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."
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).
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.