silver Metallics 
  • Many color also available in Pitt Big Brush Artist Pens 
  • Big Brush Pens are also marketed as Stamper's Big Brush Pens, at a markeup 
  • Color indexed across Pitt products
  • Made in Germany
  • Artist Brush Pens $1.99, Pitt Big Brush $3.09  (Priced openstock on DickBlick)

Set Sizes



Among illustrators and comic artists, Pitt Artist Pens are a popular inking tool, but not a popular choice for color rendering, despite the archival properties of these markers.  Pitt has made attempts to appeal to stampers, but Pitt Artist Pens have limited appeal compared to more popular options like Tombow Dual Brush Markers and Zig Clean Color Real Brush markers, perhaps due to the fact that they require the right paper for blending magic to occur.  These markers are currently a popular choice for coloring book enthusiasts due to their ubiquitous and low price point.  These India Ink waterbased markers aren't supposed to bleed through paper, making them an ideal marker choice for coloring double sided pages.

Previous Reviews

Pitt Pens have appeared sporadically on this blog, mainly as inking tools.  I'm not sure why I ignored their properties as markers for so long, perhaps the commonly found Pitt Artist Pens' diminutive size fooled me into thinking that despite being offered in 60 colors, Pitt Pens were a one trick pony.  Recently, I've started amassing a collection of Pitt Artist Pens in an array of colors, and I've found a variety of ways to use them in my studio.  For inspiration and reviews, check out the posts below!



The Packaging

Faber Castell's Pitt Artist Pens come with a variety of packaging options, depending on the size of set you purchase.  The largest set, the 90 piece set, comes in a lovely wooden case with multiples of several often used colors.

90 Piece Wooden Giftset Source
Get Your Own





From 60 piece-12 piece sets, Faber-Castell's Pitt Artist Pens come in nice, reusable cardboard boxes that allow for easy display.

60 Piece Boxed Studio Set Source
Get Your Own




Faber Castell's Pitt 48 Piece Studio Set  Source
Get Your Own




 The larger boxes have tiers that slide out for easier access.


Faber Castell's 24 Piece Boxed Set Source
Get Your Own




12 Piece Boxed Set Source
Get Your Own


The smaller sets, 8-4 pens, come in sturdy plastic cases that are reusable.  My set of 6 Shades of Gray is still housed in its plastic box.

8 Piece Soft Brush Set Source
Check out a variety of 8 piece sets here.

Faber Castell 6 Pen set, 'terra' themed Source
Six piece sets are one of the most popular options for starting a Pitt Pen collection.  They're available in a variety of themes-  Shades of Grey, Terra, Landscape, Pastel, Skin Tones, Basic, Shades of Blue, Neon, even Manga, Shonen, and Shojo.  Check out various 6 piece sets here.
Soft Brush 4 Piece Set Source
Regardless of the set's size, Pitt Pens marketed towards artists are packaged with care, and the packaging is intended to last the life of the product.  I really appreciate packaging that doubles as storage, and I usually keep it even as my collection grows.

Sadly the sets marketed towards crafters aren't as well packaged- the 4 piece sets are blister packed in very disposable packaging.

Mix & Match Pitt Artist Pens Writing Pens Source

If you're a crafter, I recommend skipping the twee packaging, and go straight for the art supply store for your Pitt Pen needs- they tend to be a little cheaper and the packaging is meant to be reused.

Not all of the available sets may serve your needs as an artist, crafter, or illustrator, and fortunately, Pitt Artist Pens are also available openstock at most art stores.  I purchase mine at Jerry's Artarama or Pla-Za, both in Nashville.  Openstock Pitt Pens are a little more expensive than those sold in sets, so shop around, or wait for a good sale.

The Markers




Pitt Pens are available in two sizes- the Big Brush pens, which are a lot like chunky markers, and the Pitt Artist Pens.  Both sizes have brushes, but the Big Brush pen's brush feels fairly sturdy, whereas the Pitt Artist Pen's brush is thin, a little fragile, and becomes mushy quickly.  If your brush nib becomes mushy, just use tweezers to remove the nib and flip it over.  I have a link to a video at the bottom of this post that demonstrates that pen-saving trick.

As a marker enthusiast, and devotee of brush nibs, I prefer the Big Brush pens for marker rendering over the Pitt Artist Pens, but my Pitt Artist pen collection is much larger.

Below I have several brush tipped markers from my extensive collection- two Pitt pens (Artist and Big Brush),  one Zig Art and Graphic Twin, one Copic Sketch, and one Zig Brushable.  Most of these markers are waterbased, with the exception of the Copic.

