Pens and the Art of Rapidograph Maintenance

I feel the need to discuss my relationship with my pens, since they have been a big part of my life lately.  There are a few different types of pens around for illustrators.  There’s the old fashioned crow quill, the felt-tipped Micron(r), and then there’s the Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph(r).

I recently upgraded to a full, 7-size set of Rapidographs (thanks for the Christmas present, dad!).  My feelings on Rapidographs can most accurately be summed up in the following quote, from Wayne’s World 2:

“So there I am, in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, at about 3 o’clock in the morning, looking for one thousand brown M&Ms to fill a brandy glass, or Ozzy wouldn’t go on stage that night. So, Jeff Beck pops his head ’round the door, and mentions there’s a little sweets shop on the edge of town. So – we go. And – it’s closed. … Well, instead of a guard dog, they’ve got this bloody great big Bengal tiger. I managed to take out the tiger with a can of mace, but the shopowner and his son… that’s a different story altogether. I had to beat them to death with their own shoes. Nasty business, really. But, sure enough, I got the M&Ms, and Ozzy went on stage and did a great show.”

Rapidographs are truly the best pens out there.  Their perfect, unending, smooth lines make my heart soar with joy.  However, the amount of upkeep that Rapidographs require is nothing short of ridiculous.  Hence, my relationship with my pens has been intense, as one of my friends just recently pointed out.

My set of Rapidographs ranges from size 2 to size 6xo, meaning size zero, but six times finer.  Just taking that pen out of the case requires some pre-meditation.  Rapidographs, especially the smaller sizes, are constantly in danger of clogging.  Usually, it takes me roughly 2-3 times as long to clean my pens as it does to make an actual drawing with them.  Oh, and if you’re planning on buying some Rapidographs (retail approximately $30/each) you must assume that they will be totally worthless without an accompanying pen cleaning set.  They must NEVER be shaken (actually in mentioned in capitals in the directions that come with them), and if you take them on an airplane, or a particularly warm car, they will explode/leak ink all over the place, usually resulting in clogging and possible heartbreak.

I worry constantly about the tips of these pens.  Anything smaller than a size zero looks to be finer than one of my hairs, and I struggle with the idea that a particularly overzealous stipple will bend the tip, which I hear is roughly the cost of the pen to replace.  Again, heartbreak.

Well, truth be told, It’s all worth it.  My set of Rapidographs has brought me more joy than any man ever will (just kidding, guys).  But seriously, they are fantastic pens, and they make my heart race every time I use them (partly because I’m nervous… perhaps I should learn to slow my heartbeat and draw between beats, like a long distance sniper…) They produce perfectly round stipples, smooth lines, and pure happiness, just as long as I keep up my end of the relationship.  Now, back to those fish…



  1. James

    I’ve messed around with the microns before and it’s true that good pen can truly bring me to tears. But good pens are just like anything else. Quality can make or break the trade.
    That’s just nuts though! I didn’t know that they got that intricate.
    Keep rockin though! The blog looks awesome and it seems like you are doing good!

  2. Pingback: Here in Europe you see some European-ass stuff. -

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