Wednesday, May 18, 2011

CTMH Spray Pens vs Inkessentials Mini Misters from Ranger

Below is an article that was in the May 4, 2011, issue of Craft Critique's newsletter. It was written by Kristine Fowler

It's no secret, that like other industries, as things evolve, so do the tools of the trade. Even the simplest of tools see improvement over time, and the Spray Pen by Close To My Heart is a great example of such an evolution. Similar in form and function to the Inkessentials™ Mini Misters™ by Ranger, you can use the Spray Pen to 'mist' your projects and create visually interesting techniques with ink, paint, colour washes, alcohol, or other liquid media. Or, if you just need a handy alternate dispenser, you can even fill the Spray Pen with your favorite stamp cleaner (although you have to admit, that's not very exciting). If you're not already familiar with the mister tools, you can always pop over and read a 2008 article by Heather Strenzwilk where she gives the low-down on the Ranger Mini Misters.

So at this point you might be wondering, what I consider to be the big evolution? How could such a simple product be so drastically improved? Well, to start, let's take a close up look at the two products side-by-side.

The most obvious difference between the two products is their size. The Close To My Heart Spray Pen is about a third larger overall affecting the relative size of both the cap and the liquid storage compartment (the barrel). The benefit of the larger container should be obvious....with a larger container, you can mix more media, and that's definitely a good thing. (I'll talk about the cap in a minute).

Now let's take another look.

You might notice, that on the flip side of the CTMH Spray Pen, you'll see measurement lines - a very handy feature that is missing from the Ranger Mini Mister. With the measurement lines clearly marked on the barrel, you can more 'scientifically' mix your media (think 4 parts water to 1 part paint, or 2 drops reinker to 6 parts water). This also means that it will be much easier to duplicate a mixture that you absolutely love at a later date. No more guess work. Pure genius! The Ranger Mini Mister on the other hand has product logos on both sides of the barrel, no measurement lines.

Next, let's look at the cap/nozzle area as there's a couple of major differences here. On the Ranger version, the entire barrel is smooth. The smooth finish extends to cover the part of the barrel that you 'twist' to remove the nozzle and fill the compartment. In contrast, this 'twistable' section of the CTMH product is textured, in order to give you better grip. This textured finish is particularly helpful if your hands are damp.

And now the cap.....again, there are a couple of differences. First, the CTMH cap is made of essentially the same material as the rest of the unit. The Ranger cap is quite thin in comparison, and might not stand up quite as well to even a little abuse. I'm thinking that if it drops on the floor, and I step on it, it's likely going to crack, rendering it essentially useless. The CTMH version on the other hand is more substantial, and although I'm not willing to put it to the test (sorry), I'm pretty certain I could step on it without hurting it too too badly.

Secondly, there is a series of holes in the top of the CTMH Spray Pen cap, and the Mini Mister doesn't have these. We've seen this type of thing before, and it serves a dual purpose. First, the holes allow air to be pushed out of the cap as your closing it to ensure that it closes snugly, and second, it's a safety feature. If for some reason a child was to put the cap in their mouth and swallow it, the vent holes in the cap could prevent asphyxiation. The other major difference in the caps, is the presence of the 'pocket clip' on the CTMH version. While I probably won't be carrying the Spray Pens in my shirt pocket any time soon, it is beneficial. Not only can I use the clip to secure the Spray Pen to the inside of my crop bag, but by virtue of it's existence the 'pocket clip' stops the Pen (when capped) from rolling off the table, and stops the cap rolling off the table (and under my feet) when the Spray Pen is in use. Once again, a small improvement in design has what I consider big benefit.

When it comes to function, these pens are virtually identical. Both pens 'pump' easily, and with neither version have I experienced 'clogging'. I do find the CTMH pen a bit easier to operate though because it feels more substantial. When spraying, the Mini Mister feels almost 'consumed' by my hand, whereas the CTMH version does not. This is perhaps a matter of personal preference, and if you're used to the feel of one version, you may find it initially awkward to make the switch, but it'll be easy to adjust either way. Looking very closely at the actual nozzles of the two pens reveals a minor difference, in that the little plastic piece which is responsible for directing the spray on the CTMH Spray Pen is angled downward ever so slightly whereas the Ranger version is completely straight. I'm not sure if this can really be considered a benefit, as I've not noticed any functional difference. I can only assume that the nozzle was in fact engineered this way for a reason, and presumably to provide some benefit - that's the best explanation I can offer you on that one unfortunately.

Before I get to the creative stuff, you're probably wondering about price. Does the price tag reflect the 'improvements' I've mentioned? Well, I think that you'll be pleasantly surprised to learn that the CTMH Spray Pens are priced very similarly to (if not better than in some cases) the Ranger Mini Misters. A 3-pack is available for just US$3.95 / CAN$4.50. Even once you add the shipping and taxes (if applicable in your area), these are definitely not going to break the bank. The Ranger Mini Misters I've purchased, I've always paid around CAN$5.00 for the 3-pack, regular priced, at various locations.

Now the fun's how I've used misters recently.

Using my CTMH Spray Pen and a mixture of reinker and water, I misted a 3x3 inch acrylic block and then used it like a stamp on my paper. This created the pink/white background for my focal image. I love the way that with this method I was able to get a nice solid pink in the middle, surrounded by what looks like over-spray.

Stamp Credit: "Baby Love" by CTMH

For this second sample, I combined CTMH Create-A-Shade Paint, Water and Reinker and used the mixture to 'mist' the large green panel which was previously embossed (using a Tim Holtz Texture Fade), and then inked with both brown and juniper colored inks. Unfortunately, if I do say so myself, this photo does not do the card justice. I hope though that you can at least catch a glimpse of the shimmering splotches. Adding the pearl paint to the mixture, your spray takes on an iridescent look, and it's actually quite shiny! It's similar to the look you would get with commercial mists that are designed to sparkle.

Stamp Credit: "Find Your Style" by CTMH wrap this up, here's a quick summary of how I view the product differences (red indicates distinct product advantages). Remember from the perspective of function and price, the products are virtually identical.

CTMH Spray Pen
•10 mL barrel (allowing you to mix more media)
•measurement markings on the side of barrel
•textured 'twist' for better grip
•the cap is substantial, should resist accidental damage
•holes in cap for safety and ease of use
•pocket clip on cap to prevent pen rolling & to secure in bags
•sold only in packages of 3
•not available via retail, must be purchased from a CTMH rep
•only available in one color

Inkessentials™ Mini Misters™ by Ranger
•smaller barrel (not sure of the exact measurement)
•no measurement markings
•smooth 'twist', less grip
•the cap is weak in comparison
•no holes in cap
•no pocket clip
•sold in packages of 3 AND individually
•widely available via retail
•3 different colors available

The one fact that I have not tested is whether the CTMH Spray Pens fit in the (very compact) Inkessentials™ Mini Mister Organizer storage block by Ranger. Both the CTMH Spray Pen and the Mini Misters appear to have the same circumference (although I don't have a micrometer; if there is a difference it appears that minute), and so I would assume the Spray Pens would fit, but I would love it if somebody out there could put this to the test. CTMH does not currently offer a storage solution for the Spray Pens, and it certainly would be handy.

If you'd like to order your own CTMH Spray Pens, you may find them on my MyCTMH website.

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