Parchment Pause: Holiday Time

The next couple of weeks will see a break from posts on The London Parchment as I’m off on an adventure. My fiancé and I are off to spend a couple of weeks taking in the springtime Maine countryside, Quebec City, Montreal, New York City and Boston. I’m really looking forward to it!

I'm bringing three pocket notebooks all wrapped up in my beautiful new fauxdori. Yellow and green - I can't get enough of these colours.
I’m bringing three pocket notebooks all wrapped up in my beautiful new fauxdori. Yellow and green – I can’t get enough of these colours.

I’m going to be travelling very light on the stationery front on this trip because I plan on stocking up big time.  I’ve already had a few treats delivered to the friends we’re staying with in Boston to pick up tonight when we land! But much more on that after I return. Suffice it to say I’m travelling with a singular everything: my trusty Staedtler Mars Lumograph B grade, my Kaweco Sport F nib with Diamine teal, my Ballograf Chrome Epoca, my Milan eraser, Uni Jetstream and a yellow Muji double ended pen. I’m also bringing my Hobonichi Techo to keep up with journaling, and my Polaroid ZIP because I really want to include a daily photo from this trip. I’ve realised that a daily photo from “normal” life isn’t sustainable with the Techo because it would just become too big over the year. But daily photos during holidays are essential, as I’m sure you’ll agree. Finally this is all topped off by three pocket notebooks full of travel tips that I’ve been amassing for each of the places we’re visiting, all cosied up in leather and elastic in my gorgeous green fauxdori. That’s it! We’ll see what I return with!

If you have any tips, stationery related or otherwise, for any of the places I’m heading to, I’d love to hear them!

Some hand lettering I've been doing on thank you cards to friends and family we're staying with.
Some hand lettering I’ve been doing on thank you cards to friends and family we’re staying with.

Copic Sketch Marker Review

My brush pen collection is growing rapidly. Instagram knows me far too well and often shows me short brush lettering videos, many of which involve the Copic Sketch Marker. I’d never used a Copic product before and decided that this looked like a good one to try out.

The pen and tips 

Copic are a well-known Japanese brand and pitch their products towards artistic and creative uses – think designers, illustrators, artists, crafting. The Copic is a double-ended permanent marker; one end is a brush tip and one is a broad chisel marker. Given that I am still continuously practicing and fiddling with brush pens, I always buy a version in black. There is an episode of Frasier where he decides to take a variety of dates to the same restaurant so that the only difference between the evenings would be the company, and he could therefore objectively isolate the date as the cause of his enjoyment or dissatisfaction. The same can be said for brush pen testing. Always getting black means I won’t be sidetracked by loving the colour and not the pen!

Chisel end
Chisel end
Brush end, showing a little bit of disfiguration where I've used it!
Brush end, showing a little bit of disfiguration where I’ve used it!

The brush end is a flexible tip with no discernible individual brush fibres. You may recall that my difficulty in controlling individual brush fibres was one of my key dislikes about the Muji brush pen. As with many tips like this, I find they soften over time and take on the shape of my pressure. This has happened over time with the Copic and the brush tip is ever so slightly flattened. I find this helpful as it’s adapted to my style of writing and its increased softness means an easier, thicker line.

The ink

When Copic say black, they really mean black. Unlike many experiences I’ve had with brush pens there is no loss of saturation towards the outside of your strokes. The line left is completely black. There is also a tremendous amount of bleed through on all the papers I’ve tested and sometimes has left a mark on what’s underneath – this wasn’t great when I used the Copic at work (white desk, oops). Obviously this is to be expected from a permanent marker and such a saturated ink but does rule this pen out for casual usage in notebooks.

One positive I find about this pen is its shape – it is an oval / squashed rectangle shaped which means no rolling on the table and it sits very steadily in your hand when writing with no rotation of the barrel.

Oval shape of the Copic Sketch marker
Oval shape of the Copic Sketch marker
Size of barrel compared to a Palomino Blackwing 211
Barrel size compared to a Palomino Blackwing 211

You can’t post the lids on this pen. This doesn’t bother me because I find that it has a comfortable weight and length without posting and the lids are quite light anyway so wouldn’t add too much value. Here’s how it measures up against a fairly new (and blunt) Palomino Blackwing 211.

It’s also refillable, the chisel and brush tips are replaceable, and they come in fantastic multicolour sets – there is a huge range of colours and shades available (the internet tells me there are 358!). So if, like me, you dislike disposable-ness and throwawayism, this is a pen you could keep for a very long time if you treat it right.

