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Hints & Tips

  • The Best Pens for Exams in 2018

    Best Pens for Exams

    We know how much hard work you put into preparing for your exams. All that revision, missing out on socialising, getting stressed out and sleepless nights. So the last thing you need is for anything to go wrong on the day, and that includes your stationery.

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  • The Best Fountain Pens Under £20 in 2018

    Best fountain pens under £20

    In this post I'm going to test some of the most popular fountain pens under £20. Each pen has a short review with how I found it to write with and a score out of 10, taking into account my opinion along with the cost, availability of nibs, inks, and all that good stuff you want to know. The score is my opinion of the pens and, of course, others will find them different, but this is what I think. I have included a sample of all of the pens reviewed at the end of the post to help you compare.

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  • The Best Pens For Left-Handed People in 2018

    Lefties, we know you have it rough when it comes to finding good pens, since most of them are designed to be used by right-handers.

    A typical right-handed person using a pen pulls it toward the right in a smooth motion, leaving a line of fresh ink untouched behind the writing hand.

    A left-handed person has to push the pen from left to right. That requires the writer to press harder on the pen, which can be uncomfortable and can force the paper to foul the writing tip. Meanwhile, the writing hand drags over the ink and smudges it.

    Obviously, then, the two most important qualities in a pen for left-handed people is that the ink dries quickly and that it flows as smoothly as possible. With that in mind, here are some of our favourite pens for left-handers to consider.

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  • Ballpoint, Rollerball or Gel: Which Pen is Best for You?

    Ballpoint, rollerball and gel pens

    Trying to choose the right pen, but confused by all the different labels: ballpoint, liquid ink, gel, hybrid, rollerball? Yeah, we don’t blame you; it can get a little overwhelming.

    Having such a wide choice to choose from though isn’t a bad thing as it gives you plenty of options when looking for a pen to fit your needs.

    One of the questions that we are most often asked is what is the difference between these pens and how does this affect how they write?

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  • How To Improve Your Handwriting – 5 Easy Tips

    So you've decided to try & improve your handwriting, make it look a little less like a spider has crawled across the page & lets just say more legible.


    We've all heard the arguments about technology taking over & that handwriting is no longer important. Maybe it's a generation thing but I'm sure I'm not alone finding it faster & easier to jot down a note with a pen than reaching for the mobile & tapping the keypad.

    1. Posture
    When practicing, sitting at a table is better than in your favourite armchair or sofa. You'll be able to sit up with a straight back, your feet planted on the floor with uncrossed legs. Next relax your hand & arm, it's an idea to loosen up by twisting your wrist a few times & do a few stretching exercises as writing will also use muscles in the shoulders & forearms. Avoid writing to the left of your palm (more likely if your left handed) as this is likely to give you cramp. If this is something you are inclined to get there are a wide range of ergonomic pens< available to help. 2. Watch Your Speed
    Something many people do (me included) is write as if they're in a race against the clock. By taking time to concentrate on every letter you will see much better results.

    3. Doodle
    Practice your scribbles, this will help train the hand & eye to work together, it can have the added benefit of providing a little light relief if you've had a stressful day or meeting.

    4. Keep a Diary or Journal
    Whether it's keeping a note of the days events or recording your innermost thoughts a daily diary or journal entry will give you good reason to practise your writing. Just a few minutes little & often will not only help improve your penmanship but could provide health benefits like improving emotional well being or reducing stress.

    5. Loosen Your Grip
    It can be tempting to hold the pen too tightly. Rather than squeezing the barrel imagine your pen is a quill that may break & lightly pull it across the page.

    When trying to improve your handwriting it may look worse before it gets better but with practice & perseverance you're sure to achieve a style that you are happy with.

  • Desk Tidy Ideas

    Ever wondered how the desk gets so untidy when you spend most of your time staring at a computer? Me too, when it comes to having a clear up those creative souls or DIYer's amongst us may choose to recycle old jars, unused mugs or make use of other objects around the house, with so many different pens & paint markers around you could always create a bespoke piece to cram into a dark idle corner.  Alternatively there's always the local stationers, DIY or charity shop to visit.

    This subject got me thinking about an old boss, renowned for having the tidiest desk in the office, these options would never have been given the time of day. If you like he is looking for something a little upmarket you may need look no further than Missing Digit Woodshop.


    A small family owned artisan company that in their words are “dedicated to creating interesting designs for the dicerning nutcase” have produced a desk tidy that will hold post it notes, a letter opener & styli along with your pens & pencils.
    They offer natural wood & coloured options & the tidy stands at 18cm tall, that's around 7 inches in old measurements.

    If you fall into the DIY camp but are looking for a little inspiration you could always check out a few tutorials

  • Fall Into Some 3D Drawing

    I've always been fascinated by 3D drawing and the idea that an artist could create such incredible illusions using nothing more than a pencil and piece of paper.

    With hopes that our readers will enjoy these as much as I have, here are some awesome examples of 3D drawings and artists. Also included are a few links to some  3D art techniques for beginners in case any of you want to give it a try.

