Pentel’s Aquash Brush Pigment Ink Filled Brush

September 23, 2011

Above: 9 x 12 inch page spread in a Venezia journal. Sketch of a French Bulldog using the Pentel Aquash Brush Pigment Ink Filled Brush, which contains "light black" ink. Read below for more information. (Recto page shadowed because next page was heavily painted on. Right and left edges of the spread clipped during scanning.)

NOTE: The Aquash Brush is NOT THE SAME THING as Pentel's Colorbrush!
If you don't know what a Pentel Colorbrush is, see my post comparing the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and the Pentel Colorbrush.

Also, the packaging of this Aquash is confusing. Pentel makes a WATERBRUSH also called the Aquash. It has the same shape as the brush pen shown below. The waterbrush however is not filled with ink. Please note that in this review I mean the Aquash with pigmented ink unless I follow with "waterbrush."

PentelAquash Left: Page containing the Aquash brush with "light black" ink. Simply unscrew the pen to remove the protective red collar. Rescrew the pen and start squeezing and sketching. (I didn't save my red collar. I suppose if you were concerned about carrying the pen around you might want to save this and reuse it. However, I have to say that a week of backpack travel with the brush "collarless" has produced no leaks. Also I have been carrying the Colorbrushes around for years with no problems. (I use those for life drawing sketches a lot.) They seem to have the same cap and crew type of structure.

Saturday I stopped in at Wet Paint to pick up some paper for the artist's books I'm making. I got to talking with Liz and she showed me the new Pentel products display. (I'm excited to tell you that shoppers there can now get packets of 6 cartridges for the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. Packs of two never lasted long for me.)

I almost ignored the new Aquash Brush Pigment Ink Filled Brush as a new variant of the Colorbrush, until Liz set me straight and showed me the packaging.

The Aquash Brush is filled with a light black pigment ink that comes out when squeezed to full strength as a rich grey.

The packaging also states that the ink is acid-free, fade-proof, and water-resistant.

Well I've been drawing with it like a crazy person for the week and I have found it to be pretty much waterproof. (Sure there is probably a paper I haven't tried it on yet which has sizing that will float the ink longer than I might like, but so far that hasn't happened. I sketch, I immediately start to paint, no bleeding. If you are wondering about this phenomenon read my post, "It's Not Waterproof Until It's Waterproof.")

If you've been looking for a pigmented ink brush pen with grey ink just perfect for sketching with you might want to check out this pen.

The nylon brush tip has individual "hairs." This makes it possible to have dry brush strokes. Want more pigment and a darker line? Simply squeeze the barrel of the brush a little harder (not too hard, though, it doesn't need a lot of encouragement).

110917GrayInkFrenchBDDet Right: Detail of the French Bulldog image. You can see areas where I have restated a line to create more contrast. You can also see the lovely way this pen can move from thin to thick lines.

The nylon brush tip seems a bit softer and less resistant than the tip on the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, but I'm not convinced the difference I'm "feeling" isn't perceptual, based on seeing a grey line as opposed to the stark contrast of the black line the PPBP produces.

I find that while I can work with it in a very deliberate manner as shown in the first image above, just as I would with the PPBP, I tend more often, with the Aquash, to work in a sketchier manner, since the lighter lines it produces are more amenable to restatement.

Since the lines it produces are waterproof as I mentioned above, you can paint over them immediately. If you are working with gouache you can actually hide lines more easily than if you are working with the black ink of the PPBP.

If you are new to direct drawing with ink the lighter lines created by the Aquash pen might be just the thing to nudge you into more practice.

Used lightly to capture the rough dimensions of your subject you might then go in with a PPBP or other black-ink pen to create "final" lines. Or you might easily mix the line work created by the Aquash with other colored markers.

You get the idea, this is an extremely versatile tool. I love it.

I purchased two at Wet Paint (I wasn't sure how long the ink in the barrel would last and so far I don't have an answer for that—so that's good). The price was $9.50. There was talk that refill barrels might be available in the future.

Before I leave the subject of the Aquash I want to mention the waterbrush by the same name. Long before I had a Niji Waterbrush I had friends who had friends in Japan. Those friends in Japan brought back Pentel waterbrushes like the Aquash for those friends. I was just about to "score" one when Nijis became readily available. My life became a lot easier!

So why switch and get an Aquash Waterbrush? Well I'm not switching, but I am trying one out. The tip is smaller than the Niji large round brush, yet larger than the Niji small round brush. Friends also seemed to get a lot of life out of theirs in the past, so it's good to test tip longevity. For some folks barrel length might also be a consideration. The Aquash Waterbrush is just a tad over 6 inches long. That's shorter than the Niji, and in some travel packs every inch of space is used carefully.

I have a smallish hand (though it is by no means in the dainty-small region) and I find that the oddly shaped barrel of both the Aquash brushes fits nicely in my hand without a problem. Another nice feature: a ball-like end to the barrel onto which the cap can snap securely when you are using the brush. The Niji sadly doesn't always hold its cap well on its end. This becomes critical when you're sketching in places where there is a lot of manure and urine—like the State Fair—or animals who might out of curiosity, snarf up a dropped cap (something that has so far never happened to me, because I'm proactive with loose caps and put them in my pocket, I don't want to cause any animals any distress).

Now you have two new brush pen tools to look out for, depending on your sketching and painting needs.

