Uni Pin Fine Line Marker Test

We test out the ubiquitous Uni Pin Fine Line marker pen and review whether it’s any good in a world of an increasing range of fineliner options. Is the Uni Pin fine liner a good drawing pen, for illustration and technical drawing? And is it one of the best waterproof pens available for a reasonable price compared to it’s competitors like the Micron? Watch our test to find out.

Reviewing the Uni Pin Fine Marker

Samir: Welcome to Stationery Test Drive, today we are going to be covering the Uni Pin Fine Line Marker. I am Samir.

Minjal: This is Minjal.

Vishal: And I am Vishal, and before we go into the test drive itself Samir why don’t you tell us a little about what you’re up to?

Samir: I have mostly been concentrating on my papercraft. You can see me @papernautic on Instagram and also papernautic.com. I recently finished a origami workshop on Instagram and I’m going to be putting out more work soon.

Vishal: Minjal?

Minjal: Well, Samir and I have actually been researching and designing some merchandise for Inky Memo, so I’ve been neck deep in handling logistics for the same. Sourcing envelopes, going to the post office, those kind of things, so that we can have these products delivered to our audiences.

Vishal: And I’ve been in the pre-production stage of a animated film. I don’t know how long the film is so I don’t want to commit to it either being a short film or a long film. It will be abstract, it will be musical, hopefully, and you should see it in 2022 sometime. It’s a big long gap expected more to the end rather than the beginning but it will be there, so follow me on @allvishal on social media for updates for the same eventually.

Samir: So now let’s get back to the Uni Pin Fine Liner which is what we are covering today. Fine Liners are now pretty much a ubiquitous part of every artist’s toolbox because I guess they are just one of the most convenient kinds of pens that you can have and the fact that you get them at these various nib sizes just makes them more convenient for anything from illustration to lettering to even technical drawing. So I think let’s start with showing what we tested this out with.

Illustration with the Uni Pine Fine Line Marker

Uni Pin Fine Line Illustration 1 scaled

Vishal: So, since I’m an illustrator I went with an actual illustration. This is done with the Uni Pin 0.1 actually for most of it, just to see the kind of range that you can get from one single pen. I know we have a couple of weights here, 0.8, 0.3 and artists usually buy them in sets, I do as well. I use them in sets, so for thicker lines I would usually use a 0.4 or 0.8, but in this case I used the 0.1 to show the range that you can get. If you’re not familiar, the tips are extremely fine that’s why they’re called pin and fine liners, and they aren’t really mathematical are they Samir? It’s not like 0.1 is a 0.1 mm or something like that?

Samir: No, I don’t know the exact correlation but I mean it’s it’s not an exact measurement from what I understand.

Vishal: So this is the 0.8 and it has a stubbier tip, but even with this, with the light application of pressure you can get from very thin lines, all the way to extremely thick ones and then you can go over them which is what I do many times to get that finessed line weight. Samir why don’t you show us what you’ve done so that we can see what else you can do with the fine line?

Samir: I think we can show both of these.

One Line Drawing with the Uni Pin Fine Line Marker

One line art Uni Pin Fine Line 2

Vishal: Yeah let’s just show all of our work, that’s the test drive part of Stationery Test Drive. So now three very different approaches. I don’t know if most people would think that they were made with the same implement but they are. Minjal you seem to have gone completely freehand with this, unless you did the border in freehand in which case you are an alien and I’m afraid of you.

Minjal: Yeah, maybe I’ll get there someday, but I used a steel ruler and I think the the benefit of using the fine liner is that the metal cladding over the tip of the pen really helps. So when you want to use it against a ruler, it’s not really going to spoil the tip too much.

Vishal: Right, and it’s also not going to spill over onto the ruler which is a problem that we often have with more brush like implements like brush pens and even fountain pens. There’s always some residue left on the ruler and when you pull it away it gets stuck on there. And neatness is one of the reasons fine liners are really useful for all sorts of things. Remember people, we’re artists and calligraphers, but there are people who just use these every day, they are perfectly great just to use for writing down stuff. And Samir you have written down one very fine line. Tell us about that.

