Pentel Brush Pens: The Pocket Brush and the Color Brush

January 15, 2009


Above the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and the Pentel Color Brush (top, gray cap; the cap color denotes ink color). Note that the orange tape around the Pocket Brush Pen is just something I do to identify old pens from their younger siblings.

I get a lot of questions about which Pentel brush pen I am using. Consequently I try to always be specific when I post a journal page using one of these tools on my website journal postings

This post is my attempt to be even more crystal clear about these two pens and their attributes so that if you are interested in trying a brush pen you can know exactly what you are getting, and what results or working capabilities you can expect.

The Pentel Color Brush Pen
This pen, as you can see from the above photo (it’s the pen with the gray cap because it is filled with gray ink, but the cap will be whatever ink color it contains) this brush pen looks like a Niji waterbrush. It has the same sort of soft-bellied construction to hold fluids, in this case ink (or is it dye? I suspect it is but no one will tell me for sure). The tip of this brush pen is a synthetic brush with individual “hairs.” This is important because it allows you to achieve very idiosyncratic strokes, drybrush strokes, in general, strokes with lots of flair, not possible with a felt-tipped brush pen.

050510llamaCBLeft: A journal sketch of a llama using a Magenta Pentel Color Brush and gouache. Click on the image to view and enlargement and see how the magenta ink dissolves when it is touched with a wet paintbrush carrying pigment. (Note you can also use a clean brush and water only to blend out some interesting shading.)

The next thing you should know about this pen is that the ink is WATERSOLUBLE. It always remains so even after it dries. So if you are painting over brushstrokes made with this pen the lines are going to bleed.

Before you groan in complaint, let me tell you this isn’t a bad thing. I actually enjoy sketching with these pens and then adding gouache over the ink drawings. Whenever my paint brush touches one of the ink lines the ink blends and mixes with the gouache in interesting ways, creating tonal shifts and interesting sedimentary patterns. It’s just fun.

Right: A color fading chart I made of my favorite Pentel Color Brush Colors. Click to see an enlargement. Even the black fades.

Now you can groan because there is some bad news. The ink in this line is NOT LIGHTFAST BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION. So if you use this pen to make your artwork please scan it right away and consider your digital file the “original.”

Check out other images made with this brush pen here, here, here, and here.

I don’t use these brush pens in my artwork any more, and I don’t use them often in my journals. But I do use them at life drawing, where they provide the perfect tool for warming up with the 2-minute opening poses.

The Pentel Color Brush sells for about $8.00. There are about 20 colors (maybe more, maybe less; I only use about 5 of the colors). They last for a reasonable amount of time, don’t “dry out” if left capped and alone for even weeks at a time, and when the ink is finally gone you can buy a new barrel full of ink for less than the cost of a new pen.

Pentel Pocket Brush Pen
This is my preferred brush pen. In the image opening this post it is the bottom most pen, the one with the black plastic body and cap that looks like a fountain pen. (I think in Japan people do use this as a fountain pen.) Like a fountain pen this brush pen has cartridges. Regular visitors to my blog will also recall that I recently started using a new pen of this type after 3 years of intense usage of my previous one (the tip finally got a little worn). That’s good value for money in anyone’s book. And the old pen, which is pictured in the photo above hasn’t been tossed, it has just retired to my desk, no longer my constant companion.

The fact that these pen tips last so long should make you feel better about the cost: from $13 to $18 with 4 cartridges, depending on where you shop. (I get mine at Wet Paint in St. Paul.)

Left: A journal sketch and some notes, made with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and gouache. Click the image to view an enlargement.

The other thing that should make you feel good about these pens is that the ink tested lightfast (I can’t find my card). And, for those of us who like to sketch and then add watercolor or gouache washes you’ll find that the ink is waterproof. (There may be some bleeding on some papers if you don’t let the ink completely dry, but I sketch quickly and typically by the time I’m ready to paint the ink is dry.)

This brush tip is also made of individual "hairs" and it allows you to
get all the interesting strokes you can achieve with the other pen. The
tip is slightly smaller in girth and also fiber length, making a
different range of marks possible because of the smaller size.

Right: I took the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen on my trip to France and it made it easy to get broad strokes down quickly. Click on the image for an enlargement.

This brush pen makes a great travel companion. I carried my first one around for three years and a couple airplane rides and there has never been a moment's leakage. You can view additional examples of journal pages made with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen here, here, and here

I hope that this post helps clarify the differences between these two brush pens from Pentel. Now you have a visual image to aid you when shopping in person, or when looking at photos in catalogs (print or on-line). Be sure to use the specific name when ordering and remember that price is also a big clue as to whether or not you’re getting the pen you think you want. I hope you'll start experimenting with a brush pen!

  1. Reply

    Great post, of course, Ms Roz! I am so deeply infatuated with the whole brush pen family, that I’ve got every different brand there is, I think! I need to do some posts of my own about all of them—where’s the time, though!
    I love that one can get a very painterly quality of line with the pocket brush pen in addition to the linear (for lack of a better word) line that you are producing so well. Although I have used the pocket brush pens with watercolor wash, I really love it for black and white drawings, where it can create stunning drama in a few strokes.
    For watercolor and ink sketches, I prefer a pen that has less of a personality itself, except in cases where I’m trying to do a sumi-type mono- or bi-chromatic piece.
    I find it endlessly fascinating to read about all of our different approaches to tools and gear!
    I’m SO glad you started this blog ;D.

