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Linda Farmer, Certified Zentangle Teacher

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Tips from Sakura on using their Micron pens

Sakura Micron Pens - Set of 6In recent correspondence with Sakura about issues I experienced with a Sakura Pigma Micron Pen Set, I received some very useful information about using our classic Zentangle® pens. Thought it was worth sharing with you all, so here it is …

Micron Care and Quality

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 an issue with 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 90degree 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 accidentally applying centrifugal force to the pen by spinning it in your hand.

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

* * *

The information about using the pens upright like a technical pen and the light touch required was a revelation to me. I’m not at all heavy-handed with my pens but I was not aware they “need to be used with a very light touch”. (And aren’t they polite? – how do you “accidentally apply centrifugal force”?)

I hope you too learned something helpful from this explanation?

PS – BTW, the issue I had (03 leaking, 05 dry, 08 split nib) may well have been that I didn’t notice if the package had previously been opened and “tested”. Thus not even a Sakura issue. You can bet I’ll be sure to purchase from Amazon in the future, then I’ll be assured of new product.

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68 comments to Tips from Sakura on using their Micron pens

  • Gwen

    Hi Linda: I too had the same problems with Micron pens that you had. I had occasion to contact the Western Canada rep and explain what the problems were. He basically said the same things … maybe he wrote to you? Thanks for writing this so we’d all know about the soft touch.

    • Linda Farmer

      Hi Gwen, the rep I corresponded with didn’t give me a name. How curious that you had the same problems. I’ve gone through a few packages of these pens without any issues before, so I wasn’t aware they will replace them if you send the defective product back to them (it even says that on the packaging – Duh). Naturally I threw them away. But the experience nagged at me until I finally wrote to them just to let them know. Maybe I wasn’t so “unobservant” after all… who knows. But I will know better if there’s ever a next time. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Great article! I hadn’t heard about the leaks before, but I’ve never had that problem.

    I’ve always thought it was funny how some people swear by Microns, and other people swear at them, lol! My suspicion was that the people who were disatisfied were either heavy-handed or didn’t cap the pen often enough. That’s one thing they didn’t say here. The pens do dry out quickly if they’re left uncapped.

    • Linda Farmer

      Excellent point about capping the pens, Sandra. This was the first time I’ve had any issue – it was quite disconcerting suddenly discovering I had a black middle finger!

  • Laurie Earl

    My favorite size of Micron pens are the 005 and 01 – because I like the fine line they provide. I was delighted to learn more about my favorite tools and am glad they provide them in such an economical way. I draw mostly in pencil first because I like the idea to flow out before it’s a certainty. Then, I like to do the inking and then shading – to create the 3D effects I prefer. Thank YOU too for providing all the fun instruction for this wonderful, relaxing and therapeutic type of art form. My local Zentangle teacher saw my designs and commented that I was probably better at it than she is. Which was not what I wanted her to say…but I’ll take compliments any day!

  • C.C. Sadler

    Linda, This is great! This has come up in the handful of workshops I have taught so far! Rick did a little of it at the CZT seminar in Feb, but it is great to have it in this format. You are awesome, keep up your work to keep us informed.

    C.C.

  • Else

    Really useful post; thank you! I’ve had good luck with my pens so far but these tips, especially about the 90 degree angle, are great to know. :)

  • Bruce Cech

    I use the .005 and .01 most of the time. I have a heavy hand and have to constantly remind myself to ease up. I do ok with the .01 (most of the time) but I’ve messed up several of the .005. I figured It was my heavy handedness but its nice to have it confirmed. All in all, the Micron pens are still my favorite. This is a great site. Recently looked at ‘how to draw a celtic’. I have actually drawn a celtic that looks like a celtic thanks to your excellent instructions.

  • Annette

    WOW, I too had a “dry” 01 Micron! I thought that maybe it was my fault somehow…good to know I’m not going crazy, except for Tangling! Thanks for the information.

  • Linda Farmer

    Hey everyone, nice to “see” some new faces here as well as some of “the faithful”. And so pleased to get all your input. Glad you’re finding this as helpful as I did.