From top to bottom: Pitt Artist Pen, Pitt Big Brush, Zig Art and Graphic Twin, Copic Sketch, Zig Brushable
 My Pitt Pens, regardless of body type, are some of the shortest brush tip markers in my collection, and are some of the few single tipped  waterbased markers I own.  There's a lot of text screened on the body of these pens- Faber-Castell, the Pitt Pen logo, the color name, the color number within the Faber-Castell color fastness, and even a lightfastness rating indicated by the number of asterisks following the number.

From top to bottom: Pitt Artist Pen, Pitt Big Brush, Zig Art and Graphic Twin, Copic Sketch, Zig Brushable
 The Pitt Artist Pens have some of the smallest brushes available in markers, which is why I've previously classified them as inking tools rather than coloring tools.  The Big Brush's tip is a little shorter than most of the other markers in the lineup, but is much more comparable in size.  Both pens feature caps that post on the back of the marker's body, and the barrel color (as well as a plastic chip on the cap) indicate the color inside.

From top to bottom: Pitt Artist Pen, Pitt Big Brush, Zig Art and Graphic Twin, Copic Sketch, Zig Brushable

From top to bottom: Pitt Artist Pen, Pitt Big Brush, Zig Art and Graphic Twin, Copic Sketch, Zig Brushable

From left to right:  Zig Brushable, Copic Sketch, Zig Art and Graphic Twin, Pitt Big Brush, Pitt Artist Brush
 Since the Pitt Artist Pen's brush is so small, I pulled out a comparable inking tool- my Kuretake Fudegokochi.

From top to bottom:  Zig Brushable, Copic Sketch, Zig Art and Graphic Twin, Pitt Big Brush, Pitt Artist Brush, Kuretake Fudegokochi


Pitt Pens come with a variety of tips- primarily felt technical pen nibs, but since we're talking about coloring in today's post, I only pulled out those that apply- the bullet tipped Opaque White Pitt Pen Big Brush, a sample Artist Brush, and a sample Big Brush.




The Pitt Big Brush Opaque White isn't particularly opaque on initial application, but since it's pigment based, opacity can be built up in layers once previous layers are dry.



Swatch Test


These swatches were completed in a Strathmore Vellum Bristol Visual Art Journal, and are only intended to represent color.

On White Paper





On Toned Paper



Paper Tests

I'm currently in the process of putting together a MASSIVE paper/marker compatibility test, spanning several types of markers (watercolor, waterbased, ethanol based, alcohol based) on a variety of unique papers (marker papers, cardstocks, watercolor papers, synthetic papers, vellum).  Since I'd started the compatibility test before writing this review, you guys can have a sample taste of the fruit of my efforts.  If compatibility tests are something that peak your interest, please consider pledging to my Patreon- your financial support enables me to dedicate the time necessary to purchasing materials, doing the initial tests, doing field tests, photographing everything, videoing some things, uploading everything, editing everything, and cobbling it together into something that can benefit you guys.


I tested Pitt Pens on several papers


Cardstock

Initial tests- testing for blendability


Top of page- gray into gray (Pitt Big Brush Markers, juicier and larger tip than the Pitt Artist Pens):

Top line of gray is simple layering of color while color is still wet, to see if there's any natural blending.  On cardstock, the paper absorbs the water immediately, so there is no natural blending.

The second line was blended wet into wet, which causes the cardstock to begin to pill.  You are very limited in how much blending you can do on this paper.

Third line of gray- marker was applied and allowed to dry.  Second color was applied, and the first color was used to try to blend the second color into the first.  You more tones this way, as Pitt Pens layer very nicely, but no real blending.

I attempted the same tests with the smaller Pitt Artist Pens (green).

Below, in green, I tried to blend the Pitt Artist Pens with various common blenders.  From top to bottom:  Alcohol marker (Prismacolor colorless blender), Tombow Dual Brush (colorless blender, waterbased), plain water in a waterbrush, Winsor and Newton Pigment Marker clear blender (ethanol), Winsor and Newton Pigment Marker White blender.

None of these blenders worked to blend the Pitt Artist Pens, as the ink had already been absorbed into the paper.

Same test was attempted with a Pitt Big Brush pens, which stay wet a little longer.  Tombow Dual Brush, water, and colorless Pigment Marker blender all had some effect on the waterbased India ink used in the Big Brush Markers.

