Itoya Art Profolio Marker — Photo Safe Archival Pen Review

by | Last updated Apr 21, 2017 | Storing Originals, Scanning Photos | 29 comments

Itoya Art Profolio Photo Marker Capped

Itoya's Art Profolio Photo Marker  [Item# FM-100BK].

When I first started scanning my photo collection, I starting out writing on the back of my prints with a fairly dull pencil. However, I pushed down extremely lightly though as to not etch through to the other side!

But, you know, I just really hate using pencils now.

I'm an adult now. I already had my fair share of NFL pencil sets in the 1980's. I feel like I have moved past pencils in my life.

What I really wanted was a decent ink pen that I could feel safe using on photos and slides. And if I had to make a list of the qualities I was looking for in particular, it would look something like this:

My Dreamiest  Photo Pen Criteria:

  • Photo safe 
  • Non-toxic
  • Permanent ink
  • Fade resistant
  • Dries quickly
  • Will not smear once dry
  • Won't bleed through
  • Passes PAT (Photographic Activity Test)

Why a Special Pen?

I know it might seem silly to some of you to go out of your way to find a fancy pen just to write filename numbers and captions on your photos with.

I'm no Walter White, but if he knew as much about photo processing chemicals as he does crystal meth, he could tell us in great scientific detail why it's important to choose a photo safe pen.

I do know enough to know I wanted to find a “non-toxic” pen. You never know how these photo chemicals that were used to produce your paper prints, slides and negatives are going to hold up once you write on them with the wrong type of ink and then close them up again in (near) airtight storage containers (photo pages, envelopes, ziplock bags etc.)

I mean, our photos are already breaking down fast enough on their own!

Additionally, you might find the wrong type of pen might seem to have written just fine on your photos at first. But, what if you checked them months later and you realize the ink continued to leach into the porous paper stock and its bled through to the front of your photo! (Yeah that's the really important side)

I feel it's worth a few bucks to not have to worry about all of this.

Archival Pen Scarcity

I was surprised to find there really are very few photo safe pens out there. It seemed like every time I thought I had found one I liked from an online retailer, I discovered they were no longer making them.

Itoya Art Profolio Photo Marker UncappedI actually ended up finding what I was really happy with at a nearby location of the major photography company  Samy's Camera.

It's called an Art Profolio Photo Marker by Itoya. And no, that's not a typo — it's really Profolio not Portfolio like I immediately assumed.

In fine print on the side of the pen it reads:

Permanent Ink: Great for autographing and for marking photos, film, transparencies, plastic, glass and metal.

And then I checked out Itoya's website. Their page on this pen is very limited, but they do highlight some additional features:

  • Acid Free
  • Non Toxic
  • Photo Safe
  • Dark, bold lines
  • Bullet tip for precision lines
  • CD safe ink technology

Perfect!

So as long as the ink dries quickly, it doesn't smear or bleed through, I think my wish list could be completely checked off.

How the Art Profolio Looks & Feels

For an inexpensive disposable style pen, I was pleasantly surprised the almost “pearlesque” shiny off-white lightweight plastic had a really nice dense and smooth feel to it. Knowing how much I was going to be holding this thing over the next year, this just might be a pleasant inessential.

Near the tip where the tips of your fingers will rest there's also a really nice rubbery horizontally grooved grip. It makes it really easy to hold onto.

A marvelous touch.

 

Itoya Art Profolio Marker next to 2 Permanent Sharpie Markers

Art Profolio compared to the Sharpie Fine Point (top) and Ultra Fine Point (middle) Permanent Markers.

Because of toxicity issues and the possibility of bleeding in many of their models, I personally wouldn't recommend using most if not all Sharpies to write on your photographs. But, just for comparison sake, here's a shot that shows how they compare in size.

Its diameter is definitely less than the Sharpie's Fine point model, and just a tad smaller than the Ultra Fine Point — but probably very close.

My pen came with a barcoded sales sticker that easily came right off after I took these photos (if you were wondering).

Itoya Art Profolio Marker uncapped next to 2 Permanent Sharpie Markers

Art Profolio's tip (bottom) after 2 months of use compared to those of the Sharpie Fine Point (top) and Ultra Fine Point (middle) Permanent Markers (also quite used).

After Actual Use

I've really enjoyed using this pen. It writes really well and even.

