Friday, October 18, 2019

White Pen Comparison: Gelly Roll, Posca 0.7 and Pitt 1.5 Bullet Nib

From left: Uni Posca, Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen, Sakura Gelly Roll

I’m always on the lookout for opaque white pens. They come in handy for many urban sketching tasks, such as signage, fountains and small highlights. Of course, I use them most often on toned paper, especially in my favorite red Field Notes Sweet Tooth notebook. Years ago, I compared the Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen (2.5mm bullet point), Pen-Touch Paint Marker and Uniball Signo gel pen. More recently I looked at the Uni Posca Paint Marker (extra fine bullet point) and the Sailor Mini Correction Pen at the Well-Appointed Desk.

Gelly Roll highlights
Although my general white go-to the past few years has been the Sakura Gelly Roll (0.8mm), I’m not always happy with it. It’s fine tipped and opaque enough to draw or make highlights on dark paper, and I use it that way satisfactorily most of the time. But since gel ink is water-soluble, it tends to activate watercolor pencil pigment rather than write over it, making the line inconsistent or invisible.

I decided it was time to try a couple of new white pens that recently crossed my ever-watchful radar: One is a Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen with a 1.5mm bullet nib (much smaller than the 2.5mm I had tried previously). The other is a Uni Posca Paint Marker with a 0.7mm “pin type” nib (which came in the October SketchBox, but I don’t see it sold individually there yet, nor anywhere else that usually carries Posca products; I’m guessing it’s fairly new).

Although the Gelly Roll has a 0.8mm nib, it looks slightly finer than the Posca’s 0.7mm point, though it could just look that way because the Gelly Roll is less opaque. The Faber-Castell Pitt is the least opaque of the three, and strangely, its 1.5mm tip looks about the same size as the Posca’s 0.7. I have no idea how pen points are measured. In any case, in my scribble tests below, I applied water on the right side, and none of the inks showed appreciable smudging, even though I know the Gelly Roll has been known to dissolve a bit when washed. The other two are described as waterproof.
Three pens tested in black Stillman & Birn Nova sketchbook
Next I ran each white pen over various water-soluble and waterproof media. All wet media were left to dry completely before I scribbled over them. No wonder I’ve been less than happy with the Gelly Roll when used with my favorite watercolor pencils – it performed the worst over Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelles, both dry and activated. None of the three white pens wrote well over the Marvy LePlume II watercolor markers, but all three showed up much better over the two waterproof brush pens – the Pentel Pocket Brush and the Sakura Pigma. Clearly, the Posca is the winner on watercolor as well as my favorite watercolor pencils (both activated and dry).
All media were completely dry when white pens were scribbled over them. Tests made on Canson XL 140 lb. watercolor paper.

From left: Gelly Roll, Pitt bullet point, Posca "pin type" nib
The big inconvenience with the Posca is its “pin type” nib, which means it must be primed each time before use. By priming, I mean that you must jab the spring-loaded nib repeatedly on scrap paper for a while until the ink flows. Moreover, the ink is actually paint that must be shaken each time (you can hear an agitator inside rattling around to aid with mixing). Skip either of these steps, and the pen dispenses a colorless liquid. The priming and shaking tasks are annoying when all you want to do is make a quick highlight (sketch victims get away quickly!).

Updated 11/16/19: As much as I like the Posca's opacity, I took it out of my bag and will use it only at home where I have time to prime it and get the ink flowing. I've lost too many sketch victims waiting for the ink to flow! Back to the Gelly Roll until I find something better.

The Posca priming instructions are on the side of the pen. Follow them each time!
Still, the Posca’s general opacity and especially with watercolor pencils has won me over. I’ll be on the lookout for where it can be purchased individually.

Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen

Uni Posca pen
Shaking and priming are a nuisance when sketch victims can get away quickly!


  1. I have a Posca and bought it in the Blick store. They keep them locked where the public can't get to them. I haven't used it much since the white Signo works so well for me. I mostly use it for signs or in spots where my watercolor has covered a narrow white section of my sketch. It is good to know how these perform.

    1. The Poscas are locked up?? That's interesting... I think only the high-priced Copic markers are locked up in our Blick store.


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