Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Rotring Art Pen

Chloe's Chair
11.5" x 8.5", Rotring Art Pen and brown ink in Daler Rowney sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

When I first started drawing in pen and ink I struggled to find a suitable pen to draw with. However, once I came across the Rotring Art sketching pen I was in raptures - it's a very nicely balanced pen which seems to make the lines flow very easily! My favourite is the one with the exyra fine nib which I find I can use right way round and in reverse. There was no stopping me once I'd discovered their 'marron' sepia coloured ink as well - I started drawing absolutely everything in ink! 'Chloe's Chair' (above) is one of the first major drawings I did using the Art Pen. Chloe was my first cat and her very favourite spot for a quiet snooze used to be on top of the wide feather filled cushion of my yellow armchair.

I'm not the only fan of the Rotring Art Pen. Richard Bell of the Wild West Yorkshire nature diary mentions his a lot in his various posts and it takes pride of place in his page about his sketching kit as it also does in my website page devoted to the art materials I use.
The Rotring Art Pen has been a popular pen for many years and given long and faultless service to their owners. Now with a reduced range the Art Pen still offers a workhorse of a pen with its hand polished nib and well balanced barrel. (Blots Pen and Ink Supplies)
I'm extremely concerned to find that it's becoming increasingly difficult to find the Rotring Art pen in shops and on the Internet. Rotring has been a reputable brand for a very long time and has been particularly famous for its quality range of technical and art products. The brand range now seems is now becoming very much reduced - with more of an emphasis on lifestyle/designer pens!

Places I have been able to find the Rotring Art Pen in the past are art shops which have supplies targeted at the serious/professional artist rather than amateur/hobbyist/student - although such shops are themselves becoming an increasingly scarce commodity.

Suppliers I've asked are saying they're finding it increasingly difficult to get supplies of the Rotring Art Pen or to know what the supply time will be. There are also reports that less popular items within the brand range have already been discontinued. For example, Blots Pen and Ink supplies indicate that Rotring have discontinued:
  • nib sizes 0.6, 0.9, 2.7mm and all the LH sizes
  • all colours of ink other than black, brown and ultramarine.
My concerns started when I saw a report which indicated that the brand had been discontinued all together although apparently it is still in production.

Sanford now owns Rotring and, as a company, it seems to have a bit of reputation for eliminating brands and products which in their opinion don't sell well. I know that before they announced that Karisma coloured pencils (the European equivalent of Prismacolor) were to be discontinued we'd experienced many months of the pencils being difficult to find in art shops. One might imagine making supplies difficult would also make it rather difficult for customers to buy the pen and presumably that can mean suppliers will eventually simply stop placing orders?

This post is a bid to get people to start asking for the Rotring Art Pen again in an effort to make sure that this excellent pen does not disappear as well! If you want to try the Rotring Art Pen then see if you can find on at your local art shop or at one of reputable on-line suppliers whose websites indicate that they still stock the Art Pen or will order it. If you can't find an Art Pen in an art shop , make sure the shop owner - and Sanford - know you were asking.
The Rotring Art Pen is available in the following styles:
Sketch EF S0204980
Sketch F S0205070
Lettering M S0205160
Lettering B S0205250
Calligraphy 1.1mm S0205340
Calligraphy 1.5mm S0205510
Calligraphy 1.9mm S0205600
Calligraphy 2.3mm S0205690
Speaking personally, I've got about three of 'EF' which I use 'in stock' plus a supply of their brown ink cartridges. However, I've started to investigate suppliers again so I can make sure I've got 'enough' supplies - whatever 'enough' is. Cartridges are an international standard size so those for other pens could be used if the ink is suitable. Similarly purchase of a converter means that bottled ink could be used instead of cartridges - and I think one of these is going to be an essential purchase for me. I've been toying with using it with some of the acrylic coloured inks.

Finally - I'd like to send Easter Greetings to all those who celebrate Easter.

[Update (22nd May 2007): As this is proving to be a very popular post I'm going to keep updating the suppliers list with places where I see the Art Pen for sale. The latest to be added is Cornelissen's.]

