Is there an opaque white pen?
June 6, 2011 10:04 AM   Subscribe

Is there a truly opaque white (or bright colored) pen or marker?

I have a calligraphy project in mind that will involve a lot of fine letters on a black or very dark background. It will not be acceptable to re-draw or trace over each character and stroke; they need to look natural and be written only once.

Unless I misunderstand, master calligraphers use a pen and staff, manually filling the pen's reservoir with paint for each stroke, when doing work like this. I've had little practice and less success with that medium/method, and this is the sort of project that if I don't just start it, even with cruder instruments or methods, I will likely never find time to do it at all.

Is there a *good* marker or paint pen or something , preferably a calligraphic one, that is opaque enough for bright colors to show up on a dark background?

Or if you know of a good alternate method, such as some way to get an opaque liquid to flow well through an automatic pen, please help me out.

Please do not link to a ductus or calligraphy basics - thank you but what I am looking for is a means of making opaque strokes, not how to construct letters.
posted by rahnefan to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You might want to memail the asker of this previous question and see if anything ended up working for them.
posted by phunniemee at 10:13 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


My experience with this sort of product has been that once those gold and silver markers were perfected, so were white ones. You won't have any issues with it not showing up.

Please do not link to a ductus or calligraphy basics....
Don't patronise the answerers!

posted by kmennie at 10:14 AM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Wow two booboos in one question...not looking for previous question, and patronizing answerers. Sorry for both, sincerely.

All I meant was, I could imagine some people seeing the word "calligraphy" and reflexively linking to a bunch of stuff that would not be of any use. Is the a kinder, more respectful way to put that?
posted by rahnefan at 10:19 AM on June 6, 2011

Just don't put that, so to speak. If it's not an answer, flag it. But this isn't Yahoo! Answers; people are not going to see "calligraphy" and give you an eHow calligraphy link for a question about white markers.

("White calligraphy marker" is a very productive Google, so maybe you want to flesh this out more; what seems wrong with what's out there?)
posted by kmennie at 10:29 AM on June 6, 2011

The issue is that I haven't tried anything like this in years, and last I looked, the most expensive stuff I could find was not really opaque or was a simple line pen (and even that wasn't very opaque), and I wanted to see if there were people who could speak from experience and vouch for specific products before I go spending money again.
posted by rahnefan at 10:46 AM on June 6, 2011

Have you tried Pro-White? I've only used it with a brush and a stick pen (ie not with a reservoir) however.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:58 AM on June 6, 2011

I think I tried that for clean-up once and wasn't happy with it.
posted by rahnefan at 11:02 AM on June 6, 2011

My $.02 as a guy who used to sell industrial inks and markers - the pens like kmennie linked would presumably work (I looked them over and based on their descriptions, they look like the right sort), and you do NOT want to try to introduce these kinds of inks to pens you normally use for dark inks.

For an ink to be opaque, it's got to have pigment in it. Lots and lots of pigment. A black or blue ink that you'll use on a white paper or the like is generally a dye ink. Much easier to work with, both in terms of the delivery system and in terms of having it in your hand working with it. Pigment inks are thicker, are going to be harder to get a smooth FINE line with, and tend to turn to crap when they dry in the pen unless you're very careful to clean out the tip (or find a way to keep it from drying)

I'd buy whatever you needed for this project, PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE, and if you're going to use them ongoing probably keep them in a ziplock or something. And keep extras, because they're more prone to jamming up than the other kind. These appear to be disposable, and I think for this that's much easier to work with.

If they are valve-type markers, also keep in mind that they tend to work like a ketchup bottle - you don't think you're getting anything out, PUMP PUMP PUMP, and then - lots and lots of ink. Go slow when getting the tips inked up.
posted by randomkeystrike at 11:10 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Could you use a traditional dip pen and use white out as 'ink'? As an opaque white substance, white-out is the whitest thing you are likely to find. (It is basically titanium oxide and some binders, with some sort of very volatile hydrocarbon solvent. I've been told that some brands use octane or hexane, others use xylene or more exotic stuff.)

You might need to thin it a bit to get it to flow well, but a good office supply or stationery store should sell thinner alongside the white out.

I once did something like this in order to make bright white lines on metal parts; it worked fairly well. The nib of the pen/stylus will gum up frequently and you'll have to keep dipping it in solvent, though.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:20 AM on June 6, 2011

If you're lettering on paper, disregard the rest of this suggestion...
...but if you're lettering on dark wood, glass, metal, or another non-flexible, not-too-porous surface, you might try sign painters' enamel with a small lettering quill.
It's more precarious, as you're working with a slower-drying liquid that sits on top of your surface rather than an ink that is absorbed as you make your strokes... but it sure is opaque!
In case you're interested in seeing how it lays down on a slightly larger letter size:
posted by D.Billy at 1:59 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is that you in the video? Not only is that very opaque, but your hand is super-steady -- that was gorgeous. Thanks.
posted by rahnefan at 3:21 PM on June 6, 2011

Ohhh, no. Not me in the video. Though I hope to acquire that skill level at some point...
posted by D.Billy at 7:59 PM on June 6, 2011

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