    Wonder why they don’t put this stuff on their packaging. Just sayin’ …

  • Ann

    I just went out and brought Micron pens finally after using cheap pens. I just started to use canvas as a base and was told to use micron pens. Now I am thinking the person in the shop was wrong. I must say I brought another brand on as well and it says on the package for canvas amongst other things. One thing they dont say is store horizontal when not in use. I wondered then why shops store them vertical are they reducing the life of the pens before we can even use them?

  • Dianne

    Thanks for the great info, I had the same revelations as you.
    I AM unobservant…. purchased over $50 in sakura jelly rolls at a scrapbooking shop and when I started using them, I had several already leaking and more than half of the rest had the little rubber (?)cap on the tip missing and were very scratchy to use. After taking a class I discovered why… they use shelf stock and then put it back. Needless to say I do not purchase ANYTHING from this shop.
    Unfortunately I had thrown away my receipt.

  • Sue

    Great tips by everyone who wrote in. I’m a 005 lover, but I find it clogs up quicker. Any suggestions on how to unclog the pens?

  • Just posted to my FB. A must read for all artist interested in Pens and the Microns.

  • great info. I knew most of that already as I have been using microns for over 15 years. Thanks for sharing this as now I know what to tell folks new to the pens (so its not “just me” telling them, its Sakura :) )
    Dee
    xx

  • Moe

    I tend to grip my pens really hard so I imagine I probably press hard too. I’ll have to be more aware of it. I haven’t had a problem with bent tips but the tips do get pushed in and become uncomfortably usable which also leads me to conclude I might be pressing too hard.

  • MaryJVA

    FYI…I do a fair amount of my inking on wooden surfaces that are painted white…wooden ornaments, wooden eggs, etc.
    The Y&C Pigma pen is superior in these situations. Sakura Micron tends to smudge.
    Y&C does not smudge when working on painted surfaces. They must be allowed to dry and sprayed with a sealer such as Krylon 1311 or Decoart Sealer/Finisher before varnishing.
    I goofed a few nights ago. I finished and inked snowman ornament. I blew it…skipped the sealer step..and I knew better. I hit it with Decoart Triple Thick spray and got a bleed. If I had done the sealer step this would NOT have happened.

  • Nark

    Linda, Can I post these Sakura Pen Tips in a Zentangle Group file? I will give full credit to Sakura, you, and Tanglepatterns.
    Thank you,
    Nark

    • Linda Farmer

      Hi Nark, sure and I’d appreciate it if you’d please link to this post because there is lots of useful advice in the comments too. Thanks.

  • These have used pens are the fault of open unprotected stock. It is a shame! I actually have seen artist pick up a pen go in the back area of “unnamed well stocked Art Store in Boston” use the pen on their work. Go put it back and walk out of the store.
    To bad the open stock is not like a Drink machine with a sample pen for try out and the others waiting to be vended.
    It is happens with paper. Just check the thumb prints.

  • Thanks for these tips, Linda. I’ve been using .005 and ,01 micron pens since way back when I did folk art painting. First I’d transfer the pattern, then paint it with acrylic wash. I used them on watercolor paper, and they never clogged on me.

    Now, I do my Zentangle practice on Strathmore drawing paper, and several of my pens have run dry. I can’t believe that this process uses so much more ink than the other, so now I’m thinking they got clogged. SO, leads to my question — do you have any suggestions on how to try to unclog them? Or are they just a lost cause?

    • judy

      Hi! Maybe the drawing paper you are using is sized. That could cause a clogging of the tips. I often use Watercolor paper, just cuz I am not a ‘purist’ and will often ‘tangle’ around a watercolor. I have had a few small sizing-related sakura clogging issues.

