Sakura Pigma Microns are some of the finest illustrating pens ever made. The ink flows perfectly and the metal tips are sturdy and precise. Some of the highest paid Illustrators in the world use Microns. I highly recommend them for any type of detailed work…wait for it…BUT, there is not a lot of ink in that formidably-sized barrel. The ink starts to run low just as you’ve acquainted yourself with them fully, once low, the brilliant metal tips drag and spit like any other pen. So, use these if you have the money to replace them on the regular, I would say once every week or two under moderate usage. I keep some of these with me, but I’m hesitant to use them at times, knowing their ink lifetime is limited.
The Pentel Sharp P207 (or P205 for that matter) changed the whole game: perfect weight, perfect grip, supreme sturdiness, and unassailable dependability, but unfortunately the eraser is poorly designed, its metal carriage is too small, resulting in the entire eraser mechanism having a tendency to slide inside the pencil, failing to erase, but worse: possibly cutting the paper with the exposed metal. Now, we all know that the importance of a pencil is not its eraser, generally it’s better to use a second eraser, it’s safer and, well…safer.
So, all they had to do was fix the eraser, and I’m sorry to report that the eraser on the new version has not been changed. Let me say, I may be bitter because I have been waiting, possibly a decade for them to fix the eraser. Instead, what they have done is offer us a new metallic color. So, to collectors: this is the equivalent of a “repaint.” TISK. Oh well, I still bought it, and I will use it, and if there is something I have missed I will be sure to keep you updated. Remember, the alternative is the Pentel GraphGear 500.
I really can’t express just how much a simple set of grey Faber-Castell Pitt Pens can add to your work. It will add depth to your black and white drawings, and when pieces containing it are scanned, they can be color-shifted and maintain your hand drawn gradient. The packs contain “Cold Greys” and “Warm Greys,” which I usually alternate between judging by whether an object is inanimate or not. You can get them in “Brush” or “Soft Brush,” don’t get Soft Brush unless you have an exceptionally steady hand.
Take this sketch for example. It really only has one color (red), but the greys add enough depth to make it feel more “alive.”
For most of my erasing I use a Paper Mate White Pearl eraser, but before I go full-in on erasing the graphite lead from beneath my pen marks, I use the Pentel Clic Eraser to go over all the most important areas.
The Clic Eraser is very delicate with the page, made out of a soft plastic, perfect for clearing all of the pencil marks on faces, hands, and any other intricately detailed part of your art.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to hold the edges of your paper when you erase, crumpling the page is a struggle that is real, and has caused many a casualty in my line of work. I can’t stress enough to only use white plastic erasers and never pink, the degradation of the medium itself is ten times worse with a pink eraser.
To be totally candid: I’m just trying out different notebooks that cost less than Moleskine’s, the “budget alternatives” if you will. So the Red Co Impressions series clocks in around a tenner, and it’s got 240 pages, they are a good weight, but unfortunately the hardcover is not very hard at all, in fact it’s floppy.
The one I’m reviewing is the 5″x7″ version with “plain” pages, it’s extremely flexy, you won’t be running your bluetooth mouse on top of it. Other than the flaccidness, it’s an all-around strong offering for the price.
On top of being a good, utilitarian notebook, it has TWO ribbon bookmarks! This is the only model I’ve encountered so far to have this feature, it’s pretty useful if you are doing more than one project at once like…uhm…everyone.
I heard Jim Lee (THE top comic artist of the last 20 years) speak long ago about non-photocopy blue pencils. You sketch in pencil, then pick out the best lines in non-photo blue and erase, only the blue lines will remain, allowing you to have a nice wire frame for your drawing that can easily be removed upon scanning. These days, you can even do it with a mechanical pencil: Like this Pentel Sharp 205 with 0.5mm non-photo blue lead.
I spent years using the trusty Pentel Sharp P207, but a couple of years ago, my favorite mechanical pencil became the Pentel GraphGear 800. The 800 has everything the P207 has, plus a more solidly mounted eraser, a raised grip where your fingers touch, and a sturdy, all-metal, tip that can withstand almost anything. I’ve used all of my GraphGear 800s until the names have rubbed off. You cannot go wrong with this pencil, I’ve spent so much time with the GraphGear 800 that we’re legally married in Kentucky.