But, of course at a modest price around $2.99 a piece, you certainly couldn't compare the heft and prestige of this little scriber to one from the Montblanc stable of fountain pens. But, it feels quite a bit better than a cheap commercially-printed ballpoint we might pick up from a hotel nightstand.

You pocket those too — right?

For the past 6 months, I have used it exclusively to write 5-digit numbers on the backs of my paper prints and slides before I scanned them.

If my math is correct, I have used this single pen to write out over 23,130 numbers!

Here I was writing an ID number on this photograph using my 5-digit numbering system for filenames. This footage was about 3 months after I started using the Art Profolio so the tip was still fairly sharp.

If this numbering system intrigues you, you should check out my post called: “If You Don’t Add This to the Filename of Your Scanned Photos, You’ll Probably Hate Yourself Later.” Especially if you are about to start scanning your photo collection. This could really save you a lot of headache later.

I have had very few occasions where the ink hasn't dried quick enough and it's smeared. With this marker, I have really only noticed it when I was writing on really slick and smooth photo paper stock and on really smooth and shiny plastic slide mounts. In either occasion, I just am careful to let it sit for a few more seconds than normal to let it air dry.

Under normal circumstances, I was very pleased with the quick drying times. And I have yet to see any bleed through.

Any Negatives?

For the price, it's pretty hard to complain too much about this pen. But, if I had to come up with a few negatives, even if a couple are small and almost insignificant, here they are.

Cap It!

One time, shortly after I started using it, I accidentally left the cap off for a short period of time — maybe 10 minutes.

Well, I found out if you leave the cap off long enough, the tip seems to dry up. I thought maybe I had ruined it. But, thankfully, once I started writing with it again on a scratch piece of paper for about 15 seconds, the ink started to flow again. It was as good as new.

Lesson though, if you left the cap off overnight, I'm not sure that it wouldn't completely dry out.

Anyone want to test this out for us?

Even the Mightiest Wear Down

Over the period of 6 months since I started using it, my Profolio Photo Marker's pointed tip has worn down to a semi-rounded little nub.

Yeah it doesn't stay needle sharp forever.

Comparing tip damage of used vs. new iToya Art Profolio Photo Marker

After 6 months of use, my original markers' tip (top) now looks more like the head of a match than the sharp point of a brand new one (bottom).

I wouldn't consider this unusual at all though. My Sharpie Fine Points do the same. It's just seems to be part of the lifespan for any pen like this.

To give you an idea how this will affect your writing, here's some handwriting samples from these four separate pens. You can use this to get an idea how fine you can still write with one of these even after months of use.

Itoya Art Profolio Photo Marker's handwriting sample next to 2 Sharpies' samples

If you plan on doing a lot of writing and the lack of the sharpest tip over time worries you, I would suggest you pick up a few of these pens and save a sharp one or 2 for the times when you need to write very small and neat.

Ink Consistency

And finally, I've noticed that recently, and only occasionally, the ink doesn't flow out evenly on some “areas” of the marker tip. You know, like what happens with any old felt marker.

When this happens, and my writing is a bit faint, I've learned if I slightly rotate the pen ever so slightly to a different “portion” of the tip, then the ink comes out dark and even again.

Comparing thinness of handwriting with used vs new tip of itoya art pro folio photo marker

The slide on the left was made with my 6-month old used marker. Notice how the ink came out a bit faint and uneven. The slide on the right is made with a brand “spankin” new Itoya Portfolio marker.

And again, I don't think this is necessarily the sign of a bad marker. I've used this thing pretty hard for 6 months now and it's very possible the ink well is probably starting to become a little dry and empty.

Heck, many of us probably lose pens before they hit their 6 month anniversary or 23,000+ characters of use! So we should probably keep this in mind.

Where You Can Buy the Art Profolio Marker

Itoya Art Profolio Photo Marker FM-100BK (Amazon)Even after taking into consideration these minor criticisms — if you want to call them that, I would still highly recommend this photo safe pen.

It's very possible your local photography or scrapbooking store might carry them if you are so lucky as to have one nearby. Brick and mortar “hobby” stores seem to almost be a thing of the past.

My advice though if you don't immediately find one on the shelves is to ask for help. That's how I found mine. I can only assume Samy's had them behind the counter for reasons of easy theft because they weren't packaged individual in cardboard and some kind of wrapping.

