Archival ink and Sakura products
What is the difference between a “line width” and a “ball diameter”?
What does Sakura mean by "permanent on most surfaces?"
What are Tiara and Aqualip?
Pigma® Micron® FAQs
Pigma Micron® care
In how many colors and point sizes does the Pigma Micron® come?
The permanence of Pigma® inks
Write-out lengths of Pigma® Microns
Using Pigma® Microns on wood and fabric
Using Pigma® Microns on tableware and glassware
Hand tinting photographs and Pigma® ink
How to prevent Pigma Micron® pens from bleeding when using rulers
How to use Pigma Micron® pens with stencils
What do the numbers “005” to “08” mean on the Pigma Micron® barrel?
Gelly Roll® FAQs
Gelly Roll® Colors
How long will Gelly Roll® pens last?
Gelly Roll® pen care
Is it safe to use my Gelly Roll® pens on skin?
Can I use Gelly Roll® pens on fabric?
Gelly Roll Silver Shadow® and Gold Shadow™ performance
Are the Gelly Roll® Shadow pens safe for archival use?
What is the difference between oil pastels and pastels?
Using fixatives with Cray-Pas®
How do I protect my oil pastel piece without using a fixative or sealer directly on the artwork?
We receive many inquiries about the nature of Pigma® ink in Sakura pens, including Pigma Micron, Pigma Brush and Gelly Roll pens. We will try to cover the most common questions (so that you can get back to journaling, scrapbooking, quilting and crafting!) --
1.Pigma® is the brand name of the pigmented ink used in Sakura products. The formula for Pigma ink was developed specifically for museum archivists and conservators after extensive research and testing.
2.You may have noticed that Sakura memory products are labeled "archival.".
"Archival" suggests that these products are permanent, durable and chemically stable. They can be safely used for writing you care about saving such as legal documents, family albums or journals. This is a non-technical term, since there are no industry standards for how long "archival" or "archivally sound" materials must last. Sakura uses this term to describe the high overall quality of our Pigma® ink products along with the qualities described below.
3.Acid-Free is a deceptive term used in connection with many products in the memory market. This is also mistakenly used as a synonym for alkaline or buffered. Do not be fooled by pens or writing materials labeled "acid free" because this does not guarantee that a product is truly suitable for memory projects. There are no industry standards applicable for ensuring that a product is, indeed, acid-free.
4. Chemical stability refers to the ability to resist chemical degradation. Sakura uses one or two pigments to color its inks, to enhance their chemical stability, and to eliminate the possibility of pigment separation due to age or exposure to outside elements. Many other inks do not have the same qualities as Sakura Pigma inks!
5. Lightfastness refers to the ability to retain color over time and/or when exposed to light, heat, or other adverse conditions. Sakura Pigma® inks are light fast due to the high quality pigments that compose them.
6. Neutral pH refers to a material with a pH of 7, that is, one that is neither acid nor alkaline. Sakura's Pigma® inks dry to a neutral pH and, therefore, will not adversely effect the materials on which they are applied.
7. Permanent/permanence refers to the ability of a substance to resist change over long periods of time without significant deterioration under normal use and storage conditions. Permanence may be effected by temperature, humidity, light, and acidic or alkaline chemicals. Sakura Pigma® inks are permanent, waterproof, chemical resistant and temperature-resistant on paper and on many fabrics.
We get this question a lot because of the confusing packaging labels found in stores. It can be very confusing to consumers because the terms are related – yet not equivalent in meaning.
Line Width refers to the actual “line mark” made by a writing instrument on a substrate (usually paper). Normally this is designated by the labeling of: 1mm line, 0.35mm line … etc. The actual line width may vary based on a) the writing pressure b) the absorbency or type of paper, and (c) the speed with which one writes.
Ball Diameter refers to the “spherical ball part” of the writing instrument’s nib. Labeling on packaging will refer to this like: 0.5 mm ball ø ( the “ø" symbol means “diameter”). The ball diameter indication is only used for writing instruments that utilize “ball nib technology” and is not used for writing instruments that utilize “fiber or plastic nib technology."
So one term refers to the “end result” of making a mark on paper (line width) and the other term refers to a “part” of the writing instrument (ball diameter).
The use of the word “permanent” was originally intended to refer to the permanence of Sakura products on different types of paper. Using an ink intended for paper on another type of surface can dramatically alter the ink’s performance. Even specialty papers that are treated with coatings or emulsions can affect the permanence of Sakura’s products. Due to customers’ varying expectations in performance on surfaces such as glass, ceramics, cell phones, wood and plastic, we have updated the term “permanent” to “permanent on most surfaces.”
