CMYK All the Pens

Posted by Michelle Chandra on

This post contains affiliate links to Blick Art Materials, one of my favorite places to shop for art supplies. Thanks for your support!

Take 10% off an AxiDraw pen plotter and accessories with discount code DIRTALLEY10 when you make a purchase from Evil Mad Scientist, the makers of the AxiDraw! 

One of my favorite printing processes to explores is CMYK, where the overlap of cyan, magenta and yellow ink layers creates all the colors of the rainbow. 

With my latest round of Diamond Star prints, I decided it was time to explore new CMYK markers over my usual Stabilo Fineliners. While the Stabilo Point 88 are lovely markers for so many reasons (affordable! durable! vibrant! longlasting!), they are not guaranteed as fade-proof.

Dye based inks are more prone to fading over time (but they are also much more vibrant than many permanent ink pens!) See example print above drawn using my Stabilo Point 88 markers (using azurepink and yellow!)

Artline Blox vs Staedtler Pigment Liners

I tested two new pens: Artline Blox pens, and Staedtler Pigment Liners.

The Artline Blox pens were difficult to align due to their funky shape (you can stack these pens together like legos!)

artline blox pen test

I also found the ink to create more "bleedy" lines with my paper. Ultimately, this pen was a pass for me!

Fortunately, the Staedtler Pigment Liner pens are a lovely alternative. These permanent, fade-resistant pens have a lovely thick line, and while more muted in tone than my usual Stabilos, I appreciated the more natural tones in my new prints. I could only find these pens in stock at JetPens here in the US!

axidraw generative art pen plotter

These pens are pricey at $4.65 a pop! They also are tricky to align between layers as the barrels on these pens are not straight. The felt tip wears out quickly and the blue cyan pen could only be used for 1-2 prints. This will probably be my only print release with these pens I imagine!

What's Next in CMYK Land?

After testing out these new pens and sharing the results on my Instagram, I asked for tips on any additional pen options I could explore.

A fellow pen plotting artist recommended Artline 200 pens, I ended up testing their Light Blue, Pink and Yellow to wonderful results! These pens are thinner than the Stabilo Point 88 markers but rich and vibrant (and supposedly lightfast!) However, I was only able to find these pens sold in the US through Blick Art Materials (although you can buy them through Jackson's Art, which is based in the UK!)artline 200 pens generative art drawn with an axidraw pen plotter

Daniela Kroehnert also recommended a line of acrylic inks to try with fountain pens. The deeper I go down the Axidraw rabbit hole, the more I have been eager to move away from disposable pens. One barrier to entry is the cost: fountain pens typically cost $30 each!

I ended up buying Aero Color Inks (acrylic based inks), and found that much like the Artline 200s, these inks are only available in the US from Blick Art Materials, or available from Jackson's Art in the UK (I have ordered from both, to great result, fast shipping and prompt delivery!) To experiment with the CMYK process, I ended up getting the following Aero Color Inks:

Primary Yellow
Primary Magenta
Primary Blue Cyan
Cobalt Blue (lighter blue than the process blue)

I also ended up getting a Lamy Safari Fountain Pen (an Extra Fine Nib or Fine Nib recommended). These Fountain Pens worked great with my pen plotter and these inks, although ink flow was poor with the Cobalt Blue and I later learned that some inks don't work well with Extra Fine Nibs in particular!

aero color inks

Watch out for a future blog post in which I go over in more detail what it's been like using the Aero Color Inks with my AxiDraw pen plotter!

All Generative Art, All the Time

But what if you want to learn more?! Check out these additional blog posts:

michelle chandra of dirt alley design

Dirt Alley Design was founded just off a dirt alley in San Francisco in December of 2016 by artist Michelle Chandra. Inspired by the beauty of street grids, Michelle invented maze maps in which she transforms street grids into mazes. In 2019, she began a new project - generative prints created with code and drawn with a pen plotter. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @dirtalleydesign where she posts new spirograph designs daily 

artist process axidraw generative art printmaking

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  • I’m enjoying playing with Pilot Kakuno fountain pens, they’re relatively affordable and refillable if you use a cartridge converter. Then you can also mix your own ink colours too. I’ve only tried the fine nib but they have extra fine which might suit your work.

    Jimmy Kirkus-Lamont on

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