  • Les

    Hi Linda,and all :)
    I’m pleased you sent us this post Linda. I did have a problem a while back . and so started re-reading labels on pens and such, also on the web here & there .. one tip that I immediately put to use was …. I exchanged my lovely jam jars in which I have this lovely array of microns etc … it seems if you put your microns etc away in *upright* order in a jar, they dry out sooner ! I read that it was a lot smarter when you are done drawing to *lie them down horizontally* they last longer this way. I don’t Tangle daily, so I was pleased with this tip. 2)Try a child’s toothbrush on an old pen,to un-clog nibs, before use on a new pen. Les

  • Linda Farmer

    I received a response from Sakura on my “how do you ‘accidentally apply centrifugal force’?” remark – and for those wondering about it too:

    “What sometimes happens is people channel nervous energy through something they are holding in their hand without even thinking about it. Have you seen people who “shake” pens back and forth between their fingers, tap the pen on a desk, or twirl the pen unconsciously in their hand? It’s just something some people do unconsciously like jingling the keys or change in their pocket. That is how you accidently apply centrifugal force to a pen.”

    • TJ

      I know somebody who does that! You can tell when he is nervous or mad in a meeting – the pens start dancing around like it’s showtime!

    • C

      I understand that spinning a pen around your thumb is a middle school graduation requirement in certain countries. Do a search on “how to spin a pen” to learn more about this basic educational technique.

      *Anyway* Thanks for the tips! One of my 005′s just clogged after one use on an acrylic surface. I’ll be ordering some Prismacolor brush tips. Any experience or comments about them?

  • Les

    Gosh Linda if I get any funnier, I’m going to be in trouble hahahahaaaaa – yes it was YOUR own archive post that told me to “lay them flat”, when I read your archive, and saw the photo I remembered it immediately !! Wish I’d remembered that yesterday before posting to you – God .. some mothers do ‘ave eh ;-)?!!
    Les:) XX

  • Gwen

    Hi again Linda: It could be that the fibre content in Maria and Rick’s tiles help to clog the Micron pens faster too. The Western Canada rep suggested that might be another answer.

  • Sharyn

    Hi Linda,

    As a 25 year pen and ink artist whose favorite technical pen was discontinued (Rotring Rapidoliner) I have searched for a replacement disposable pen. Pigma Micron was the only substitute until recently when Prismacolor introduced the Premier Fine Liner. These firmer felt tips are not as easily damaged as Pigma Micron (I do have a light touch after years of practice) and I run out of ink in these pens long before I run out of pen tip. The tip wear on the Pigma Micron can also be uneven depending on the technique and I recommend turning the pen about a quarter turn every 5 minutes to reduce wear patterns. Further, I never buy from open stock at any craft or art store except when the pen is in a package to prevent ‘customers’ from using the pens.

    • Linda Farmer

      Hi Sharyn, I haven’t seen the Prismacolor yet so I’ll keep an eye out for it. Thanks for sharing!

    • TJ

      I’m not sure if I have this same pen (Premier Fine Liner), but I bought some Prismacolor pens recently and they smeared much more readily than the Sakura. Maybe it was a paper issue…

  • Usher73

    I have a Micron that has leaked twice, both times after carrying it on a plane flight. Maybe lower air pressure on the plane sucks the ink out.

  • Great advice about buying pens only on Amazon – this is what I do as well. They have the best prices I’ve seen anywhere. There is one other site I subscribe to, called craftysteals (dot-com) where she frequently has different pens go on sale. She just had some good ones a days ago. If you click on “past steals” you can see if she still has any left.

  • Kathryn Shimmura

    One thing that it might also help to know – I usually carry about a half dozen pens in my purse and when I fly anywhere, one or two pens usually end up leaking profusely and I end up throwing them away. They are Uni-balls, not Microns, but there may be something about the construction of certain pens which causes problems like that.

    • Does the same thing happen if the pens are in checked in baggage, or only if you take them on board with you? I’m going on a trip next week, and I’d planned on taking pens and other Zentangle tools with me.

  • A response to Ann (‘way back, yellow square) -
    To work on fabric you need to get the Sakura “Graphic” pen. It’s pretty durable, quite black (I occasionally re-drew things), and lasts a good while. The tip is sort of bruch/bullet shaped, and is firm.