    • Roz
    • January 15, 2009

    Laura, I love what you do with a brush pen and look forward to posts about them. And I’m always looking for new pens (eek, I wish I could stop).

    One of the things I find so cool about brush pens is the way people’s idiosyncratic line changes but yet doesn’t change with the new tool.

    Another thing I love about them is the way they let me loosen up from the tightness I use (and enjoy) with other pens.

    I would really like a sanguine or other color brush pen (individual hairs tip) that has waterproof ink. I would like to have that red-brown line, and even a line of more subdued color. (I’ll use the Faber Castell Pitt Artist Brush pens in that color but I don’t really totally enjoy those fiber tips.)

    Sometimes I put FW Acrylic ink in old Niji brushes and use that, but eventually the acrylic inks ruin the brush AND because of that I only use the old and battered Nijis so it isn’t as fun as the tips are worn. (I really do a number on my Nijis!)

    So the search goes on.


    • Roz
    • January 15, 2009

    Birgit, please tell us more about your use with this Copic Multiliner Brush Pen. I used a Copic brush pen several years ago and it was very flexible but I think it was a felt-tipped pen, so not as useful to me.

    And here’s the point where everyone will groan, Oh Roz!: yes, I find the the Copic in smells too much for me; not in the horrible chemical way that the Sharpies smell, but in a more, well it’s still chemical, but lighter, I want to say, almost alcohol way. I just gave up on them.

    So please let us know if it is a felt tip top and what you think of working with it.

    I’ve used the Micron brush pen (also several years ago) and it is a nice, tidy little felt tip that is very flexible, but sadly Microns have a distinct odor to me (a light Sharpie type of smell, Sharpie-Lite) and I don’t use them at all (hence my fierce dedication to Staedtler Pigment Liners).

    My recollection of the Micron brush tip is that it was very petite and fun for that reason to doodle fine lines with. But then my memory for something so long ago abandoned might just be fanciful.

    If someone uses one, write in and let us know how it works!


  2. Reply

    Roz – I’d not known about the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen until I read about it here, a while back. I just, last week, got the one I ordered, and it is wonderful – I know that I’m going to enjoy adding it to my arsenal of fountain pens and other sketching tools. Your comment about wanting a waterproof sanguine ink makes me think of a plan I have for this brush pen. I’m thinking that I may, when the cartridge is empty, fill it with Noodlers Brown ink (actually, the color I like to use best, and have used in fountain pens, is a 50-50 mixture of the brown and the lexington grey). Have you tried using Noodlers? It takes a bit longer to dry than I like (so I keep a page-sized piece of printmaking paper in my sketchbook that I can use as a blotter), but it is lovely ink, and totally waterproof. They also have a wonderful Polar ink, that doesn’t freeze when you use it at subfreezing temps. I had a blast during C’mas of 07, in Wisconsin, sketching outside at about 15 degrees fahrenheit – it was so cool to draw out there… in ink…

    • Roz
    • January 16, 2009

    Consie, I’m so glad that you got a Pentel Pocket Brush pen and are enjoying it.

    Please let me know how your ink substitution tests go. I suppose I should try this out with my old pen!!!

    I have used Noodlers. Dick is a fountain pen user and because he needs his notebooks permanent (for patent work) he uses Noodlers of all sorts of different colors in his books.

    I have tried them (including the polar ink, but it wasn’t that cold the day I tried it). I find that they take, as you say, a little longer to dry, but also, on some of the papers that I use the sizing holds them out of the paper a bit and they aren’t as “waterproof” as I like on those papers.

    I would probably adapt, because I love working with fountain pens and I love the ink colors, but I haven’t found a fountain pen that I like. I’m focused on the Namiki (sp?) Falcon, and want to have it ground to a slight calligraphy angle in hopes that it will replace my beloved Staedtler Pigment Liner CALLIGRAPHY 1, that is no longer made.

    But obviously this is just a wish for when I have some extra cash that doesn’t get eaten up with paper!!!

    I love that you are mixing your Noodler colors up. I’m going to try out that grey and brown mix you mention as Dick has both those colors.

    Don’t sketch outside today!!! It’s too cold at -20 for anyone who doesn’t need to be out there.

    Oh, and if you don’t want to use your good paper you can always buy blotting paper in large sheets at the art supply store (book binders use a lot of it for drying) and cut it down. I cut down rectangles for Dick to carry in his checkbook so he can blot his checks. Yes, he still uses checks, Hey, he’s always got 8 fountain pens in his pocket!

    • Carolina
    • February 19, 2021

    The systems to check the bigger images don’t work.

    1. Reply

      Yes, I know. I write about this here under “Other problems” or something like that at the end of the post

      It’s a legacy from the platform transfer from Typepad to WordPress. It is too time intensive a manual fix (with thousands of images) for me to afford to have fixed and not something I can fix with my current eye health and available computer time.

      Starting in the archives in Feb 2017 to the present those are WordPress posts and you’ll find they will enlarge. (Throughout the blog you’ll also find posts that are “private” or password protected and those relate to other transfer problems and not available to public at this time. No timeline for fixing those either.)

      Sorry for any frustration. I appreciate you stopping by and hope you find enough interesting and inspiring stuff to keep poking around.

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