Can you get the smoothest writing and the cleanest drawing line from a cheap gel pen with a cap? We test out the Rorito Fasty gel pen to find out. With a smooth consistent black line, a waterproof ink and its extremely affordable cost, this Rorito pen has turned into the favourite no-brainer art tool for two of us. Will the third member of our test team agree with these lofty claims for a humble gel pen?
Reviewing the Rorito Fasty Gel Pen
Samir: Welcome to Stationery Test Drive with Inky Memo. I’m Samir.
Minjal: This is Minjal.
Vishal: I’m Vishal. One of the reasons we started this series and one of the other reasons we got to starting this series is because Samir and I picked up a pack of these Rorito Fasty Gel Pens. I can show you the pack itself. It says it’s Rs. 5 per pen which may be 10 cents or something maybe in the US, even less. But we ended up with them for a workshop that did not end up happening so we figured we might as well use the pens themselves and to our great surprise they were good.
Samir: Yeah, because I picked them up for a workshop thinking this would be the most functional, simplest thing that I can just give people during the workshop but it’s turned out to be a surprisingly usable and surprisingly flexible medium to work with.
Vishal: For something that is so cheap. You know Rs. 5 is cheap even in India at this point. And for a very performant, if I can use that term, ‘art tool pen’. So tell us what the difference is Samir between a gel pen and other pens because I assume it has a gel in it?
Difference between Gel Pen and Ball Point Pen
Samir: Yes, a gel pen is a modern version or a modern innovation of a regular ballpoint pen. I think we’ve mentioned it in our Reynolds episode before about how ballpoint pens essentially consists of an ink that is oil-based with a dye in it. The thing that’s different about a gel pen is that it’s a pigment-based ink but it has a water gel as the binder. So the benefit of that is that there’s less smudging, it dries out much easier, so you have none of that issue that you would normally have with a traditional ballpoint pen.
Vishal: It is not like a ballpoint pen where eventually it will just smudge and come off, and even when it does it’s very little compared to a ballpoint pen.
Samir: So the point of the gel pen is because it’s water based it can dry off much quicker and because of the gel medium you can also have pigment that’s a lot stronger than in your average ballpoint pen, so you have the ability to make a pen that’s a lot more opaque.
Vishal: Yes, it’s a beautiful black, deep black ink. It’s not very blue, it’s not very gray which is how many other cheap pens and cheap blacks are. As a use case I think what we were surprised by just how much it reminds me of my other favorite pen which we have covered on this channel which is the Uni Pin Fineliner and I think we all ended up using it in different ways. So maybe we’ll show off our test drives for this session and then we can talk about the ways you can use these pens. Minjal, why don’t you show us yours.
Vishal: As usual we’ve gone for 3 different papers, 3 different styles of artwork, but it’s the same pen. So I think let’s just start with Samir’s, tell us about the way you used this.
Comic Sketch with the Rorito Fasty Gel Pen
Samir: I’ve been trying to do more artwork that’s kind of built around comics and the comic style of art and also including text with it. And I thought the great thing about this pen is that most people obviously use it to write with, so I wanted to do something that I could write with and draw with in the same image and I thought a comic panel was the perfect thing to do that. Also because of how black these pens are it kind of reminded me of old horror EC comics. I thought of these kind of dark scenes with creepy looking characters and this was just a great way to do that.
Vishal: And a lot of hatching, that was a mainstay of that style.
Samir: Yes, traditionally the comics would have been made using a brush or a marker of some sort.
Vishal: Or a dip pen which we will cover in the future because those are lovely as well.
Samir: But having used the Rorito before I was quite sure that it would be able to handle that sort of very deep black line work and I think it did quite a great job.
Vishal: It has, it’s quite a variety.
Samir: And that too this is again just copy paper. Not too much show through it, considering how much hatching I’ve done.
Vishal: And did you have any trouble putting down a line or getting the exact line you wanted?
Samir: No, I think there are times when it can dry out a bit or kind of run thinner but other than that it was quite consistent.