  • Rachel

    Hi ,I have a question about the pens by Sakura and by Artist’s Loft. I have them for about 1 week now and only did about four pages of sketching and they almost don’t work no more. I do not press hard when I write and the ink is not as good when I got them and the tip are going in the metal so I was wondering if I’m the only one this is happening to or is it the pens? When what can I do to get the tips out of the metal?
    Thank you so much in advance :)

  • Having used Micron pens, I can safely say that they work quite well! They are good in terms of quality and are quite affordable as well.

  • Marie

    I was having a terrible time with the Micron pens “drying up”. I tried scribbling with them – no help – and shaking them to bring the ink down just splattered ink across everywhere. After reading through these comments, I realized that the micro-tubes had become clogged. I tried using a soft tissue as someone else had suggested – nothing. Finally, as a last-ditch effort, I sucked on the tip hoping that would get it flowing. Voila! It works like new now. (Then I scraped off the ink off my tongue – ick.) Just thought I’d share….

  • Jan Guinn

    I love the pens, but my hand doesn’t! I have some rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis in my hands and after drawing for a while, my thumb was so swollen and painful! Can anyone recommend a pen that has a larger barrel, or something I can use to modify the Sakura pen so it is more comfortable to use?
    Thank you all, especially Linda. Your site is amazing!
    Jan

    • Linda Farmer, CZT

      Hi Jan, I Googled “ergonomic pen grips” and found these on Amazon. There are probably others out there too, hope that helps. Maybe some of the other tanglers will have their own recommendations. Thanks for your compliments! :-)

    • judy

      I was going to suggest crochet hook grips, because I use those for crocheting.. but duh! Of course pen grips would make more sense!
      Anything to increase the diameter will help, and be sure to stop every 10 minutes and stretch out those fingers for circulation!

  • Jan Guinn

    Thanks Linda, I’ll check it out.

  • AMS

    What does the term “used at 90 degrees” truly mean? Must the pen be at a 90-degree angle to the paper? Can it be truly be controlled or held like that for any length of time?

  • doc

    i’m trying to find a micron tip .005-.01 in white. thx doc

  • TracyMarie

    I just read this artical & all comments. I’ve only been able to buy what is available at a nearby CVS drug store. The Sharpie brand ultra fine line. Absolutely no problems with these what so ever. I make large Monogram ZIA’s on 9×12 Canson brand XL Recycled Bristol, 96lb/260g paper. One pen makes 2 of these ZIA’s then I accent some w/ Crayola brand crayons. I mount them on matt boards. Once sealed w/ Krylon matte finish they are good to go. If I had to deal with the pens you are all talking about I would never had continued with Tangeling. It would have been much too frustrating. I like my Sharpies.

  • This is a comment for Jan, who has rheumatoid arthritis. I have osteoarthritis and also have pain in my fingers and thumbs. There is a product called Sugru, which is a workable plastic clay that air dries. I’ve used it to make larger, more grippable knobs for lamps, and tools, for example. You shape it, then leave it to dry/cure. It is ready to use in 24 hours. It is good for indoor or outdoor use. Website is http://sugru.com I sound like an ad but, no, I don’t work for them. :)

  • Kaybee

    This is a long-running thread! So I will add my two cents worth. The quality of paper definitely does make a difference in the performance of the Sakura pens. I purchased some Avery half-fold cards that are for use in a jet-ink printer. But I used one to do some tangling. By the time I had finished my design I had gone through 3 Sakura micron pens (I didn’t want to give up on my design once I had started!)! I have never had one dry out on me before….ever! Only to discover that the cards have a finish that actually lifts off with the very fine pen tips. So I am assuming the pens are clogged. I am going to try Marie’s idea of sucking on them (ugh!) and see if they revive!

  • Paula Jarvis

    Jan Guinn: I also find the Sakura pens very uncomfortable, so I use Pentel EnerGel pens (needle tip, 0.5 tip) for most of my work> I use fine-tip Sakura pens only when absolutely necessary (for dots, fine lines, etc.). I buy the Pentel EnerGel pens in boxes of a dozen from Amazon.