And if you are having problems finding them locally, here are some online stores (affiliates) that I know carry them and can probably also ship to you internationally if needed:

If you know of any other “photo safe” markers you use or have used and would recommend, I would love for you to let me know in the comments below. I'm always looking out for the newest and greatest, so let me know what you've found.

Or, after reading this you decide to give one of these Profolios a try, let me know how it worked out for you. I'd love to know.

Cheers!

Are You Ready to Get Serious With Your Photo Collection?

Join 10,280+ people enjoying the exclusive newsletter, tutorials, occasional blog updates, and tips and tricks you won't find anywhere else on this website sent right to your inbox.

Are You Ready to Get Serious With Your Photo Collection?

Join 10,280+ people enjoying the exclusive newsletter, tutorials, occasional blog updates, and tips and tricks you won't find anywhere else on this website sent right to your inbox.

Popular Posts

Epson Scan 2 — Will It Work With My Scanner?
Epson Scan 2 — Will It Work With My Scanner?

Epson quietly released a new version of their popular scanning software “Epson Scan” that comes bundled with their document and flatbed photo scanners. But, there’s already been confusion as to which scanners and operating systems it supports. Could it be possible that “Epson Scan 2” won’t even run in the latest versions of Microsoft Windows?

Epson V800 vs V850 — The 5 Differences and Which You Should Buy
Epson V800 vs V850 — The 5 Differences and Which You Should Buy

So you’re ready to buy a very high-quality flatbed scanner to digitize your analog prints and film, but now you’re having a hard time deciding between the Epson Perfection V800 Photo and the Epson Perfection V850 Pro Photo Scanners.

Whether you or an avid hobby photographer, a true professional, or just want to get all the quality you can out of your prints and film, either one of these models is going to give you exceptional results. But, I want to help you feel confident you’re going to make the right choice.

Below, in plain English that will make it very easy to understand, I’ve written out and explained in detail, the 5 differences between the two models.

Are 99.9% of Your Photographs Just Not Important Enough To Save?
Are 99.9% of Your Photographs Just Not Important Enough To Save?

If this was your entire photo collection sitting in this trash can in the photo above, would this make you actually feel relief … or utter panic?

What if I added to this scenario. What if to the best of your knowledge, all of your photos sitting in the trash were already scanned and safely backed up on a couple of your hard drives.

Do you now feel relieved … or still utterly panicked?

From everyone I have talked to about this scenario, it seems safe for me to say that I believe the world is in somewhat of a divide whether it’s actually okay to throw away your prints and slides once they have been scanned and digitally preserved.

And for some, hopefully not too many, I am sure they would say it’s okay to throw away many if not most photos before they were scanned and preserved.

Yes. You heard me.

If You Don’t Add This to the Filename of Your Scanned Photos, You’ll Probably Hate Yourself Later
If You Don’t Add This to the Filename of Your Scanned Photos, You’ll Probably Hate Yourself Later

Whether you keep all of your scanned master (original) image files in folders on a hard drive, or you allow an image manager like Picasa, iPhoto or Aperture to manage them inside a library file, you will still be required to give each photo a filename.

It could be as simple and non-descriptive as “photo-1.jpg” or maybe even simple yet somewhat descriptive like “mom at the beach 1984.tif”.

But, it’s actually a very important part of the process of scanning photos, that if done with a little bit of forethought, can save you a lot of time and headache later.

My Inspiring Photo Scanning Progress Report for April 2012
My Inspiring Photo Scanning Progress Report for April 2012

Welcome to my third monthly progress report!

Last month I covered two complete months of scanning, but I learned that was just too much to talk about!

So this time is only one month and it’ll be a lot shorter.

What This Progress Report Is Really About:

Every month, I am posting a detailed report — just like this one — sharing with you how far I have come with my goal to scan and restore my entire 10,000+ family photo collection.

By doing so, I hope to inspire you to do the same!

In my first progress report, I set a goal for myself to do a little bit of work on my collection every single day. I shoot for about an hour a day which turns out to be about 30 scans a day. And I am going to record and detail each one of them so that you can learn from my transparency.

I don’t want to be “that guy” — a guy that tells you how you should scan your own photos but then sends all of my own to a scanning service to do the work for me.

How Quickly You Could Scan Your Entire Photo Collection — What I Discovered From My First Week of Scanning
How Quickly You Could Scan Your Entire Photo Collection — What I Discovered From My First Week of Scanning

So you have a closet with boxes full of old prints and slides that you are dying to have scanned and neatly organized on your computer.