3D Lettering with Uni Pin Fine Line Marker

Typography with Uni Pin Fine Line

Samir: Yeah I mean, this was in the spirit of stationery test drive. I just wanted to use a series of these pens. I used a 0.8, 0.3 and 0.1 and just kind of made a a fairly abstract design and some lettering because I think these kind of pens can be really nice for lettering. Just to see what kind of effects could be gotten with the range of sizes.

Vishal: So I see you’ve got a very clean line here, there’s not a lot of bleed here which is something we all like when we’re doing these sorts of very technical, accurate work.

3D Lettering with Uni Pin Fine Line

Samir: Yes absolutely, and I try to have a variation between freehand curves and of course, while these lines use a ruler to get the straight line, you can go over things to make them thicker. But if you’re very careful with it you can also just pull lines which kind of taper off. Most people use a fine liner to get very technical lines which are all even and perfectly the same width across but it’s not like you can’t do things which are a bit more varied.

Vishal: Right so we also like to talk about the different papers here because papers actually form a crucial factor in how a line goes down. You’ve done it on copy paper which is 60 gsm or 80 gsm. Very thin, you wouldn’t think of it as an artistic medium but with the right complement like a fine liner which doesn’t bleed as much you can do some pretty nice work. This one that I’ve done is probably a 160 gsm, toothy art paper and Minjal, what is this? This one is nice, smooth.

Minjal: It is more than 80 gsm for sure.

Vishal: Right, it’s about I’d say it’s a 120, it’s very nice, it almost looks like it’s digitally printed to me here it’s got a nice, very clean line. So the paper of course affects everything. The weight, you used multiple weights, I used one, Minjal, you?

One line art Uni Pin Fine Line 1

Minjal: I used the 0.8. I’ve been seeing a lot of magazine covers that are really abstract. I was going for something like that. There is a technique called the ‘one line drawing’ which I believe very popular artists like Picasso and van Gogh made popular. So, the idea is to make the entire sketch without lifting your hand from the paper. While, I had to lift my hand, it was a good practice in trying to get the overall shape in one go.

Vishal: Do you think the fine liner helped in that regard, because you’re used to calligraphy pens which have flowing fountain pen ink styles?

Minjal: Actually I found this very easy to control because the ink flow is very smooth. I could actually go back and forth, and there was no smudging or bleeding.

Vishal: I mean we don’t have a lot of bad things to say about these pens because we use them in our art and in our daily lives. But is there anything bad about these?

Samir: I don’t think so, I mean I know that in the US and in some parts of Europe the Pigma Micron is the fine liner that’s the more popular. I think growing up in India and parts of the Gulf and in Asia the Uni Pins are actually very popular and easy to get.

Minjal: Also economical.

Samir: Yeah but mostly you can get them quite easily.

Vishal: Yeah you can get them in most stationery stores.

Samir: And I think one of the reasons why these are really quite popular is because they are waterproof which you don’t quite get in most felt pens and sketch pens that you would normally find.

History of Uni Pin Fine Line Marker & the Mitsubishi Pencil Company

Vishal: Right, and Uni Pin, that’s the brand name for just this pen or is that because, I can see here that it says Mitsubishi pencil company.

Samir: Yeah, so Uni Pin is kind of a sub brand of the Uniball brand and this is all manufactured by the Mitsubishi Pencil company. I think they’re about a 100 -110 years old and they were one of the early manufacturers of pencils in Japan. In fact a lot of stationery brands in Japan started as pencil manufacturers and they diversified after that. The fine liner is kind of an interesting instrument because the felt tip pens that we now use are kind of a fairly recent development.

It started somewhere around the 1950s but before we had fountain pens with the typical kind of nib that we’re all used to seeing, pens that were very similar to this with a with a metal cylinder called the stylographic pens were kind of the first ink pens that were used, like the late 1800s. So it would use just a kind of a metal pin to hold back a free flow of the ink but it would have a similar metal cylinder at the end and that’s what was an ink pen for let’s say 10 or 20 years before the fountain pen came into being.

Vishal: And the felt tip is some kind of synthetic material so it’s hard, durable and porous as well.

Samir: Right and the felt tip I think took somewhere around 50 years after the development of the fountain, the free-flowing ink version of this to come about. Somewhere around the 50s I think Pentel, again another Japanese based company came up with the first thin nib felt pens and then I company’s like Uni Pin and others took that on.