The Pentel Sharp P207 is one of the finest mechanical pencils ever made. It’s weight is perfect, the grip is optimal, the clip is removable (which I usually do), and it’s so rugged you can use it to get a rock out of your tire tread and go back to drawing without skipping a beat. With that being said, it has one fatal flaw: The eraser. I’ve been using this pencil for years and would rank it probably my second favorite mechanical pencil of all time, but it has a design flaw that’s never been fixed in its long life time. The metal sheath that holds the eraser in is too thin, causing the eraser to sink back into the pencil every time you use it. Granted: You probably should be using a plastic or gum eraser anyway, but there are always points where you can save time by not switching from the pencil in your hand. As the eraser recesses, the metal sheath is exposed, if you’re not careful, it can actually gouge and tear your paper.
So, it works perfectly until every twentieth line when you have to erase something tiny. I would give Pentel more of a break if they had improved it once in all this time, but, as it stands, I have a new favorite, which I will reveal in a future post. You could do much worse than the P207 (I still keep one with me as a backup), just be careful, and practice safe-erasing.
I’m a big fan of the Pilot Precise V5 and I picked up a few of these Vison Needles thinking that Uni-Ball might be able to take a similar setup to the V5 and offer some improvements. It’s not without question that one of my favorites will get dethroned, it generally happens every 5 years or so. Uni-Ball’s Vision Needle has a perfect size, fits great in one’s hand, and has a nice 0.7mm rollerball tip that glides fairly effortlessly, the feel on paper is similar to some of the better 0.5 or 0.7 mm rollerball pens out there: Unfortunately, the Vision Needle has an ink problem. The “waterproof,” “fade-proof” ink boasted by Uni-ball takes longer than usual to dry, still managing to smudge after a full 5 minutes of drying. The ink also tends to run and “spit” while writing or drawing, I try to elevate my hand off of the paper as much as the next guy, but there are still limits to how much active smudging I will take in a sitting. I’m afraid the running and smudging ink is enough to keep me from considering this pen one of “the greats.” Though the price was extremely reasonable, I will not be buying any more after this pack runs out.
As always, I’m using the trust P22 Sharp from Pentel and Faber0Castell Pitt Pens, and a highlighter. The quote is from “The Outer Limits” episode “Soldier.”
This article isn’t about the knockoffs that say they’re from “Tamika Tawny” instead of “Takara Tomy” or “Hardhead” is named “Thick Skull,” this is about the KOs that seemingly give no warning that they are not the official product. “Right Now” because this is all very specific to this moment in time and could change at any moment.
Looks real doesn’t it? Well, surprise, it is not. Some unscrupulous companies are trying to completely fake the official product. They are doing it with more speed and efficiency now than ever. Here are a few things to look for to make sure you don’t get scrapped when you purchase a Masterpiece Transformer.
I don’t know why they go so far to recreate the packaging and skip such a simple step, but most KOs do not have a hologram sticker on the bottom. Now, not all Takara MPs have holograms, so you are going to want to Google whether the figure in question should carry one or not.
The real thing is rather unmistakable. Sometimes they will put a shiny sticker there, but it’s extremely rare to find a KO with a full-on hologram sticker on the bottom.
Well, everything looks right here, it just…wait a minute!
Hachi machi. Again, such a small step and they would have nailed it. For some reason the KO companies have trouble getting the triangle onto the forehead of the Autobot and Decepticon faction symbols, loads of videos on the KOs don’t mention this for some reason.
Both sides of the war face this issue it seems.
Here is the real deal. If you’re reading this, you are probably able to spot the difference.
All In The Hands
This is odd and specific, but sometimes parts from other companies will be substituted for the real thing. This KO Soundwave for instance, seems to come equipped with hands that are remarkably similar to Keith’s Fantasy Club pose-able hands.
The Ultimate Rule of Thumb
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you see a Masterpiece Transformer priced around $30, or half the price it’s supposed to be, immediately start questioning, then ask to see all of the items listed above.