[Update: 31st May 2015: I've updated all the links to the current ones. The problem with old posts is that links become dated after a while!]

Links to suppliers of the Rotring Art Pen.


Each of the links goes direct to the Rotring Art Pen page.
  • Heaton Cooper - pen (boxed with cartridges or unboxed); black or ultramarine cartridges; Rotring filler/converter (Alternative to cartridges to enable use of other inks from bottles.); Rotring black drawing ink (Easy flowing, highly opaque and lightfast. Waterproof and smudge proof when dry. Not suitable for fountain pens. 250ml bottle)
  • Blots Pen and Ink supplies - pen; nibs; cartridges (black, brown and ultramarine)
  • Cult Pens: stock a Rotring Art Pen - plus convertsers and replacement nibs and will do a special order over a certain sum
  • L. Cornelissen & Son - one of the central London art shops which I recommend. I saw Art Pens for sale in May 2007 (F and EF sketch pens and calligraphy pens. If you get a chance do get hold of their catalogue - it is a wonderful compendium of all thinks to do with pens and inks.  Otherwise you can consult their online catalogue (made available via Flipping Book)

Links to websites of people who use the Rotring Art Pen.

If you know of anybody else let me who extols the virtues of the Rotring Art Pen let me know and I'll add them to this list.


Anonymous said...

I like this pen too, and also like to "wash" the non-waterproof ink with a waterbrush. I'm sorry to hear that it might be discontinued. In the UK, it is also available at Ken Bromley

vivien said...

though I only occasionally work in pen, when I do it's with my faithful Rotring - it's nice to write with as well, as the nib has more flexibility than the average modern fountain pen,

I haven't used the EF nib - my 2 are F - can you buy just the nib unit without having to buy the whole pen? I must check.

Jo Castillo said...

Katherine, Chloe's Chair is a beautiful drawing. Sorry to hear about the pens, sounds really great to use. It is hard when you get attached to something that is disappearing. :( Thanks for sharing the information.

Anita Vachharajani said...

I tried in vain looking for them in all art shops in Bombay. Eventually my sis got them (both EF and FF) after much trouble from San Jose
- where she lives.
I am still to experiment with them, but I like the firm grip and the stroke. Hope to illustrate a book with them some day. I am too attached to my Rotring Rapidographs right now!

Making A Mark said...

Glad to hear you had success at last Amit. I think you'll enjoy using it.

Dave - thanks for the extra link to suppliers. I've not tried doing a wash with the ink - good idea!

Vivien - I'm pretty sure you can buy just the nib unit but can't remember off-hand which supplier does that.

Thanks for the comment about the drawing Jo.

Anonymous said...

I bought one of these pens in London in 1999 and filled up a few sketchbooks with it on my travels through Europe and Morocco. Unfortunately, I lost the pen some time ago and I haven't been able to find one here in Australia where I now live. Apparently the Australian distributor no longer imports them!


Does anyone know of a retailer that would ship an order to Australia?

Making A Mark said...

Try Cult Pens or Cornelissen - see the links above

minim said...

Thanks for this post, Katherine. I had/have (somewhere in my stuff in Sydney) one of their calligraphy pens back when I was doing calligraphy and as I recall it was very nice to use. And wow! Cornelissen's looks amazing! Will definitely have to pay them a visit and might just treat myself to one of the Rotring sketching pens while I'm at it...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post... its very helpful. I recently bought a rotring art pen with 6 cartridges. I assumed when the catridges where placed inside and the pen screwed together, there would be something inside the pen which would puncture the cartridge and allow the ink to flow. I tried this and it didnt work, is my pen defective or am i missing something obvious?! Also, its not clear to me whether to put the flat side down toward the nib or up the other direction when loading it. please help!

Making A Mark said...

Jan - you need to put the little 'spout' end of the cartridge towards the nib end. Then push down on it and you'll find it gives and then pops - and that's the connection made between nib and ink. Just a firm push will do - you'll feel it give way. Then just screw on the back end, give it a good shake (I don't know quite how to describe this - imagine you are trying to make ink spurt out the end - stab downwards!) and away you go!

