Why is archival ink important? 

We receive many inquiries about the ink in Sakura pens, including Pigma MicronPigma Brush and Gelly Roll pens.

1.Pigma® is the brand name of the pigmented ink used in Sakura products. The formula for Pigma ink was developed specifically for museum archivists and conservators after extensive research and testing.

2.You may have noticed that Sakura memory products are labeled "archival.".

"Archival" suggests that these products are permanent, durable and chemically stable. They can be safely used for writing you care about saving such as legal documents, family albums or journals. This is a non-technical term, since there are no industry standards for how long "archival" or "archivally sound" materials must last. Sakura uses this term to describe the high overall quality of our Pigma® ink products along with the qualities described below.

3.Acid-Free is a deceptive term used in connection with many products in the memory market. This is also mistakenly used as a synonym for alkaline or buffered. Do not be fooled by pens or writing materials labeled "acid free" because this does not guarantee that a product is truly suitable for memory projects. There are no industry standards applicable for ensuring that a product is, indeed, acid-free.

4. Chemical stability refers to the ability to resist chemical degradation. Sakura uses one or two pigments to color its inks, to enhance their chemical stability, and to eliminate the possibility of pigment separation due to age or exposure to outside elements. Many other inks do not have the same qualities as Sakura Pigma inks!

5. Lightfastness refers to the ability to retain color over time and/or when exposed to light, heat, or other adverse conditions. Sakura Pigma® inks are light fast due to the high quality pigments that compose them.

6. Neutral pH refers to a material with a pH of 7, that is, one that is neither acid nor alkaline. Sakura's Pigma® inks dry to a neutral pH and, therefore, will not adversely effect the materials on which they are applied.

7. Permanent/permanence refers to the ability of a substance to resist change over long periods of time without significant deterioration under normal use and storage conditions. Permanence may be effected by temperature, humidity, light, and acidic or alkaline chemicals. Sakura Pigma® inks are permanent, waterproof, chemical resistant and temperature-resistant on paper and on many fabrics.

What is the difference between a “line width” and a “ball diameter”?

We get this question a lot because of the confusing packaging labels found in stores. It can be very confusing to consumers because the terms are related – yet not equivalent in meaning. 

Line Width refers to the actual “line mark” made by a writing instrument on a substrate (usually paper). Normally this is designated by the labeling of: 1mm line, 0.35mm line … etc. The actual line width may vary based on a) the writing pressure b) the absorbency or type of paper, and (c) the speed with which one writes. 

Ball Diameter refers to the “spherical ball part” of the writing instrument’s nib. Labeling on packaging will refer to this like: 0.5 mm ball ø ( the “ø" symbol means “diameter”). The ball diameter indication is only used for writing instruments that utilize “ball nib technology” and is not used for writing instruments that utilize “fiber or plastic nib technology." 

So one term refers to the “end result” of making a mark on paper (line width) and the other term refers to a “part” of the writing instrument (ball diameter).

What does Sakura mean by "permanent on most surfaces?"

The use of the word “permanent” was originally intended to refer to the permanence of Sakura products on different types of paper. Using an ink intended for paper on another type of surface can dramatically alter the ink’s performance. Even specialty papers that are treated with coatings or emulsions can affect the permanence of Sakura’s products. Due to customers’ varying expectations in performance on surfaces such as glass, ceramics, cell phones, wood and plastic, we have updated the term “permanent” to “permanent on most surfaces.” 

Many Sakura markers can "write" on many surfaces, but whether the mark is "permanent" or not depends on the surface and conditions (washing, scrubbing, chemicals, heat, cold, etc.), applied to the mark after the fact. No “permanent” marker can withstand every possible condition on every surface, nor are we able to test for every possible condition on every surface that may be applied to the mark after the fact. We suggest that you test first to make sure that the marker will work for your specific use and conditions.

What's the best way to care for my Pigma Micron pen?