Comic Illustration Art with the Rorito Fasty Gel Pen
Vishal: Okay, because I had that problem with mine, which is again a comic book style image but not quite a ‘Ligne claire’ which is a style of cartooning and art. I used a 120 / 140 gsm paper, it’s quite toothy, which has worked out well with other mediums, but in this one I don’t know if you can see, I had to gouge it out a little to get some lines. But once the ink started flowing and I actually kind of eased off on it, I think I started getting better line weights and better flow.
I think the thing that I love about this pen is the line weight. It’s not as lively as a brush but it’s also not as clinical as some fine liners. I enjoyed using it, I’ve enjoyed using it in other books as well. This drawing is very much like something I’m doing in this sketchbook I have called ‘Rough Space.’ These are all drawings done with the Rorito Fasty, which is an odd name.
Samir: And speaking of line quality and smoother paper that’s kind of what Minjal discovered here since she’s done something that’s very line based, in all single strokes for these letters. What was your experience with doing this as far as line variation is concerned?
Hand Lettering with the Rorito Fasty Gel Pen
Minjal: I don’t really use gel pens too much. I found this very freeing, in that with the Pilot Parallel Pen you end up making more structured material but with this it’s different! I was thinking maybe it’s called Fasty because the ink dries very quickly?
Vishal: Possible! It does.
Minjal: The Fasty actually helps because you can go all the way from A to Z and you’re not going to smudge anything. I actually tried out a lot of abstract freehand lettering based art pieces and enjoyed using this a lot, the Rorito.
Vishal: So you had the same experience we had which is we went in with almost no expectations and it surprised you.
Minjal: Pretty much.
Vishal: Because that is exactly what our experience was. We picked this up for one of Samir’s @papernautic workshops, it was literally just something for people to use in the workshop should they need a pen, which they rarely do, but we like to give one away. And then we never ended up using it for months, and one day we were like, okay I just needed something and I didn’t have a fineliner with me and I thought okay, let’s use these normal pens that we have. Let’s put something out, like a sketch or something on throwaway paper, but it surprised us.
Samir: And it’s gotten to the point now where we might have used it originally as a replacement for when we didn’t have a fineliner but Vishal and I both now sometimes just choose this as the first choice.
Vishal: Exactly. This has now become one of my favorite pens to use for clean almost mechanical drawings and sketches. I think Samir has shown that you can get an organic line quality to it but it’s quite good for drawing mechas as they say.
There’s a YouTuber named Chroma Moma, I think and he draws a bunch of mecha using a similar fineliner. I don’t know a gel pen, I forget which one it is exactly but he too draws a lot of mechas and mechanical things and machines and I think both us and him we’ve figured out that gel pens give you that very clean line and it makes sense to then draw things that are clean lined with it.
When were Gel Pens invented?
Minjal: The the gel pen technology I believe is fairly recent, I think it was was during the 1980s?
Vishal: I certainly don’t remember seeing anything called a gel pen until the late 90s pretty much, as a general use thing, maybe they were specialized before, but in India certainly I remember gel pens being like a new thing.
Samir: I think the gel pen as we know it now was invented somewhere in 1983-84 by Sakura in Japan. It was quite an innovation to move from ball pens where the ink was oil-based, to something like this, which again just gets rid of so many of the problems that old ball pens had.
We’ve covered in our Reynolds ball pen video that newer ball pens are much better than they used to be. They are almost as smudge-free as this one. But when these first came out they would have been a huge improvement over ball pens in the 1980s.
So Sakura came up with these in Japan initially and then I think their first American version were the Gelly Rolls which we will also cover in one of our future videos. So, the gel pen has been quite an interesting innovation.
What is Xanthan and Tragacanth Gum?
Minjal: So they mostly work the way they do because of the the gel base?
Vishal: And what is the gel in there? It’s clearly it’s not the kind of Jell-O that you end up eating with with ice cream.
Samir: Surprisingly it’s not that far off. I mean the ink and the color that’s a different story but as far as the gel is concerned, when gel pens started they used gelling agents. So essentially they are chemicals that you add to water to give it that viscosity and the gelling agents used when they started especially were natural gelling agents. I think the gelling agent used were xanthan gum which was invented in the 60s.
