Thursday, 10 November 2011

Guide and Troubleshooter for Mapping Pens and Nibs

Buying a mapping pen for parchment craft:

There are three main makes of mapping pen available: Pergamano, PCA (Parchcraft Australia) and Conte. Conte have the finest nib and this is good for white ink and coloured inks but a fine nib does get clogged more easily so a Pergamano nib or a PCA nib can be a better choice with metallic ink. However, a fine nib is not the only reason for a fine tracing line, it is the way it is used.

How to use /hold the pen:

Mapping pens are used for tracing, the aim is to get a really fine line. To do this you need to practise holding the pen almost upright and gliding across the parchment. If you press down it will result in a thicker line.

Before you use a new nib:

There are several ideas to try, some people recommend that new nibs should be dipped in boiling water, others say soak them in alcohol or hot soapy water, another way to condition new nibs is to soak them in bicarbonate of soda and boiling water or even holding a nib in a match flame (do be careful if you try this one).


If you haven't used your bottle of ink for a while it might need mixing, you should be able to hear a ball bearing rattling around in white ink, pastel and metallics. They need a good shake to mix them up, however the resulting bubbles on top of the ink when you dip your pen may cause a blot on the parchment. Coloured inks just need a gentle roll in the hand to mix.

How to fill a pen:

• White Tinta Ink, coloured inks
Always wash the nib in water and then dry it before dipping into the ink, or just wipe the nib on a damp sponge front and back, before dipping. Do this every time you refill the pen.
Dip the pen into the ink up to the hole or eye in the nib, if you have overfilled the nib the ink will not run, it may even blot.
• Metallic Tinta Ink
Use a plastic stirrer to get to the bottom of the ink bottle stir it around and drip a very small amount of the ink onto the nib. Always clean your nib before refilling it with more ink.

Nib maintenance:

Normal use means that we touch nibs all the time to wash, store, replace them into their holders. The natural oils from your hand will get on the nib. Use wet wipes to remove these oils.

Ink won't run freely from the nib
- if it is a new nib try the conditioning ideas,
- are you putting too much ink on the nib when you dip?
- are you pressing too hard on the nib?
- is the ink old and thickened (thin it down with a drop of water)
- metallic ink may run better on an old, well used nib

Blots on the parchment
- air bubbles in the ink
- too much ink on the nib

Pen won't glide
- the nib may be blocked up, wash and dry it
- the ink may be too thick

Nib falls out of pen holder
- try to ease the nib out at the base so that it fits better
- try another pen

Tracing can also be done with a white pencil, a fine tip pen, such as a gel pen, precision pen or micron pen but mapping pen and ink is the traditional method. It depends what effect you want in the end.

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