Here is a painting I did for a local stage play coming in July. More info here.
I used to think “Night Gallery” was just a Twilight Zone reel dropped in a bottle of Jovan Musk, but it’s really much more. Here are a few deep cuts you’ll want to check out.
The Caterpillar – A British expatriate, exiled to a South American jungle, plans to kill the husband of a female interest using a brain-burrowing earwig.
The Other Way Out – Deliverance meets I Know What You did Last Summer, with Burl Ives as a delightful and deadly hillbilly.
The Cemetery – A rich old man lies dying and an unknown nephew (Roddy McDowell) creeps out of the woodwork to claim his fortune. When his uncle passes, the parasitic McDowell finds the old man isn’t quite done with him yet.
The Doll – A British traveler returns home to find an enemy has sent a cursed doll to his house and the nanny has unwittingly given it to his daughter. The man tried to get rid of the doll, but the doll has other plans.
The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes – A young Clint Howard is super cute as a kid who spouts off about nonsense then predicts the future every now and then. A producer puts him on TV and his show goes good, until one day the kid doesn’t want to say what happens tomorrow.
Deliveries in the Rear – A Doctor at a teaching hospital will do anything to further forensic science, including purchasing bodies on the black market. He deals with the underworld, but where are the bodies coming from? The police have an idea.
Sins of the Father – A young Richard Thomas (“The Americans”) is the son of a sin-eater, an ancient profession of people that eat at a funeral to absorb the dying persons sins. His father falls ill, and the son decides to pose as a sin-eater to steal food and feed his family, he executes his plan, but at what cost?
Pickman’s Model – A controversial art teacher in a London suburb has a strange connection to an urban legend about underground cannibals that supposedly roamed the city years ago. When his art begins to feature the monsters, is he painting from life?
Cool Air – A young lady is obsessed with an aging Spanish renaissance man confined to his bedroom by a rare disease. His surroundings must be kept in complete cold, or else he will die.
The Diary – Patty Duke is a gossip reporter that receives a diary that tells the future, but what happens on the day it goes blank?
A Question of Fear – Leslie Nielsen is a mercenary for hire who fears nothing. But when a bar bet has him spend the night in a haunted house, a secret nemesis will put him to the ultimate test of courage.
The House – A woman purchases a house that is supposedly haunted and begins having half-awake dreams that a car is pulling up and a ghost is there to greet her. But just who is this ghost, and why can’t she ever answer the door in her vision?
I don’t own a lot of third party figures, but it was hard to pass up the solid deal that is DX9’s Invisible. This is a “masterpiece-scale” Mirage figure, which is something Hasbro hasn’t gotten around to yet. I paid in the high 50’s on eBay which feels like a deal once you get it in hand. Invisible has good weight and heft, solid design, and an intuitive transformation that make the cost seem very worth it.
DX9’s Box art has a brilliant unified look to it, each with the figure prominently displayed face forward under a classically-designed logo for the character. The individual characters box art reflects the era of the figures alt mode. I think it’s interesting to note that DX9 has foregone homaging the existing Hasbro boxes, which is an interesting direction for them to go.
The first thing you might notice about Invisible is that he seems to share design properties with Hasbro’s Classics Mirage. Cartoon accuracy is not the main aim here, more to have a solid, tough-looking, representation of Mirage in the larger “Masterpiece-scale” size. It’s important to mention, however, that while they share properties, Invisible does not have the weird exaggerated proportions of Classics Mirage and is closer in shape to a G1 cartoon Transformer.
Many criticize the face, feeling it is too “generic” and lacks the Egyptian stylings of G1 Mirage, or Ocular Max’s Sphinx. No doubt that a collector that prizes cartoon-accuracy above all else may prefer the aforementioned Sphinx, but for my personal taste, I prefer the bot that looks tougher, and to me that is embodied in Invisible’s wide shoulders and stout legs.
Invisible’s vehicle mode is nice, with some awesome chrome, missing, most notably to me, Mirage’s red pin striping on the white areas. There is, of course, a Reprolabel for that.
