We try drawing with the Pilot FriXion Ball 0.7 coloured gel pens. Erasable pens are a great gimmick, but are these erasable gel ink rollerball pens any good? We try the Pilot erasable pens out for art. Are they dark and vibrant enough for art, or are they best for note taking and journaling? Watch the review to find out.
Reviewing Pilot Frixion Ball 0.7
Vishal: Welcome to Stationery Test Drive where no tool is safe in our grubby, artistic hands from doing strange things and wonderful things. I’m Vishal.
Minjal: This is Minjal.
Samir: I am Samir.
Vishal: And today we are reviewing the Pilot Frixion Ball 0.7 erasable. Now that sounds weird and it is weird because even though it’s a ball pen that’s probably also actually a gel pen and Samir will explain why later, this is also an erasable pen. And yes, this is the magic feature of the Pilot Frixion which does actually erase when you apply a bit of friction.
Samir: And fair amount of pressure.
Vishal: Well yes, the friction is the result, the pressure is the action. For more scientific things such as telling us why this is both a ball pen and a gel pen, Samir?
How does the Pilot Frixion 0.7 Ball Pen work?
Samir: The fact of the matter is all gel pens are ball pens in that they have a metal ball at the tip, we’ve talked about this before in various episodes. I think the reason why this could be called more of a gel pen is because I know that the ink is a special ink that is erasable and I know that this ink is very much water based which is a feature of gel pens. Ball pens traditionally at least have been an oil based medium. So I guess the Pilot Frixion is a gel pen but with an erasable ink.
Vishal: And that erasable ink is odd because you can’t just use any eraser on it, you kind of have to use this rubberized head of the pen itself.
Samir: Right. So the Pilot Frixion ink is really the trick here. Let’s face it, this is a fairly standard colored gel pen or ball pen. As a product it very much depends on the gimmick of it being erasable, and don’t get us wrong it is a good gimmick. What’s unique about this is actually not the pen itself but the ink that it uses and these inks which Pilot came up with I think sometime in the early 2000s is actually a thermosensitive ink. So what happens is that it puts down the color on a piece of paper and you’re not actually erasing something. When you increase the temperature of the ink beyond a certain level, it essentially loses its colors.
Vishal: So the ink is still there, the ink is not gone away, it’s just disappeared.
Samir: Exactly and that’s why I said that the Pilot Frixion is an erasable ink by cheating. Because it’s not actually being erased at all.
Vishal: Is this on a similar principle to the kind of ink killers we used to have with back in the day or those were chemical reactions?
Samir: When we were younger and we had Royal Blue Fountain Pen inks, you had this sort of solvent based transparent pen that was called an ink killer and that worked by actually kind of disrupting the dyes in the ink chemically. This works purely based on temperature.
The ink killer used to chemically disrupt the ink and the problem was that once the solvent that you applied on it kind of evaporated away, you would have this kind of faint, ghost image of what you had written before.
The Frixion ink is thermosensitive, so what we are actually doing is you are increasing the temperature of the surface of the paper, above 60 degrees centigrade to make the ink disappear.
Vishal: Theoretically I could use an actual eraser but if I like rubbed it furiously there it could work?
Samir: I have tried it out but usual erasers are meant to break apart and so they do not actually cause enough friction to do this.
So the cheat about this erasable ink is that it’s not actually erasable, it’s an invisible link. So what we should compare it to, if you were a kid at some point and were playing with invisible inks, the simplest one used to be lemon juice. And if you’ve ever played with that this is kind of the same process.
How to make invisible ink using lime juice?
Samir: So an invisible ink using lemon or lime juice is that you take a lemon or lime juice and write with it. And of course you can’t see anything, it’s invisible. But by heating it up over a flame or any sort of higher source of heat, I think you would probably have to hit like 70 – 80 degrees, the writing would appear in kind of a brown. And in the case of lemon juice that was not reversible.
The thing about the Frixion ink is that if you take the temperature above 60 degrees it disappears, but it’s only disappearing, it’s not actually being erased. If we took this sheet and now put it into our freezer, at which point the temperature would go below 10 at some point, that will start reappearing again.
