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All About Technical Pens


Mechanical drawings require precise, continuous lines of specific widths, drawn in a dark black ink. Originally, industry-standard use of dip pens and ruling pens (a split-nib pen with a variable width) meant that a great deal of skill was required among professional draftsmen. Ruling pens always carry the risk of dropping ink, potentially ruining hours of labor; dip pens produce lines of varying width, and must be constantly reloaded.

Technical pens were developed to draw long, continuous lines of specific, measured width, using genuine India ink. Because they are reliable, precise, leak-free and perpetually filled in a way no dip pen could be, Rapidograph pens have all but replaced traditional ink line drawing instruments for manual mechanical drawing. Technical pens like Rapidograph use a feed mechanism with dozens of articulations to regulate the flow of ink, releasing the medium at a regular rate through a metal tube with a wire at the center. Technical pens can be used with different colors of ink, as long as the manufacturer indicates that the ink in question will not damage the pen.

Rapidograph pens translate extremely well to artistic and illustrative drawing styles. For drawings where precise line or dot work is important, technical pens can be used to create art that communicates extreme detail, and photographs or scans perfectly. Some artists may not like the fact that absolutely no variation in line width is possible without switching pens, but many artists use this quality to maximum effect.

The mechanism that makes possible the precision of technical pens also makes them delicate. The tips can be damaged by dropping or bending, and can wear down with heavy use, especially on mylar. Technical pens must be kept clean, and should be washed out thoroughly with cool water (never hot) at least every two weeks. A cleaning kit is available to flush water through the pen with a syringe. Bad clogs can be remedied with the manufacturer’s own cleaning fluid, which dissolves dry ink particles.

For artists averse to pen maintenance, disposable pens are available, though the best versions cost nearly the same as the refillable variety. High-quality fiber tip pens are now made in mechanical point sizes, using carbon-pigment ink similar to genuine India. These perform well at first, but like all fiber tipped pens, lose their shape through ordinary use. Nevertheless, even for professionals, these Rapidograph substitutes are often considered a good option.

Technical pens have made precision line drawing possible for all artists, without the specialized training once necessary to achieve good results. Rapidograph pens are now commonly found in the sketch box of all types of artist and designer. With a minimum of regular maintenance, a set of Rapidograph pens can be a long-term investment in the studio.

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