lettering, Reviews, Supplies

Brush Pens: A Review

What are brush pens?

A brush pen is a pen with a brush for a tip. Pretty self-explanatory. Brush pens can be used to create awesome faux calligraphy and are also used to create traditional Chinese calligraphy.

Brush pens are a favorite for hand-lettering because of their soft, flexible tip and ability to easily create thin and thick strokes. If you’ve been following along on the blog, you know that the secret to creating faux calligraphy is the variation in the up- and down-strokes. By using brush pens, you can skip the process of adding to your downstrokes, because the pen does it for you.

Brush pens can come with a bristle tip or a felt tip. I’ll be talking about felt tip brush pens that I’ve tried in today’s blog.

How does a brush pen work?

The way a brush pen writes depends on how much pressure you apply when using it. The more pressure you apply, the thicker the stroke will be. There is definitely a learning curve that comes with brush pen lettering.

Small Brush Pens

These pens are great for smaller details like lettering envelopes or greeting cards.

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Different brush pens have different levels of flexibility. The Tombow Fudenosuke come in soft and hard type. The soft type gives a thicker downstroke when you apply pressure, but also has a thicker upstroke when less pressure is applied. The hard type has both thinner downstroke and upstroke. If you like a more delicate look to your lettering, the hard type works better.

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Tombow Fudenosuke Hard Tip
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Tombow Fudenosuke Soft Tip

Another brush pen that is similar to the Tombow is the Pentel Touch Sign Pen. This pen is my favorite, as it has a lot of color payoff and writes much more smoothly. The Tombow pens have a bit of a dryer feel as the tips don’t appear to be as saturated with ink. The Pentel is similar in width to the soft type version of the Tombow Fudenosuke. The Pentel also comes in several colors, while the Tombow only comes in black and grey.

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Pentel Touch Sign Pen

The Tombow and Pentel pens may be hard for some people to find locally. I had to order mine from Amazon, but if you live in a larger metropolitan area you may be able to find them in a store. If you’re like me and have no patience, the Faber-Castell pens may be easy to find.

The Faber-Castell PITT artist pen in the brush tip is similar to the Pentel and Tombow Soft Type pens. This pen is permanent and waterproof.

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Faber-Castell PITT artist pen B

None of these pens have any sort of odor that I was able to detect.

Large Brush Pens

These brushes are best for larger pieces. The downstroke is far too large to do intricate details like envelopes or greeting cards.

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My favorite brush pen for larger pieces is by far the Tombow Dual Brush Pen. It comes in 96 different colors, is water-soluble (so you can create watercolor-like effects with it), has a blending pen for blending two different colors in a gradient, and has a bullet and brush end. The Tombow also comes in different sets of colors, so you don’t have to buy the entire 96-color collection at once.

Another easy-to-work-with brush pen is the Sharpie Brush Permanent Marker. A benefit of this brush is that it is waterproof and won’t budge once it’s dry. The only downside is that it seems to dry out much faster than the Tombow Brush. It also doesn’t appear to be as black as other brush pens I’ve used. The Sharpie does come in a variety of colors.

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Sharpie Brush Permanent Marker

A comparable pen is the Copic Sketch marker. This one comes with a chisel and brush end. It is very easy to work with and writes as smoothly as the Tombow and Sharpie brushes. This brush also comes in a variety of colors.

The Copic and Sharpie both have a strong smell, as they are permanent markers.

Brushes Not Worth the Money

Now that I’ve shown you some of my favorite brush pens, I’ll tell you about some that I really, really don’t like.

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My most disliked brush pen is the Faber-Castell PITT artist brush soft brush. This brush is just too flexible for brush lettering. It may work fine if you are doing very large pieces and can manage to control the brush on loops transitions from thin to thick lines.

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Another brush pen that I don’t love is the Prismacolor Premier. This one isn’t horrible, but it’s a little hard to work with. When you apply pressure to do a downstroke, the tip of the brush lifts off the paper.

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Tip of Prismacolor brush lifts off the paper

There isn’t enough flexibility in the brush to keep the entire thing pressed against the paper to create an even downstroke.

This brush pen does have a bullet tip, so if you can find a use for it other than handlettering, it’s not a total waste of money. The caps are also extremely hard to open, which may be an issue for some people.

And finally, the last brush I dislike from this collection is the Winsor & Newton Brushmarker. This brush pen also comes with a chisel type, similar to the Copic Sketch marker.

This marker does the same thing the Prismacolor does. The tip lifts off the paper as soon as you go to apply pressure.

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Winsor & Newton lifts off the paper

This isn’t a deal-breaker for all hand-letterers, though. Some people make it work and don’t mind the wider starting strike at the beginning of their letters and even make it look intentional. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people.

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Large brushes comparison

Here’s a little comparison of how the brush tips lifting affects the way the downstroke looks. It’s especially odd looking when you start your piece with a downstroke and end up with the strange unintentional serif-like tip.

The Prismacolor and Winsor & Newton markers both have a strong smell.

Get Started!!

Go get some brush pens and start lettering!! This week’s phrase is “I can and I will.” Don’t forget to tag me on Facebook or Instagram to get featured here on the blog and on my social media. And if you haven’t already, sign up for my e-mail updates! Thanks for reading!

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