How I use the Copic Sketch marker

I use the Copic for brush lettering only, so I haven’t tested the chisel tip of the pen. I’m always slightly regretful at the addition of chisel tips because I have no use for them and I feel like it is half the pen’s potential wasted. However I understand the need for this end given the normal use of the Copic in creative pursuits. Chisel tips are obviously useful for shading and colouring and I’m told that the Copics are wonderful to use for blending colour although I haven’t been able to test this out only having it in black. It’s a shame that there’s a potential that this pen isn’t fulfilling for me but I was interested in the pen because of its reviews as a brush pen – I did consider whether I could use the chisel tips for a new and different kind of lettering but it’s extremely chunky and flat and not conducive to the lettering style I’m trying to foster.

As I’ve been testing it out I’ve noticed that I gravitate towards it for lettering that I would like to display. I think this is down to a combination of things – the ink is wonderfully black so it gives a great, professional look to your lettering, and it’s very easy to use consistently so I don’t need to repeatedly draft words.

Obviously I’m not an expert at brush lettering and using this pen does highlight areas that I would like to carry on improving. In particular, my letter joins are still a little shaky and my spacing can be slightly uneven. Onwards and upwards on that though.

Shaky joins!
Shaky joins!

Bleedthrough examples

I’ve been asked to do some brush lettered place cards for a friend’s wedding later this year (very exciting!) and I think I would use this pen for such a purpose. I’ve tried the Copic out on some place-card paper and there isn’t any bleed through – this is at a paper weight of 175gsm.

Place-card lettering with the Copic
Place-card lettering with the Copic
No bleedthrough at 175gsm!
No bleedthrough at 175gsm!

This is compared to a parchment style paper with a weight of 100gsm:

Test lettering

Ever since doing my Quill London brush lettering course I’ve been trying out the same pen tests involving practicing down and upstrokes primarily. Also I try and practice my alphabets because I’m developing my own style as I get more familiar with brush lettering.

Test drills
Test drills
You can just about make up a slight pressure mark at the end of thick strokes. It doesn't detract from the look but I think it's noticeable.
You can just about make up a slight pressure mark at the end of thick strokes. It doesn’t detract from the look but I think it’s noticeable.
Lower case letters, individually spaced and a joined up effort.
Lower case letters, individually spaced and a joined up effort.
Upper case and a test sentence
Upper case and a test sentence
Some size tests. I've put in "natural" because this size is where I naturally feel most comfortable writing with the Copic. It's quite difficult to achieve neat small lettering as it's hard to get the balance of thick and thin lines right with this pen at such a small size. Large lettering is a lot easier when you have more control over the pen, but I'd suggest leaning towards a larger character size when using the Copic to make the most of its brush tip.
Some size tests. I’ve put in “natural” because this size is where I naturally feel most comfortable writing with the Copic. It’s quite difficult to achieve neat small lettering as it’s hard to get the balance of thick and thin lines right with this pen at such a small size. Large lettering is a lot easier when you have more control over the pen, but I’d suggest leaning towards a larger character size when using the Copic to make the most of its brush tip.

In summary

I would really recommend this pen is used for your special brush lettering projects but I would steer clear of using it in any type of business-as-usual notebook because the ink is so black that the bleedthrough will waste all of your pages! This will not produce rustic looking lettering for you; it’s strong and bold on the page. It’s very comfortable to use and I think it has been designed with the end user in mind – its oval shape keeps it still on a desk which is probably very handy if you’re using a multitude of Copic pens on a project and the flatness of it means it’s very steady in the hand.

For my purpose of brush lettering the Copic provides a fantastic differentiation between thick and thin lines and I think this differentiation has improved with use as the brush tip has softened and adapted to the pressure of my lettering. It’s a shame that I can’t really find a use for its chisel tip but I’m not going to hold this against the Copic because it’s probably a reflection of my lack of diverse applications for markers!

I also really appreciate the ethos of buying tools and reusing or repurposing them and the fact you can refill and replace parts of this marker is a good testament that Copic themselves believe in the quality of the Sketch marker. Despite its potential longevity it generally costs around £6, which is affordable for the purpose of buying a few pens for brush lettering but bear in mind that if you’re after a multipack or out to build up a collection, this price point could make for an initial expensive outlay. I really enjoy using the Copic Sketch marker, particularly for relatively large brush lettering, and I feel it showcases my ever-evolving style well. It’s a brush pen I would always like to have in my toolbox from now on.