Review of the J. Herbin CreaPen #CreaPen #Exaclair #JHerbin

The generous Exaclair, Inc. is allowing me to host another Giveaway.  Five winners will receive one of these J. Herbin CreaPens! You can find out how to enter at the end of this post.

Clippable: No
Material: Plastic
Ink Refillable: Yes
Pen Length: Capped -17.2 cm/6.77 in; Posted - 20.1 cm/7.91; Uncapped 16.9 cm/6.65
Ink Color: Black (also comes in Brown, Purple, Blue & Green)
Brush Tip: Synthetic Hair Bristle
Brush Tip Length: 13 mm/0.51 in

Look & Feel
The body and cap are both plastic in black with the name CREAPEN and some swirls in gold.

The tip is a synthetic bristle (as opposed to animal hair or flexible felt tip).  It starts out white but soon takes on the color of the ink.  I've had a few different brush pens, and the length on this one seems to be on the shorter side of the spectrum.   That isn't a matter of good or bad, but it does affect how the pen writes.  Some will prefer this length while others will prefer a longer one.

I couldn't get my camera to capture it, but, as with most bristle tip brush pens, there are a few hairs of different length than the rest.

This allows you to push down or use the side of the brush for a nice fat line, or to hold the pen perpendicular to the paper and get a thin line.  Usually there are only a few of the longest bristles.  The length of these few dictate how thin a line you can get.  For comparison, if I was using a fabric-tipped pen like the Pigma Micron, I'd say you could get a .03 line, but a .05 would be much easier.

The CreaPen is refillable and comes with three cartridges (the one pictured here has brown ink rather than black--it photographed better).  The refill packs come with four cartridges.  At the wider end, there is a ball bearing that you push onto the pen in order to insert the cartridge.  

I had no problem inserting the cartridge.  The instructions recommend letting the pen sit capped, with brush side down to let the ink flow.  I only had to do so for a couple of minutes.  The reason I have brown as well as black cartridges is because I like the pen well enough to order a second one (that I paid for) so I could have another color.  With both pens, the cartridges inserted easily, and the ink was flowing after a few minutes.

I'm nearing the end of second black cartridge, and with both, as the cartridge neared empty, the bristles tended to splay a bit, making it hard to get a thin line.  I have found this to be a problem with other bristle-type brushes, but not all.  Up to this point, I had no problem with skipping or specks in the line, even when drawing over a waxy substance such as colored pencil.

The black ink is along the line of a dark charcoal.  I'm not actually reviewing the brown ink except to let you know there are other colors.

You do get some shading with thick strokes.  At first, I got very fine spikes where I turned the brush and had trouble tapering my strokes to a thin finish. But I feel that is more a matter of getting a feel for the pen, than an inherent flaw in the pen.

The first thing that impressed me when I picked up the pen was how light it is.  The plastic body seemed fragile. That makes this a good choice for someone who needs a lighter pen, but possibly not a good one for someone who tends to have a powerful grip when they write or draw.  With the problems I've had with my wrist lately, I like the extreme lightness, but I think it will be a concern for others.

Using a brush pen can take some practice.  Even if you've used one before, each brand is different.  I won't say it's difficult--you just need to learn what happens with varying pressure, and how well the brush turns.  Good lighting definitely helps.  You need to see where the longer hairs are so you can hold the pen in the right direction to get thinner lines when you want them.

Brush pens are commonly used for calligraphy.  I don't use them that way often, but I always try them out.  I found this a reasonably easy pen for calligraphy.  I did this page as part of getting to know the pen, and felt I was getting the hang of it by the time I was done.

I used a very smooth, clear vellum for my practice.   While it's easy to write on, it does make the ink appear lighter because it allows some light to come through the paper.

Making Marks
The next thing I tried was simply making marks, of different size and thickness, which led to quick doodles using the marks.  I used more than one layer of ink for the bear silhouette in the upper right, but all the rest of the lines were done with one stroke.

This was also done on the vellum.  It clearly shows the shading that occurs, but that may not happen on all papers.

Using the same vellum paper, I went on to do a complete drawing.  At this point, I was still having some problems getting the thinnest lines, but felt comfortable with everything else.  With further practice and good lighting, I think I'll do better with thinner lines, but I don't think thin lines are this pen's forte.

I moved to a mixed media paper that is bright white. The ink is darker, but it doesn't shade as much.

I wanted to test the ink to see if it was waterproof.  On a piece of scrap paper I discovered that if you wet the ink immediately, it does smear a bit.  After 1/2 hour or so, it seems pretty waterproof.  At the top of this drawing, I wet and rewetted the paint three times.  The paper got a bit mushy, but the ink didn't smear.  My scan didn't pick up the light blue paint for some reason, but the entire page was painted, using both wet into wet and wet over dry methods.

I re-inked the border after painting, to show the color at its darkest.  There is always hazing when you color over the ink (standard).  One of my favorite techniques is to draw some lines first, color, and then draw new lines, and/or draw over some of the existing lines.  The hazy lines seem farther in the distance while the darker lines come forward, so it's a subtle way to add some depth.

Colored Pencil
My heart was in my mouth for this one!

One of the hardest mediums to draw over is colored pencil.  It's waxy, and many inks will bead up.  The wax will build up on the tips and clog them--sometimes forever.  Worse, it can happen almost immediately. I have used other brush pens (bristle type--never fabric type) on colored pencil.  Some of them clogged and some didn't.  I was running the risk of ruining my pen.

I build up about four layers of color, blending some of it so it was quite waxy (my scan doesn't show it very well).

The ink went down as dark as it did without the colored pencil. I then added another layer or two, and re-inked some of the lines.  This left a haze over the ink.  I then re-inked some of the lines so you can see the difference in color.

It worked! There was no skipping or beading up of the ink. After finishing, I immediately drew something on a toothier paper and had no problems.  I did this both as a test, and also to try and remove any wax build-up on the bristles.

So, I did this, and yes, you can use this pen over colored pencil.  Should you?  Probably not. I'll only do so occasionally, myself.  You might not ever ruin the pen, but I suspect you'd shorten the life considerably if you did this very often.  It might be worth it to you, if black line work over colored pencil is really your thing (and it does look good).

Other Colors-Brown
So, I'm not reviewing the other colors of ink, but I had to show you the brown at least. It reminds me of J. Herbin's Terre de feu, a very earthy Burnt Sienna kind of color (not quite as red as it is showing up on my screen).

I also wanted to note that the brown ink was NOT water-proof or water-resistant.  It smeared no end when I added water, even if I waited a couple of days before wetting it.  However, when I used the two inks together I had little problem with smearing.

The construction of the pen seems fragile, but I do like how light it is.  Others may prefer a heavier pen.  The ink is light, as blacks go. The black ink is waterproof, though the brown isn't, and will write over colored pencil.

The manufacturer describes the ink as light-resistant so there may be fading, especially if the drawing is exposed to constant light.

Keeping in mind that I have experience with brush pens, I found it easy to get the hang of this pen, I wish it would make finer lines, but I have a real preference for fine lines.  I'd compare this to a .05 tip though with care, you can get a thinner line.

The pen is comfortable in my small hand and I enjoy using it enough, that I bought a second one so I'd have another ink color.

The Giveaway is now over. 

I received this J. Herbin CreaPen from Exaclair, Inc. for the purposes of reviewing and hosting this giveaway.  I received no other compensation and the second CreaPen I purchased with my own money.  All opinions expressed are my own and are as honest as I can make them.