Cardstock Verdict

Cardstock, especially cheap, uncoated cardstock, is not recommended for use with Pitt Pens if you desire blending.  Doesn't really work well, paper pills, shows streaking.  Not worth pursuing for a field test.

Strathmore Visual Art Journal- Vellum Bristol






















You can't blend Pitt Pens on Vellum Bristol, as they're immediately absorbed by the paper, but you can layer on it.  Just make sure you allow your ink to dry thoroughly (this may take awhile) or the paper will begin to pill.  I noticed that my Pitt Pens caused my Sailor Mitsuo Aida ink to smear a bit on this paper despite allowing them to dry overnight.  The opaque white pen doesn't really do much to add highlights and it doesn't layer over the Pitt Pens as well as I would have liked.

The Verdict

Vellum Bristol is definitely an option for your Pitt Artist Pens, although it's not a paper where these pens really shine.  The combination of Strathmore Visual Art Journal and Pitt Artist Pens is a very portable option with no noxious fumes to bother those in confined spaces. 

Winsor and Newton Marker Paper


I didn't test as extensively on the Winsor and Newton Marker paper as I did with the cardstock, as I started to encounter issues almost immediately.  The top row of gray was applied with Pitt Big Brush pens in three cool grays.  Below are blender tests

Alcohol marker (Prismacolor colorless blender):  Moves the color a little bit if color is still wet.
Tombow Dual Brush (colorless blender, waterbased), moves the color slightly if color is still wet, but causes pilling
Water wrecks the surface of the paper, you would not be able to effectively continue to work over areas that have been saturated with water.
Pigment Marker Colorless blender will move the Pitt Pen if it's still wet.

Line of green below- attempted to blend Pitt Artist Pens (the green pens below) into a gradient while still wet, but paper pilled significantly.

Winsor and Newton Marker Paper Verdict

If you're very patient, you can layer these markers, but they take forever to dry on this paper.  Paper pilling.  Not water safe.

Crescent Rendr Paper


As I proceeded to test papers, I began to get a feel for what papers would work well with Pitt Pens, and which do not. Uncoated marker papers are not ideal for use with Pitt Pens.

Crescent Rendr paper, which is a no-show-through mixed media paper, is not coated, and the paper begins to pill as you rework areas.  I did minimal testing with Cresent- the inks absorb almost immediately, and one the ink has absorbed, there isn't much you can do besides layer.

Blenders tested:
Alcohol (Prismacolor colorless blender):  Doesn't effect Pitt Artist Pen ink on this paper
Tombow Dual Brush (waterbased colorless blender): Causes pilling, scrubbing can move the ink, but not really in a predictable fashion.
Water does not really effect Pitt Artist Pen ink on this paper
Pigment Marker colorless blender:  Does not really effect Pitt Artist Pen ink on this paper

Crescent Rendr Paper Verdict

Not a strong choice if you want to utilize blending techniques with Pitt Pens.  Shows streaking.  Paper pillage.  Ink takes a long time to dry on this paper.  Blenders don't really work.

Copic PM Pad


Copic PM paper has a coating on the surface of the paper which allows inks to stay wet a bit longer before being soaked in.

Top left:  3 Cool gray Pitt pens applied side by side, to test for natural blending

Top Right:  3 Cool Grey Pitt Pens layered on top of each other.  Each layer was applied after the previous layer had fully dried, and each layer was applied in tiers to demonstrate how single colors can layer.  One can easily achieve at least 6 colors with this method, 2 tones per individual color.

Top left, 2nd row:  An attempt at blending.  Fresh color was applied while original color was still wet, blending was attempted by blending the original marker over the second marker towards the original color.

Blenders tested:

Alcohol:  No real effect on this paper.
Tombow:  No real effect on this paper.
Water: Damages paper
Colorless Pigment Marker Blender:  Did move the Pitt Pen ink on this paper, or perhaps it just moved the pigment.  Either way, there was color movement.

Some blenders do work (water, Tombow ABT, Pigment Marker).  Handle a lot like Zig Brushables (link), which are also waterbased, pigment based markers. 

Copic Marker Paper



I don't really use Copic's original marker paper even when I'm using alcohol markers, but I did find a pad stashed away in my paper drawer.

Blenders Used:

Alcohol:  Slightly lightened the ink
Tombow:  Did nothing
Water:  Ruins paper surface, did nothing
Colorless Pigment Marker Blender:  Moved color a bit, similar to Copic PM pad

Yupo

Yupo is a synthetic paper  that most artists have strong feelings about.  Some artists absolutely hate Yupo, and find it difficult and frustrating to work with.  Others absolutely love the fact that Yupo can be wiped down to reveal a clean surface once more.

