Fineliner pens are a staple in every illustrator and artist’s toolbox, but surely all fine liners are not made equal. Among the many contenders for black fineliner art pens, is the Sakura Pigma Micron pen series the most reliable technical or waterproof art pen you can get? We test out the Pigma Micron pens on Ligne Claire art, fine line illustration, and even stippled lettering to put them through their faces. Watch to see what we found.
Reviewing Sakura Pigma Micron Set
Vishal: Hello and welcome to Stationery Test Drive. Every week we take tools and implements and papers and other stationery on interesting test drives. I’m Vishal.
Samir: I’m Samir.
Minjal: This is Minjal.
Vishal: Today we’re looking at the Pigma Micron Pens from Sakura in Japan. We love fineliners on this show, we’ve covered this thing’s sort of chief rival which is the Uni Pin fineliner and we love those. But this is the first time I was using Microns. They have been engineered to have precise points, they are available in a variety of colors, what we have tested is a set of blacks, and they have archival ink.
Samir: I think overall amongst artists around the world to a large extent the Microns are kind of the default fineliners.
Vishal: Now I used to think that a 005 meant that it was like a metric number, but no actually here in small text it says 0.20 mm line. And so it’s a gauge not a mathematical kind of measure.
Samir: It’s not a measurement of the width of the nib, it’s a system of measurement that they have come up with for tip sizes.
Vishal: Okay! Minjal please shows your test drive, because that is what we do every week here, we test drive these.
Stippling with Sakura Pigma Micron Fineliners Set
Minjal: I tried with this with the 05, I think, which is broader compared to the 005. I’ve never really tried stippling, I know that stippling is probably done better with technical drafting pens that Rotring makes. But I have seen a lot of artists use the Pigma Microns for stippling, so I wanted to give it a try and yeah I enjoyed using the Pigma Microns.
What is Stippling Art?
Vishal: Stippling is where you just literally just hammer the page with it.
Minjal: Yes, you try to get the gradation by making denser dots or circles. The 005 actually I pressed it a little too hard in the beginning and I thought I had lost the nib. But then I realized that the Sakura Pigma is famous for a reason. I managed to finish the whole piece with that nib that I thought I had damaged!
Vishal: I think consistency and reliability are the hallmarks of the Sakura Pigma Micron fineliners.
Samir: Yeah I’m guessing that’s the main reason they are so ubiquitous.
Vishal: Specially in production or time-oriented things like comic book making or even sketching at conventions, you will often see people using Microns because they’re just that reliable. They are lightfast like we said, they go down easily, they dry, you can do stippling with them, you can do marks!
Minjal: Every second Instagram reel is actually Zentangle or Doodle Art with the Pigma Microns.
Vishal: So now I’m interested in how you got these to go over a color. First of all tell us what color treatment you used?
Minjal: I used our favorite Ecoline Inks, dipped it in a brush, a regular brush, wrote this out first and then tried stippling over the color.
Illustration with Sakura Pigma Micron Fineliners Set
Vishal: It’s come down pretty well, but it also kind of blended. And I think that is something that I noticed, just compared to the Uni Pins that we used, the ink here I think is a little greyer, and this is not a bad thing necessarily, but it’s a little more translucent than the very almost too-inky black of the Uni Pins that I love because I’ve mostly used Uni Pins and I enjoy the really deep black that you get out of that. You can’t put down a huge swathe of it, but this one I think it would be interesting to lean into that grayness, I did not lean into that grayness, and I’ll show you my test drive here.
When we did the Uni Pins I had done some kind of animal-creature sort of art and I thought let me do the same kind of thing and see what it’s like. In the Uni Pins case I feathered all my lines, in that I would almost not use the full pressure of the pen, never. So you get this very wavy kind of line.
In this case I did not do that. I used this almost like a digital tool, where I’d always put down even pressure, so they’re complete lines. Anywhere I was lifting off, I was lifting off deliberately rather than letting the texture of the page break it up. And this was a very different way of doing it. It feels different, but it comes out well.
And, the control that you get out of a fineliner, where the line is going, and it goes there. You’d never have to think again, once you’re sort of set into the flow of things it’s very good and very easy to use and that’s why I think people use it for art, even though it’s a thing that was almost made for or derived from technical things.
Samir: I think the dependability of this medium compared to any sort of other pen you would use, whether it’s regular markers, this is just so much more dependable. The effect, the results that you get, the line that you get, is pretty much even throughout. And I have to say the Pigmas are just, it feels like the the nibs are very sturdy.
Vishal: Like I said, I was fine putting down more pressure on these. Sometimes I do feel that about the Uni Pins, that I might be putting too much pressure and then it’ll just pop in.
