View Full Version : pens for signing photographs

brian steinberger
23-Mar-2005, 23:46
i was wondering what kind of pens you guys use to sign your photos and where i can get one. i think i'm looking for something silver and fine. let me know! thanks


Graeme Hird
24-Mar-2005, 01:00
The one I use is made by Sakura, the model being "Pen-Touch". However, I doubt you'll find that exact pen where-ever you are. I'm in outback Western Australia and I bought it at my local art supply store.

My pen is quick dry metallic permanent ink with a 0.7mm "push in" nib that helps the ink flow when it starts to dry out. I'm sure you will find something similar at your local art supplier. Look for 0.5mm instead of 0.7mm.


Alan Davenport
24-Mar-2005, 08:03
Graeme, thanks for the info!

Brian, the Sakura Pen-Touch is available from Dick Blick HERE. (http://www.dickblick.com/zz213/26/products.asp?param=0&ig_id=1170)

dan nguyen
24-Mar-2005, 08:10
I use Berol PrismaColor Metallic Silver FinePoint or Pilot Silver Marker... look at this link


(41701 - PIL - (UPC: 0 72838 41701) Extra Fine Point Creative Markers)

MIke Sherck
24-Mar-2005, 09:10
What's wrong with a Bic or Papermate -- or whatever else comes to hand? Or a #2 pencil?

Donald Hutton
24-Mar-2005, 09:23
I use a pencil...

dan nguyen
24-Mar-2005, 09:40
well... I favor the #2 pencil too but it can be erased... the idea of using Silver Marker is attractive because my prints are silver base out of my darkroom... may be others have better idea to share....

Ralph Barker
24-Mar-2005, 09:53
FWIW, I use a conventional fountain pen and India ink to sign in the margin, and a #2 pencil to lightly inscribe print info on the back. The fountain pen allows me to write at normal speed without fear of scratching the surface - something I couldn't do with the drafting-style pens.

24-Mar-2005, 10:34
I was taught ...never ink...always pencil....but that's not to say it is right....I would question the archival properties of ink, only because I don't know. But it would be something to look into. I've always signed my platinum prints in pencil because I saw a Frederick Evans print signed in pencil years ago. Can someone comment on the archival properties of ink and a no.2 pencil?

Greg Miller
24-Mar-2005, 13:29
"I would question the archival properties of ink".

Some pens are designated as archival. Of course you then have to define "archival". I use pens that have similar archival properties as my prints.

Alan Davenport
24-Mar-2005, 14:40
Can someone comment on the archival properties of ink and a no.2 pencil?

I have my family Bible with entries that were penned almost 200 years ago. The entries are still there, the ink is still black. I call that "archival enough."

As for a No. 2 pencil, well IINM pencil leads are made with graphite, i.e., elemental carbon, which is mixed with clay and wax in different proportions to give the various hardness grades. Since carbon sticks around almost forever (as in Carbon-14, used to date antiquities) I guess that's archival too.

Darin Cozine
24-Mar-2005, 15:08
There are many pens around that are acid-free and archival. Just go to a local scrapbooking supply and you can find them. The hard part is finding a pen which writes smoothly without smudging on the gelatin and resin coated papers.

I have a pen which uses a carbon-based pigment and dries really fast, but I will have to get back to you on the brand.


27-Mar-2005, 08:34
I'm partial to a 3x0 Rapidograph technical pen, which I use for almost all my photographic marking needs. I use Dr. P H Martin's black ink, which is supposed to be archivally-safe.

For black mat board, at the moment, I use a silver Sharpie marker, though I am considering getting a second Rapidograph and some white ink.

Victor DeCicco
19-May-2010, 07:05
I know this original post goes back some years but I recently searched for the same thing. There are many permanent pens/markers but they will fade eventually. I found two that I recently liked that are archival quality: Gelly Roll Metallic by Sakura and PITT Artist Pen Silver 251 by Faber-Castell. I ultimately used the Faber-Castell on my prints as it had a smoother stroke and actually signed on the bottom right hand corner of the photos images. It blended very well without standing out and I am very pleased with the final outcome. Would not suggest it for signing on a black or very dark surface as it may stand out more than you want.

Doug Howk
19-May-2010, 15:24
I use the Gelly Roll Metallic by sakura. Seems to produce a clear but not distracting signature on mat board.

