I was so excited this evening. My husband said our courier service delivered tons of stuff. I knew some of it would be my Gelly Roll pens–the ones I would use on the black Zentangle tiles. I picked him up from work and ripped into the boxes and envelopes from Amazon while he went into the little shop to buy milk and a few other essentials. Yes! The pens had arrived–along with books on drawing and painting ocean scenes (I do live on a Caribbean island, after all; might as well learn to paint the sea and beaches!). 

As soon as we got home, he took the dog for a walk, then went to get a pizza for us. Meanwhile, I was pulling out my black tiles and opening the gel pen packages. 

Hmm, I thought, as I tested the 6mm set of pens. I looked at the pen packages again. Yes. They were definitely Sakura Gelly Roll pens, with one of the boxes printed almost entirely in Japanese. I checked again for the manufacturer and brand name. Yep. Exactly what I ordered. And then I really felt let down. Here. Take a look.

The pens are vibrant, the inks are beautiful and true to color. So why was the only color clearly visible on the black tile from the single white pen? In the lamp light, you can see the ghosts of the other colors. I can understand browns, blacks, and dark blues–even the purples–not showing up. But why are red, rose/pink, grass green, lighter blue, and orange not showing up? 

When I went through this with the Gelly Roll Aqualip pens, I figured it was a fluke. You may have seen my Zentangle Influenced Art (ZIA) bird a few posts back. The bird was vibrant, and the Aqualip ink left an enamel-like appearance on the paper that can be seen better in person. I already knew those pens didn’t work on black tiles. When I ordered these, I thought I checked the descriptions to make certain the colors would remain true on black backgrounds. Instead, the colors disappeared into the tiles just like the Aqualip ones did. But then, sometimes on Amazon the same description is used without adjustments for product differences within brand. Maybe that’s what happened. With the Aqualip, I hadn’t been thinking about whether they would show up on black, as I hadn’t really planned on creating black tiles. But this latest purchase was both purposeful and dramatically disappointing. 

Does anyone know which of the Sakura–or any other brand of–pens shows up, and shows up true, on black paper tiles and other backgrounds? Do the Gelly Roll pens work better on another medium, such as gypsum board? Aside from some brands of color pencils, are other mediums better for black backgrounds–pastels, acrylic paint, acrylic inks? Perhaps opaque watercolors? Markers don’t work; I have tried those already.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. I will also try to research this problem myself, but I get the feeling I will get no answers completely on my own. Please help. 

Thank you!

Until next time…Keep on inking!


About DrEMiller

Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT). Home: Sint Maarten. K-12 teacher for 13 years (Special Education for 10 years); Post-secondary educator since 2002; Education consulting since 1995. When teaching, held teaching certificates in K-12 special education, reading specialist; and secondary social studies. Doctorate: Educational Psychology Programmer/analyst for 10 years, including project management and training of corporate execs.
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