Vishal: It’s a common additive, it’s there in most foods.
Samir: And these days you can find xanthan gum in certain, you know, ice creams and desserts.
Vishal: Yeah, you can find it gained a great footing in regular acceptance outside industrial food acceptance in the whole molecular gastronomy movement in food in the 2000’s.
Samir: But the interesting thing is that xanthan gum like gel pens is a relatively new invention, 1960s. But the other material that’s also used as a gelling agent is a gum called tragacanth gum, which is the sap of a tree.
I believe tragacanth is kind of Greek for goat’s thorn. So it’s this tiny little bush I assume which gives out this sap and that was the gelling agent used in some of the initial pens and I mean we like to dig through these stories about stationery and everything has a connection.
Tragacanth gum is quite old, it’s been used traditionally in the Middle East for I’m guessing hundreds if not thousands of years. I believe most of it is even today grown in Iran. So it’s been used medicinally, it’s been used artistically for centuries. In the Middle East, tragacanth gum is what’s used as kind of the substrate when they’re marbling paper. It’s also one of the gums used in the production of chalk pastels. So there are a lot of stationery connections to these common materials and yes you can also eat it! So that’s quite a material.
Vishal: I think a line of edible gel pens is certainly the future. I know there was a line of perfumed gel pens.
Samir: There was a line of food perfumed crayons which Crayola had to stop because kids did end up eating them and they were not meant to. So food flavored things is a dangerous road to go down I think.
Vishal: I think we’re veering off topic, but yes, as far as the Rorito gel pen is concerned, I think we really don’t have anything bad to say about this.
Samir & Vishal: We’re fans!
Samir: The only other sort of aside and interesting piece of trivia is that the Rorito, it’s made by an Indian company called GM Pens and until about 2016 they were the ones who were licensed to make the Reynolds pen. So essentially this pen at some point was a Reynolds pen, I assume.
Vishal: The Reynolds Fasty just does not have the same ring to it, but okay those are legal quandaries and they’re interesting, it’s a it’s a multi-character, multi-generational affair. But right now this thing is the Rorito Fasty gel pen, it’s very cheap, we love it, you can do all sorts of things with it. Is there anything that you would like to try doing with it Minjal, after seeing this range?
Minjal: I’ll probably try some illustration art like you’ll have. Maybe incorporate it with my lettering.
Vishal: I like the way these letters kind of just tumble into each other and then some of the slabs of them.
Minjal: Yeah I call it the alphabet drop!
Samir: Alphabet drop soup!
Samir: I think we’ve covered most of it and this is really just one of those instruments that is utterly simple and you should just go out and use one.
Vishal: It’s a no-brainer, get one, use one for all sorts of applications. There is really nothing to say other than tell us what gel pens you get for the equivalent of 5 Indian Rupees in your part of the world. Show us things that you do with it. We’d really like to see what people do with these humble but useful things. Until the next time where can everyone find Inky Memo, Samir?
Samir: Inky Memo is at inkymemo.com where you can sign up for our e-newsletter. Please do sign up and subscribe to the YouTube channel, we bring out an episode every week or so and we hope to keep going with these and making more of them.
Vishal: And you can find me most places @allvishal which is on screen right now. There’s always allvishal.com and more social media. We post these artworks separately and in higher resolutions, of course, as stills, mostly when the episodes drop or a day after so you can get a better look at them there. There is all the rest of our work that we do, Samir’s paper stuff is at papernautic.com which is how we ended up getting these pens. Samir what do you have to say to our people before we go?
Samir: Use all your stationery!
Get the Rorito Fasty Gel Pens
1. Rorito Fasty Gel Pen | Set of 20 (Black) – https://amzn.to/3BpZjY3
2. Rorito Fasty Gel Pen – Pack in 50 Pen (Black) – https://www.amazon.in/dp/B07JKMVN8K/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_DYXVSX5D74MMCG9WFY8B