Brush Pen Review 2019

Last year, just before the start of Inktober, I put out a pen review video on my YouTube channel that dedicated a large chunk of run time to investigating fake Microns; how to spot them, test them, and avoid them. It’s still one of my most viewed videos each and ever week! So naturally, this year I’m doing a 2-part mini series on pens for Inktober, with a little nod to the fake Micron problem, and pairing it all with blog posts to boot. If you would rather watch, the Part 2 video is right below this paragraph. For Part 1, the blog (with a the video embedded) is right over here.

If you’d rather read, or you’re here for more details, read on! Dont forget to check out Part 1 for information on the fineliners if you haven’t already.

If you’re not a US-resident, and you’re looking for an excellent, reputable art supply retailer with reasonable shipping rates, I recommend shopping at Jackon’s! (I also recommend them if you are a US-resident, but in that case you’ve already got such great online shopping options, I expect this isn’t your best deal.) While American retailers such as Dick Blick and Jerry’s Artarama have tantalizingly low prices, shipping from the USA into Canada and abroad is ridiculously pricey, and in the case of Canadian destinations, often incurs additional tariffs at the border. Jackon’s is located in the Unite Kingdom, and whenever possible, ships small orders as regular letter mail. Even larger orders are reasonably priced for shipping, and I personally have not ever experienced the additional border taxes of similar American orders. For North American residents, Jackon’s also presents the opportunity to purchase European brands that are generally not available or heavily price hiked due to import costs at our local retailers.

While I am not sponsored by Jackon’s , this is an affiliate program link. Entering the Jackon’s website through my link means I earn a small commission in the form of store credit if you end up making a purchase, and you get a 10% discount on your first order, if you register as a new customer at checkout.

Copic Multiliner Brush

Rating: 9 out of 10
✘ Waterproof * | ✔ Alcohol Ink Proof

The Copic Multiliner and Copic Multiliner SP (refillable version) both come in brush nib options and have the same archival acid-free pigment ink. They offer sizes BS (Small Brush, thin lines) and BM (Medium Brush, thick lines). While this is still the same great ink that is permanent once dry and stand up very well to use with alcohol inks, these are *less waterproof than the fineliner versions.

I don’t think it’s really a case of these pens not being waterproof, since it is the same ink, but rather a case of needing a longer drying time allowance due to the amount of ink deposited by the larger nib. During my test, I was only able to make the brush pen bleed with water when I scrubbed, and it had only been allowed to dry for 2-3 minutes at most.

Pentel Arts Sign Micro Brush

Rating: 9 out of 10
✘ Waterproof | ✔ Alcohol Ink Proof

Specifically the “Micro Brush” variant with the individual brush fibres, this brush pen is available in 12 colours and features water based dye ink. It’s high quality and perfect for lettering and calligraphy. They are not waterproof, but they don’t claim to be, and I actually like taking advantage of the effects I can get using water. They do surprisingly well under alcohol ink, too! Note that since they are a dye ink, they are not lightfast.

Sakura Pigma Micron Brush

Rating: 8 out of 10
✔ Waterproof | ✔ Alcohol Ink Proof

Much like the Copic brush, they’re waterproof pretty quickly unless you REALLY scrub. These are also the same great archival pigment ink as their fineliner and PN buddies. It’s a very small, soft (flexible) brush nib, and I find these deteriorate a little easier than some of the other top brands on this list. Mine is less than a year old and rarely used, but the ends of my strokes using just the tip (thin lines) are always feathered in a messy way.

Marabu Graphix Fineliner Brush

Rating: 8 out of 10
✘ Waterproof | ✔ Alcohol Ink Proof

The brush nib option in the Marabu Fineliner Graphix pens is a thin, soft nib that lays down consistent lines, and the ink is so black! This is genuinely my favourite of the fineliner brush pens with this size & type nib.

They aren’t waterproof, but they’re not supposed to be. According to Marabu’s website, all Graphix products are supposed to be water soluble, so now I’m actually finding it odd that I found the fineliners to be waterproof. They don’t dissolve completely like a watercolour, so perhaps the fineliners had too much of a chance to dry. Either way, they do very well staying in place without smudging under alcohol inks once dry, and they are a pigment ink, so they’re lightfast.

edding 1340 brushpen

Rating: 8 out of 10
✘ Waterproof * | ✔ Alcohol Ink Proof

Edding is a German company with a wide variety of art and office products. The 1340 brushpen is available in 20 colours of vibrant water based pigment ink (lightfast) that is water soluble when wet, then permanent once dry. These do stand up well to use with alcohol ink, but avoid layering other water based inks over them, as they may reactivate and smear.