Samir: Yeah and I have faced that before, Minjal saw some of it happening here, but obviously it lasted well beyond when you sort of impacted it in a little. So that definitely makes this, just physically as well, I think these pens are really sturdy. They have that metal clip, they feel more like a serious tool.
Vishal: It’s a 5% difference, it’s not like I’m saying the Uni Pins are bad, because I love the Uni Pins. We’ve tried a few now, we’ve tried the Uni Pin, we’ve tried the Snowman, we’ve tried the Pigmas now, I would not say no to any of them, but I think the Pigmas and the Unis are almost you know neck and neck. I’d say on the darkness of the ink I like the Unis, on the way I could get a nice even line I like the Pigmas. And, it’s Sakura! We’ve done a bunch of Sakura tools before, we only really disliked one of them I think, which was the Permapaques.
Samir: Yeah, which I’m sure they’re improving as we speak.
Vishal: And that’s the thing about Sakura, they just know how to do it. They’re great value for money
Minjal: And also we’ve had these for some time, the inks haven’t dried out.
Samir: This set is at least 2 or 3 years old.
Vishal: Really, get them, there’s nothing bad here. And I don’t think Samir you had much of a bad experience with it either.
Samir: No, I went for illustration again and I went for a very sort of comic style illustration.
Vishal: Ligne Claire, I think is the the French term for ‘the clear line’.
Comic Illustration with Sakura Pigma Micron Fineliner Set
Samir: Yeah, I tried to do something that really lent into the different line weights, so that I could create that sense of depth. So I tried to do something that I would imagine can be colored digitally. And I really enjoyed using these.
They were great, I do think that the variety in size is a little redundant at times. I found myself mostly sticking to three sizes. I think the 05 is a must, that’s like the perfect middle size. You need one that’s thinner, so that could be the 003 or the 005, I didn’t find myself needing one over the other, either would do. And I think having a 08 as a thicker version.
I didn’t end up using the PN which is the sign pen, but then I don’t look for the sign pen style of things when I’m looking for a fineliner. I’d rather use a Fude Pen, Fudenosuke which we have covered, because that has more fluidity and more variety in its line, but this one is a decent sign pen from what I’ve tried now. Minjal, you tried it?
Minjal: I tried it, some of the stippling I’ve done, the darker parts are with the sign pen. And like you said I actually also enjoyed the Fude pen, the Tombow.
Vishal: We need to talk about the way these are made like technical pens, you have a metal tip that goes almost all the way to the actual marker. The marker is quite literally a tip, so what it’s made for technically is, you put a ruler down and then you just do a pen stroke like that, which will always give you an even line.
Samir: As I said, as an artist I would go lighter on a 08 to get something between a 05 and 08, I would go heavier on the 05, if I wanted something in between, but as an engineer or someone doing technical drawings, you need to have that straight line where you can just apply an even pressure and get a dependable line, in which case then yes, having the 6 sizes or 8 sizes makes complete sense.
And if you’re doing something like stippling then obviously the fude or the sign pen is just much hardier because you can tap it without the nib going in.
And it’s quite interesting that we have talked about Sakura before. They’re the ones who invented the oil pastel and also invented the gel pen, all colorful stationery objects. But it’s also interesting that the thing that maybe Sakura is the most popular for amongst artists, which is the Pigma Micron Fineliner, is actually not colored.
Minjal: Sakura also invented the Pigma ink which is a pigment based ink, right?
Samir: I think, traditionally felt pens were dye-based, which means that it kind of soaks into paper. I think when they decided to make a felt based, technical pen, they wanted it to be archival, which dye-based inks are just not after exposure to UV light for a while it kind of fades away. So they wanted something that was archival which kind of sat on the surface of the paper rather than seeped in, so you would get these very clean technical lines. And also something that was waterproof.
Like you’re doing an architectural drawing, you make the lines, and then you do a watercolor wash on it, you can do that with these pens, you can’t with most felt tip pens. So, I guess they developed this ink which is pigment-based. And of course, pigment being a particulate matter, they needed to invent a way to make pigment particles that were on the sub micron level, so that it would flow through these really, really tiny cylindrical tips.
So yeah it was quite a technological achievement to get here and then I guess now everyone’s kind of gotten the same level of fineness into their inks and that’s why fineliners are a thing.
Vishal: And hence Pigma Micron, you learn something every day on Stationery Test Drive. Or at least every week when we put out an episode, and you can learn more things about stationery like this, stories like this on the Inky Memo website. As well as please subscribe to our Inky Memo newsletter over there.
Samir: And if you’ve enjoyed this video you really should see the video we have on the Uni Pin which is our other favorite fineliner. And also check out Sakura’s other great pen which is the White Gelly Roll. You should like those.