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One advantage of using a pen plotter is the ability to use most any kind of ink and pen for drawing artwork including…metallic pens!
However, in order to use metallic inks for plotting, you will be limited to disposable gel pens or paint markers such as Posca paint markers. Unfortunately, metallic ink may clog refillable pens!
Posca Paint Marker Example Pen Plots
Since Posca paint markers will completely cover whatever they are drawn on, they are great for drawing artwork on acrylic ink paintings such as this recent series of “space” inspired artwork by Michelle Chandra.
They are also great for thick line designs, and come in beautiful, bright shades. Sohan Murty takes wonderful advantage of this!
Why Use Posca Paint Markers for Pen Plot Art?
- Opaque, water-based acrylic ink, which will completely cover the surface
- Can be used on a variety of surfaces including metal, canvas, and even glass
- Comes in many shades and line widths including metallic ink options
- Lightfast and non-toxic
Using Posca Paint Markers for Pen Plotting
Posca paint markers are great for simpler designs, especially multicolor artwork. Paint markers need to be “primed” for the ink to flow. Which means, you will need to closely watch your artwork being drawn by the pen plotter, and be ready to pause and re-prime the pen (more on this later!)
This pen plot was drawn with extra fine metallic silver, metallic gold and pink Posca paint markers.
Due to the priming issue, these pens should be used for short pen plots. I don’t recommend these pens for long pen plots or detailed artwork that may take more than an hour to draw (the shorter, the better!)
The ink from these pens is completely opaque and does not come in very fineline widths. They are great for dark surfaces such as black paper.
The Nitty Gritty of Using Posca Paint Markers
Posca paint markers are available in a variety of “tip options” including a more durable felt “pin” tip (great for pen plotting!) and a “bullet tip” which is a plastic tip (which I found to be less durable for plotting!)
I found the felt tipped, “pin” point pens to be more durable for plotting. The ink flowed for longer, and seemed to lay down a richer line when used with a pen plotter. The pen barrel of the pin point pens are a more “normal” pen size as well.
The “bullet tip” pens seem less durable for plotting, and may spray some ink while being used with a pen plotter. I also found they needed much more frequent priming. Pictured below are extra fine Posca paint markers, bullet tip, in metallic gold, coral pink, pink, metallic silver and pastel green!
However, the bullet tip pens do come in additional color options that are not available in the felt tipped pens!
The “bullet tip” pens have a fatter pen barrel and the extra fine bullet pens just barely fit in the normal AxiDraw pen holder! You will need to move your paper to line up with these pens because of the fatter pen barrel. Posca paint pens come in even thiiiiicker line widths than the extra fine I used, so you will probably need the XL pen holder for the AxiDraw to accommodate the larger pens!
If you would be easily frustrated by having to constantly re-prime the pens and pause your print many times, then I highly recommend the “pin” tip Posca paint markers! They won’t require priming as often nor the need for the larger pen clip for the AxiDraw pen plotter.
If you are making multicolor artwork, I recommend sticking with the same pen type to make it easier to line up your pens when switching out the colors since the barrel sizes vary between the bullet and pin point pens. Posca paint markers with the pin tip will be delineated with an extra “r” tag, i.e. PC-1MR.
Besides these two pen types, there are additional tip options including broad tips, and chisel tips! I haven’t plotted with them, but I imagine similar results will be obtained as above depending on whether the pen tip is plastic or felt tipped. Most Posca pens seem to have fairly large pen barrels, which would require the XL pen clip from Evil Mad Scientist to use these pens with the AxiDraw.
How to Use Posca Paint Markers
When you receive these markers, you will need to remove the plastic wrapping, and “prime” the pen for use. Shake the pen to mix the ink, then on a scrap piece of paper, press the pen tip up and down many times (and I mean many!) until the ink starts flowing. Spend a little time drawing with the pen before plotting to make sure the ink is flowing. That’s it, you are ready to go!
Each time you will use the pen again, you will need to prime it before beginning your pen plot. One disadvantage with the pens is you won’t know how much ink is left since the pen barrel is opaque so you will have to guess if there is enough ink left before plotting. These pens are really easy to swap out though and line up again, so I recommend drawing some registration lines before you plot in case you will need to swap out the pen.
Reprime Your Pens While Plotting
Make sure to watch these pens as they are plotting as you may need to pause the pen plotter and re-prime the pen at a moment’s notice! If you see the line fade out, pause the pen plotter, and use a piece of paper to reprime the pen (pressing the pen tip up and down and drawing a line on the paper to confirm the pen ink is flowing again.) If you miss a line or two in the artwork, keep the pen where it is when the design is done drawing, select out those lines in your original file, and redraw them (making sure the pen is primed though before touching up the artwork!)
Make sure when you start the plot to have the pen tightened firmly on the pen holder so it will not move within the pen holder when you apply force to reprime the pen. I also recommend drawing registration lines outside of your artwork that you can register the pen against if for some reason, you need to swap out the pen or it moves within the pen holder when you reprime the pen!
Multicolor Pen Plots: Register Your Pens!
If you want to make sure the lines in your artwork closely match your original design, then I highly recommend checking your pen registration each time you swap out a pen color. Create a registration file with designs drawn outside of your artwork, place a piece of paper just outside of your artwork, and draw the registration lines with each pen. You will register the pens against this file until your design is done!
For extra metallic bling, I recommend drawing your artwork twice, which is especially useful if you are drawing your artwork on dark paper (less necessary on white paper or other surfaces.)
Where Can You Buy Posca Paint Markers?
New to pen plotting?! Interested in making your own pen plot art?! 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!
About the Author
Michelle Chandra studied art, design and code at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. Her work has been featured in many publications including Gizmodo, the Washington Post and Engadget. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @dirtalleydesign.