I received the black edding 1340 brushpen in the June 2018 ScrawlrBox, their bullet journal box, and attempted to layer a light blue PITT pen over some writing I did with the edding, and it smeared. These claim to be quick drying, but apparently edding and I disagree on what “quick” is in this case, as I was still able to smudge the ink during my water test when I thought it was dry.

Tombow Dual ABT

Rating: 8 out of 10
✘ Waterproof | ✔ Alcohol Ink Proof

Tombow’s dual brush pens (marked ABT) are available in a whopping 108 colours! They have a large brush on one end, and a small (fine) bullet nib on the other. Tombow generally does not test lightfastness, but their website specifies that these pens in particular are not lightfast.

They are water based, water soluble inks (not meant to be waterproof!) that perform well under alcohol inks. This is my favourite large solid brush nib among all my brush pens, as it’s firmer than most and easy to control.

Sakura Pigma Professional Brush

Rating: 8 out of 10
✘ Waterproof | ✔ Alcohol Ink Proof

Unlike the regular Sakura Micron brush pen, the Pigma Professional Brush is absolutely not waterproof. It is still a great water based pigment ink that pairs well with alcohol inks, and the nib is similar to the Copic medium brush. It’s softer than it looks like it should be, and writes oh so smoothly. Three prongs on the cap prevent it from rolling away on your desk or easle.

These contain archival pigment ink that is lightfast, and they come in three brush sizes: FB (Fine), MB (Medium) and BB (Broad).

Kingart Inkline

Rating: 7 out of 10
✔ Waterproof | ✔ Alcohol Ink Proof

The Kingart Inkline fineline brush pens contain archival water based, fade-resistant ink available in 9 colours including black. They are offers in regular, medium and large brush nibs, as well as a 3mm broad chisel and a standard fineliner range of 005 to 08. The regular brush nib, slim as it is with its individual brush fibres, reminds me of the Pentel Arts Sign Micro Brush.

STA Pigment Liner Brush

Rating: 7 out of 10
✔ Waterproof | ✔ Alcohol Ink Proof

Like the fineliners, the STA pigment brush is waterproof once dry. The trouble is that with the increased amount of ink delivered by the surprisingly soft brush nib, it takes longer to dry. I tested it after it looked dry, but apparently it wasn’t, as there is some bleeding on my test sheet form the water test.

I’m not sure if my brush pen itself is slightly defective, or if there is a flaw withe the STA pigment ink in general that only becomes apparent in larger swatches, but the ink dries dull and a little speckled. Otherwise, they are almost exactly the same as the Marabu pen.

Wish Dual Brush Pen

Rating: 7 out of 10
✘ Waterproof | ✔ Alcohol Ink Proof

If you go hunting for brush pens or calligraphy pens on Wish, you’re bound to come across this pen. It has no English labelling at all, so I simply call it “the Wish pen.” The barrel is decorated in gold bamboo designs and features a column of Chinese characters on one side.

My Google Translate app was unable to decipher the text on the barrel, likely due to the fact that it’s reflective and on a rounded surface, but at least it confirmed for me that the writing is Chinese characters. If you’re really curious, comment and let me know! I may be up to the challenge of copying the characters to paper and letting Google Translate try again.

The brush nib is big, possibly the biggest in my collection, and quite firm, though not as firm as the Tombow. Instead of a market bullet nib on the other end like the Tombow, it has a plastic nib like the Micron PN and Tombow’s Fudenosuke range.

It’s not waterproof, but the ink is beautifully dark and bold, and it does well under alcohol ink.

Pentel Color Brush

Rating: 7 out of 10
✘ Waterproof | ✘ Alcohol Ink Proof

The Pentel Color Brush is essentially a standard water brush pen pre-filled with ink, rather than water. The tip is individual nylon fibers in a round shape, similar in size to a Winsor & Newton Cotman Round 8. Once the ink runs out you can clean it and use it as a water brush, refill the barrel with your own ink, or purchase a refill barrel from Pentel.

These come in 10 colours including black. They dry quickly, but are highly water soluble. They do not perform well with alcohol inks, and will smudge.

Zebra Mildliner Brush

Rating: 7 out of 10
✘ Waterproof | ✘ Alcohol Ink Proof

These attractive dual ended highlighter from Zebra now come with a very nice brush nib option. The brush itself is just flexible enough to get some line variation without forcing you to always commit to the thickest possible line.