Many Sakura markers can "write" on many surfaces, but whether the mark is "permanent" or not depends on the surface and conditions (washing, scrubbing, chemicals, heat, cold, etc.), applied to the mark after the fact. No “permanent” marker can withstand every possible condition on every surface, nor are we able to test for every possible condition on every surface that may be applied to the mark after the fact. We suggest that you test first to make sure that the marker will work for your specific use and conditions.
Some of our gel ink products are marketed under different names in the USA and Japan. Gelly Roll Stardust® (US) is the same as Tiara® (Japan). Glaze® (US) and Aqualip® (Japan) are also the same.
Sakura invented Microns as an inexpensive and disposable alternative to high-priced technical pens while maintaining technical-pen quality. Microns were originally designed for fine-line technical and art drawing but their use has spread to other applications.
Micron’s best use is on paper, so non-traditional uses such as tole painting, decoupage applications, using it on canvas, decorative quilts, etc., might contribute to a bent or clogged nib.
A Micron nib may clog from use with partially dried paint or primer, wood dust, fabric dust, starches & protections on fabric surfaces and very fibrous paper. The Micron nibs are essentially “micro size plastic tubes” which allow our pigment ink formula to easily flow from the barrel to the paper. When any foreign matter clogs these tubes, the Pigma ink flow is blocked.
Microns are designed to be used at a 90⁰ degree angle, like technical pens. The smaller point sizes (005 and 01) use very delicate nibs to create the extra fine line, so they need to be used with a very light touch, no more than the weight of the pen itself. Microns require very little pressure to provide a flow of ink. If you experience a bent nib, switching to a thicker nib size, and/or using lighter hand pressure when writing, should resolve the issue.
A leak near the nib holder or ink wick could be caused by dropping, inadvertently shaking, or accidently applying centrifugal force to the pen by spinning it in your hand.
Although Sakura strives to make a durable Pigma product, it is considered a “disposable pen”. Our standard product performance is based on a 24 month shelf life. Most of our Pigma products can last longer than the 24 months (with the exception of running out of ink or damage to the nib) under ideal use conditions.
Our Gelly Roll or SumoGrip pen products provide an alternative for a more durable point and are ideally suited for everyday writing use.
Check out our new Pigma Micron Color and Size Chart.
Sakura tests the performance of their products BEFORE making any standards or performance claims. When testing lightfastness, Sakura uses large light chambers to accelerate the aging/ exposure of Pigma ink writing test samples as on a typical bright summer's day. From our tests results we estimate that our Pigma inks will not have any noticeable ink hue change for up to 100 years. Beyond this many years, the papers they are tested on become a problem and there is a question of whether the paper color is changing or the ink color is changing. Accelerated light tests such as theses are the only practical way of estimating light-fastness results.
Pigma® ink is the highest quality, archival ink that Sakura manufactures. You may want to find out if other manufacturers actually test their inks, or just make marketing claims of lightfastness.
Besides light exposure, inks can also be effected by other environmental exposures such as humidity, temperature, and airborne chemicals, and liquids. Each of these factors should be individually considered as well.
"Why does my Pigma® Micron pen run out of ink so fast?"
Simple answer - because they are loved and used so frequently!
The average write out length of the Pigma Microns 01 (.25 mm line) is 800 meters. The wider the line width, the lower the write-out length. So here are some general (approximate) length write-outs for the black ink:
a. Write-out is very dependent upon the type of paper used, e.g., cotton fiber papers absorb a lot more ink from the Micron nib than papers such as #20 lb. copier paper (which have a lot of clay content and are therefore less absorbent).
b. Write-out is affected by the "cap-off time," i.e., how long the cap is left off the pen when it is not being used.
c. Nib blockage affects write-out, so make sure your paper surface is clean and smooth.
d. Although not proven, we suspect that treating paper, for example by "paper sizing," might affect the write-out.
e. Some people try to treat the acidity of their paper by adding calcium carbonate. If they don't fully dilute the powder some of the particles may clog the Micron nibs.
Pigma Microns are considered disposable pens. The product specifications and design use are for paper and not for rough surfaces such as wood or nubby fabrics.
