In late 2020, the calligraphy clouds parted and two new versions of a favorite tool emerged – 3.0mm and 4.5mm Pilot Parallel pens!
Before the new models descended from the calligraheavens, the lineup consisted of these sizes:
- 1.5mm (The Dark Orange One)
- 2.4mm (The Light Orange One)
- 3.8mm (The Green One)
- 6.0mm (The Blue One)
The two latest additions are:
- 3.0mm (The Pink One)
- 4.5mm (The Turquoise One)
Are the new pens valuable additions to the set or are they too similar to the existing sizes to be meaningful additions? Let’s find out…
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The contents of the package are essentially the same as the original Parallel pen models.
The box includes:
- Parallel pen – the barrel with the pen unit installed
- Pen cap – the colored cap that screws onto the barrel (the cap is pink in color for the 3.0mm pen)
- Ink cartridges – two ink cartridges are included (one black and one red)
- Pipette – the blue reservoir used to clean the pen unit
- Nib cleaner – the thin metal slip used for cleaning between the parallel metal nib plates
- Manual – the pamphlet with information about the pen and some basic calligraphy instructions
The pamphlet includes the same information as the original pens – the only difference that I noticed is the addition of the new pens to the Nib Sizes and Widths of Stroke chart.
Make sure to keep the small nib cleaner shown in the picture below! This small and thin slip can be easy to miss when opening the package (it’s underneath the two ink cartridges), but it’s an extremely valuable tool for cleaning between the parallel plates of the nib, especially if you experiment with dipping into thicker inks like acrylics.
Dipping into other inks with ink already installed in the pen can create some amazing color blending effects. I’ve provided more information about this technique in my article on color blending.
The construction of the new 3.0mm is the same as the original 1.5mm, 2.4mm, 3.8mm, and 6.0mm pens.
The only differences are the new colors (and, of course, the nib size):
- Neck and Cap – The neck and pen cap of the 3.0mm pen are pink
- Barrel – The color of the barrel is now white instead of the grey color used with the original pens
Unscrewing the cap reveals the pen unit (consisting of the nib, neck, ink controller, and grip) which can be unscrewed from the barrel to install ink cartridges and for cleaning.
The pen unit can be disassembled further into its constituent parts:
- Ink Controller
Disassembling the Pen Unit is handy if you need to clean the components more thoroughly than is possible using just the Pipette and assembled Pen Unit.
Construction & Durability
Pilot Parallel pens are made of plastic except for the two metal parallel plates which form the nib.
Even with the plastic construction, I’ve never had a problem with their durability. These are the pens that I write with most often and I haven’t had one fail yet.
The parts are manufactured well – the components that screw together (the barrel, feed section, and cap) are made consistently enough that they are interchangeable between pens (for example, the Barrel from one pen easily connects with the Pen Unit or Cap from another).
I struggled a bit deciding whether to rate the construction/durability as a 4 or a 5. Plastic isn’t the most invincible material, but it does keep the pens light and comfortable to write with, keeps the cost low, and I’ve never had a problem with any of the pens I have (and I own a lot of Parallel Pens that I have been using for years).
If you dropped the pen directly on the nib on a hard surface or ran over it with a car you’d probably experience some problems, but these pens have held up very well to all of my uses (including several modifications that I’ve tried), so I elected to give a 5/5 score.
Construction & Durability: 5/5
Pilot Parallel pens are compatible with a wide variety of inks, offering a lot of creative options.
The only inks I’ve found that don’t work with these pens are thicker acrylic inks like Daler Rowney FW Acrylic Inks, Liquitex Acrylic Inks, etc.
Pilot Mixable Colour replacement cartridges are available to supplement the cartridges that come with the pen, or if you’d like to write with a different ink color. These cartridges are available in twelve colors that can be purchased as part of an assorted pack or individual boxes.
Instead of throwing away cartridges after using all of the ink, clean them out (I’ve found using a small syringe with water to be the most efficient cleaning method) and refill it with any compatible ink. I’ve listed several possible ink options in the sections below.
Other types of inks that are compatible with these pens are described below. For more information on many of my favorite inks, visit the Toolbox page.
Fountain Pen Ink
Fountain pen inks are a personal favorite because of the incredible variety of options that are available. Many of these inks also have wonderfully unique properties like sheen and entrained shimmering particles that striking visual elements to your writing.
Ecoline Watercolor Ink
Ecoline Watercolor Inks are also great inks that come in a variety of colors.
Golden High Flow Acrylics
Golden High Flow Acrylic inks are also compatible. These inks are thicker than the others I’ve described above, so I recommend mixing in a few drops of water to thin the ink slightly, improving flow through the Pen Unit.
It’s challenging to find white inks that work with pilot parallel pens without physically dipping the nib into the ink.
My favorite is Rapidograph Universal Waterproof White which you can add to an emptied ink cartridge and use naturally with the pen (note that I recommend diluting the ink with a few drops of water to improve flow through the Pen Unit)
For more information, check out the full article where I explain how I use this ink.
Ink Compatibility: 5/5
Because Pilot Parallel pens use standard cartridges for all of the sizes, the ink capacity varies depending on width of the nib. This is because the amount of ink used to make lines when writing with the smallest (1.5mm) pen is far less than when writing with the (6.0mm) pen.
