Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Some Thoughts on the Koh-I-Noor Rapido Sketch

        So I’ve had a couple of days to play around with my new Koh-I-Noor Rapido Sketch pen and I thought I’d take a moment to discuss first impressions of the pen and what it’s been like using it for inking.

Also here's a new page.  The pose is sadly pretty uninspired but I like it overall since I got to draw lots of weird little details.


        The Rapido Sketch is a technical pen similar to the Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph.  There are a few characteristics that distinguish the Rapido Sketch from the Rapidograph:

·         Price – this is a big one, as the Rapido Sketch tends to be cheaper than the Rapidograph (although this is relative as both are expensive pens)

-          Rapidograph: retail price on these pens is around $35 each, although shopping around online you can find them offered for as low as $25; there are also 7 pen sets which can sell for anywhere between $75 to around $150 online.

-          Rapido Sketch: retail price is $21.40, but looking around online you should be able to find one for between $10 and $15.

·         Drawing Angle – this is probably the most important difference because, as the name implies, the Rapido Sketch actually allows you to hold the pen in your hand naturally while you draw with it, while the Rapidograph requires more of a unique form.

-          Rapidograph –   I’ve never actually used a Rapidograph, but the consensus online seems to be that when using it you have to hold the pen at almost a 90 degree angle (straight up and down) from the page in order to make the ink come out.  This is because it’s primarily a drafting tool rather than a drawing tool.

-          Rapido Sketch – this pen seems designed with artists in mind because you can hold it at a natural angle for drawing and ink will come out.

·         Nib Sizes

-          Rapidograph – there are 13 different nib sizes ranging from very fine to very broad.

-          Rapido Sketch – there are a whopping 3 different nib sizes to choose from: .25 mm, .35mm, and .5 mm. 

·         Packaging

-          Rapidograph – sold individually in blister packs, or sometimes sold in a plastic case which contains the pen and a nib key (used for removing the part of the pen that contains the nib for cleaning purposes).  In the 7 pen sets you get a bottle of Koh-I-Noor’s Rapidraw black India ink as well as a nib key.

-          Rapido Sketch – sold in a plastic case which comes with a bottle of Koh-I-Noor’s Rapidraw black India ink

·         Appearance

-          Rapidograph – the pens have a white plastic case with color coded caps to denote nib sizes.  From an aesthetic standpoint, I personally like the looks of the Rapidograph better than the Rapido Sketch.

-          Rapido Sketch – the pens have a dark brown (or possibly oxblood) colored case with the nib size written in white on the top of the cap. 

Out of the Box

        There’s not a whole lot to be said about the pen right out of the packaging.  Holding it in my hand, it felt solidly constructed, if a bit plain to look at.  Basically it looked like a typical fountain pen.

        For a lot of people this is where their experience with technical pens starts and ends.  The reason is because there’s a bit of preparation involved before you can actually use the pen.

        First you have to fill the thing with ink, which involves taking apart the pen and filling the ink well.  This isn’t necessarily hard, but it’s a little confusing if you’ve never done it before and the packaging does not include any instructions to help you with the process.

A Rapido Sketch broken down into its component parts.

        Now that you’ve got ink in the pen, you’ve got to get the ink flowing, and this is where things get tricky.  Basically, what you want to do is hold the pen with the tip facing downwards and gently shake it up and down.  You should hear something that sounds like a ball bearing moving back and forth inside of the pen while you do this.  If you’re not making any progress with the shaking, you can put the cap on the pen and then gently tap the pen against a tabletop.  Eventually (maybe after a few minutes) you’ll get some ink flowing when you press the pen to paper, and then you’re ready to start using it.

Inking with the Rapido Sketch

        One of the first things I noticed while using the pen is that it feels very scratchy compared to a marker-like artist pen.  In fact the experience is very similar to using a crow quill for inking, but without the fear that you’re going to leave a big black spot of ink if you press too hard.

