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April 28, 2014 - Posted by Miriam to Guides

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
Fineness, Flexibility, and Flow

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.

Color, Pigmentation, and Lightfastness

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.

Water and Copic-Proof

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
Sketch of Ginkakuji temple in Kyoto, Japan using the Kuretake Fudegokochi Brush Pen - Regular.
Kuretake Fudegokochi Brush Pen
Video demonstration.

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
Video demonstration.

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
Video demonstration.

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
Outlining Tokyo Tower with the Pilot Fude-Makase Color Brush Pens.
Pilot Fude-Makase Color Brush Pens
Video demonstration.

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
Video demonstration.

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!

Also consider: Kuretake Disposable Pocket Brush Pen - Extra Fine and Sailor Pocket Brush Pen - Super Fine.

Akashiya Sai Thinline Brush Pens
Video demonstration.

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.

Also consider: Akashiya Sai Pigment Ink Outline Brush Pen, and Akashiya New Super Fine Brush Pens.

Brush Pens for Coloring
Coloring in a sketch of a torii gate (the entranceway of a Japanese shrine) using the Akashiya Sai Watercolor Brush Pens.
Kuretake Fudebiyori Pocket Color Brush Pens
Video demonstration.

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.

Also consider: Sakura Koi Coloring Brush Pen - 12 Color Set and Sakura Koi Coloring Brush Pen - 6 Gray Color Set.

Akashiya Sai Watercolor Brush Pens
Video demonstration.

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
Video demonstration.

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
Using the Sakura Koi Watercolor Field Box Set - 24 Color Palette + Waterbrush Pen with the waterbrushes mentioned below.

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
Video demonstration.

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
Video demonstration.

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
Video demonstration.

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!

Model Tip Type Colors Lightfast Water/ Copic-proof Best For
Kuretake Fudegokochi Brush Pen - Regular Felt Black, Gray No No/Yes Sketching/ Drawing
Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen - Hard - Blue Body Felt Black No Yes/Yes Sketching/ Drawing
Sakura Pigma Brush Pens Felt Black, Blue, Brown, Green, Orange, Purple, Red, Rose, Sepia Yes Yes/Yes Sketching/ Drawing
Pentel Pocket Brush Pen for Calligraphy Synthetic hair Black No Resistant/ Yes Sketching/ Drawing
Pilot Fude-Makase Color Brush Pens Felt Black, Blue, Blue Black, Green, Orange, Pink, Red, Sepia No No/No Outline/ Detail
Kuretake Disposable Pocket Brush Pen Felt Black No Resistant/ Yes Outline/ Detail
Zebra Disposable Brush Pen - Super Fine Felt Black No Yes/ Yes Outline/ Detail
Sailor Pocket Brush Pen - Super Fine Felt Black No Yes/ Yes Outline/ Detail
Akashiya Sai Thinline Brush Pens Synthetic hair Sumiiro (Sumi Black), Seiboku (Bluish Sumi Black), Mizuasagi (Greenish Indigo), Chitosemidori (Pine Tree Green), Hiwadairo (Cypress Bark Reddish Brown) No Resistant/ Yes Outline/ Detail
Akashiya Sai Pigment Ink Outline Brush Pen Synthetic hair Black No Resistant/ Yes Outline/ Detail
Akashiya New Super Fine Brush Pens Synthetic hair Brown, Japanese Blue No Resistant/ Yes Outline/ Detail
Kuretake Fudebiyori Pocket Color Brush Pens Felt Carmine Red, Scarlet Red, Pink, Blue, Persian Blue, Green, Light Green, Yellow, Brown, Light Brown, Lilac, Light Gray No Resistant/ Yes Coloring
Sakura Koi Coloring Brush Pen - 12 Color Set Felt Red, Pink, Pale Orange, Orange, Yellow, Yellow Gren, Green, Blue, Sky Blue, Purple, Brown, Black No No/No Coloring
Sakura Koi Coloring Brush Pen - 6 Gray Color Set Felt Dark Cool Gray, Dark Warm Gray, Cool Gray, Warm Gray, Light Cool Gray, Light Warm Gray No No/No Coloring
Akashiya Sai Watercolor Brush Pens Synthetic hair Black, Burnt Umber Brown, Dark Blue, Dark Green, Green, Indigo, Lime Green, Magenta, Mouse Gray, Pale Orange, Peach Pink, Purple, Red, Rose Red, Sky Blue, Tea Brown, Ultramarine, Vermilion, Yellow, Yellow Ocher No No/Yes Coloring/ Watercolor
Pentel Art Brush Pens Synthetic hair Black, Blue, Brown, Gray, Green, Lemon Yellow, Light Green, Olive Green, Orange, Pale Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, Sepia, Sky Blue, Steel Blue, Turquoise, Yellow Orange No No/No Coloring
Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush Pens Synthetic hair Brown, Carmine Red, Pink, Orange, Yellow, Light Green, Green, Colbalt Blue, Blue, Violet, Light Grey, Black, Bright Yellow, Persian Blue, Purple No No/Yes Coloring/ Watercolor
Pentel Aquash Waterbrush Pen - Medium Synthetic hair Clear N/A N/A Watercolors/ Sketching
Holbein Water Brush Pen - Round Medium Synthetic hair Clear N/A N/A Watercolors/ Sketching
Kuretake Waterbrush - Small Synthetic hair Clear N/A N/A Watercolors/ Details
Pentel Aquash Waterbrush Pen - Fine Synthetic hair Clear N/A N/A Watercolors/ Details
Yasutomo Niji Waterbrush - Flat Synthetic hair Clear N/A N/A Watercolors/ Coloring
Sakura Koi Waterbrush Pen - Large (#8) Nib Synthetic hair Clear N/A N/A Watercolors/ Coloring



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