For the 3.0 mm pen, the ink cartridge provides a sufficient ink capacity for writing, requiring infrequent cartridge replacement (this, of course, will depend on how much writing you when you practice or work).
Ink Capacity: 5/5
The writing experience with this pen is excellent. They are comfortable to write with and, because they’re made with plastic, they’re light, easy to manipulate in your hand, and I have no problem writing for extended periods of time.
When using any of the many compatible inks, the ink flow is smooth, and lines made with this pen are consistent and precise.
In addition, the variety of lines you can make is outstanding. Broad thick lines written with the broad edge of the pen are crisp and well defined, but you can also make fine hairlines using the corner of the nib, or lines of variable width and texture by changing the pressure and angle of the broad edge of the nib.
Writing Experience: 5/5
The nib of this pen is 3.0mm in width which is an excellent size for writing in gothic calligraphy styles.
This size is large enough to make wide, distinct blackletter lines while not being so large that you need substantial full-arm movements to form individual letters (which is the case with the largest 6.0mm pen), making it an especially good size for beginners.
Depending on your preferred art style, intermediate/advanced calligraphers may prefer the larger pen sizes, but these pens are still outstanding writing tools for all skill levels.
Nib Size: 5/5
The value of this pen is outstanding – I’ve spent far more on other tools that I use much less often. For under $10 (in the US), the package includes everything you need to get started writing. Just add the paper of your choice, and you have an amazing tool that writes beautifully right out of the box.
The 3.0mm pen is an awesome addition to the Parallel pen line that I absolutely recommend. Beginners will especially find it to be a great addition to the lineup, bridging the gap between the existing 2.4mm and 3.8mm pens. Intermediate and advanced users will also find this to be an excellent writing tool and new size to work with.
5. Writing Sample
Writing with these sizes is fantastic and a lot of fun. I typically create my base calligraphy text using the broad edge, playing with angles and lettering designs. I’ll then use the corner of the pen or vary the pressure and writing angle with the broad edge to create flourishes and add design elements.
The 3.0mm pen fits comfortably between the 2.4mm and 3.8mm nib sizes, and bridges the large gap between these sizes well.
Here is a full comparison of writing with all of the pens in the series. To make them easy to distinguish, I’ve used a unique color for each pen that matches the pen itself.
Before the new sizes…
Before the release of these new sizes, when asked in classes which single pen was my favorite and that I would recommend, my answer was always the 3.8mm (Green) pen because the nib is large enough to create beautiful broad lines while also being easy to manipulate.
My recommendations (in order) were:
- 3.8mm Pen
- 2.4mm Pen
- 6.0mm Pen
- 1.5mm Pen
After the new sizes…
Including the new 3.0mm and 4.5mm pens lineup, recommending and ranking the pens is (happily) harder because there are more great options.
Thinking about ranking the new lineup, I decided to review my earliest work when I was learning blackletter to recall which size I found most accessible as a beginner. Reviewing my older work, I found that I consistently used the 2.4mm pen even though I owned the entire set of four at the time.
As I’ve become more comfortable with blackletter calligraphy, my preference has shifted towards pens with wider nibs, so my pen recommendations are now based on skill level.
If you’re new or just starting your blackletter calligraphy journey, I recommending pens in this series in the order below.
The reason I’ve ranked the pens in the order listed below is primarily due to the increased arm movement needed to write letters when using larger pen widths. When you begin learning blackletter styles, it takes time to learn the strokes needed to form the letters and practice to keep your lines crisp and consistent.
The increased arm movement required for wider nibs adds further complexity.
I’ve also found that the 1.5 mm pen is so small that it requires significant pen control skill to get consistent lines and pleasing letters, which is why the 2.4mm pen is ranked first.
- 2.4 mm
- 3.0 mm
- 3.8 mm
- 4.5 mm
- 6.0 mm
- 1.5 mm
INTERMEDIATE / ADVANCED RECOMMENDATIONS
If you already have experience with blackletter calligraphy, then you probably already have nib size preferences and your experience writing characters will make it easier to use the larger pen sizes.
I encourage you to follow your own preferences but still wanted to share my own favorites.
I love writing with most of these pens and the margin between the top 3-5 is very, very small – they’re all great.
- 3.8 mm
- 4.5 mm
- 6.0 mm
- 3.0 mm
- 2.4 mm
- 1.5 mm
Whether you’re just starting or have years of experience, if you don’t already have one of these pens, I thoroughly recommend them. They are my favorite blackletter writing tools.
The 3.0mm size in particular is a fantastic addition to the lineup, it strikes an excellent balance of creating crisp broad lines with a nib size that is easy to write with, especially for beginners.
- Construction & Durability: 5/5
- Ink Compatibility: 5/5
- Ink Capacity: 5/5
- Writing Experience: 5/5
- Nib Size (Beginner): 5/5
- Nib Size (Intermediate/Advanced): 4/5
- Value: 5/5
- OVERALL SCORE: 5/5
If you have any questions or feedback I would absolutely love to hear from you. You can find me on social media via the links below, or feel free to contact me here.
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Note: This post and the photos within it may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a commission at no extra charge to you.