Vishal: Okay, well I think we have alienated pretty much every artist in the audience with our geekery, so let’s try to bring some of them back by showing them the test drives we do, because that’s what we do on the show, we take things like this, but we take them on artistic test drives.
Now Samir and I are geeks, so obviously we’re going to geek out about this, but Minjal, show us what you did with the Pilot Frixion. Now that is a lovely example of both line control and furious rubbing.
Lettering with Pilot Frixion 0.7 Ball Pen
Minjal: So we’ve used several fine liners which work really well for drawing lines against a steel ruler or plastic ruler. This ball pen or gel pen whatever this is had the usual problems of smudging and ink bleeding. The color is a little gray. I don’t necessarily like the colors that are used in the ink but I’m guessing this is a special ink so they had to make it gray?
Samir: I think as Minjal said this has very much to do with the fact that this ink needs to be special for it to be erasable. The thing about inks that we have tried to work at for thousands of years since we invented inks is to make them more stable and more insensitive to temperature, more vibrant, darker to read and look at and here now you have this unique situation where you need to make an ink that is more unstable so that it could be reversed.
Minjal: So it’s a great gimmicky, technologically advanced product from Pilot, but I prefer normal gel pens and also I did try erasing graphite, pencil writing with this and that clearly didn’t work, it’s not supposed to work. It just turned out to be a gray, ugly mess. I tried erasing the lines made with the Pilot Frixion with the Natraj Plasto eraser, that didn’t work either, so this is a match made in stationery heaven, you keep these two together for life.
Samir: I think we need to establish while we are talking about this, who this pen is probably for. It’s not for us as artists, I think that’s fairly clear. And you will see that with our other tests as well. There are uses for it in art, for sure, but it’s not really the ideal pen for art.
Illustration with Pilot Frixion 0.7 Ball Pen
Vishal: I will say that I did not really use the eraser at all. I did an illustration and I don’t think I may have used the eraser part of it on maybe a couple of places. And yes, as inks they’re kind of gray. Back in the day you’d get inks this gray and those were the cheap gel pens and the cheap ball pens. This is not that bad I must say, if you want a kind of like a nice mossy green. I used the purple and the blue, they’re not bad, they’re just not something that I would reach for if I had other choices.
And the eraser part of it is pretty much useless to me, especially now that I know that it’s not temperature sensitive, so on an archival level this is not something that I would use for art which has let’s say a longer life than a document or a notepad where you’re just kind of like okay it’s rough notes you don’t need to use. For rough notes it’s perfectly fine, it’s very good to use, it’s nice and smooth. Pilot is one of the leaders in pen manufacture-ship?
Samir: I think pen manufacture-ship is close enough. Pilot is by the way the largest manufacturer of pens in Japan, they are not a small company.
Vishal: So, I did not use the eraser side of it at all, enjoyed the fine lineness of it, enjoyed the general ability to put down strokes and the build up of strokes is also not terrible. The waxiness is only there in the first pass of things and then once you build up you can get higher saturations but it never becomes super vibrant.
Minjal: I usually look at a lot of Pinterest and YouTube videos for reference whenever I make my pieces. All the videos that I’ve seen so far about the Pilot Frixion have mostly been swatches. They’ve just been basic tests erasing out portions, I’ve not really seen anybody do any kind of art with it.
So I believe the utility lies in the fact that you write with it, you erase, it’s a gimmicky scrapbook doodling stationery object, not so much for art at all. You want to show us your piece which is maybe not art?
3D Lettering with Pilot Frixion 0.7 Ball Pen
Samir: Yes I will, and this is what I came up with. I’ve returned to making giant letters after a long time for those who missed me. And I quite enjoyed using this and maybe I will talk about why exactly? First of all, of course, just drawing large letters and getting this sort of nice even line across, all of it is not actually always an easy thing to do. And what I can say about this is that I found it very easy to make these nice parallel lines. In some cases it was easier to use this than a fine liners because I felt that it was more forgiving.