        The next thing I noticed is that the Rapido Sketch performs much better on certain types of paper.  On sketch paper for example, it’s a real struggle to move the pen across the paper with any kind of fluidity as it seems as if it’s catching on the fibers of the paper.  On Bristol board with a vellum finish the pen handles a lot more smoothly.

        Browsing different message boards, the consensus seems to be that both the Rapidograph and the Rapido Sketch are intended to be used on paperboard, preferably something with a slick finish (such as a smooth finish on Bristol board).  Using the pen on other types of paper also carries with it the risk that paper fibers will get caught up in the pen’s tip, eventually clogging it and rendering it useless.

        In terms of how the Rapido Sketch handles versus the Pitt Artist pens that I’ve been using…honestly, there’s not a huge world of difference in terms of the final product.  Based on my limited experience so far, I would say the artist pens are better suited to inking figures and larger shapes, while the Rapido Sketch is more suited to inking finer details, such as details of the face, certain types of textures, stippling (pointillist style), and obviously machinery and other man-made structures (makes sense given that it’s still a drafting tool at the end of the day).

Side by side comparison of performance between a Pitt Artist Pen with a .01 mm nib and the Koh-I-Noor Rapido Sketch with a .25 nib.  As you can see, the two are not vastly different, although the Rapido Sketch does produce consistent line width whereas the Pitt pen can vary line width based on pressure. 

        The other thing is that, when I am inking with artist pens, I tend to trace a line first, then go back and trace them a second time, thickening them in certain places to try and add more line variety.  With the Rapido Sketch, it’s difficult to ink that way because 1) the lines are really thin and 2) you can get a bit of build up of ink in areas you’re retracing which can get smeared or otherwise make a mess.

An example of where I think the Rapido Sketch is most useful.  All of the texturing was done with the Rapido Sketch and I like the uniformity of line width for that purpose.  The outlining of the figures was done with the .01 mm artist pen.

        One thing to keep in mind about that assessment is that I am using the .25 Rapido Sketch, which is the smallest size available, limiting its usefulness as a general purpose pen.  The .35 and the .50 nibs on the Rapido Sketch would probably have a bit more utility in terms of general inking duties.

More textures done with the Rapido Sketch.  Here I think the uniform lines don't work quite as well because the objects are supposed to be more organic and flowing.  That being said, I may also have just rendered it poorly.

        All that being said, I really like the Rapido Sketch and I find it really useful as a fine detail pen.   I really like how it performs when I have to ink small details on faces like eyes, noses and mouths.  I also really like how textures come out when I am using the Rapido Sketch to fill in details.


         Cleaning the pen isn't really that bad and at some point you're going to have to clean it.  If you're using it every day and it has ink in it then the pen can sit for a week or two between cleanings, but if you're using it more sporadically then the pen needs to be cleaned after each use.

        The process involved isn't too bad really.  Just take apart the pen, run the pieces under warm water then dump the pieces into a mixture of warm water and soap and let them sit for about 15 minutes.

        The only thing that proves a bit of a challenge is getting the nib clean.  In the photo of the disassembled pen above you'll notice that there's a little casing which fits around the nib.  Well, normally with a Rapidograph you get a little tool called a nib key which lets you unscrew the nib from that casing so you can clean it.  With the Rapido Sketch, the nib key isn't included, so you have to find a different way to take it apart.  I've been using the pliers on a multi-tool I have lying around to do it.

Closing Thoughts

        If you’re on the fence about using technical pens, the Rapido Sketch probably isn’t a bad way to get your feet wet.  Compared to a Rapidograph or other technical pen, the initial investment is relatively low and you’re getting a pen with a little more versatility.  However, unless you are only going to use the pen for doing very fine detail work, you might consider getting either the .35 or .5 size as the .25 is really limited in how it can be used.

      In other news, I’ve scrapped the Ruins storyline from the book because I hated how it was turning out.  Current page count is 19.

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