Gel pen jiggle testing

April 19, 2010 at 5:11 pm 10 comments

Looks like between Chomas Creations (Custom Crops and/or Staples pens) and Cri-Kits we have the gel pen holder conquered. Both holders and the pens that accompany them will do a fine job on small images cut directly from a cartridge as shown in the image below, drawn at 3/4 inches high.

There remains a significant problem when cutting from a computer however. I compared a Provocraft cartridge image with a similar, node optimized, SVG in SCAL and MTC. As you can see, all of the computer-driven versions have significant “jiggle” compared to the direct cartridge image. (Click on the picture to see the enlarged image, also drawn at 3/4 inches high.)

The Chomas holder with Staples pens seems to do a slightly better job with the computer-driven drawing than the Cri-Kits pen/holder (at least with the dark blue pens I tested) but the results at small sizes are still not very impressive with either. (For reference, the top upper case ABC is 1/4 inch tall)

It helps some to increase the size of your images. Here is the same node-optimized letter at about 1-1/2 inches high using 3 different pens. As you can see, the ballpoint Silhouette Sketch pens do not show the jiggling quite as much. It makes sense that the more free-flowing the ink, the more pronounced the jiggle is.

I also tested various speeds and pressures but could not see any improvement. I also tried optimized images (minimum nodes/control points) and polyline images (many nodes/control points) and the results were still unimpressive. My guess is that the disparity has to do with the coordinate systems for cartridge cutting (perfectly matched) versus computer-driven cutting (imperfect conversion). I am further convinced that this is a machine limitation because I’m told that the same files draw smoothly with a Silhouette cutter, and because no one else has been able to show me an SVG that cuts as smooth on a Cricut as a cartridge.

I also tested the Staples ink tube/tip in the Cri-Kits pen shell and vice-versa. You can enjoy using the inexpensive Staples pen innards as refills in your Cri-Kit holder, just turn up the pressure until you have contact with the paper. Unfortunately, the Cri-Kits ink tubes do not work in the Staples pen barrel, because the exposed tip is too long, even at minimum pressure.

BTW, there are lots of great gel pen ideas hitting the blogs right now like this post from my good friend PapaSue , this one from Denise at PaperPastime, this one from Shelly at Paper Flowers and this one from Samantha the Scrapmaster.

Entry filed under: Cricut. Tags: , , , , .

Inkscape paint bucket basics video More gel pen jiggle testing

10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. PapaSue  |  April 19, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Interesting comparison. I don’t see that well so I maybe not seeing the jiggles with the Cri-Kits. Was your test from an Inkscape created image or direct from SCAL.

    I seem to find that SCAL text prints faster than Inkscape even though I delete some nodes.

    Keep up the good work, and especially thanks for the tip that the Staples innards work in the Cri-Kit carrier.

    You are the best!



  • 2. Heidi  |  April 20, 2010 at 8:59 am


    Thank you for the great information. I appreciate it. I was wondering if you could show me a picture of the staples pens and holder used so I know what to buy. I’ve heard of people buying the mini pens, but not sure what pencil grip thing they are using to actually make them fit. So I would really appreciate it as I think that I might give these a try. So many people are starting to create so many fun projects, that I just have to jump in! LOL….


  • 3. Linda  |  April 20, 2010 at 9:44 am

    You just confirmed the problem I am having without much testing. Since I bought this cri-kits mainly for the writing (letters) I have bought something that is useless unless someone can correct the problem. Cri-kits said they are coming out with their own fonts so maybe that will be the answer

  • 4. Cathy R  |  April 21, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Kay you are the BOMB! I don’t know how you manage to be on top of everything EVERYWHERE, but you do…..You are simply amazing at how analytical you are and provide the support to all the different topics on the forums and groups.

    Your tips are not only focused on achieving the best results, but also help save time and money.
    Thank you so much for all the time and knowledge you put into your blog and the forums. We truly appreciate you!!!

  • 5. Pinky  |  April 21, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    That’s funny because I design professionally and I don’t get any of that jiggle at all with my Cri-Kit pens. I have SEVERAL designs I use from SCAL and cartridges and I have no jiggle at all. I used paper that has texture, and paper that has no texture with the same results every time.

    Here are some photos

    I used max speed and pressure, I have never had a wiggly line or a skipped line. I guess I am doing something wrong?

  • 6. homegrownart  |  April 22, 2010 at 5:06 am

    This is brilliant, thanks for taking the time to explain your results. Cheers!

  • 7. 7524kes  |  April 24, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Thanks! You confirmed my less-than-perfect results from SCAL vs. carts. Appreciate the effort.

  • 8. Diana Powers  |  November 4, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    Have you tried the gel pens with the squishy things on them? how well do they work?

    • 9. Kay  |  November 7, 2010 at 6:07 pm

      Was not happy with my results using the “squishy things” and gel pens, but I do use them with Sharpies.

  • 10. Christine  |  February 16, 2015 at 8:45 am

    I notice these posts are a few years old now. What uk pen to you recommend for a Cricut Explore? Is there a pen that fits directly or do you have to put a refil in the Cricut pen holder?


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