He pretty much scales perfectly with other Masterpiece figures, and his finish and the finish of his weapon are also a great fit. I don’t think you can go wrong buying Invisible, he’s a well built bot, the transformation is satisfying, the materials shine with metal pieces and rubber tires. DX9 seems determined to march to the beat of a different drummer and I’m loving it.
(Photo Credit for Ocular Max Sphinx: The Chosen Prime)
One problem transformers get as they age is loose joints. On a lot of the older figures, this can be remedied by the tightening of screws, but the newer figures are designed to come apart rather than break when forced, resulting in the usage of more ball joints. I’m going to tell you how to tighten a ball joint using this Classics Series Dragstrip from 2008, his feet are so loose that they can barely support him, this has to be remedied.
First, take the ball jointed piece and pop it out of it’s socket as seen below. Here I have removed both of Dragstrip’s feet, just try not to make a screaming sound as you do it.
Here is the titular ball (note to self: reword this sentence).
And here is the socket the ball goes into.
Using clear fingernail polish, apply one coat and let it dry for 10 minutes, resist the urge to do several coats at once. After you have gotten a couple of coats on, allow the ball to dry thoroughly, then try it back in the socket, this will show you if it is tight enough yet. If it’s not tight enough, separate the ball joint again and apply a couple more layers of the clear fingernail polish, repeat this until you are satisfied with the results.
After just a short time, your Transformer will be standing on his own like a big boy. Who wants juice?
The ’88 Transformers are odd to me. They started using big areas of solid color depicted in plastic rather than paint (also the year they stopped having rub sign faction symbols to delineate real figures from knockoffs, a practice that would return for nostalgia’s sake years later). The face sculpts are really cool though, as seen in Quickmix and Quake. Good news part two is that you can get them pretty cheap (except Needlenose). I’m trying to concentrate on not missing an shadows in my recent pieces. A lot of the great Transformer art I’ve seen recently has stark black areas depicting shadows in logical locations and it adds to the depth.
Have you ever seen a nice, vintage, Transformer on eBay and thought “most of that aging looks cosmetic?” Well, here is a technique I use to clean a Transformer, remove the stickers (“labels” if you choose), and reapply new stickers to have a fresh and clean-looking collector’s item.
I got this decent looking G1 Headmaster Highbrow body from eBay, the stickers are worn, there is dirt in the crevices, but luckily all of the important (read “easily broken”) parts are intact (in this case, the six rotor blades and the canopy).
Here is a list of what you will need to rejuvenate a Transformer:
A handful of Q-Tips.
A soft bristle tooth brush.
A cup of warm water.
A cup of vegetable oil.
A lot of paper towels.
A clean shammy or rag (like the kind you wax cars with).
A nice set of tweezers.
You may also want:
A screwdriver (a small one, not like the one pictured), to tighten loose joints.
A bottle of clear finger nail polish, to tighten loose ball joints.
Goo Gone or decal remover.
Meguiars Plastx Wax
First, cover your lap or table with a paper towel, and dip a Q-Tip in the vegetable oil. Rub the vegetable oil over the surface of any stickers you want to remove. Be very careful not to get any oil on the rub sign, as this can damage it.
Sit the Transformer on the paper towel and let the vegetable oil soak into the stickers for about 15-20 minutes. Once the stickers are saturated, take your thumb or fingernail and begin scraping off the stickers, starting at the edges. Resist the urge to use any Exact0 knives or foreign objects at this point, your fingernail is perfect to avoid scratching the plastic. This part can be very time-consuming.
Continue applying the vegetable oil as you remove the sticker, once you remove most of the sticker you will be left with an area looking like this.
Rub the vegetable oil back and forth over the adhesive area with your Q-Tip, then using a paper towel, rub the area in a circular movement and really put some pressure on it. Eventually this will remove all of the adhesive. Once all adhesive remainder is removed, remove all vegetable oil from the surface of the figure using a paper towel.