Reminder: The Pentel Colorbrush does not contain waterproof or lightfast ink. I do not recommend the Colorbrush unless you are sketching with non-permanent goals, or unless you simply enjoy having your colored ink lines dissolve when washed over with paint. (See my post on the Colorbrush, listed at the start of this post, for examples.)

I'll share other sketches with the Aquash Brush Pigment Ink Filled Brush in future posts.

    • Arika
    • September 23, 2011

    I just saw the Pentel display at my local art store on Wednesday! I didn’t even look at the gray brush pen, assuming it was like the color brush pens (which I love, but I don’t love the lack of lightfastness!). I’ll have to go back, lol.

    Since you mentioned carrying the brush pens and not having trouble with leakage…do you carry your PPBP horizontal or vertical, or have you found that to matter? I’ve had mine in my bag every day since I bought it, and it’s usually in there vertically just b/c my pen case fits better in my bag that way.

  1. Reply

    Arika, the pens I carry with me are carried upright because of “fit” issues in how things get packed into my backpack. But in other packs I might carry they are often horizontal. I haven’t had a problem either way.

    The only consideration I do make is that when I put the brush pen in vertically it is always top up, whereas my other pens might be up or down depending on how the speedy filing of them there ended.

  2. Reply

    I haven’t tried this particular pigment pen – its not available in Australia yet, but I have been giving the regular Pentel water brush a workout since I first got one, and have found it does not leak even when I accidentally sit on it, a frequent occurance, which testifies to its toughness, lol! We also have a smaller straighter one sold here as a Pentel (yours is a Derwent/Pentel) that resembles your Niji waterbrush, and the brush tip on your Pentel is far superior! It was love at first stroke and while after 6 months of solid use as a paint brush, its a bit grubby now even after washing, its still painting as well as ever. As for carrying it up or down, or level, that does not seem to matter, unlike other brands, and I lost my little plastic washer the first week.
    I hope this gives some idea as to durability and longevity; this is based on the presumption that we are talking about the same thing and they come from the same factory, not always a given.

    • September 23, 2011

    I only use my powers for good. I’m glad you’re enjoying it Roz, I sure like mine too. 😀

  3. Reply

    Nice review. I like the idea of the gray. I WAS thinking you were talking about filling the waterbrush with a gray ink so it’s good to know I was wrong and what pen to look for! I had just heard of the aquash waterbrush in the last week or two and it was a bit confusing to me. Oh boy, I haven’t even got used to using the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen yet and now want to try this one!

  4. Reply

    i couldn’t believe that Sarnoff’s had them. I bought one yesterday and am loving it already. I don’t understand this because while I have a PPBP, I have never been able to draw with it. So maybe after using this one, I will be able to finally master sketching with the PPBP. Thanks Roz! BTW, I also bought a 5×8 Stillman & Birn Alpha Series casebound book that I am using with WC. I think this might also be a winner.

    • beto
    • July 4, 2013

    I have the pentel aqua brush and pentel color brush my question is ” what is the proper way to storage these b pens horizontal or vertically tip down or up

  5. Reply

    beto, I don’t know that I can tell you the “proper” way to store these pens, but I can tell you how I “store” them and I have hours and hours of perfect response from them (days and weeks from the Aquash because it has such a large reservoir).

    I use both this pen and the the color brush (in black, grey and sepia for life drawing—note that the color brush is NOT lightfast even in black). I have all these brush pens, including the Pentel Pocket brush pen

    1. standing upright or tip down (how ever I put them back) in my purse.

    2. Standing upright or tip down (however I put them back) in my desk pen cup holder.

    3. Resting horizontally on my computer table, my drawing board, my writing desk, and the shelf in the TV room where I sometimes sketch.

    (Yes, as far as item 3 goes I have a PPBP in each of those places and at least 3 Aquash brushes going at any time.

    4. Carried any which way in the tool bag I take to life drawing.

    I have never had them leak, skip, clog, or fail to write. (Unless of course the cartridge in the PPBP or the reservoir body on the Aquash or Color Brush became EMPTY.)

    I keep them all tightly capped when I’m not actively writing with them. So all I can say is I have had no problems with them however I handle them. As to the “proper” way, I don’t know what the company recommends. I’ve been using all these pens (color brush and PPPB since 2000 and the others as they were available) No problem.

    I did buy several Color brushes about 4 years ago when they were going to be discontinued locally and I didn’t want to run out. They have NEVER been used (i.e., the rings were still in place) and when I went to use one and crack it open for the first time it wouldn’t write at all. The ink had congealed in the reservoir. So with Colorbrushes I think FRESHNESS matters, don’t buy stock that’s been around for years. And again, to emphasize—they were unopened, unused so however I stored them wasn’t going to matter.

    I think the best thing you can do is use them daily and keep the ink going and when the ink runs out change cartridges with the PPBP if you use one, or belly reservoirs with the other two types.

    Have fun.

    • Jay
    • May 9, 2014

    Thank you. Been baffled how to get started with this. The pkg doesn’t tell you to remove the red band, so I couldn’t get it to work. Simple when you know how!

  6. Reply

    Jay, I’m glad this helped and I hope you’re well through your brush pen ink supply by now! I have purchased so many pens from Pentel that I didn’t look at the packaging to see if they said anything about the red ring. It must have been very frustrating.

    I’m still frustrated by the way the thing threads backwards to what I’m used to!

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