    Ramon Bruin

    Dutch artist Ramon Bruin is one of the masters of the technique, drawing skulls, cities, sharks and snakes that seem more like objects that happen to be sitting on paper than drawings.

    Ramon Bruin 3D drawing Credit: Ramon Bruin

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  • No Good Way To Convert Handwritten Notes To Text?

    wpx-170_1zLike a lot of you, I carry a notebook every day and take a ton of handwritten notes about most everything from grocery lists to my someday novel.

    I prefer writing on paper with a pen and have no interest in using handwriting apps for the smartphone, digital pens or tablet and stylus to capture my thoughts. Something about that just seems to suck all the creativity right out of the process. Over the years, we've heard from many of you who feel exactly the same way.

    The problem is that I end up with a whole lot of written material with no easy way to organize it and little to no searchability. It's frustrating when I can remember writing down some brilliant idea that's hanging right there at the edge of my memory, and I have to flip through every page of a dozen notebooks just to find it.

    So, what I end up doing periodically is transcribing my handwritten notes book by book into Microsoft OneNote. As you can imagine, it's a tedious process.

    That's why I was really excited the other day when I saw a headline in the Guardian, "How can I convert my handwritten notes into Word documents?" Unfortunately, my excitement had dimmed considerably by the time I finished reading . It seems there is no really good way of converting handwritten notes to text. Continue reading

  • Guides To Basic Pen And Ink Techniques

    A lot of our readers are interested in drawing. So, on the chance that it might be useful to some of you, we've put together a short list of sites where you can learn basic pen and ink techniques.

    There's a channel on YouTube called GMS Art with a collection of short 20- or 30-second videos demonstrating how to create stippling, hatching, parallel lines and other basic techniques. Well done videos, easy to follow. Seems to be a production of the Greenbelt Middle School art department.

    The Student Art Guide is a website that offers free art education articles and tutorials. One of the most basic pen and ink techniques the site teaches is line drawing. Continue reading

  • Doodling: The Non-Sensical Way To Make Sense Of It All

    Example of doodling Credit: Giulia Forsythe

    One of my goals for the new year is to take up doodling.

    That might sound a bit silly. Frivolous, even. But there is a reason for it, and a reason I'd recommend everyone become a doodler, at least a little.

    Research over the last few years consistently has found that the simple act of doodling increases a person's ability to retain information, aids in learning new concepts and stimulates the right hemisphere of the brain, helping to fire the imagination.

    According to the BBC, human beings may just be hard-wired to doodle.

    Sunni Brown, author of The Doodle Revolution and Gamestorming, criticizes the idea of doodling as a useless endeavor, instead offering this re-definition of doodling at the 2011 TED conference:

    Doodle: to make spontaneous marks to help yourself think.

    In her TED Talk, Brown explains that learning and memory are accomplished in four distinct ways: visual, auditory, kinesthic and reading/writing. Learning requires engaging at least two of those. Doodling uses all four. You are listening to new information, writing it down and reading it, adding visual reminders and engaging your motor functions.

    (Fast Company has an excellent piece exploring more of Brown's ideas on doodling as a means of learning and improving memory.)

    A study by Plymouth University in the UK found that information recall improved 29 percent among participants who doodled while listening to a tape of names and locations compared to participants who did not doodle.

    "If someone is doing a boring task, like listening to a dull telephone conversation, they may start to daydream," said study researcher Professor Jackie Andrade, Ph.D. "Daydreaming distracts them from the task, resulting in poorer performance. A simple task, like doodling, may be sufficient to stop daydreaming without affecting performance on the main task."

    Researcher Shaaron Ainsworth from the University of Nottingham has also conducted studies testing the use of doodling as a learning tool in science education. Her conclusion: Doodling aided in keeping students engaged, taught them visual reasoning skills and was an important part of learning strategies.

    And in yet another study, this one performed in Australia, researchers reported that combining drawing and writing improved childrens' writing skills.

    Apparently there is even a term for the practice of combining doodling and note-taking for learning and idea-generation. It's called "sketchnoting," about as perfect a way to describe it as I've ever heard. It also has become a field of professional study and consulting known as "visual practice."

    One visual practitioner, Patti Dobrowolski, advocates doodling not only as a way to learn and remember, but also to make effective changes in corporate cultures and in personal lives. Drawing goals helps people envision them, then enact those visions, she says.

    According to Dobrowolski:

    Goal-setting often stalls because we have so much data filling our brain that it gets overloaded and can’t remember what to focus on, but when you DRAW a picture of what you desire, you remember it better by 65%!

    Add into your success quotient the chemistry your body makes when you are imagining and drawing—that serotonin/oxytocin elixir helps guide that pattern-making brain of yours into focusing on what you want.

    Now I just have to figure out how to doodle my goal of becoming a doodler. Maybe this video from Art ala Carte can help me get started.

    The most important lesson so far: "There's no rhyme or reason with doodling; it's just kind of what's in your head."

    Of course, I'd be in good company. Mark Twain, Franz Kafka, Ron Howard, Sylvia Plath, Bill Gates and Hillary Clinton are all well-known doodlers.

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