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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Pentel Brush Pens—Variety and Use

Above: Quick Sketch (television actor) made in a Fabiano Venezia 9 x 12 inch journal using a pigmented fine-tipped Color Brush pen from Pentel. (And attacking the lines immediately with a waterbrush.) Click on the image to view an enlargement.

Besides the fabulous Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, Pentel makes several other brush pens—some with pigmented inks, some with dye-based inks. Some of the inks are water-soluble, others aren't.

I get questions all the time from students about all these pens. When I first started blogging in 2008 one of my early product reviews (in 2009) was a comparison of the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and the Pentel Color Brush Pen.

Students were using a black Color Brush and wondering why they weren't getting the same results I was getting when I used a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen.

There are so many factors involved in getting repeatable results, so many variables that alter our artistic outcomes (variables with tools and materials, not even method and approach). It's nice to know at the beginning which tool you'll have the best chance of success with, for a certain effect.

Because of that, and because I have in the past several months, over the summer and fall, been playing with many more brush pens than my usual standby the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, I wrote the lengthy post "RozWoundUp: Pentel Brush Pens—Which Are Which and What Type of Inks do They Hold?"

You can see the full discussion of the Pentel family of brush pens at that link. I include photos of the packaging used at the stores in my area (packaging my differ in your area).

If you don't have time or inclination to dive into the entire examination of these pens the brief breakdown is this:

•Pentel likes to use Color Brush in the names for several different pens, that look similar, but contain different inks (some pigmented and some dye-based and fugitive).

•Read the labels and if you want lightfastness go for pigmented inks.

•Realize that pigmented inks in Pentel Brush pens are probably not going to be water-soluble. However, I've had great luck working quickly and then working over lines with a waterbrush—all while working on heavily sized paper upon which the ink floats long enough for me to dilute it.

•Realize that the fun factor is high in brush pens even if they are filled with dye-based, fugitive inks. If you enjoy using such a pen and it gets you to sketch all the time, by all means keep using it, keep sketching, and just remember to scan all your finished art and treat the digital files as your originals—and back up your digital files.

Brush pens should be an essential part of your drawing practice—they are just too much fun. They help us see mass quickly, make graceful (and sometimes not so graceful) lines, help us edit details to essentials, and aid us in seeing pattern and design. They help some artists to speed up, and slow other artists down. They really are that versatile.

With so many choices available it's time you started testing some of them out.


  1. Roz, this is terrific! Thanks for sharing...I do enjoy my brush pens. Pentels are my favorites...

    1. Kate, thanks. I know you love these too. While I find myself mostly reaching for the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen I have to say that I'm quite enjoying using the others and diluting them with a waterbrush when I'm at life drawing. I'm glad we have all these options. I just wish they had better naming conventions for their products.

    2. I was looking at ALL the options in a new catalog I just got...oh, my, the temptations! The possibilities! The creativity.

      I need to go lie down...


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