A thin line between love and hate

On my way home from work Tuesday, I stopped at Staples to stock up before the big snowstorm. (You stock up on bread and milk, I stock up on paper.) And as I was leaving the store I made an impulse purchase: a pair of Sharpie Liquid Pencils.

Sharpie Liquid Pencil pack

It seemed like a good idea at the time. I like most Sharpie products. Their fine point markers are, of course, wonderful, and I’ve been deeply in love with their metallic silver markers since my wife first brought them into the house.

But these liquid pencils were just awful. Do they flow across the page as I write? Yes. Are their lines easy to erase? Yes again. Do the lines smear easily? Surprisingly, no. But they fail at the most fundamental level for a writing instrument—they don’t leave legible marks on the paper.

Here’s a sample done with, in order,

Pencil and pen comparison

This photo is, apart from cropping, straight out of the camera. I didn’t feel like setting up good lighting, so the paper’s pretty gray, but you can still see the problem, especially if you follow the link to Flickr and zoom in. The Liquid Pencil starts and stops, and the line it makes is weak and spotty. It’s supposed to leave marks like a #2 pencil (which is equivalent to an HB lead), but because of the gaps it isn’t even as dark as the 2H lead.

I tried using different writing angles. I tried scribbling to get the graphite flowing. I even tried writing with an unnaturally heavy pressure. No improvement; a waste of $5.

I’d say it’s a black mark against Sharpie, but the one thing it isn’t is a black mark.