The other end on these markers (highlighters) is a bullet nib, but other version of the Mildliner do come with chisel and fineliner nibs as well. They aren’t waterproof (but highlighters usually aren’t), and while they don’t smudge or feather under alcohol ink, they do start to fade away under the more potent medium.

Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen Brush

Rating: 6 out of 10
✘ Waterproof | ✔ Alcohol Ink Proof

Like the fineliners, the PITT brush pens by Faber-Castell are also filled with archival acid-free, lightfast Indian ink. They are not waterproof and I have had them cause smudging with other water based inks, but they do well with alcohol inks.

The brush nibs are B (Brush), SB (Soft Brush), and BB (Big Brush). B (Brush) produces “1 to 5mm and 1 to 8mm” line widths (quoted from Faber-Castell; I’m confused) and is available in the full 60 colour range. SB (Soft Brush) produces a 0.5 to 5mm line, and comes in 11 colours including light and dark indigo and several grey tones. BB (Big Brush) produces 1 to 8mm lines with four times the ink of the regular (B) nib, and is available in 47 colours.

Personally, I find the nibs to be too soft. That said, I do keep the black B brush in my travel pouch for filling in large areas of mandala doodles quickly. These will eat up your paper, and the brush nib has not proved to be overly durable in my experience.

Marabu Aqua Graphix

Rating: 6 out of 10
✘ Waterproof | ✔ Alcohol Ink Proof

These dual ended brush-and-bullet marker pens claim to be lightfast “watercolour” markers. Well, they are, and they aren’t. They are highly water soluble. You can indeed blend them out with water while the ink is still wet, especially is you double up your initial brush strokes to deposit maximum pigment, and you can also colour onto plastic or ceramic and pick it back up with a paint brush for more painterly watercolour effects.

That said, if you draw directly on your surface before diluting with water, you will never, ever blend out the original line. It remains boldly visible on the page, looking like you didn’t work it well enough, even if you over work it to the point of eating the paper with your brush. Compared to true watercolour paint markers like the ones made by Winsor & Newton, which easily dissolve into paint and fade out in a smooth gradient, these are simply very water soluble water based ink markers that bleed and spread with water.

When used simply as a marker (or calligraphy / lettering brush pen), they’re quite nice if you are quick on the page and don’t try to layer over previously coloured sections. Like most water based markers, overlapping will cause streaking, and excessive overlapping or scrubbing will eat the paper.

The brush nibs are firm, and provide easy control over line quality and width. These aren’t my favourite pens, and I admit I’ve docked at least a full point over my annoyance at their claim to be watercolours, but they have absolutely grown on me since I got them in a SketchBox last summer.

Artline Stix Brush Marker

Rating: 4 out of 10
✘ Waterproof | ✘ Alcohol Ink Proof

What can I say about this marker? It’s a children’s marker. It’s a water based, water soluble dye ink that will bleed and fade. It doesn’t handle alcohol ink. The nib, though tapered in a vaguely brush shape, is just a fancy pointed felt marker tip. I don’t know why or how these get themselves into art supply boxes presented as artist pens. They’re for kids, and used as intended, they’re great. They also resemble triangular Lego building blocks that really do snap together.

As an artist’s brush pen? No, stay clear. 4 out of 10. As a kid’s felt tip marker? Heck yes! These are a lot of fun! 10 out of 10.

Dual Art Marker

Rating: 4 out of 10
✘ Waterproof | ✘ Alcohol Ink Proof

The exact pens I tested are branded “Dual Art Marker” and came in a dirt cheap bargain 100 lot off Wish, but you can find them all over the internet under dozens, if not hundreds of different brand names. They’re identical to Ohuhu’s dual ended water based art markers, which makes me dubious to ever try the Ohuhu rendition, despite my love for their alcohol markers.

They offer a soft felt brush nib on one end, and a 05 fineliner nib on the other, which are both fed by the same ink reservoir. (If you want to see how ridiculously long these brush nibs actually are, check out my “Dollar Store Copics” experiment video.) They’re water soluble, not good under alcohol ink, will eat paper with the best (worst) of them, and they smell oddly sweet. The black marker in particular, and some of the other dark ink colours, are plagued with fuzzy brush nibs, which is usually a sign of instability in the ink itself.

Your kids will probably like them, and for a kid’s brush nibbed felt marker they’re as economically priced as you can get, but they’re not great. The fineliner nibs are decent, but the ink feathers and bleeds so much on most papers that it doesn’t matter.

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