Designer Toolkit: Hi-Tec-C Coleto N 4 multi pen

Make your own multi pen.

Designer Toolkit is a new weekly series on Sketchbook B that will highlight an analog tool that designers should be using.


Why designers will lOVE the Coleto N 4 multi pen:

It’s a multi pen! Remember when you were a kid, a multi pen was the most awesome thing ever? Red, Black, Blue and Green ink in one pen? Pretty awesome. Like those pens, the Hi-Tec-C Coleto N 4 is a Japanese multi pen with four different color inks.

It’s a customizable multi pen! Unlike the multi pens you can buy in the United States, the Coleto N 4 is completely customizable. You choose which colors and line thicknesses you want to use. And the Coleto refills have color-coded buttons so you can easily tell what’s loaded. I've got black, red, brown and blue-black ink in my pen right now.

It’s also a really good pen. The Coleto uses Hi-Tec-C refills that come in 0.3 mm, 0.4 mm and 0.5 mm thicknesses. If you haven’t used a Hi-Tec-C before, they provide a sharp, precise line. Great for taking notes or quick sketches.


Things to know:

Sold Separately. When you buy a Coleto, you purchase an empty pen body and then refills. You can buy individual colors or buy a pack of 10 refills. 

0.3 mm is really thin. Unless you know that you love 0.3 mm refills, I’d recommend that you start with 0.4 mm or 0.5 mm. The 0.3 mm is fine with dark colors, but is hard to see in some of the brighter colors.

Pencil and eraser. You can even add a mechanical pencil and an eraser to your multi pen. While it’s a cool option, I never quite fell in love with the pencil feature. I'd rather use a dedicated mechanical pencil.



The Coleto pen body costs about $3 at Jet Pens. The refills are a couple of dollars a piece, or you can by a pack of 10 for $16.50.

Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. In his spare time, he ponders his favorite color. Follow Bob on Twitter and Instagram.

Quick Review: Pilot MR Metropolitan Retro Pop Ballpoint

Walking through Target a few weeks ago, I noticed they were selling a Pilot MR Metropolitan Retro Pop ballpoint pen. 

I'm familiar with the Pilot Metropolitan Retro Pop fountain pen and rollerball. The Metropolitan fountain pen is well regarded as a great pen for beginners. I own a green Pilot Metropolitan fine nib fountain pen and I've really enjoyed it. But I had no idea how there was a ballpoint version available through typical retail channels and I wanted to try it out.

The Metropolitan Retro Pop that I purchased from Target is sharp looking, with a dark gray metal body. The center band is a black and silver houndstooth pattern. The rest of the trim is silver. The point extends with a slight twist on the top of the pen body. If you are used to cheap plastic pens, the Metropolitan feels substantial. 
The pen is a 1.0 mm black ballpoint and writes smoothly on a wide variety of papers. I typically use a 0.5 mm or 0.7 mm point so the line is a little thicker than I'm used to. The pen insert is replaceable but uses a shorter Pilot Dr. Grip Center of Gravity refill that is only offered in black or blue and only in 1.0 mm. I'm not sure if other refills will fit it as well. (None of the refills I had around the house fit the pen.)

For such a cool looking pen, the packaging isn't impressive at all. It's clearly designed to blend in with the other Pilot packaging, but it doesn't really do a great job showing off the pen. I'm also a little surprised that the word "Metropolitan" doesn't appear anywhere on the retail packaging, since that's the branding that is more prominent in the fountain pen offerings.

The Metropolitan fountain pen and rollerball models come in a range of colors and patterns. According to the Pilot website, the ballpoint comes in five colors combos, but I've only seen the dark gray and houndstooth on the shelf. 

The pen is a solid and versatile addition to my collection. I enjoy writing with it and it's nice to have a quality ballpoint to supplement my fountain pens. While I like the gray and houndstooth design, I hope Pilot makes the bright colors widely available for people to discover.

If you don't think you are ready for a fountain pen, the Metropolitan ballpoint might be a great option for you. For $13, it's a solid gateway to the world of nicer pens.