However, the Pigma Micron is the pen of choice for many tole painters. Here are a few helpful hints from tole painters sent to us over the years. (Note: We do not necessarily endorse these practices, and suggest each individual conduct their own tests before undertaking any project.)
a. Hold your Pigma Micron pen in a 90° degree position while writing. This will prevent uneven wear to the tip of the nib.
b. Use a 05 or 08 point size when marking against hard, rough surfaces such as wood or nubby fabrics.
c. Use more than one pen, and rotate your pen use. This allows pens to rejuvenate the ink flow overnight and this extends the life of the pen.
d. Do not press down hard on the nib while you write. The excessive pressure wears down the plastic nib faster, especially on rough surfaces.
e. Do not make long uninterrupted lines against rough paper surfaces or wood with the pen. Make shorter line strokes and the pen nib will last longer.
f. When writing on paint, make sure that the paint is fully dried, not just surfaced cured. Acrylic paints may feel dry to the touch but just below the surface, may not be. The nib picks up bits of the wet paint and will clog easily. One needs to experiment to be sure the paint is completely dry due to differences in weather conditions. Remember, the paint drying time will differ depending upon the brand of paint you use.
g. If you have one Micron pen which is out of ink (and the nib is not clogged), you can exchange its nib with another Micron pen which is not out of ink, but has a clogged nib. Here's how -- With a needle nose pliers, firmly grasp the metal sleeve and gently pull the nib straight out. A long ink wick will be attached to the back of the nib holder. This ink wick is what brings the ink to the nib. Do the same for the bad nib / ink-full pen. Now gently insert the good nib into the pen with ink. Make sure the nib assembly is seated snugly into the pen barrel. Put the cap back on the pen. Then you must wait for about 3 hours for the ink to gradually pull itself through the ink wick into the nib. Do not try to rush the process by shaking the pen - you'll only create a mess by making the ink go around the ink wick and flood the pen cap. (Note: This process does not always work, but it is worth a try. Also, do not mix ink colors. Do not take a red pen nib and insert it into a green ink pen!)
h. Do not try to put any other brand ink refill into the Pigma Microns pens. They will not work.
1. It is not advisable to use any product on tableware that may come in direct contact with food that has not been tested and cleared specifically for that use.
2. Pigma Microns are not permanent on glass. You would have to test the effect of putting glaze over them on a practice piece to see if that seals them satisfactorily for non-tableware;
3. Our inks have not been tested for use on tableware that comes into contact with food. We do not recommend that they be used in that manner.
Regardless what product you use for hand tinting, we recommend you try it on some similar photos that are not one of a kind to see how you like the results, colors, effect, etc. You might even want to wait a few weeks to check for surface degradation. If everything works out to your liking, you could then feel more confident about using that product on non-replaceable photos. Since there are so many types of photographic paper, Sakura cannot guarantee that Pigma inks will produce the hand tinting results you desire. Many photographers have told us they get the best results using non-RC (resin coated) papers.
The Pigma Micron, a technical pen used by architects and engineers to make fine lines with a constant width, can create a “bleeding effect” if the wet Pigma ink comes into contact with the underside edge of the ruler. Most plastic and metal rulers are flat which causes the ink to migrate to the underside of the ruler when the Micron’s nib comes into contact with the ruler’s edge. To prevent this bleeding effect, raise the ruler to a height so that its edge runs along the metal shaft of the Micron Pen. If raising the ruler while writing becomes a challenge, tape some pennies to the back of the ruler. This was a popular workaround used by many college architects in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The most efficient solution to prevent the Micron pen from bleeding, however, is to use an “inking ruler.” An inking ruler which is usually made out of aluminum, steel or metal, is designed with a backing that raises the edge off the surface of the paper. The raised backing prevents the nib from touching the ruler and thus prevents bleeding.
Here is a link to a webpage that shows how an inking ruler works: http://geek.focalcurve.com/archive/2005/07/inking-a-straight-line/
Standard stencils are made of thin brass and plastic, so the stencil’s edge is very sharp. If the stencil’s sharp edge comes into contact with the Micron’s plastic nib, the Micron pen may be sliced by the sharp edge and become damaged. Brass stencils were originally developed for the rubber stamping and printing industry for “Do-It-Yourself -blind embossing.” (http://www.wes-tex.com/blog/design-tips-for-blind-embossed-business-cards, http://www.aph.org/manuals/7-08844-00.pdf.) In order to use the stencil without ruining the pen nib, elevate the stencil height from the surface of the paper so that the stencil comes into contact with the metal shaft of the Micron pen.
The Pigma Micron pen was developed in the early 1980’s as a non-refillable alternative to the technical pen. At that time, refillable technical drawing ink pens were very popular and most manufacturers used a special numbering system to indicate the “point size” for each different pen nib width. Please refer to this link to get a matrix of the approximation of how this number system worked:
Sakura created a similar point size numbering system to imprint on Pigma Micron’s pen barrel, which helped technical pen users understand that this non-refillable pen was a serious drafting tool. Today, this numbering system doesn’t have any real meaning to new users of Pigma Micron, however, there are a many users from the 1980’s & 1990’s that still look for those numbers..
