How to Use Aero Color Acrylic Inks with an AxiDraw Pen Plotter

Posted by Michelle Chandra on

This post contains affiliate links to Blick Art Materials and Jackson's ArtThanks for your support! 

When I first started out using my AxiDraw pen plotter, my interests skewed sparkly - I loved using metallic gelly roll pens and even bought a mega set of 74 Gelly Roll Pens! Over time, I delighted in buying and finding new pens to try out, in fact, the generative design below is drawn using four different Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens (and is now available in my shop!)

generative spirograph art

Over the last 6 months though, I have been working towards moving away from disposable pens, for so many good reasons! I hate the waste of throwing out pens. If the pen barrel is not transparent, it's difficult to know how much ink is left in the pen. There is also a lot of storage and organizing needed to have so many different pens on hand for projects. 

Say Hello to Aero Color Inks

There is an easier way - and it is Aero Color inks! Since making the switch, I have found it so much easier and straightforward to load up refillable pens with inks and get plotting. 

aero inks for pen plotting code art with axidraw pen plotter

With this switch, my main interest was continuing in making my CMYK plots (how to cmyk on my blog!) CMYK printing is a way of layering cyan, magenta and yellow colors to create all the colors of the rainbow. To achieve this, the ink needs to be transparent and also to not dry too quickly on the page. That is why I ended up buying Aero Color inks by Schmincke as they have transparent inks, and all of their inks are lightfast. For CMYK plotting, I went with:

These inks are tough to find in the US! In fact, the only place that seems to sell them is Blick Art Materials (not available in stores though, only online!)

However, you can also buy them from Jackson's Art in the UK. The cost per ink is less from Jackson's Art, and although you will have to pay more in international shipping (if you are in the US!), Jackson's Art was prompt in delivery and DHL delivery was lightning fast (as in, I ordered and they showed up a day or two later!) If you are a first-time customer you can receive 10% off your first order if you use my affiliate link

Fountain Pens vs Refillable Liners

My first test with my new Aero inks was with a Lamy Safari Fountain pen (Extra Fine Nib.) With the fountain pens, I hit my first stumbling block - I learned that some inks don't play nice with Extra Fine Nibs, and that turned out to be the case with the Aero Color Cobalt Blue ink!

lamy safari fountain pen for pen plotting

Another downside of fountain pens is that since they need to be at a 45 degree angle to the paper, this will change your overall pen plotter setup every time you want to use fountain pens unless you decide to only use fountain pens.

I tested my new inks with one fountain pen, and it was tedious to clean and wait for the fountain pen to dry in between color changes for one pen plot. For my CMYK plotting, I would need a different fountain pen dedicated to each color. Since each fountain pen is $30+, I could see the costs rising quickly! 

My last lingering doubt was whether in the long term, the acrylic inks would actually clog and dry up the fountain pen nibs! I have no idea, but it was a concern! 

aero ink print using a pen plotter axidraw code art

The above design was drawn using Primary Yellow, Cobalt Blue, Primary Blue Cyan and Phthalo Green (Blick, Jackson's Art) Aero Color Inks!

Turns out, Aero Color inks offers a "refillable pen liner" for their inks! The liners are similar to a disposable pen, but they can be reused, and the nibs replaced when they wear out (although so far, I have found the nibs to be long lasting!) They are reasonably priced, which means buying a different pen liner for each ink is affordable! There are also several different pen tips to choose from.

For my CMYK plots, I ended up buying the thinnest tipped refillable liner pen along with replacement nibs (size No 1). Similar to the inks, there seem to be very few places that sell the refillable pen liners online, so I ended up buying them from Jackson's Art in the UK

Overall, I am thrilled with these inks! The CMYK color mixing is rich and gorgeous. The line width is bold, which I love! The setup and storage of inks is way easier than using disposable pens.

aero inks generative art made with axidraw pen plotter

But the Downsides!

Unfortunately, I have not been able to plot with any of the Aero Color metallic inks using my refillable pen, the nib gets clogged up and the ink doesn't flow so I will need to test and troubleshoot that further. 

These pens also need pressure and priming to flow, so they periodically stop flowing while a plot is running, which means keeping an eye on the plot. These pens are also tedious to use for shading, they use up a lot of ink and required constant priming.

Overall, I am mostly happy with them for my plots, but alas, there are still projects where I will need my disposable pens!

New to plotting?! Need a pen plotter!? Take 10% off an AxiDraw pen plotter and accessories with discount code DIRTALLEY10 when you buy directly from Evil Mad Scientist, the makers of the AxiDraw!

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 - geometry art created with code and drawn with a pen plotter. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @dirtalleydesign where she posts new designs daily

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