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Brush Pens Review!

0 Ish Good!

We artists seem to have a limited selection of brush pens available in the US. Aside from the reknown Faber-Castell "PITT" series, we also have Copics and Sakura pens to work with. Not much variety, really.

Sign Pens

However, jump the ocean to Asia and you'll find a HUGE variety of brush pens - mostly crafted for calligraphy, but in various styles, ink-types, colors, and points. Most ink/sign pens come in either "dye" or "pigment" ink - just like printer cartridges here in the U.S. The "dye" types are often water-soluble, which can 1) smear with water and 2) possibly "deteriorate" over time. The ink also soaks into your paper. The "pigment" types are like permanent markers - they adhere to the paper surface and generally last longer, when exposed to the elements.

For my drawing purposes, I usually opt for the "pigment" type inks as they work well on both textured and smooth/glossy surfaces and are generally "water-proof" when dried. (However, I would not go as far as doing heavy watercolor or marker washes over these particular pens - if you do, I highly suggest doing a test run before committing to your final drawing, or you may find some smearing/mixing going on!)

First, the Kuretake Disposable Pocket Double Sided Brush Sign Pen - Fine & Medium:

Kuretake Hikkei! Sign Pen

This is a dual-point brush pen with both a fine and medium point. Typically, these are used for calligraphy on cards and documents, but I find that it's perfect for drawing as well - especially for brush beginners, like myself!

The points are synthetic brush points - meaning there are no bristles, only a single nib that is saturated with ink. When in use, the points have a somewhat stiff, "spongy" feel and bounce back to shape after each stroke. It's very easy to use and predictable - meaning line variation and quality is pretty consistent. The pens are disposable, not refillable, and the ink is waterproof once dried.

I recently started using this pen exclusively for my Pup Fiction sign pages - as the inside cover is slick and smooth. Most pens would either bead up and/or rub off or seep through the paper. However, this pen is perfect for quick smooth lines that are dark and permanent - without the leakage!

They also come in 3 other sizes: Extra Fine, Fine, and Medium points. These pens hold up well when washed over with a wet brush.

Here are some examples of pages done with the Kuretake Hikkei Disposable Brush Pen:

DailySketch 2008.11.26 DailySketch 2008.11.26 DailySketch 2008.11.26 DailySketch 2008.12.02

Second, the Kuretake Fudegokochi Brush Pen - Super Fine:

Kuretake Fudegokochi Sign Pen - Super Fine

This is actually KS' current sign pen! Just like the Hikkei!, the Fudegokochi is a synthetic brush point, meaning there are no real bristles. The point is very stiff and has very little give - to help keep its super fine point. Likewise, this pen is also disposable and the ink is dark and thick. In fact, it seems to take a little longer for the ink to dry, so I advise folks to be patient and wait until the "wetness" of the ink disappears.

Like the name says, this is a super fine point - probably ranging from .3 to 1.5 mm depending on how heavy (or light) a hand you draw with. The lines are smooth and tapered, perfect for finer details that a larger brush would be overkill for. It's very easy to use, and almost feels like a regular multi-liner - highly recommended for its price and practicality~!

This particular pen comes in two different sizes: Regular and Super Fine, and additional color Gray Ink w/ Fine Point.

Third, the Akashiya MoTec Double Sided Brush Pen - Hair Brush & Fine Hard Tip:

Akashiya MoTec Double Sided Brush Pen - Hair Brush & Fine Hard Tip

The interesting things about this particular pen are that it's disposable, double-tipped, and one of those points is actually a bristle-point brush.

True brush points are always tricky for beginners as it's all about the "feel" of the brush - how flexible and springy it may be and how much pressure is needed to get a nice, consistent line. Additionally, true brush points are often-times more expensive than their synthetic counterparts, but in turn, it gives a much more natural appearance to the calligraphy or drawing. (and the Japanese *love* those types of calculated imperfections in their traditional art!)

For drawing, I find this pen a little more difficult to control as the brush point is very flexible. The "hard" fine point is pretty standard, but I prefer the "springiness" of the Kuretake pens more. The ink is also comparably as dark as the Kuretake inks and water-proof when dry.

The Akashiya MoTec also has a synthetic brush point pen as well, with a broad and hard fine point.

Some sample scribbles:

The "Brush" Point The "Hard" Point

Lastly, the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen for Calligraphy:

Pentel Pocket Brush for Calligraphy

For a true pocket brush pen, seriously - this is a wonderful product. It not only comes with 2 cartridges (1 for use, 1 for refill), but the brush point is truly a brush point with synthetic bristles!