Today, Pigma Micron pens have both the numbering system (005, 01, 02, 03, 05, 08), as well as an approximate line width imprinted on the barrel. We say approximate line width because the actual line width can be affected by writing pressure, the absorbency of the paper and the speed of writing. The following cross reference shows the numbering system on the barrel and the approximate line width equivalent:
- 005 = 0.20mm
- 01 = 0.25mm
- 02 = 0.30mm
- 03 = 0.35mm
- 05 = 0.45mm
- 08 = 0.50mm
You could find this out by looking at the color charts on each Gelly Roll product page.
Outside of the United States and Canada --
There are Sakura offices in Japan and Europe that may help you. Please note the contact information below is for commercial inquiries:
Sakura Color Products Corp.
International Operations - 6th Floor
Mr. Hajimu Yoshimoto, Director Sales Section 1
1-6-20, Morinomiya Chuo, Chuo-ku
Osaka 540, Japan
The Gelly Roll fine point pens will write "on average" about 800 meters. The writing length varies depending on the pen "line width" of extra-fine, fine, medium or bold. Also, paper quality can affect the writing length. The more absorbent the paper fiber, the shorter the write-out.
Gel ink pens are primarily made to be used on paper substrates and not on plastics, glass, or fabrics. While some gel ink versions can adhere to other surfaces, this greatly affects the overall "performance" of the ink. (i.e. the gel inks might be easily washed out or scratched off the surface.) We suggest your own testing to determine if the performance is within your expectations.
In the process of filling the pens, we fill the inner tube to the end. However, part of the manufacturing process removes all the air bubbles in the gel ink and this compacts (and appears to shrink down) the ink. This is why it may look like the barrel is not completely full to the end.
It is very important to put the correct cap on the pen between uses because unlike regular ballpoint pen ink, gel inks need to be kept sealed away from air. Prolonged exposure to air will cause the gel ink to dry-out in the tip/ball chamber. (removing the barrel end plug will have the same effect)
In our Gelly Roll ink system there is a tiny silicone ball inside the cap that touches the tip and helps prevents any air from drying out the gel in the ball chamber when the cap is on. If this silicone ball is damaged or removed, the pen will eventually dry out and not work.
Gelly Roll can be stored horizontally or vertically because of the properties of gel ink. But if you store vertically, just be sure that you don’t drop them into whatever pen holder (like a pencil cup) you’re using. Jarring the pen (i.e. dropping into a cup) can cause air bubbles to form in the gel which will disrupt the ink flow.
The best way to see if a Gelly Roll pen can be revived is to start scribbling in circles and/or firmly tap the tip on a pad of paper. The motion makes the tip (ball) roll and causes the gel ink to be pulled into the ball tip chamber. It might take a few tries, but this might work. There is no guarantee though that this will start the pen again. Heating a Gelly Roll tip or shaking the pen will not correct the problem of a clogged nib. This technique only works for oil-based ballpoint pens.
We are always glad to hear consumers are having fun doodling, drawing and journaling with our pens. However, even though the Gelly Roll pen is certified through the ACMI program and "AP" seal approved to be "non-toxic," it has not been tested for use on skin.
Therefore, we do not recommend the use of Gelly Roll for any other purpose.
The primary purpose of the Gelly Roll pen is for writing on paper surfaces. Any other use is the sole responsibility of the individual.
For further information on the Arts and Creative Materials Institute contact:
ACMI (Arts and Creative Materials Institute) 1280 Main Street, 2nd floor, Hanson, MA 02341
Fax - 781-294-0808
Gelly Roll pens are made specifically for use on paper. We have received numerous testimonials describing the use of Gelly Rolls on fabric. Due to the wide variation in fabrics, fabric finishes and cleaning methods, we strongly recommend you try ANY pen or marker (ours or our competitors' ) on a small swatch of the fabric(s) you will be using, allow it to dry completely, then clean the swatches as you will the finished piece.
Given the hours and hours of time that go into those beautiful quilts, this should be a basic precaution for all quilters and appliquers. For safe use, please refer to the following (below). By the way, there is no "chemical" added to make the inks glide. A big reason our pens glide better is because the tiny little ball in the tip is itself smoother than our competitor's. This superior engineering enhances the "delivery" of the gel ink. Obviously, the smoother the fabric or paper, the more this will be evident.
It may be that the ink is not the issue, but rather the type of paper you are writing on.
The contrasting colors (i.e. pink, blue, green etc.) will only show up if the Gold Shadow or Silver Shadow pen is used on a porous or fibrous paper.