I'm not quite sure what you mean by flat end. Does the 'spout' description help you?

Anonymous said...

What kind of ink do you use with the converter, I'm not sure and there were no direction.


Making A Mark said...

Debbie - Rotring also make ink. Or at least they did. I stocked up ages ago and haven't run out yet.......

Try the specialist pen people like Cult Pens for advice - they're very helpful.

Bryan Van Donslear said...

Anyone using a converter? I am wondering which one you are using?

kc cordero said...

dear katherine,
hi. i'm karlo cesar cordero of the philippines, a cartoon enthusiast. just bought a rotring art pen, the item is sold here in our country.
great blog. nice to stumble upon people who's also into arts.
if you have time you may visit my blog:

more power!


Stephen Powell said...

I've spent a great deal of time trying to get a replacement ink for the Rotring ArtPen. No luck so far. My demonstration to students generates huge interest but leads to disappointment when the pens can't be found.
Has anyone found alternative ink or pens??????


Making A Mark said...

The Art Pen is still for sale at Cornellisen's (see link in post) plus I'm virtually certain I saw the ink too. They do mail order.

Making A Mark said...

I forgot to say - that's as of exactly a week ago - 4th March 2009

Unknown said...

These are my favorite pens as well, and there really are no substitutes.

I have a small supply I am hoping will last me a while, but I must warn you all that the ink doesn't seem to last forever, so inspect any ink you find in shops, although buying online can be a hazard. Maybe it is a storage issue, but I've bought the ink cartridges from several locations only to get home and find the ink has dried up, or condensed into soup.

Fortunately, there are refillable cartridges available, as well as a similar type of cartridge from another company that does fit the Rotring pens. I have bought the refillable cartridge but have yet to use it, so I do not know how good it works. I imagine a good quality ink would work fine.

Unknown said...

I ABSOLUTELY LOVE ROTRING ARTPENS!!! I have also been having problems finding ArtPens and I am very disappointed that I can only purchase them online from only a few suppliers. I plan on purchasing some as gifts to friends and family who have also expressed an interest in learning calligraphy. I have been doing calligraphy since 1982 and through the years I have been frustrated with fountain pens clogging. I didn't use them everyday and sometimes it would be a couple of months before I used them again. Rotring ArtPens are the only pens I have used in which it wouldn't take much effort to get them working again. Other pens were not usable unless I cleaned them in an ultrasonic pen cleaner, which I later purchased. I am assuming it is the quality of the ink that prevents the pens from clogging, but maybe it is the way the pen is build. Before my ArtPen purchase, I used Shaeffer and Osmiroid calligraphy pens in which the ink clogged in the nibs, but it has been about 20 years since I used them. Maybe today the ink for Shaeffer calligraphy pens are better now (I haven't tried them). I don't think Osmiroid pens are being made anymore. Maybe there are other brands that don't easily clog, but I haven't had the need to try other pens since I love my ArtPens. I did notice that the cartridges for the Osmiroid pens (purchased 20 years ago) also work in the ArtPen. I am currently using the Osmiroid ink converter (refillable cartridge) in my ArtPens. I also LOVE the way the ink flows out of the ArtPen and the way it writes on paper compared to other pens. The ArtPen didn't seem to "drag" on the paper and therefore it wrote smoother and I could write faster. As a side note, I also like to use calligraphy markers. I have been very disappointed in a large variety of calligraphy markers because the sides of the tips break down in a VERY short time and makes the pens worthless. The BEST ones I found were the Callipen Calligraphy Pens sold by Sakura Color Products in Japan that I purchased from an art store. To my HUGE disappointment, these pens are no longer being made! I was giving these pens as gifts to friends and family. Creative Memories also carried these calligraphy pens for scrapbooking, but of course are no longer selling them. The Callipen tips keep their shape FOREVER! And the markers last FOREVER (if you don't use the ink out of them first or don't keep the cap on tight). I have had some of my pens (colors that I didn't use a lot) for about 15 years!!! So I highly recommend purchasing these pens on Ebay if you can find them. I have been stocking up myself.