Sakura invented Microns as an inexpensive and disposable alternative to high-priced technical pens while maintaining technical-pen quality. Microns were originally designed for fine-line technical and art drawing but their use has spread to other applications.

Micron’s best use is on paper, so non-traditional uses such as tole painting, decoupage applications, using it on canvas, decorative quilts, etc., might contribute to a bent or clogged nib.

A Micron nib may clog from use with partially dried paint or primer, wood dust, fabric dust, starches & protections on fabric surfaces and very fibrous paper. The Micron nibs are essentially “micro size plastic tubes” which allow our pigment ink formula to easily flow from the barrel to the paper. When any foreign matter clogs these tubes, the Pigma ink flow is blocked.

Microns are designed to be used at a 90° degree angle, like technical pens. The smaller point sizes (005 and 01) use very delicate nibs to create the extra fine line, so they need to be used with a very light touch, no more than the weight of the pen itself. Microns require very little pressure to provide a flow of ink. If you experience a bent nib, switching to a thicker nib size, and/or using lighter hand pressure when writing, should resolve the issue.

A leak near the nib holder or ink wick could be caused by dropping, inadvertently shaking, or accidently applying centrifugal force to the pen by spinning it in your hand.

Although Sakura strives to make a durable Pigma product, it is considered a “disposable pen”. Our standard product performance is based on a 24 month shelf life. Most of our Pigma products can last longer than the 24 months (with the exception of running out of ink or damage to the nib) under ideal use conditions.

Our Gelly Roll or SumoGrip pen products provide an alternative for a more durable point and are ideally suited for everyday writing use.

In how many colors and point sizes does the Pigma Micron come?

Check out our new Pigma Micron Color and Size Chart.

The permanence of Pigma® inks

Sakura tests the performance of their products BEFORE making any standards or performance claims. When testing lightfastness, Sakura uses large light chambers to accelerate the aging/ exposure of Pigma ink writing test samples as on a typical bright summer's day. From our tests results we estimate that our Pigma inks will not have any noticeable ink hue change for up to 100 years. Beyond this many years, the papers they are tested on become a problem and there is a question of whether the paper color is changing or the ink color is changing. Accelerated light tests such as theses are the only practical way of estimating light-fastness results.

Pigma® ink is the highest quality, archival ink that Sakura manufactures. You may want to find out if other manufacturers actually test their inks, or just make marketing claims of lightfastness.

Besides light exposure, inks can also be effected by other environmental exposures such as humidity, temperature, and airborne chemicals, and liquids. Each of these factors should be individually considered as well.

"Why does my Pigma® Micron pen run out of ink so fast?"

Simple answer - because they are loved and used so frequently!

The average write out length of the Pigma Microns 01 (.25 mm line) is 800 meters. The wider the line width, the lower the write-out length. So here are some general (approximate) length write-outs for the black ink:

a. Write-out is very dependent upon the type of paper used, e.g., cotton fiber papers absorb a lot more ink from the Micron nib than papers such as #20 lb. copier paper (which have a lot of clay content and are therefore less absorbent).

b. Write-out is affected by the "cap-off time," i.e., how long the cap is left off the pen when it is not being used.

c. Nib blockage affects write-out, so make sure your paper surface is clean and smooth.

d. Although not proven, we suspect that treating paper, for example by "paper sizing," might affect the write-out.

e. Some people try to treat the acidity of their paper by adding calcium carbonate. If they don't fully dilute the powder some of the particles may clog the Micron nibs.

Using Pigma® Microns on wood and fabrics. How can I make my Pigma® Microns last longer?

Pigma Microns are considered disposable pens. The product specifications and design use are for paper and not for rough surfaces such as wood or nubby fabrics.