The thing about a fine liner is that because of its felt tip, you kind of have to be very precise when you’re using it and have this even speed otherwise you start getting little blotches and every little vibration in your hand shows up. Whereas what I found with this was that it had this very kind of smooth gliding motion.
Let me go over what I think this is good for on the art side of things. I think that it can produce some very even lines if you are not very precise with more sensitive tools. The thing that I found about it, and Vishal and Minjal are absolutely right, the inks that this has are kind of gray, that’s the the nature of the beast when it comes to I guess making it sensitive to temperature.
But because of that the inks that are used in here are also kind of waxy and the closest thing I can describe this as when you’re doing these kind of parallel lines, it feels like you’re using a fine liner crayon, is the pressure that you feel when you’re drawing with it. That can be quite useful when you’re doing something like this.
As an artist I think this can be extremely useful for hatching, because you can hatch and it has that kind of waxy feeling which gives you this more comfortable, even line. The other thing which I don’t know if it will show up on camera, Vishal will zoom in later, is that you can have negative hatching with the eraser, which you will see here.
So I’ve kind of hatched with the eraser to kind of rub out white lines and that can actually be very useful because when you are cross hatching with a fine liner or a positive pen you are only adding Darkness as you cross hatch, whereas here you can cross hatch and make it lighter, which you can’t do with any other instrument. You can’t remove while you cross hatch.
Vishal: Yeah, especially the result you almost get is almost like stippling but along a line.
Samir: Exactly, you get dots and dashes which you would never be able to make if you were actually physically drawing the dots and dashes. So there’s something very unique about what you could do with this when it comes to being an artist and doing cross hatching, I think for that you should try one out if you are into cross hatching.
Yes, it’s a gimmick for sure but I think for maybe students who need to have their notebook be okay for a year and then they don’t care what it looks like or for people who are into journaling and want to have something that they wrote be perfectly neat or remove something and add something, this is great. Now I don’t know whether it’s archival in the realm of you know 50 years and 100 years but between the temperatures of 60 and -10 it seems to be fine.
Minjal: The other thing we need to add is that we have just discovered this particular stationery object but these have been around for some time. The Frixion range actually also covers color pencils, these erasers are available as standalone erasers. Also these can be replaced, so if the plug is worn out you can actually replace it.
Samir: Also, I assume it depends on what kind of paper you use it on. This is quite smooth paper but on a tough watercolor or cartridge paper I’m sure the erasable plug can wear out.
History of Color Changing Inks
Samir: Just to go into a quick little bit of history. The Frixion inks and range are only about 20 – 30 years old as far as Pilot is concerned. But the idea of inks that change color, because that’s essentially what this is, yes it becomes invisible but technically it’s an ink that changes from blue to transparent or red to transparent, is actually not that new.
The first color changing inks were invented back in 1975, I think they were called Morpho or something to do with metamorphosis. And if you were a kid in the 80s, at some point you would have had a Hot Wheels car or a rubber ducky or whatever which would change color if you put it in hot water versus cold water, this is using exactly the same technique.
Vishal: Well, that brings us to the and of the Pilot Frixion review and coming up soon from us at Inky Memo are more test drives and other things as well in the next few weeks and months. But for now please follow Inky Memo online as well, as at the website where there are transcripts of any of these episodes now, as well as a newsletter that we send out by email, and that has full of stories of wonderful things just like this. But yeah until next time I’m Vishal.
Minjal: This is Minjal.
Samir: I am Samir. And if you liked this episode you really should look at the first episode we did on the gel pen, one of our favorite gel pens, the Rorito Fasty. And if you like me drawing giant numbers and letters and you like colored pencils you should really look at our Staedtler Luna episode.
Get the Pilot Frixion 0.7 Ball Pen
- Pilot, FriXion ColorSticks Erasable Gel Ink Pens, Fine Point 0.7 mm, Pack of 10, Assorted Colors – https://amzn.to/3rH7Tl3