Vishal: And these can get very thin, right, the one that is at the sort of at the bottom of the range or the finest is 0.05?

Samir: Right, and that can be really like hair width kind of lines.

Illustration with Uni Pin Fine Line 2 scaled

Vishal: I have used a 0.05 and at its full pressure it sort of produces a line like that a very thin line and I love them, I love all of them but I think you actually came across a certain problem with your 0.1, right, and the point of failure, tell us about that?

Samir: So I’ve been using these for some general portrait work and artwork other than these tests. A couple of months ago I was trying to do some stippling.

Vishal: We should explain stippling to our audience. Stippling is when you create texture or value or laying down marks usually by pressing the pen, as you keep doing it you you’re impacting the paper.

Samir: Using small dots, right. Now the problem with that is because the felt tip in these pins protrudes from the the metal cylinder, a very small amount, it may be 1 mm in most cases. You run the danger of either messing up the nib and kind of flattening it out but because these are fairly good quality and strong, what it did was actually push the felt back into the cylinder so there came a point where I couldn’t use the pen anymore because there wasn’t a nib left.

Vishal: Right and I believe there are specific stippling pens now that have solved this problem by having a nib itself that kind of moves in and takes the pressure.

Difference between Fine Line markers, Felt Tip Pens and Stylographic Pens

Samir: Which is quite interesting because that’s kind of going back in time to what these pens started as. So right now you have an ink reservoir, maybe something to slow down the ink, like in a fountain pen and then you have, a honeycomb almost and then you have the actual cylinder of synthetic felt that carries the ink forward.

Now in some of these I assume there’s nothing holding this back physically other than just the pressure of the metal cylinder. Now if you’re saying that there’s something that kind of makes it flexible where it kind of pushes it back out, that’s actually going back to the 1870s when the stylographic pens were first invented, where instead of the felt you would have a thin metal wire that went back and was held by a spring, at the back, so that when you pressed onto the metal wire ink would flow. So in some ways the solution was there all along, it’s just that it needed to be rediscovered.

Vishal: And it’s it’s an unusual use case, I’m guessing that’s why yours failed. These are made for more linear work. I think maybe at some point we should look into getting a stippling pen and seeing what that does.

Samir: Yeah that would be an interesting experiment to try.

Vishal: All right, I think we have tested our way through this pen to a fair degree. Like we said we all use this pen a lot, we use versions of this. The Uni Pins are just, look I honestly I really like the industrial design of this. I know people like the Microns and there’s the Snowbirds and all of those but I think this is a handsome pen.

Samir: Absolutely I mean I’ve used the Microns as well and we will test those out at some point but there’s just something extremely ubiquitous about this pen, like you can just carry it around as a normal pen and it doesn’t attract any attention.

Vishal: It has a nice industrial look to it. They have the number of the gauge on it, so this is 0.8, I love these details. Like, on this ring it says in a very nice, screen print I think. I know we go on about the use of stationery on this channel a lot but I think appreciating the simple pleasures of the design itself, like this window you can actually see through, it’s quite close to show it on camera but you can see through to the pen. I love the weight of the pen, the balance, the fact that the cap sits perfectly tight and it’s all these little quality of life things that make the Uni Pin Fine Line one of my favorite pens.

Samir: And you can’t discount that beautiful sound.

Vishal: yeah the experience of stationery is as important to us as the use of it. We have used it, we have experienced it, anything else you want to add or?

Samir: No I think that’s it for this one. We will be back with more tests soon of course but until then Vishal anything that you want to share?

Vishal: No, just follow us on social media I’m @allvishal on most places, Minjal?

Minjal: I’m on @minjalkadakia

Samir: I’m at @samirbharadwaj and @papernautic and do subscribe to our YouTube channel. We will be bringing out more of these, and leave your comments so that if there’s something specific you want covered and we have access to it, we will definitely track it down and talk about them. We are at inkymemo.com where we talk about the history and the stories behind stationery and please do sign up for our email newsletter which is also found at inkymemo.com. So I think that’s about it for this time we’ll be back with more in a new episode sometime next week and Vishal what do you have to say to our followers?

Vishal: Use those fine liners!

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