However, the Pigma Micron is the pen of choice for many tole painters. Here are a few helpful hints from tole painters sent to us over the years. (Note: We do not necessarily endorse these practices, and suggest each individual conduct their own tests before undertaking any project.)

a. Hold your Pigma Micron pen in a 90° degree position while writing. This will prevent uneven wear to the tip of the nib.

b. Use a 05 or 08 point size when marking against hard, rough surfaces such as wood or nubby fabrics.

c. Use more than one pen, and rotate your pen use. This allows pens to rejuvenate the ink flow overnight and this extends the life of the pen.

d. Do not press down hard on the nib while you write. The excessive pressure wears down the plastic nib faster, especially on rough surfaces.

e. Do not make long uninterrupted lines against rough paper surfaces or wood with the pen. Make shorter line strokes and the pen nib will last longer.

f. When writing on paint, make sure that the paint is fully dried, not just surfaced cured. Acrylic paints may feel dry to the touch but just below the surface, may not be. The nib picks up bits of the wet paint and will clog easily. One needs to experiment to be sure the paint is completely dry due to differences in weather conditions. Remember, the paint drying time will differ depending upon the brand of paint you use.

g. If you have one Micron pen which is out of ink (and the nib is not clogged), you can exchange its nib with another Micron pen which is not out of ink, but has a clogged nib. Here's how -- With a needle nose pliers, firmly grasp the metal sleeve and gently pull the nib straight out. A long ink wick will be attached to the back of the nib holder. This ink wick is what brings the ink to the nib. Do the same for the bad nib / ink-full pen. Now gently insert the good nib into the pen with ink. Make sure the nib assembly is seated snugly into the pen barrel. Put the cap back on the pen. Then you must wait for about 3 hours for the ink to gradually pull itself through the ink wick into the nib. Do not try to rush the process by shaking the pen - you'll only create a mess by making the ink go around the ink wick and flood the pen cap. (Note: This process does not always work, but it is worth a try. Also, do not mix ink colors. Do not take a red pen nib and insert it into a green ink pen!)

h. Do not try to put any other brand ink refill into the Pigma Microns pens. They will not work.

Using Pigma® Microns on tableware or glassware

1. It is not advisable to use any product on tableware that may come in direct contact with food that has not been tested and cleared specifically for that use.

2. Pigma Microns are not permanent on glass. You would have to test the effect of putting glaze over them on a practice piece to see if that seals them satisfactorily for non-tableware;

3. Our inks have not been tested for use on tableware that comes into contact with food. We do not recommend that they be used in that manner.

Hand tinting photographs and Pigma® ink

Regardless what product you use for hand tinting, we recommend you try it on some similar photos that are not one of a kind to see how you like the results, colors, effect, etc. You might even want to wait a few weeks to check for surface degradation. If everything works out to your liking, you could then feel more confident about using that product on non-replaceable photos. Since there are so many types of photographic paper, Sakura cannot guarantee that Pigma inks will produce the hand tinting results you desire. Many photographers have told us they get the best results using non-RC (resin coated) papers.

How to prevent Pigma Micron® pens from bleeding when using rulers

The Pigma Micron, a technical pen used by architects and engineers to make fine lines with a constant width, can create a “bleeding effect” if the wet Pigma ink comes into contact with the underside edge of the ruler. Most plastic and metal rulers are flat which causes the ink to migrate to the underside of the ruler when the Micron’s nib comes into contact with the ruler’s edge. To prevent this bleeding effect, raise the ruler to a height so that its edge runs along the metal shaft of the Micron Pen. If raising the ruler while writing becomes a challenge, tape some pennies to the back of the ruler. This was a popular workaround used by many college architects in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The most efficient solution to prevent the Micron pen from bleeding, however, is to use an “inking ruler.” An inking ruler which is usually made out of aluminum, steel or metal, is designed with a backing that raises the edge off the surface of the paper. The raised backing prevents the nib from touching the ruler and thus prevents bleeding. 