Unknown said...

I forgot to mention that I noticed that the Panache ink cartridges (for Panache calligraphy pens) looks exactly like the ArtPen cartridges but I haven't tried them yet to see if they work.

Unknown said...

I have an ArtPen nip called 'BB' that is thicker than the 'B' (broad) that I got many years ago, so I would add that to the list of discontinued nibs.

Unknown said...

i am so sad that i can not find any supplies for the Rotring Artpens and the pens itself. I am a calligrapher here in the Philippines. I am proud that Claret School of Quezon city maintains that personal touch in their diplomas by continuously implementing the manual lettering of names in each diplomas. However, I cannot find the Rotring ink that I needed. Iwanted to buy new Artpens but can't find it anywhere here in the Philippines. I have Rotring Calligraphy Pens 1.5 (blue barrel), 1.9, 2.3 and 2.7... still hoping that i can find the 1.1 and other Artpens and inks.

Unknown said...

i have different Rotring Calligraphy pens: 1.5 (blue barrel), 1.9, 2.3, 2.7 and BB. I am sad that i can not find inks for Artpens and the pens itself here in the Philippines. But I am also greatful that Claret School of Quezon City maintains the personal touch in giving their diplomas. They are manually lettered and I am using my Artpens for all the diplomas. I wish there will be sources for Rotring Artpens and inks.

stonedeaf4ever said...

I have bought my first Rotring Art Pen in 1997. It was one of their more expensive models of the Rotring Millenium LE with a 1.5mm goldplated steel nib. The pen`s body and cap were made of a marbeled acrylic resin in brown, golden and blue colours. On the black cap top stood 97 for the year the pen came out. I soon got to hear that there was also an Art Pen Gold that had an 18ct gold nib and because I was still a student and didn`t want to spend another fortune on a pen I simply ordered an extra fine gold nib for my Millenium Art Pen. When it came I pulled the 1.5mm steel nib out of the pen and replaced it with the gold nib. It wrote instantly and was quite smooth with a tiny bit of edge or "bite". It didn`t cut the paper though. The black ink that was supplied with the pen was used up soon and I had a hard time getting new ink for it that was that black.I tried Pelikan 4001 ink in black but it was watery compared to the Art Pen Ink. So I experimented and bought some solid chinese ink and solved it in distilled water and filled my Art Pen with it via a converter. This worked so-so. I could use the pen a few minutes for sketching before it clogged and I had to pull out the nib and feed and clean the whole front section under running water.
Then a Brick and Mortar arts supply store in my area closed down and they offered Rotring Art Pens at a reduced price. I got a whole bunch of them and again had a few packets of cartridges with black Art Pen ink to use. When these were empty I switched to brown ink from Montblanc because I liked its´ shading. Nowadays I`m using the black Art Pen ink again after having found an office supplier who offers it. A recently bought Rotring Art Pen has been a big disappointment to me. The inkflow on this pen was way too strong and all I got was ink blots on the paper and inky fingers. I cleaned the pen and tried again but to no avail, so I tossed it in the trash but kept the nib to use it with one of my older pens which works just fine. I hope this was a one-time experience and that I can still buy Art Pens that work just like they did in all their years of production.

Anne said...

I just ordered the rotting art pen from Amazon and got it 2 days later.
I would be interested to know how to store it with ink in it. You know, like when you haven't used it for a couple of days. Would you have it point side down in a pen holder (old coffee cup) or would you lay it on its side? Thanks.

Making A Mark said...

@taffy - I'm assuming you're not using permanent ink with it - which is a bad idea.

You can store it any way you like. Sometimes you will need to give the nib a little bath in warm water and give the pen a shake if you've not used it for months - but I've never had any problem with using it whatever way I've stored it.

Anne said...

No permanent ink. I ordered the ArtPen 6 cartridges set and they came today.
I am very pleased with this pen so far.

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