Regardless of whether you love it or hate it, Yupo has some unique properties that make it an interesting paper to work with.  Yupo will not warp no matter how much water you throw at it, because it's impermeable.  The fact that it's impermeable makes it idea for blending waterbased markers that are permanent once dry, if you can handle the long dry times.  

I'm using translucent, medium weight Yupo, which has a lovely feel.  If you're using Yupo, I recommend spritzing some rubbing alcohol on the surface and wiping it down before you begin, as the oils from your fingers will cause a resist on the surface, repelling applications of ink.  If you're interested in seeing how I manage Yupo, please, PLEASE watch the video if you're able- I would prefer not to transcribe my notes to an already lengthy post.


Initial compatibility tests



Initial tests with Pitt Pens on Yupo were really exciting- Pitt Pens blended effortlessly with a Tombow Dual brush colorless blender, or the slightly less 'greasy' Marvy LePlumeII.  Pitt Pens could also be layered if initial layers were allowed to dry first, and unlike alcohol markers, the water in the Pitt Pens would not reactivate those prior layers.  

Field Test Process Video

Insert video here






Pitt Pens are the best markers I've found for rendering on Yupo- the colors can be blended with a Marvy LePlume II or a Tombow ABT colorless blender, or can blended color into color.  The Pitt Pen ink does take awhile to dry on this plastic paper (since the water must evaporate entirely, none of it soaks in), but colors are vibrant.  For this, I used only the small Artist Pens, but I feel like Big Brush pens would do a great job rendering fields of color without any stripes.  You can layer color for additional saturation or detail once the initial layer has dried.

If you're interested in using Yupo, I highly recommend picking up at least a few Pitt Pens to use on it.

Assembled in Photoshop:




On Toned Tan Paper

A few months ago, I wrote about using Strathmore's Toned Tan paper to up your sketching game.  In that post, several of my illustrations featured a mixed media of Pitt Pens and Winsor and Newton Pigment Markers.   Both markers are pigment based inks, but Winsor and Newton Pigment markers have ethanol as a solvent, and Pitt Pens use water, so they won't activate one another.

Toned tan drawing paper has a smooth surface, but it doesn't have a coating, so your Pigment Markers and Pitt Pens will soak in almost immediately.  Before layering, you need to allow your markers to dry to the touch, because toned tan paper will pill if you overwork it.  These pieces were inked with a Sailor Mitsuo Aida brushpen, which is both alcohol marker proof and waterproof.

Face, hair, freckles, and blush were applied with Pitt Artist Pens

Skin, freckles, and hair applied with Pitt Pens

Skin, hair, freckles added with Pitt Pens.  Darker gold on tail added with Pitt pens on top of Pigment Markers
On Strathmore Toned Tan Paper, Winsor and Newton Pigment markers are a bit opaque, whereas Pitt Pens are very transparent, so it's fun to mix the two.























Colors layer decently dark, some darker than others, minimizing the need for blending.  With careful, tiny strokes, streaking is minimal.  The midtone of the paper  definitely helps skintones stretch further and streaking less noticeable, but means there's less need for saturation, as you're not starting from a stark white.

The white pigment based Pitt Pen shows up a lot better on the darker toned paper than it does on white Vellum Bristol and is a more effective tool on this paper.

Pitt Pens really seem to pop on Toned Paper, especially blues and greens as there's some contrast with the brown of the paper.

Tracing Paper

Initial Tests




Tracing paper seems to handle Pitt Pens well- the paper is a bit flimsy, and not all brands are archival, but tracing paper is perfect for practicing technique, especially if you're interested in using Pitt Pens on Vellum at some point.  Pitt Pens can be blended on this paper while still wet- either marker to marker or utilizing a Tombow ABT colorless blender.

Vellum (Craft)





Pitt Pens handle well on Vellum- the slick surface allows for easy blending and colors are bright and saturated.   Vellum is a bit translucent, which can allow for some lovely play between light, paper, and color.  The surface is not prone to abrasion, and ink tends to stay wet a little longer, allowing for blending with Pitt Pens.  Pitt Pens are capable of near alcohol marker-like blending (although the principles are very different) on this paper.