I would consider the point "fine", but depending on how heavy (or light) a hand you use when inking/drawing, the line quality varies a lot. The point stays sharp so all stroke starts are clean and pointed.

The ink is pigment-based and waterproof, but I find it a little lighter/thinner than the Kuretake Hikkei ink.

I wouldn't necessarily recommend this particular pen to someone just getting started with inks and brushes with hopes of drawing. To get the type of line you'd like would probably take a some practice and patience. For Japanese/Chinese calligraphy, this would be an excellent pen for penmanship practice as the point has a nice flexibility and drag when practicing loose-handed strokes.

As for water-proofing, I find out of all the pens, this one holds up the best when dried and washed over with a wet brush. There is very little smearing, if any - and little deterioration of color.

Some sample drawings:

Pentel Fude Medium Point Brush Pen Pentel Fude Medium Point Brush Pen - Sketch Pentel Fude Medium Point Brush Pen - Sketch Pentel Fude Medium Point Brush Pen - Sketch Pentel Fude Medium Point Brush Pen - Sketch

* * * * *

At the moment, my favorite is currently the Kuretake Hikkei Sign Pen! (If you can't tell from all the doodles already~! XD) The dual points are very convenient to have on a single pen - reducing my load by a pen or two. So far, I haven't had any problems with the ink drying out and streaking yet - but this is something that might differ from pen to pen and type to type. The ink dries fast and dark, and the overall springy-sponginess of the points really make drawing with a brush pen much more enjoyable!

If you've tried out any of these pens, or maybe want to mention others that you absolutely love, let me know about it and comment below! I'm always keen on hearing different opinions and new suggestions!

FREE SHIPPINGFind these pens (and more!) at - my personal favorite online stationery shop! (Especially since we're severely lacking quality and decently-priced Asian stationary shops here in Hawaii. The free shipping for orders over $25 is a HUGE plus for me! XD)

Full disclosure: Clicking on any of the links to JetPens and purchasing stuff in turn helps nemu*nemu!

Share your thoughts

8 Replies

  • Alberto

    Very comprehensive and informative review that would come very handy to anyone shopping for Japanese brush pens. Given your enthusiastic endorsement, I am more inclined to try the Kuretake Disposable Pocket Double Sided Brush Sign Pen and the rest of the Kuretake Hikkei Sign Pen sizes once I deplete my current stock of Zebra disposable pens.

  • brian

    How did you like the ink in the Akashiya? I looooove Kuretake pens but the ink is weak and smudges.

    I use the Kuretake brush pen with a Lamy converter. My back up is the Sailor brush pen.

  • kitsy

    Alberto: Thanks! I hope you give them a try! Let me know how you like them as well!

    Brian: I think the ink the disposable Akashiya pens is pretty comparable to the Kuretake disposable. I haven't tried the regular Kuretake fountain/brush pens yet, although I'm guessing the ink should be the same? Depending on the paper I use (smoothness, absorbency, etc), I find that the ink holds up nicely against erasing and light washes. I just have to make sure the ink is dry first and some of the pens I've tried are a little more "wet" than others.

  • brian

    I just remembered I have one of their bamboo brush pens. It still has yet to reach 100% ink flow. So for now it's a fun texture brush.

  • jefbot

    just ordered the kuratake hikkei sign pen, the pentel pocket brush and the three kuratake single sizes from your links to jetpens (i wanted the free shipping)! i'll report back when i receive them and have a chance to try them out. thanks for the tips!

  • kitsy

    Hey Jeff! I think you'll like the pens - Unlike most brush pens I've tried, I really enjoy using the kuratake hikkei sign pens. The brushes have a nice "springiness" to them.

    Let me know how you like them! :D

  • Ramon

    Please, if you have any information about quality brush pens. I prefer a more solid pen, so a metal barrel is good, but a solid (heavy feel) to a plastic barrel is acceptable. Also it must use real bristles (well nylon etc., or animal hair), not the sponge or foam bristles. My experience has been that since Sakura stopped making those marvelous brush pens 15 years ago and replaced them with a cheaper variety tip... no brush pen lasts as long as a bristle tip. Do you have links for REAL brush pens made with bristles?

  • kitsy

    Hi Ramon:

    I don't have a lot of experience with *real* brush hair pens - especially those with metal or heavy plastic barrels. I have used a few that are disposable - the best one I've tried is the Pentel Pocket Brush pen that I used in my review as it really holds its point beautifully. However, it has a light plastic barrel and might not be what you're looking for.

    I can suggest checking through JetPen's Brush Pens catalog for higher-end animal hair/nylon brush pens. They are more pricy, but so far, they're my current online resource for all my pen/stationary needs.