The metallic ink may "blend" with the other color IF the pen is used on a slick or glossy paper.
So before giving up, please test the pen again. This time try binder paper or even toilet paper to see if there are two ink colors in the pen. The metallic ink should remain in a fairly narrow area, and the colored ink should spread out and be noticeable.
Whether or not the Gelly Roll Shadow is acid-free or not is not the issue. We could tell you "Yes, they are acid-free," but then we would also say that we do not recommend using Gelly Roll Shadow pens when the user wants to make an archival mark.
Why? Because Gelly Roll Shadow is only partially waterproof. The colors of Shadow are derived from what we call dyestuff ink. The metallic portion of the Shadow ink is resistant to water, but the colored inks use simple dyes (which are not waterproof). Dyes are also not fade-resistant, so there is a possibility (through time) that the colors will fade away.
However, we are told that there are still many users who simply do not care about the long-term permanence of Gelly Roll Shadow. They use the pens in their scrapbooks because they like the colors and effects they provide. To these individuals we say, "Have Fun!".
They are similar in that they all have pigments like a traditional oil paint but formed into a stick format. The difference is mainly in consistency. Oil pastels use wax and inert oils and therefore, have a crayon like texture. The hard and soft pastels are chalky or powdery in comparison.
Cray-pas® is the Sakura brand of oil pastels which has become synonymous with the term oil pastel since Sakura invented oil pastels in 1925. The benefit of oil pastels is its adhesion characteristics, versatility, permanence and intense pigments. Oil pastels can be applied to multiple surfaces such as paper, board, canvas, metal & glass. Oil pastels are also more permanent (adhesion) and offer intense pigments color range than chalk pastels. However, due to the wax and oil content of oil pastels, they will never completely dry.
Throughout the globe, students learn oil pastels in elementary schools. However, there are many adult professional artists use oil pastels ( see www.oilpastelsociety.com )which is why we offer three grades of oil pastels: Jr. Artist, Expressionist & the professional grade Specialist. The differences between the grades is a) the quality of the ingredients, b) the amount of pigment % in each stick and c) lightfast rating of each color.
Oil pastels do not generally need a fixative if the artwork is displayed in a frame under glass or in a case. However, in today's exhibits and art galleries, the "I want to touch and feel" approach forces artists to consider using a fixative to protect and set their medium. While this may sound like a wise practice, there are some cautions every artist should be aware of.
Make a small TEST sample of the same medium with the fixative. Do not apply directly on the original piece as a test. The formulation of art fixatives have changed drastically in the past 8 years due to various federal, state, local, and city regulations. (flammability, toxicity, VOC, CFC, etc.) You can actually buy the same brand of fixative today with a totally different formulation than three years ago. The difference in fixative performance between brands is like night and day!
Wait 2-3 weeks after testing:
Why wait? Because the fixative's final results may not appear immediately. When you perform your tests, also make a "control sample" (one that is not treated). Depending upon the fixative's formula, you may or may not notice the following:
- a. color hue change (Sometime not noticeable until a few days after treating. You might like the change results.)
- b. color separation (The fixative will start breaking down individual pigments.)
- c. color blending (The fixative will start to blend colors.)
- d. loss of definition (Small lines and contrast will be lost.)
- e. Yellowing of medium (Some fixatives will turn yellow when exposed to sunlight, thus causing the entire piece to have a yellow cast.)
- f. Whitening of the medium (Same as "e" but instead causing a dull white shadow on the artwork.)
- g. If you "brush apply rather than spraying":
Be very, very careful. Some fixatives can actually dissolve the medium prior to setting it. The technique and method of applying the fixative is also critical in getting the desired results.
We have no recommendations on acrylic based vs. oil-based fixatives. Each fixative manufacturer makes general statements for their products, but they may not test all art media and the variety of brands within the media. Sakura does not recommend any particular brand because the formulas change so frequently.
So again, our recommendation is TEST, TEST, TEST! Then once you obtain the results you want (for that particular medium), buy a supply of the successful fixative to ensure that the formula is the same for future use. Keep test notes and retain your test samples for future reference.
Cray-Pas oil pastels are formulated with premium quality pigments, waxes and oils. Oil pastels do not dry completely and can be smudged or altered accidentally, so many people protect oil pastel artwork by framing it. You can place an oil pastel painting directly under the glass, but some oil pastel might transfer to the glass. There are three framing techniques you can use to protect oil pastel artwork by creating space between the glass and the artwork:
- Create depth with matting for shadowbox framing
- Frame the oil pastel artwork with liner spacing
- Float the artwork in a shadowbox frame.
Visit http://www.squidoo.com/Framing-oil-pastels for more information.