This brings us to the cleaning portion of the rejuvenation. Note any areas where dirt or debris are located, taking careful time to examine the crevices, this is where you will find the worst of the dirt/dust buildup. Take your soft-bristled toothbrush and lightly dab it in the warm water. Blot the toothbrush several times on a paper towel, you will want to use water extremely sparingly, as any residual left between joints could lead to rust. Again, you may want to avoid the rub sign, which does not react well to liquids. If you do manage to mess up you’re rub sign, replacements are available at Reprolabels.com (which I will speak on later).
Rub the toothbrush bristles deep into the tiny areas that can collect dust, and go over every inch of the figure. When you’re done, rub the entirety of the figure with the soft waxing cloth until it is completely dry. You may want to also use a Q-Tip to dry any of the screw holes or weapon slots.
Now you will be left with a label-free Transformer, which is actually what some collectors like, but for the purposes of this article, we will be replacing the labels. Which leads us to an entirely different discussion.
Reprolabels or Vintage Labels?
So, there are two decent ways to get new labels for your Transformer: 1. Buy an original label sheet that came with the figure off of eBay (this will generally run you above twenty dollars on eBay). Or, 2. Purchase replacement labels off of Reprolabels.com (which will run you about $4). If you do go with Reprolabels, make sure to mention it in the ad if you ever sell that figure, it would be dishonest to represent reproductions as vintage originals, and you could get caught.
A lot of people ask if using reprolabels hurts a Transformers value, and that depends completely on the buyer, some will want full vintage and some will want what looks best, or saves some money. People also ask if Reprolabels are identical to the vintage originals, and my answer would have to be “no”. As a Graphic Designer for over 10 years, I will tell you that, while the details, cut, and color have been reproduced nearly perfectly, I do spot evidence of something called “dot gain.” Dot gain is what happens when something that was printed using dots of color is copied, the tiny dots that make up the colors will almost always blur ever so slightly, giving the illusion that the dots are thicker. I would say that a trained eye: printer, designer, or collector, should be able to spot them on close inspection.
Now, that being said, I choose Reprolabels every single time. The materials they use are (in my opinion) superior to the material the vintage stickers are made of, they are tough, they place and remove better, they are just high quality all the way around, and I personally think a brand new set of Reprolabels make a figure shine, so there you have it.
Once you decide, take the label sheet of your choice and sit with the figure under full light, in an area where you can rest it solidly again a surface. Pick the label to apply and lightly bend the sheet at its corner, exposing an edge, using a decent and supremely cleaned pair of tweezers, grip the sticker lightly on an outer edge and prepare to apply.
There’s no one way to apply labels, so I will just say that what works best for me is to steady the figure against something and hover the sticker over its proper spot until it’s perfectly in line, then I tap the middle of the sticker with my opposite hand, then I lightly smooth over it once with my finger, don’t apply pressure, sometime labels cover screw holes and can sink into them.
Before tackling any rejuvenation I read everything I could from online Transformer and toy collector forums. There was a lot of discussion about using Goo-Gone, so I tried sticker removal on various Transformers using: Vegetable oil, Goo-Gone, and Vinyl sticker remover for cars. There really wasn’t a world of difference in the effectiveness of any of them, except that the vinyl remover worked better than the Goo-Gone. For most of the 10 rejuvenations I took on, I used vegetable oil on the majority as it does not contain rubbing compound which I feared might have a negative effect on the plastic (though I didn’t actually encounter any while I used it). I also used a combination: removing the labels with vegetable oil and then doing the hard rubbing with the vinyl remover, which also had positive effects.
I also experimented with Meguiars Plastx Wax, to see if it had a positive effect. The ultimate results were not that impressive, it does the leave the plastic a minute amount shinier, but doesn’t seem to remove or buff out any scratches. Add on top of that that the wax gets buried deep in the crevices and takes time to remove, and I am going to lean towards skipping it.
If you have a piece that has a lot of white that has yellowed, there is a great method involving peroxide that is described in detail here.
The ultimate takeaway from this is that you can rejuvenate pieces that have been in your collection longer, or save some money on a piece you’ve always wanted by cleaning it yourself. Either way, keeping your collection clean and presentable is a must for insuring their longevity.