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Whether you're a professional artist, or someone who enjoys the occasional doodle while people-watching at a cafe, brush pens are a great tool to have in your pen case. Their versatility and portability mean you can use them anywhere for anything, be it sketching or painting.
We've already covered our brush pen recommendations for calligraphy, and we're just as excited to show you our favorites for art and illustration. After testing all of our brush pens and staining our hands with black and colored ink, we present to you our picks. Click on any of the product photos for a larger view.
Characteristics of a Brush Pen for Art
The finer your brush pen tip, the more detailed work you can do. A firmer tip lends itself to better precision and control, but a flexible tip can achieve more effects. This is not as critical when you are using your brush pen for coloring. In this case, ink flow becomes the main concern. You want the ink to dispense smoothly and evenly, so you don't get random hot spots or pooling! For a more detailed explanation, please refer to this blog post.
Not only is color selection important, but how pigmented the colors are once applied. Some people want pastel colors, while others prefer bolder, vibrant colors. Whatever the color quality, if you're going to hang your artwork in a well-lit room, make sure the ink that you use is lightfast! This means that it resists fading when exposed to light. Look for descriptions that include archival or lightfast ink.
For those who like to mix different inks and watercolors, it's paramount to check to see if the ink is water or Copic-proof. You want to make sure that it's at least resistant to water or Copic ink, so your hard work doesn't bleed away into a muddy mess.
Brush Pens for Sketching and Drawing
Kuretake Fudegokochi Brush Pen
Although this brush pen was intended for writing Chinese characters, or kanji in Japanese, we find that its hard, but flexible felt tip gives you nice control while you draw and still allowing for nice expression in terms of thin to thick lines. There's also a gray version that's great for shading, and a super fine version if you want an even thinner tip.
Also consider: Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen - Hard.
Sakura Pigma Brush Pens
If you're looking to inject color into your sketches, these brush pens will do just that. Their tips mimic the feel of a real brush, so you can get varying line widths, but still have the command of a felt tip. Besides their extensive color selection, their ink is archival, so you don't have to worry about fading.
Pentel Pocket Brush Pen
This pocket brush pen is well-loved and for good reason. We mentioned this brush pen in our Brush Pens for Calligraphy article, but it also shines as a medium for sketching. With its bold, dark ink and smooth ink flow, it can create thick, expressive strokes to thin, subtle lines. Its synthetic hair tip gives you that beautiful brush effect, no matter how casual the sketch. If you want a similar pen in a lighter shade, the Pentel Aquash in Light Black is another great choice.
Brush Pens for Outlines and Details
Pilot Fude-Makase Color Brush Pens
These colorful brush pens are great for adding a pop of color to your artwork. They're felt-tipped, extremely fine, and very firm, perfect for putting finishing touches and those extra marks that just somehow round out your art beautifully. Make sure to test them first as they do have a tendency to pool at the ends if you're too heavy-handed.
Zebra Disposable Brush Pen
The Zebra Disposable Brush Pen in Super Fine has a hard felt tip that gives you complete control so you can add details and outline without worrying about overpowering your work. It creates predictable, clean lines and is thin enough that you can even write notes with it!
Akashiya Sai Thinline Brush Pens
We can't get over the subtle, earthy colors of these synthetic hair brush pens. With colors ranging from reddish brown to pine tree green, they give your art a lovely, understated feel. Although the tips are very thin, they are also quite flexible for a nice degree of line variation.
Brush Pens for Coloring
Kuretake Fudebiyori Pocket Color Brush Pens
These felt tipped brush pens come in a multitude of vibrant colors. They dispense ink evenly, so no need to worry about the dry brush effect. They're also quite firm, so while you can't color a large area quickly, you can do slightly more detailed work.
Akashiya Sai Watercolor Brush Pens
These gorgeous synthetic hair brush pens are not only great for coloring, they can even be used as watercolors! You can mix the colors together for a lovely gradient effect or just do a single color wash. Be careful about leaving your work in the sun--the ink is not lightfast and will fade if exposed to the sun for long periods of time.
Also consider: Pentel Art Brush Pens.
Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush Pens
These convenient and portable synthetic hair brush pens live up to their "Clean Color" name! Like the Akashiya Sai Watercolor Brush Pens, you can blend the colors like watercolors when you use a waterbrush since they are water-based. Their ink flow is smooth and consistent, and colors are vibrant and don't get muddy when blended.
Brush Pens for Watercolors
Let's switch gears for a bit and talk about watercolors. We like the convenience and portability of synthetic hair waterbrushes. The cartridges of these brush pens are designed to be filled with water, so you don't have to carry around a cup of water to paint. Just squeeze the barrel of the pen, dip into the watercolor, and you're ready to go! They come in a variety of tip types for different usages.
Sketching and Drawing
We recommend using a medium tip for sketching. Its size is perfect for nice control and good expression. It's versatile in that it's thin enough to draw with, but also thick enough to color and blend if this is the only pen you have on hand.
Recommendation: Pentel Aquash Waterbrush Pen - Medium.
Also consider: Holbein Water Brush Pen - Round Medium.
Outlines and Details
When you're adding final touches, a small or fine brush is ideal. The small bristles are able to get a more concentrated amount of color so you can draw in the details with no problem. With a fine tip, you get a thinner line, which is great for outlining.
Reommendation: Kuretake Waterbrush - Small.
Also consider: Pentel Aquash Waterbrush Pen - Fine.
Coloring and Blending
To color and blend your art, either a large or flat brush would work. A flat brush is good for filling in areas, and its straight tip makes it perfect for getting at corners and edging. While the flat tip is good for general blending, the large tip allows for more control over where you blend.
Recommendation: Yasutomo Niji Waterbrush - Flat.
Also consider: Sakura Koi Waterbrush Pen - Large (#8) Nib.
In One Stroke
From doing casual sketching to watercolor washes, brush pens are versatile and convenient tools that you can whip out whenever you feel those creative juices flowing. We hope you enjoyed reading about brush pens and waterbrushes, and you can see the rest of our brush pen offerings here. Don't forget to also check out our brush pen picks for calligraphy!
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