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Friday, April 29, 2011

Rotring Rapidograph pen review

The Rotring Rapidograph uses a cartridge, and there is technical language, which I won't attempt to repeat, that says in essence--little to no maintenaince

The cartridge is easy to install, once you read the instructions (I didn't, lol).  The pen feels good in the hand, but, so what? you ask.  How well does it work?

I chose a .18 size nib, which is small, and the size I would use most often.  After about two weeks, the line is as crisp and fresh as it was brand new, even after heavy use on textured paper.  Which is what I would expect from a good technical pen.  I draw constantly, and the Micron Pigma's nibs, of similar size--.005 and .003--would be wearing down within that time frame.

Pros:  The Rotring rapidograph performs well and requires little maintenance. 

Before I get to the Cons--most technical pens have little tubes that you can refill with bottled ink.  That's good, because the bottled ink is cheaper, and easy to find, and you can switch colors, and sometimes the type of ink.

Except--there is a saying.  You can't spell LAME without ME.  Yup.  I carefully squeeze that ink into the little tube.  And watch it splatter across the wall, the floor, me, and generally go everywhere except into the little tube.  Plus, I'm impatient.  Most technical pen tips, especially smaller nib sizes, will clog up.  Then you take them apart, and if you don't bend them (I do) you soak them in water, alcohol or special cleaning fluid.  Sometimes for days.  Which means you can't always use the pen when you want it.

So, I need a cartridge-based pen.  Okay.  I want a cartridge based pen.

Cons: The pen isn't cheap.  Prices vary by nib size.  At DickBlick's the Koh-i-noor Rapidograph .18 mm is $21. 99, where the Rotring Rapidograph .18mm is $35.51. 

You have to find and buy replacement cartridges, which run around $7 plus shipping and handling for 3 cartridges. 

Both the pen and cartridges are hard to find.  DickBlick's, NYCentral Art Supply and MisterArt all carry them, but I haven't found them at other online art stores that I'm familiar with. I have not been able to find them in any of the three art stores in the Portland, Oregon area.

I can't say that the performance is better than the Koh-i-noor technical pen.  On the other hand, my Koh-i-noors all lie unused due to bent nibs and the desire to avoid ink clean ups.  In the recent past, I've been using Micron Pigmas and truthfully, I could buy a lot of Microns for the cost of this pen.  But I'm tracking how long the cartridge lasts, because it might be cheaper in the long, long, long run.

If you go looking for the Rotring Rapidograph, be aware that the Rotring Artpen is an entirely different animal.  It's far easier to find, but is more like a fountain pen.  There are also older versions of the Rotring Rapidograph that don't use the cartridge, so be careful to get what you really want, if you buy from ebay or other auction site.

Meanwhile, I'm really enjoying using the pen.  Here are some of the drawings I've done so far, using it for the fine detail and shading.


  1. Okay, I am officially blown away by my tangle appearing in your EXQUISITE artwork! Use any pen you like, kiddo, just keep the art coming! *G*

  2. I was at Blick the other day and saw them (I don't remember the brand) but I questioned whether I should make the investment but I think you've made a believer out of me. I really love the tiny detail work you're able to achieve. Thanks for sharing your information - it helps to hear from someone who is using a tool that some of us have not used yet.

  3. I use a Staedtler technical pen (0.2 or 0.3 for fine lines ,and for filling #1) with refill cartridge and it 's great.Maintenance is important because the ink can dry but otherwise I'm loving it.True they are not cheap buth they last,I can say I have some antique pieces in my collection (since 1970's they were my father's) and they are stil functional.
    So go ahead,your tangles look awesome -especially the one in the middle.

  4. I wish I was close to a Dick Blick's. I have to order online, and the S&H really adds up!

    Only time will tell whether it's worth my while to buy the replacement cartridges. I've heard good things about the Staedtler Marsmatics but they're hard to find too! Plus, I suspect I'd have the refill problem. I truly am a klutz!

  5. Thanks for posting the review. I've been considering a technical pen since I run through Microns pretty quickly. Is the .18 nib comparable to the Micron 01? Also I've found them online at MisterArt . com and the price seems a bit lower - not sure if they make up the difference in shipping or not. Thanks

  6. The price at MisterArt is lower and would help with the shipping. They also have the Marsmatic Staedtler pens (though are out of stock at the moment), which would be good for those who don't mind refilling or cleaning. Thank you for letting me know about them!

  7. And I forgot to say that the Rotring Rapidograph .18 mm nib is more comparable to the Micron 005, which is a .20 mm nib. There is also a .13 mm nib, which I may have to get someday.

  8. Thanks Sandra!! $110 bucks here (so your price is not so bad). I did find one online for $25, but they wanted $30 to ship to NZ!! WTF! They got a not so polite email about that one.

    So what I read here is, great pen, get the cartrige one, they last a while.

  9. hé,you used plica and it looks great in your drawing. Your shading in ink is so wonderful;
    thanks for your review.I must look for that one,though I am not sure if I can find it in Belgium. But then perhaps i can because rotring products are used for technical drawing in schools.

  10. Truly LOVELY drawings!!!! Jealous of your talent!

  11. Thirty years ago those were THE artist's pen to have. :)

  12. Holly, do you know what THE pen is today? I've been looking around and the selection doesn't seem large. Maybe the proliferation of throw-away pens has just gutted the market.

    Jo, the Rotring Rapidograph is good, but the main thing about it is the lack of maintenance it requires. The Koh-i-noor Rapidograph might be a better buy if you don't mind maintenance and refilling. I have testimony from others that indicate the Staedtler's Marsmatic is excellent and long-lasting but it also have the maintenance, refillability and scarcity issues. At least with the refillable pens you wouldn't have to keep looking for cartridges.

  13. Perhaps Amazon could be a solution?
    I bought a set of four online there months ago.
    Here´s the link for the moment:
    Don´t know what the shipping would be…

    Good luck!!

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. Thank you Phine. Amazon offers the pen (through a 3rd party), but not the refill cartridges. In fact, this is where I bought the pen, because I was given a gift certificate for Amazon.

  16. The Rotring pens and tips are becoming harder to find. Blick is discontinuing the line. Are they still making all tip sizes?

  17. I'm not sure if they are or not. It's a good question. I believe I'll see if I can get an answer from Rotring.