  • Nash

    Hi, I was wondering how you store these pens. Do you lay them down or stand them up? If you stand them up do you stand them up right or upside down?

    Thank you!

    • Linda Farmer, CZT

      Hi Nash, the Sakura Microns should not be stored upright, they should be stored horizontally and capped immediately when not in use as the ink will dry very quickly.

  • I love the Micron pens, however I suppose I have a heavy hand because the 005 ones, (which I use the most) seem to wear the tips out before the ink is gone! Is there any way to fish the tips further out of the barrel?

    Thanks so much for your awesome products.

    Michael King

  • Devon

    When I first started tangling, I went in search of pens in my local brick and mortar stores. Since I live in a small city in a rural area, we have no art supply stores. So I tried our Staples and had awesome luck. I found Staedtler pigment liner sketch pens with the drafting supplies. They come in a nifty hard case in sizes .05mm, .1mm, .2mm, .3mm, .5mm and .8mm and they cost about $18 for the set. They are really great pens. The .05mm is awesome for really fine details. I’ve been tangling for about 6 months and I’m still using the original pens and have had no problems. Recently, I also found some Staedtler triplus fine liner porous point pens in a set of 10 (beautiful) assorted colors in a .3mm tip and I think they were about $10 for the set. Neither set of pens is “open stock” – they come in nifty hard “easel” storage cases that are in sealed packaging. I ordered a set of Sakura microns a few days ago and should receive them tomorrow and I’m anxious to see how they compare. I just wanted to let everybody know that there are some great alternatives out there. Blessings!

    • Linda Farmer, CZT

      Thanks Devon. When Rick and Maria first started Zentangle® they thoroughly tested all the permanent ink pens on the market and the Sakura Micron won hands down. And of course Maria also had 40+ years experience as a lettering artist to base her testing on. That’s why the Microns are part of the Kit and always the recommended tool of choice. I’ve personally tested the Staedtler pens too and I found them very scratchy compared to the Micron. I think you’ll find quite a difference. It all comes down to personal preference in the end, whatever feels most comfortable to you.

  • Levi

    Hi all. I just starting using Sakura Microns for writing in my journal. The reason being that when I use the smaller sizes like the 01 there is zero bleed-through, little ghosting, and very important for me, the pigment ink will last forever. I use cursive (Palmer Method font) to write in my journal. Are Microns made for writing? What about cursive where they pen does not leave the paper? If these are not appropriate for this task, are there other pigment ink pens for writing with very small points (.30mm or less)? Thanks.

  • Vera

    I just wanted to leave a comment regarding the amazing durability of these pens. I purchased a set of Sakura Microns so many years ago, I don’t even remember exactly when it was…just that it was probably in the 1990′s sometime, so around fifteen to twenty years ago. I packed up my art stuff at some point for a move, and it pretty much stayed packed until about three months ago when I got a request to decorate an envelope for a get well card. Well, I dug out my colored pencils and found that the Sakura Microns were mixed in with them. I was sure they wouldn’t work, but I’m not one to throw away a pen without at least trying it. To my extreme surprise, every pen but one wrote…and not only wrote, but wrote beautifully. The only one that had issues was the 03 — it wrote kinda, but it skipped a bit. Needless to say, I was completely amazed! What awesome pens!!! =)

  • Johnny K. Young

    I hope this isn’t off topic, but I just wanted to say, I have found the Micron Pens as “open stock” at Michael’s for 2.99 each…which is a little cheaper than ordering them online and having to pay for shipping. Just wanted to put that out there. :)

    • Linda Farmer, CZT

      Thanks Johnny, most craft and art supply stores like Hobby Lobby and others stock Sakura Microns. However there’s also the cost of your time and gas to factor in place of shipping costs, so shopping online is usually a good thing (and saves greenhouse gases). When you use the links from the site, you’re also supporting its sustainability and I hope you agree that’s a good thing too. ;-)

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