Sunday, March 21, 2010

Reviewing the Sakura Gelly Roll Pen

Today I’m going to be reviewing the Gelly Roll Medium Black pen, just one in a long line of quality products by Japanese parent company Sakura of Osaka Japan. For more on Sakura products you can visit their web site at: I use this pen almost exclusively for cross-hatching in my editorial cartoons. After the initial pencil drawing, and subsequent brush inking, it’s the first thing I reach for. They also have a white ink version, which I will be reviewing in the future. For this review (and subsequent reviews) I will be breaking down my critique into four parts: Ergonomics, tip and ink flow, quality of line, and durability.

First let’s start with the ergonomics of the pen.
It feels pretty hefty in your hand (which I like), and is round and smooth in circumference; lacking the flat ridges of most other pens and pencils. The manufacturers have made up for this by using a matte finish plastic. Even with this though, the pen can slip in your hand sometimes, and one recommendation I would have is for the makers to experiment with some perpendicular ridges near the tip for better gripping. With the cover slipped onto the back of the pen, the balance is even and the weight is distributed evenly across the pen’s length. As I said before, I like a little "heft" in the pens I use. I tend to work heavy, so I like a drawing instrument that is also heavy.

Now the tip.
The tip produces a medium line weight and feels really comfortable as it hits the paper. With some other pens you can get a "spotting" effect either at the beginning or end of your line art. There is none of this with the Gelly Roll. I find the line to be fluid and smooth; without any clumping or "dotting." The ink leaves the pen tip in a fluid and even manner with no bleed or overflow.

Quality of Line.
This is where the pen really excels. The Sakura Gelly Roll pen is a roller ball, which uses a patented, Gel, archival ink. The line is consistent and even, yet you can still vary the line weight from light to medium by how much pressure you put on the pen tip. I'll include a detail of one of my cartoons inked with the Gelly Roll pen, so that you can see the quality of line in a finished piece of art.

Longevity and Durability.
This pen is built like a tank. The plastic barrel is hefty and the cap clicks securely onto the tip end. The tip can take a fall from a drawing table easily and keep working well. The ink also seems to hold up really well over time. Cartoons that I’ve done 10 years ago still maintain the clarity in the blacks, and there is absolutely no yellowing around the lines. I can usually get about 5-10 cartoons out of one pen, depending on how much cross-hatching is involved.

Overall I would give the Sakura Gelly Roll pen a score of 9.5 out of 10. Other than a few tweaks to the ergonomics of the barrel, I wouldn’t change a thing.

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