Once upon a time, I used to stipple my drawings from start to finish. If you are unfamiliar with the technique, it’s done by applying dots, dot by dot, onto the paper. It’s time-consuming, eventually painful, and quite beautiful. After a year or two, I could no longer use the technique without considerable pain in my wrist and shoulder.
So I was ecstatic when I received a Cuttlelola Dotspen World’s First Electric Drawing pen as a birthday present from my brother and his wife, . After using it for a while, I knew I had to review it because, if you are like me, you are very curious about this pen, but hesitate to buy it without knowing more.
Look & Feel
The Cuttlelola Dotspen Electric Drawing Pen is 6.6 x 0.6 x 0.6 inches (16.764 x 1.524 x 1.524 cm), which is a bit large in my small hand. Nonetheless, it isn’t very heavy so I don’t find it uncomfortable. It is an electric, chargeable pen that uses gel-based ink cartridges.
You probably wonder what it’s like to use it. My first thought when I started was that I felt like I was tattooing the paper. No sooner did I think this, then my husband said, “It looks like you are tattooing!” I’ve never been tattooed or tattooed anyone, so the real experience is probably quite different, but I suspect it has similarities.
I had no problem getting the hang of using the pen.
I want to get the biggest problem (at least if you are in the U.S.) out there from the beginning, which is the cost of shipping & handling. The pen is $58.00 USD and comes with 20 cartridges. The S&H is $7.50 USD. A refill pack of ink cartridges is $3.50 for a 5 pack of cartridges. The S&H is also $7.50. I know I won’t be able to use the pen very often with refills at that price. I’ve written and asked whether that cost would be combined if you ordered several packs, and I’m hopeful that will be the case.
Edited to add Cuttlelola’s response about S&H: We are actually working on with new distributor in US, so that in the near future you can buy easier from US directly, if you buy serveral packs on our Amazon the postage for at once of $7.5 I think. We much appreciated your supporting
Looking at the tip, you’d think the pen was just a ballpoint, and in many ways it works the same. The ink is advertised as waterproof, but only after it sits for quite a while. If you wet it too soon, it will run a little.
You hold the pen tip slightly above the paper (actually having the tip on the paper can damage the pen). When you push the red button at the top, the tip begins moving up and down about as fast as a person could go. If you push the red button again, two times, the tip speeds up considerably. This second speed is the main one used to fill in large areas and draw lines. The slower speed is for detail.
The pen does make a slight whirring sound and thump as it dots the paper. The surface you are working on makes a difference. It’s not very loud, but might be annoying for some.
The Cuttlelola is electric, and you plug the USB cable into a slot at the top of the pen. You charge the DotsPen by connecting it to your laptop, mobile device or any 5V DC power supply. Once charged, you can use the unconnected pen for 15-30 minutes, depending on the speed you are using. You can also use the pen while it is connected to the power supply. The cord is about 3 feet long (91.44 cm).
The pen is easily unscrewed, and you just push the ink cartridge into the pen gently until it connects. I’m pretty clueless about that sort of thing, but I had no problem with it.
The instructions included are sparse, but adequate.
The cap does not fit on the end of the pen, which I dislike, because it means I will probably lose it eventually.
The packaging is worth noting. The pen comes in a tin with a cardboard sheath. You don’t need to keep the cardboard, but it’s pretty, so I will. The tin is decorated with a cuttlefish illustration.
The pen fits nicely inside, and it has foam padding to keep the pen secure.
The USB cable fits in a corner, or you could put a spare cartridge in there for travel.
I’ve had no problems so far, but the company warns outright that rough handling can cause damage, so it is obviously fairly delicate. They also caution that the pen is not for use by people with cardiac pacemakers.
I do have arthritis, and while using the pen causes far less pain than stippling by hand, I do feel the size and jarring after about 1/2 hour. It’s easy enough for me to just set it down for a little bit before continuing and I’ve had no significant pain. Still, it’s something to consider if have any kind of hand or arm problems.
All three of my examples were done in a Laws Sketchbook, which has a smooth cardstock like paper. It is 7.1 x 9 inches (18 x 23 cm). After these three, and some random testing and light shading on a couple of watercolor painting of similar size I had run the first cartridge out of ink.
I found that it’s a little difficult to get a strongly defined, straight line, so you get a soft, diffused look overall. On the first example, I used a Pigma Micron for the basic linework, and did all the shading and fill (even the darkest areas) with the Cuttlelola.
On this second example, everything was done with the Cuttlelola, so it has a softer look. It takes a little time to get those darker areas, and of course, uses up those precious ink cartridges. I think it is worth it though.
I wanted to try something that would force me to work at the values and textures, so I did this cat. It was done entirely with the Cuttlelola.
The Cuttlelola is the coolest toy I’ve had in quite a while. While the initial price is reasonable, the refills may be expensive, depending on where you live.
It definitely beats stippling by hand, but there is still some wear and tear on the arm. If you can take the size, weight and motion, you’re able to create some fantastic works. Even if you only use it for shading, it will give your work a beautifully finished look.
The pen is delicate, so not for young children, or the irresponsible. It should not be used around people with cardiac pacemakers.
Disclaimer: I received this pen as a birthday present. Cuttlelola did not ask for this review, and probably won’t even notice it. All opinions are my own.