Fun With Parallel Pens

Pilot Parallel Pens are a wonderful addition to any art journal page. As do all parallel pens, it writes a broad smooth line, a tender fine hairline, and decorative strokes. The pens come in four widths: 1.5mm, 2.4mm, 3.8mm, or 6mm. The ink feeds across the writing edge and when I try it, it’s smooth and even. (Pen and Ink Arts has some exclusive sizes: 1mm 2mm, 3mm, and 4mm and 6mm slant)

If you have used parallel pens, you know how they write–you can use them for the traditional calligraphic strokes. But, I’m not calligrapher, so I misued mine immediately. Each pen comes with a red and black cartridge, and packages of cartridges are easy to buy– and come in 11 colors including red, black, blue, green, and a box of mixed colors. Each package also comes with a converter bladder device, so you can use Higgins, Dr. Ph. Martin or other inks.

To my great surprise, you can pull out the cartridge and use the barrel itself as an ink reservoir. This is wonderful for mixing your own inks or gouache. You can also use the barrel to create one kind of ink–Payne’s Gray, let’s say, and then dip the ink in another color, you get wonderful blends. (The Harmless Dilettante has some great examples.)  Of course, you can do this with traditional colors–blue to green, purple to black. But that’s not what I did.

Color sample of Dutch Blue, Interference Blue, Shimmering Black on black Artagain paper.

Color sample of Dutch Blue, Interference Blue, Shimmering Black on black Artagain paper.

I found two incredible watercolor inks–an interference blue made my Dawler-Rowney, that looks watery white in the bottle. And a water-based acrylic ink called Shimmering Black, which I put in the pen, made sure it was writing well, then dipped the nib into interference blue and wrote with it.

The result was an incredible blend of shimmer and shine in each letter. Unfortunately, I dropped the wet sample I was working on face-down on my desk before I could photograph it. Interference and sparkle colors don’t photograph well, anyway. I hope the  sample on the left will do to describe the color.

The point (I’m just going to ignore that) of this is that the Pilot parallel pens are versatile, easy to use, and come with cleaners for people like me who use acrylics that aren’t meant for those pens in them anyway. If you are going to experiment, buy an acrylic ink cleaner right away. I’m glad I did.

You can also turn the pen up on its corner and write like a monoline pen. I did that with the ink mix and while it’s not as obvious (the line is thinner, after all), it makes a great new kind of calligraphy.

Disclosure: I purchased all my Pilot pens and inks myself. I was not compensated in any way to write this article.

Quinn McDonald is the author of Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art.   Quinn will experiment and possibly ruin pens and inks in pursuit of meaning-making,  and not mind a bit.