New Tangle pattern ORB #1 & Part II-Review of the Stillman & Birn Epsilon Series Sketchbook

A couple of weeks ago, I received four sketchbooks from Stillman & Birn.  This is the second part of my review on the Epsilon Series sketchbook.  

To read about the specifications, look and feel, and more examples of art created in this  sketchbook see Part 1.  

Micron Pen:

The Epsilon series has paper formulated for pen & ink so I finished the Micron pen drawing I had started while in North Carolina.  Just as I started sketching my sister-in-law tasked me with remembering to water the plants.  I decided to remind myself by  including the instructions into the work.  A discussion of an upcoming presentation for the seminar led me to add ‘Fertilize the Soil/Soul’ and ‘Refresh the Mind’.

But what you want to know–how well does the pen work on the paper!  Very well indeed!  There is no feathering and no show through on the back of the page (the faint yellow you see is color transfer from the adjacent page).

The lines are crisp, but ink coverage is slow enough that you can easily achieve a wide range of tones (shades of gray, more or less).  If you like large areas of stark black and white contrast, you might find yourself reaching for a marker instead of a pen, just to speed things up.

Stamp Pad Ink:

I’m just looking for reasons to use the new stamps that Viva Las Vegastamps! made using my artwork, lol, so of course I had to try one out.  

Plate 1425

This is what the stamp looks like before I added linework around it with a Micron Pigma:

The image stamped crisp and clear.  I used my trusty Micron to add the line work, and I also darkened some areas within the stamped image, to blend the inkpad color and my pen color together.

Color Pencils

This isn’t a good example of what can be done with colored pencils, lol!  

Here’s the skinny–color pencil actually works very nicely on the Epsilon.  But this is pen & ink paper, which is always very smooth.  Generally, color pencil does better with a rough paper.

Because the paper is so smooth, color streaks if you press too hard.  It also rubs off easily and gets onto the adjacent pages (if you look close, you’ll see smudging from the previous page).  These two things hold true for almost any paper & color pencils–it’s a matter of degree.  The Epsilon is not the worst I ‘ve seen, but it wouldn’t be my first choice for color pencil.

Having said that, I did two very richly colored and detailed color pencil drawings, but I decided to keep them for an upcoming design team post.  I then ran out of time to do a third one.  Sorry about that!

Neocolor II Water-soluble Wax Pastels

Next up, I decided to try something a little different.  I wanted to get a contrast of dark and light, both for the paper color and for the Neocolor IIs.  I took my True Black Spectrum Noir alcohol marker and laid down some large back areas.  Then I colored with the Neocolors, carving out the shape of the cat in negative space.   I used a wet paper towel to smooth out the Neocolor.

Everything I said about color pencil applies here.  Because the Neocolor IIs are water soluble, you can set the color a bit more, but there will still be color transference unless you use a fixative.

There was some dimpling in the paper after I applied the wet towel, but no buckling.  I wasn’t surprised because I didn’t use a lot of water.  Wanting to see what would happen when the paper was really wet, I moved next to my …

Peerless Watercolors

I went for juicy, using lots of water.  There was still very little dimpling, no buckling and no pilling .  The corners of the page curled a tiny bit.  I really wasn’t expecting the paper to do as well with watercolor.

In conclusion
The Stillman & Birn Epsilon Series sketchbook is a smooth paper with the look and feel of lightweight cardstock.  It’s great for pen & ink.  The lines aren’t as bold or the colors as brilliant as you might get with a higher gloss paper, but you have more tonal control.  Bleed-through from alcohol markers is about 75%.  It is better than the average pen & ink paper with waxy and wet medias such as color pencil and wax pastels.  Still, I wouldn’t recommend the waxy stuff.  Light to medium ‘wet’ would be fine.

I’ll be reviewing the other three sketchbooks in the next few weeks.

Where to buy a Stillman & Birn sketchbook

My Review of the Delta Series Stillman & Birn sketchbook

My Comparison of the five Stillman & Birns Sketchbook series

Glossary (terms as defined by me, lol):
Dimpling: Often when ‘wet’ media such as watercolor is used no a page, ‘dimples’ will appear in the paper.  This can range from small dents to severe ripples across the page.
Buckling: The severe end of dimpling.  If the ‘dents’ become ripples or are bad enough to distort the way the page hangs, then it is buckling.
Curling: Sometimes the paper may stay relatively smooth but curl inward at the corners.  This can be just a slight curve at the very corners, or it can be bad enough to curl the paper like a scroll.
Pilling: Another problem that can occur when using wet media is that fibers clump up into ‘pills’ like lint on a sweater.  This isn’t always the fault of the paper. If you are using a fabric-tipped pen/brush like Distress markers, sometimes bits of fabric will pill onto the paper.  In severe cases, pilling can be bad enough to leave holes in the paper.


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