Test Video



Pitt Big Brush Pens

After using the Artist Pens to render several images, I wanted to give the Pitt Big Brush pens a shot.  The Big Brush pens are much more like markers than the Artist Pens, and feature a chunky body with a solid brush nib that's capable of quickly covering larger areas with color.  Although the brush isn't as spongy as the Copic Super Brush, it's still capable of nuance and delicacy. 

Although I had a handful of Big Brush markers around the studio, I wanted to check out the skintones available in the line, so I put in an order for several additional colors from DickBlick.






The Big Brush markers have a smaller range of available colors to choose from, but they're perfect for rendering larger illustrations.  I wanted to test the color range for Big Brush markers with darker skintones, so I created an illustration of Naomi from 7" Kara on Strathmore's Toned Tan paper.

There are some fairly important gaps in the dark browns that work well as skintones that aren't missing in the smaller Artist Brush Line.  I'd love to see Pitt expand their Big Brush line to encompass more skintones- this would make it more appealing to caricature and portrait artists.

The Verdict:

There are two camps when it comes to Pitt Pens.  One camp insists that these markers blend just like Copics, the other says it's no competition, and that Copics are the far superior marker.  Comparing waterbased india ink markers to alcohol based dye markers is pretty unfair to either marker brand.  Both markers have their strongpoints- india ink is permanent once dried, and additional application of color will not affect your original layer.  Alcohol inks can be reworked infinitely- additional layers of alcohol ink will effect all layers below.

On the right paper, Pitt pens are a lot of fun, and you can achieve fantastic effects.  Pitt Pens are the best marker I've used on Yupo- you can apply several layers (unlike alcohol markers), the colors won't massively shift over time (unlike non-permanent waterbased markers), and you can blend them with a Tombow ABT colorless blender due to the longer dry time.  If you enjoy marker/paper compatibility tests, you should keep an eye on this blog in the upcoming months, as I have many planned for a variety of markers and papers.  If you'd like to hurry their release along, pledging to my Patreon will allow me to make editing the video and writing the posts for those a priority.  Pitt Pens also handle well on heavy craft vellum- lovely transparent colors, the ability to layer, the ability to blend due to longer drying times.

If you find the Artist Pens too small to be useful, the Big Brush pens are a great alternative that can be used intermittently with the Artist Pens.  The color range is much smaller (36 colors rather than 60), but one is able to cover large areas with color quickly.

Get Your Own Big Brush Markers



Get Your Own Artist Brush Markers


Note:  Using my affiliate links helps support this blog financially, and provides some compensation for my time.

Outside Resources

Faber-Castel Pitt Markers- Overview
https://youtu.be/KmE5yHlzaPE

Faber-Castell:  On the go with PITT Artist Pens
https://youtu.be/C6iEz0LGPLI

Faber-Castell PITT artist pens
https://youtu.be/TNF3u9lvkMk?list=PLE406F86A32EC9609

Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen- Drawing Demonstration Owings Art
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-W4UV4_SWM

Blending Techniques

Smudging with Fingertip:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMS2budclJw

Color Triads and Finger Smudging
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxO372UEvS4

Coloring with Pitt Pens
https://misstreez.wordpress.com/2011/09/25/colouring-with-faber-castell-pitt-markers/

David Wasting Paper
http://david-wasting-paper.blogspot.com/2011/11/faber-castell-pitt-artists-brush-pens.html

Sharpen Your PITT Pen
https://youtu.be/g7xexDwNG2A

Stamper's Big Brush Markers FAQ
http://stampinginspiredby.blogspot.com/2011/07/stampers-big-brush-markers-faq.html

Additional Resources:
http://www.elfquestfanart.com/index.php?topic=276.0

Reviews like this take a lot of resources to complete- access to a wide range of colors for the field test, access to a variety of inks for compatibility tests, access to a variety of papers for paper compatibility.  Only one resource for this review was donated care of- The Winsor and Newton Marker Paper was sent to me from Winsor and Newton a few months ago.  Everything else has been purchased out of pocket, many of which for the purposes of review and appraisal.  This post also required many man hours to complete- research, swatching, paper compatibility testing and photography, drawing and inking the images used for field tests, recording video, editing video, compiling and writing this post.  If you enjoy content like this, and you would like to see more of it, or would like for in-depth reviews like this to continue, please consider pledging to my Patreon.  This blog has been an (expensive) labor of love for many years, and now it could really use your support.  If you enjoyed this post, please share it to your Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, or G+ using the social links below this post.  Sharing my content to your social networks helps me expand my audience, which makes me more appealing to company sponsors in the future.