Tools O The Trade

Here are my current tools of the trade and current colour naming conventions. The pens from left to right, top to bottom are;

Pentel Brush Pen. They are usually in black but this is a green and red one.

An A.G. Spalding BRFT220 Medium, which is smooth as silk but has fairly small cartridges and a medium nib that I find a bit thick.

The red one is the Platinum Desk Pen in fine. I’m doing most of my drawing with this at the moment.

The black and silver is a Sailor HighAce Neo. It’s a bit of a cheap pen, and the nib doesn’t flow particularly well, and it feels flimsy and light, but I really like it for some reason.

I fill all the linework pens with Platinum Carbon Ink. I flippin love that ink; Nice and black, waterproof and I’ve never had it clog a pen.

The Pentel Aquapens are a mix of medium and broad tips and are all filled with diluted Windsor & Newton ink, mixed by hand to my exacting specifications. I use some colours far more than others, and the more vivid ones use some Colourcraft Brusho powdered inks. I’m not so keen on them as they aren’t waterproof like the W&N inks, and tend to clog up the Aquapens, pretty much ruining them. I haven’t found a very good way to un-clog them yet. When I do, I’ll let you know!

I was asked how I refill the cartridges, so here’s what I do. I refill them myself after a couple of disastrous encounters with converters. I’m not keen on them at all now.

Before you start, you’ll need some kitchen towel. On occasions, refilling your pens can be much like Seaworld; The front rows WILL get splashed. Aside from that, You’ll need some Platinum Carbon Ink and a syringe. I got about 20 of these for about £2 from eBay. They aren’t sharp, which is frankly a blessing. This needle is about 2 inches long. That’ll be important if you want to keep your fingers relatively clean.

Remove the cartridge and syringe out and cheeky ink still lurking at the bottom. It could probably do with a wipe as well.

This bit is difficult to do and take photos at the same time, so here’s what I did; filled my syringe with about 10ml and very carefully and slowly re-fill the cartridge, drawing the needle out as the ink goes in. I think that the cartridges hold 10ml, but you’ll get an incorrect reading on the side of the syringe if you’ve got a long needle. It’s best to have too little than too much. This is the bit where you’ll know you’ve gone too far if you end up with inky fingers. If that happens, immediately sop it up with that kitchen roll I demanded you prepare beforehand. You will have inky fingernails for a good fortnight in such an event.

Keep the cartridge upright as you put it back into the pen. This is the point at which you’ll find out if you’ve over-filled it if you end up with inky fingers. Screw it all back up and squirt any leftover ink back into the bottle.

That’s about it, really.


  • I’m really surprised that this doesn’t have any comments, because I found this a really good article! I have the same Platinum pen, which I’ve been using with watercolours. I recently left it on the windowsill on a really hot day, which caused the ink to leak - covering my hands in that superblack, super-sticky ink. Erk! Other than that, it’s a great pen.

    One thing though - how come you have words describing the colour of the water brushes, and not a swatch of the ink itself?

  • Thanks Pete!

    I have all the swatches above my desk for reference if I need it, but I don’t have a swatch of the ink on the label of the for a few reasons. Firstly, I like making up silly names for the colours (see ‘sallow’, red-ish etc) secondly, the masking tape I use doesn’t take the ink particularly well, and the masking tape itself needs replacing occasionally because of my grubby little mitts!

    I also use these pens all over the place, in a real mix of different lights, from natural light, striplights, lightbox, desk lamp etc, so grasping at what I think may be the particular shade of ‘sallow’ isn’t guaranteed. It’s just easier this way!

  • Thanks for clearing that up! I mainly use those brushes for watercolours, but I have a few set aside for black ink washes - I might try something similar…

  • I have been drawing for a few days with the Platinum desk pen after reading Dan’s great post, and I love it! It does resist pretty strong washes with the carbon ink so I have been using it to complement the quills / india ink when I need to go fast.
    Also, I am trying the ink in a Kuretake n. 40 fountain sable brush and it’s quite phenomenal as well… except the pen costs more than the U.S. national debt.

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  • thanks for the review. On the masking tape, consider replacing with white electrician’s tape (3M is the best) and write directly with thin permanent marker.

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  • Hi Dan,
    Today I received the Platinum Carbon Fountain and its looks pretty good. I received one cartridge with the pen which has steel ball at the top. My concern is that do I have to take it off or fit the cartirdge directly like that? Please help me on this.

  • Well, of course! I’ve been listening to your podcast to inspire me back to the drawing board after a ludicrous year at the day job. My first night back I decided to try the watercolour pens for the first time and then panicked about whether I should clean them out every time now they are full of ink. Of course, of course, it’s your website that provides the answer. Thanks for the inspiration, Dan, and the super useful geeky details.

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