Depending on your style of illustration or art, some materials may be more adequate to achieve the desired results. If you like colour, and big surfaces, it is possible that water based colours could suit you. If you feel more comfortable with smudges, perhaps you could enjoy watercolours, or pastels. In my case, I like working with intrincate details; I enjoy making lines, dotwork, and some patterns, among other things. But even when you know what you like, there are other factors to take into consideration. Is it pricy? Is it good quality? Will it look how I have it in mind?
Which rapidograph or pen is best for the illustration you have in mind will depend on the dimensions of your illustration, the type of paper, the kind of stroke or technique you are using and your own dexterity. For small details on a medium to small scale (A4 or less), a 0.05 pen should work for you. However, the bigger the illustration, pens that are slightly thicker at at least 0.1 would be for the best, as they are easier to control. A classic, easy to find disposable like Staedler pigment liner is probably your best option, but there are other brands that you should consider as well, such as pigma micron, or rotring, for a non-disposable option.
I have tested some rapidographs on a high quality watercolour paper, as I like to use both watercolour and rapidograph on the works I do, and although the paper would be able to resist both materials, the texture might not be the most suitable one for rapidograph only, depending on the effect you would like to achieve.
Unipin FL 0.05 (2nd from left to right)
I have used the unipin fine line, water and fade proof pigment ink to do some tests. It would usually not be my first option as it is a brand I don’t know enough of it. However, I was given this as a present, and I am content with the final results, considering I had not used it before at all.
It is usually possible to feel the difference between a new rapidopgrah and one that has been used for a while. At first using this pen feels rough, even when new, but the lines are clean and they do not bleed out on the paper. It might feel that a little more pressure needs to be used, but it is definitely not a bad result. Straight lines are definitely the most comfortable ones to do.
Sakura Pigma Micron 0.05 (3rd from left to right)
The Sakura pigma micron has archival ink, “micro pigment ink for waterproof and fade proof lines” is the one I have been trying to use the most in the past years. The reason behind it is to use better quality materials (the ink is chemically balanced) to ensure that the illustrations last longer with the passing of time.
To me, this is one of the most comfortable rapidographs to use. It has a good amount of ink coming through without having to press down that much to the paper. This makes it a great balance in between freedom of movement and the final result. However, I tend to feel they do not last that long, and that the pen “hardens” quicker than others.
Sakura Pigma Micron 0.03 (1st from right to left)
Just as the previous rapidopgrah, this one also has the archival ink, and the “micro pigment ink for waterproof and fade proof lines”. I decided to try this one, and find out if having an even smaller size would be comfortable or worth it.
From my experience with the type of paper I used, I would say no.
Although a great rapidograpgh, and great quality, I have the feeling that I have barely used this rapidograph and it has “hardened” quicker than others. However, it could be the case that it is because of the type of lines I am trying to do, as the dotwork done with it has been amazing – challenging, but amazing.
If you want to have a biger gradient or layers when doing dotwork, I would recommend using a mixture of different sizes of rapidographs, and definitely utilising the 0.03 size, to give more depth.
Staedler pigment liner 0.05 (1st from left to right)
This is my most trusted brand and usual first choice for a rapidograph. The Staedler pigment liner is also waterproof on paper and lightfast. I usually use the 0.05, as it is the size I am more comfortable with.
Lines are nitid, it lasts a long time, and the rapidograph is easy to control for lines, curves, and dotwork. It might feel that the ink bleeds out a little bit, but it is up to you and how you use the rapidograph that this will be the case or not.
Slightly cheaper than the Pigma Micron, this last one may be the most reliable option for those that are beginning to do illustrations, and trying to find their best material, without compromising the end result.