Saturday, November 24, 2012

Nib Tips

I really want to be able to use the superfine and highly flexible #108 Hunt Litho Crow Quill nibs, but they're very sporadic for me - and Google informs me I'm not the only one having diuffculties. Some tips:

Make sure they're clean

I've been soaking all my nibs in acetone overnight and then scrubbing them with an old soft toothbrush, wiping on rags and rinsing with water. Then of course drying thoroughly. You have to remove the factory coating of varnish that protects and keeps them from rusting in storage and transit. Yes, they coat the nibs with an invisible material that makes them utterly unfit for draing with, and nobody tells you that unless you go deep into the databases or happen to know a professional artist. How many frustrated wannabee inkers never figured that out and gave up in disgust? 

Break them in

Gently bend the tips back and forth just slightly a few times - draw on scrap bristol for a while - it all helps to loosen up the initial stiffness of the point and make it work smoother and more fluidly. Also there's a trick where you pinch the tip between your fingers and slightly twist the pen until the tips pop apart and then together again. Don't force it, it's supposed to happen easily and naturally. Make sure you don't permanently deform your delicate drawing point. 

File them down

With fine Emery paper - not a big bastard! It helps to take off the extremely sharp point and round it down just slightly. 

Shake it up

At least if you're using waterproof India ink. You need to mix it well before using or the varnish settles and it's not waterproof - might be why the Tombo markers are dissolving it? Though I suspect they have some kind of solvent in them and I won't be using them anymore aside from maybe a test or two. And finally - in conjunction with this tip..

Make sure the lid is on snugly

Speaks for istelf now, doesn't it? Thankfully it just missed my jeans!

Use smooth hard paper

The problem might be that I'm using a vellum surface Strathmore bristol (yup - tried all the above tricks as well as cleaning thoroughly several times, nothing's working). Fibers can get in and clog the pen - so I tried using a plate finish Canson bristol instead and got somewhat better results, but still too spotty for my liking. I want to know when I draw it's going to make a damn line, not every other time or maybe after 12 or 20 tries. Even the Canson paper isn't all that hard though - it's got a somewhat soft surface. Maybe a really good hard smooth plate finish paper would do the trick? Don't know - if I ever get ahold of any maybe I'll try the Crow Quill nib again. Really would love to be able to use it - I want finer lines occasionally than I can get with my #108 (though for general drawing I absolutely LOVE this pen!!)

Or just use the Crow Quill #102 (even though it's not as fexible)

Just tested, and this pen works beautifully for me every time - at least on the Canson paper. Need to try it on the vellum Strathmore. It makes super-fine lines that are almost invisible if you draw with a very light touch - this would be the pen to start a drawing with, when you're blocking in and doing gesture etc - the stuff you want to almost disappear in the final result.

To help me remember...

The bronze-coated nibs are always the most flexible ones - not sure what the bronze coating does exactly, maybe it glides over the paper more smoothly than steel? 

My preference in both the big and small Hunt pens (the little brown stick handles and the long black tapered Speedball handles) is the most flexible, bronze-coated tip. But unfortunately I can't get the #108 Litho Crow Quill to function properly so far, so instead I'll fall back for my superfine near-invisible lines and fine hatching on the #102 Crow Quill (which actually is fairly flexible - though you have to press fairly hard to make the line get wider - not responsive enough for really delicate drawing technique).

Success at last!!! Wet and Reset

From the excellent Penciljack forum, where inkers talk shop:
  • Always dip the pen in water before starting, and once every few times you dip it in ink. This will fill the channel with water and help the ink flow better. I'm not sure why, but it helps prevent the ink from sticking. Remove excess water with a paper towel or tissue. After dipping, test the pen on scrap paper. (Brushes should also be dipped in water and blotted before use; it makes them easier to clean -- I think because the ink has to displace water to stain them, whereas if you don't then water has to displace dried-on ink to clean them.)
And :

  • A little known trick is to "reset" the nib. Damn scary the first time, almost had a heart attack when I saw Joe Rubenstein doing it in the Marvel Bullpen. He'd do it every 2-3 minutes whether he "needed" to or not. Hold the pen as parallel to the surface as possible with the nib "upside down" (concave surface up, convex surface on the page) Press the nib, as flat as possible, against the surface until the tines cross with an audible click. You're reset.
    Obviously, this only works with flexible nibs like crow quills and mapping points but, not with stiff nibs.
  • Tines, once flexed out, never return to original positions. Each flex stretches them out even more until ink flow stops. "Resetting" the nib pushes it all the way closed AND MORE restoring ink flow.
  • Brushes are mops, they'd rather absorb than release. Pens are upside down spoons. The trick is how to load them. Don't overfill, hold nib against the inside lip of the bottle to allow excess ink to flow out, take a few practice strokes on the side so any blorps happen away from the work.

Did both and scribbled all over the back of a sketch - as soon as it started working it went beautifully for as long as I wanted - not a single problem.

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