Here is a link to a webpage that shows how an inking ruler works: http://geek.focalcurve.com/archive/2005/07/inking-a-straight-line/

How to use Pigma Micron® pens with stencils

Standard stencils are made of thin brass and plastic, so the stencil’s edge is very sharp. If the stencil’s sharp edge comes into contact with the Micron’s plastic nib, the Micron pen may be sliced by the sharp edge and become damaged. Brass stencils were originally developed for the rubber stamping and printing industry for “Do-It-Yourself -blind embossing.” (http://www.wes-tex.com/blog/design-tips-for-blind-embossed-business-cardshttp://www.aph.org/manuals/7-08844-00.pdf.) In order to use the stencil without ruining the pen nib, elevate the stencil height from the surface of the paper so that the stencil comes into contact with the metal shaft of the Micron pen.

What do the numbers “005” to “08” mean on the Pigma Micron barrel?

The Pigma Micron pen was developed in the early 1980’s as a non-refillable alternative to the technical pen. At that time, refillable technical drawing ink pens were very popular and most manufacturers used a special numbering system to indicate the “point size” for each different pen nib width. Please refer to this link to get a matrix of theapproximation of how this number system worked:
http://www.sizes.com/tools/pens_tech.htm

Sakura created a similar point size numbering system to imprint on Pigma Micron’s pen barrel, which helped technical pen users understand that this non-refillable pen was a serious drafting tool. Today, this numbering system doesn’t have any real meaning to new users of Pigma Micron, however, there are a many users from the 1980’s & 1990’s that still look for those numbers.. 

Today, Pigma Micron pens have both the numbering system (005, 01, 02, 03, 05, 08), as well as an approximate line width imprinted on the barrel. We say approximate line width because the actual line width can be affected by writing pressure, the absorbency of the paper and the speed of writing. The following cross reference shows the numbering system on the barrel and the approximate line width equivalent:

  • 005 = 0.20mm
  • 01 = 0.25mm
  • 02 = 0.30mm
  • 03 = 0.35mm
  • 05 = 0.45mm
  • 08 = 0.50mm

My Pigma Calligrapher doesn't seem to be working properly. Why is it skipping? 

What makes this pen so unique is the hard nylon nib that withstands heavy pressure and constant use and provides you with even ink flow from edge to edge. Writing with Pigma Calligrapher for the first time is a very different experience, especially if you are used to a felt nib calligraphy pen. Some calligraphers have said that they prefer the Pigma Calligrapher after using it for a few minutes. We recommend lettering a few sentences to determine the correct amount of pressure for your needs and to get a feel for the pen before attempting a final project. 
The Pigma Calligrapher is unlike other disposal calligraphy pens.  The unique nib structure responds to a bit of pressure applied against the paper surface to create ink flow.  

Other calligraphy pens with fiber-bundle nibs don’t allow good ink transfer control to the paper. These fiber-bundle nibs require a very light touch or the ink will blot and saturate the paper.  With fiber nibs, it is difficult to get a clean edge to your letter form. Users unfamiliar with Pigma Calligrapher who use this light touch will not get the plastic nib to release the ink – which causes uneven ink coverage. 
    
The unique Pigma Calligrapher nib shape produces crisp edges and sharp hairlines. It is also capable of providing a dry brush effect which can be achieved by applying less pressure, which may look like ”skipping”. The nibs have just the right amount of bounce so you can control line width with the pressure you apply to the pen.

Are Pigma Micron pens safe to use?

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All products bearing the Art & Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) certification seals have undergone extensive toxicological evaluation and testing by the ACMI, an international, non-profit association recognized as the leading authority on art and creative materials.  The AP (Approved Product) Seal, with or without Performance Certification, identifies art materials that are safe and that are certified in a toxicological evaluation by a medical expert to contain no materials in sufficient quantities to be toxic or injurious to humans, including children, or to cause acute or chronic health problems. Such products are certified by ACMI to be labeled in accordance with the chronic hazard labeling standard, ASTM D 4236, and the U. S. Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act (LHAMA). Additionally, products bearing the AP Seal with Performance Certification or the CP Seal are certified to meet specific requirements of material, workmanship, working qualities, and color developed by ACMI and others through recognized standards organizations, such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).