I have had Posca pens for a while now, I like them. They are acrylic paint pens and I use them to draw lines, colour and generally do mark making within my personal journalling and art makes. They come in a variety of nib sizes, a range of colours and lay nicely over other media when they are dry. If you use them too quickly over a medium that hasn’t dried properly you can and usually do, ruin the nibs. I have one that I have used a couple of times and I have clearly busted and nothing I try brings it back to life. Its a shame, its a 1 mm green metallic and it’s gorgeous, well it used to be! Now I use it if I want to have a blob of paint somewhere, but otherwise I should just pop it in the bin. Posca pens do exactly what they say on the box. They are easy to prime from new. You shake them a bit, you depress the nib a few times to get the paint flowing and then they are there, working away with just the occasional shake and prime to re flow, but that’s not often. They are nice, easy to use pens and you can get replacement nibs if you need them.
Archer & Olive exploded into my view via my favourite stationery shop Under the Rowan Trees. Everyone was raving about this company, they make journals and they are gorgeous. I cannot lie, I have three! They sit in their boxes waiting to be used but I have yet to actually break the page. So when I learned that the company was branching out and making acrylic paint pens, I was excited. Archer & Olive products all sell out very quickly each time Danielle of Under the Rowan Trees stocks them, she has a waiting list and I’m not sure the stock even hits the shelves sometimes. I was lucky enough to buy one box last year and I got the 3 mm Tropical Selection. They are water based acrylic pens, they come in a nice white barrel, the lid is coloured to match the paint colour and there is a small sticker also telling you the paint colour. They look amazing when opening the box.
The instructions on how to prime and use are pretty scant, but as I was used to Posca pens I wasn’t worried. HOWEVER don’t be fooled! Each pen needs a good 2 minutes shaking before you even attempt to prime the nib, if you don’t do this, you run the risk of immediately breaking the fibres of the nib. Then you no longer have a nice crisp 3 mm nib, but a frayed fibrous nib. I find that they do not give a good initial coverage and I have tried on white, Kraft and black papers. The initial strokes are watery and thin and because I have damaged a few nibs, fibrous. I also find that, that even once primed, you have to keep shaking and priming to keep the paint flowing long enough to do your piece of work. I find the pens lacking in usability and that they are not a nice experience for me. You are supposed to be able to use them to blend their colours. I find they dry WAY too quickly to achieve this and I just end up with blobs of dry paint on the palette.
Price comparisons: The Archer & Olive pens on their website are $35, Under the Rowan Trees £29 for a set of 9 pens plus one empty pen for “blending”, making them £3.22 per pen. You can only buy them as a set and they always come with the blank pen. The box is lovely, each pen is encased in the foam, having its own slot and the box itself can be used as a blending palette. Posca pens are available everywhere and reasonably priced; a set of 16 colours with the 3 mm nib in the UK have a recommended retail price of £52, but are currently available for £35 via CultPens. This makes the price per pen approximately £2.18. Prices do not including any postage that may apply from your preferred supplier.
Colouring Comparison: In this comparison, I used the colouring book I recently received from Under the Rowan Trees subscription box. The paper is really nice and I thought it would be a good base for the pens. In the image on the left, I used the Archer & Olive Pens with the white almost as a separator for the colour threads. I had been using the pens yesterday, so thought they would be okay today. I had to shake each pen before using and had to pump the nib of each colour before I could get it to flow and I had to re pump each pen before I had completed its swatch. In the image you can see there is very little colouring done with each pen. In the image on the right I used the Posca pens. I haven’t used them in a while, yet for each colour I was able to pick up the pen, start to colour and only towards the last swatch of each of the purple or yellow did I have to re pump as I had used what was in its flow. There is so much more colouring with the Posca pens than the Archer & Olive. I had really high hopes for this comparison, however I was disappointed with the results of this test.
SUMMARY: I feel I have given the Archer & Olive a fair run for their money over the last few months. I have tried them individually, layering over each other and layering over other media. Despite the initial problems of getting them going and keeping them going, they do at least perform as well as the Posca pens in terms of the coverage, eventually. BUT for me, the user experience is far from the same and I’m afraid I just don’t like them. Yet every YouTube video I watch about them, every review I read about them, everyone in the Under the Rowan Trees group all love them. So what on earth am I doing wrong with them? Do I have a duff box? Did I bust them when priming them? I have no idea. I just know that I will not be buying anymore, I do not rate the user experience enough to warrant their cost or the hassle I have to go through each time I try to use them.
In conclusion: I will stick with Posca pens. They just do what they say they will do and are not too expensive if I make a mistake and mess up a pen.
Disclaimer: All opinions expressed here are my own. I paid for the products discussed, I received no payment and I am not affiliated in any way with any brand mentioned herein.