Rick A
5-Jun-2010, 10:30
I have a Sharpy fine line silver pen

Jon Paul
6-Jun-2010, 08:30
I use the sharpie silver in the bottom right corner of the image. If matted, I sign, title and number the mat in pencil. Relative to the signature standing out too much, I have found that my collectors want to show off the signature... I don't mean huge and gaudy, but with enough prominence that they can see the name, LE#, etc. I originally didn't sign prints, then I had people start demanding them. It is a delicate balance, but seams to be important.
Hope that helps.:)

6-Jun-2010, 14:33
I'm currently using:

silver uniPaint marker, extra fine, 0.8mm, oil-based, opaque, PX-203, made by Mitsubishi Pencil Co., Ltd.

I like really like this one because the opaque silver blends with the surface and up close the signature is only noticeable at a certain angle.

7-Jun-2010, 15:26
I am just curious if an oil-based pen might have deleterious affect on the print?

Thoughts on this, anyone?


Sideshow Bob
7-Jun-2010, 19:49
You sign your name on the photograph? Like Olan Mills?


7-Jun-2010, 20:04
Gale, are you refering to me, or Hector?

I have, on rare occasions, signed the actual print. I use a Sikora or a Zig pen when I do so. My preference is to sign the mount or the overmat using HB (about #2) pencil.


8-Jun-2010, 21:28
You sign your name on the photograph? Like Olan Mills?


if the question is for me: I sign on the photograph, most time lower right corner, but never on the matt. I have always found signatures on the matt as odd because matts can be placed onto another photograph. I make photographs, not matts.

QT Luong
11-Jun-2010, 10:27
Pigma Micron from Sakura. Archival pigment inks, a variety of sizes to choose from (I prefer #3).

Curtis Miller
22-Jun-2010, 06:23
I've run into a couple of things that complicate this issue. I've tried the recommended metalic pens. I like the relative subtlety of the color but they do not stick to the coated photo papers I have tried them on. They will stick to the image area if there is sufficiently heavy ink coverage but they will not stick if the ink is light. They're also terrible on any matte medium.

I do not like signing in the image area at all. I use pencil on matte fine art papers. As for photo papers, I'm still at a loss. I am presently using an extra fine fountain pen and signing below the image but I don't like the darkness of the ink. It calls too much attention to the signature.

22-Jun-2010, 08:00
I use a normal pencil for inkjet prints (matte paper). I'm reading with curiosity what people use for glossy.

I don't really like my signature written over the image; sort of the tackiness of olan mills or tradition blindly copied over from painting. I sign under the image on the same paper as the image. Not on the matt. I make the matts too, but people don't get my images because they like the matts.

Jim Fitzgerald
22-Jun-2010, 16:52
I print almost exclusively in carbon transfer now. When I sign my prints I use the same ink that I put in the "glop" to make my tissue. I sign the print and then mount the print with the signature covered by the over mat. I find this appealing and it feels right. The image and the signature from the same ink just makes sense to me.


Matus Kalisky
23-Jun-2010, 04:28
Interesting thread. I have recently tried to sign/mark a "standard" inject print and had problems to find a marker or pen that would work for either front or rear side. Pencil had no chance (semi-matt surface, Epson paper), ball-pen was bare usable (and ugly) and the permanent markers I had at hand would run way too much.

What you guys use with these "plastic" papers? Or are these not worth to be signed ? :p

Matus Kalisky
19-Jul-2010, 13:18
OK - I was curios enough so I bought 5 different pens and markers (some were mentioned in this thread) and will post how they behave on different surfaces (papers) soon. I did some preliminary tests and indeed interesting results will be coming.

19-Jul-2010, 20:38
OK - I was curios enough so I bought 5 different pens and markers (some were mentioned in this thread) and will post how they behave on different surfaces (papers) soon. I did some preliminary tests and indeed interesting results will be coming.

Interesting, please keep us posted!

Harley Goldman
20-Jul-2010, 15:34
I did a window test with a Sharpie and a pigment ink pen. I wrote with both on inkjet paper and stuck them in a window. The Sharpie faded FAST and eventually faded completely, the pigment pen looks like the day I started after many months and much sunshine. I would not recommend a Sharpie.

Steve Sherman
28-Jul-2010, 03:55
I use a # 4 pencil, the hardest lead and therefore the lightest.

Reason, Jay Dusard (2 Guggenheim Awards) told me the signature should never detract or distract from the art.

2 cents, Cheers

1-Aug-2010, 13:13
Pigma Micron in a variety of nib sizes.