The problem is, you’re worried about it either costing you way too much money to send it to a scanning service, or taking too much of your precious free time to scan them yourself on a flatbed scanner.

Does this sound EXACTLY like your dilemma?

I’d like to share with you my experience back scanning photos for the first week. If you want to make scanning your own photos fit into your busy and hectic life, I think my experience here might give you an idea how much time will be involved and how many photos you can easily get through.

The Best Way to Add a Description (Caption) to Your Scanned Photos
The Best Way to Add a Description (Caption) to Your Scanned Photos

Ah, there’s nothing quite like reading a great caption to go along with a special photograph. Sometimes they’re so effective, they just seal the emotional experience of being there—as if you were right there when that photograph was taken—even if you weren’t!

I think it’s so important that you record these “priceless” descriptions as soon as you can. Some of us might think we can remember all of the details. But face it, you probably won’t be able to. They’re fleeting. And even if you could, you and your memory aren’t going to be on this earth forever.

With prints, it was easy to record this information by writing the stories by hand on the back. But, now that we are wishing to move our prints, slides and negatives to a digital form in our computer, how do we easily add this information so that it can live with each master image file?

Use 1 of These Photo Managers If You Care About Your Photo Collection
Use 1 of These Photo Managers If You Care About Your Photo Collection

It was seriously a life changing day when I discovered the magic of a “non-destructive” photo managing program.

With “non-destructive” editing, all of the edits (enhancements) you make to your photographs are managed by the program itself. Your original photo remains untouched. It’s like having a guardian angel that protects your master images at all costs. It’s brilliant and is 100% absolutely indispensable to me now.

What Everybody Ought to Know When Naming Your Scanned Photos – Part 1
What Everybody Ought to Know When Naming Your Scanned Photos – Part 1

As my own scanned photo collection grows, it has really become obvious to me how thankful I am for the added attention I have been putting into the filenames I give to all of my scanned images.

When you’re scanning, it’s really easy to get into a “robotic” mindset where you are just trying to scan as many photos as possible in a sitting. So when you get to that blank field each time that asks you to type in a name for the file, it’s tempting to just quickly bang out a few descriptive words with little thought to how useful they will be to anyone later.

The DPI You Should Be Scanning Your Paper Photographs
The DPI You Should Be Scanning Your Paper Photographs

One of the most important decisions you face when scanning anything with your scanner is choosing what dpi (“dots per inch”) to scan with. And specifically for this post, what is the best dpi to use when scanning and archiving your 8×10″ and smaller paper photographic prints – which for most people, make up the majority of our pre-digital collection.

Making this decision was very challenging for me and certainly a huge part of my 8 year delay. The reason for this is that dpi is the critical variable in a fairly simple mathematical equation that will determine several important outcomes for your digital images.

Related Posts

How I’m Bringing Order to Chaos By Scanning and Organizing My Photo Collection

How I’m Bringing Order to Chaos By Scanning and Organizing My Photo Collection

I have always held onto things that memorialized moments of my life. Ever since I was a little kid, I would make sure to carefully store my grade school class pictures or baseball team pictures. They were important to me then and I knew that I should keep them safe. It took a few years for me to realize what service I had done myself by not letting these precious items get lost or thrown away. They are utterly priceless to me now.

Epson Scan 2 — Will It Work With My Scanner?

Epson Scan 2 — Will It Work With My Scanner?

Epson quietly released a new version of their popular scanning software “Epson Scan” that comes bundled with their document and flatbed photo scanners. But, there’s already been confusion as to which scanners and operating systems it supports. Could it be possible that “Epson Scan 2” won’t even run in the latest versions of Microsoft Windows?

Aiming for the Stars to Hit a Cowpie — My Enlightening Scanning Journey

Aiming for the Stars to Hit a Cowpie — My Enlightening Scanning Journey

As a Wyoming farm gal, I was raised with the phrase “It’s better to aim for the stars and miss than to aim for a cowpie and hit.” Well, that’s great advice … unless your goal actually is to hit the cowpie.

My scanning goal really was that simple, but for some reason, aiming at the cowpie just wasn’t working. So I changed strategies and aimed for the stars. The result? Read on to find out. And hopefully, by sharing my scanning journey, it will help you on your scanning journey.

Leave a Comment Below

Subscribe by email to new comments without commenting
Notify of
guest

29 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments