This post is about READING LABELS even if the packaging you’re looking at is different from that shown in the accompanying photos. And this post is about knowing what you want from a brush pen. So read on.
Also, remember, in the squeezy pens, if the barrel is black the ink is dye-based, water-soluble and fugitive. If the barrel is gray, the ink is pigmented and lightfast and dries water resistant/waterproof. (The exception to this I’ve come across is the Aquash pen, shaped like their water-brush, with a black barrel which contains “light black ink.” This ink is pigmented and dries waterproof.)
Early on, when I hadn’t been writing this blog very long, I wrote one of my most popular posts: Pentel Brush Pens: The Pocket Brush and the Color Brush.
In that post I have examples of sketches made with both pens, a photo of both pens, and the pros and cons (from my perspective) of both pens.
Since my original post comparing the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen (as it is now routinely referred to by most vendors, and which I frequently simply call the PPBP as it’s my favorite brush pen and needs no other introduction) Pentel brought out the Aquash Brush Pen with Light Black Ink. I wrote a review and a lot of posts showing the types of things I do with that brush pen and its unique ink. I’ve struggled when writing about that brush pen because there seems no short way to refer to it, since in their wisdom Pentel has called their waterbrush (which is the same style body) Aquash as well. Every time I’ve referred to the ink-filled version on my blog I’ve tried to call it that full phrase so that people understand what I’m talking about. (An actual product, not some self-generated concoction, because I have been known to fill my waterbrushes with lots of different liquids.) Now the new packaging says Aquash Brush Pigment Ink Filled Brush, so I’ll have to start calling it that even though I believe there should be some hyphens in there. (Realistically I’ll probably only be able to remember to call it the Aquash Brush Pen with Pigment Ink.)
Several months ago (last year? time flows together), I showed up at Wet Paint to discover an entire display of all these brush pens and I wrongly assumed that all the Color-Brush-like pens were all filled with dye-based, fugitive inks.
Then I saw an announcement somewhere about Pentel Color Brushes and they were being called Art Brushes and were of course the colorful range I used to buy in the early 2000s. I poked around and found The Pentel Art Brush on Jet Pens. These are all dye-based and the inks are fugitive. The inks are also water-soluble so if you like playing with water-soluble inks and don’t mind the lack of lightfastness they might be a fun choice. I admit to enjoying sketching with them and then painting with gouache over them and letting the ink pick up and mix with the paint—in the past. If that’s your fun factor have at them.
What you’ll find about the Pentel Art Brush Line is that they have the same body as everything else labeled Color Brush, but their caps are the same color as the ink they carry, and the main body label is silver, just like the Color Brushes in the set (E). These too are like the Color Brushes I used to write about, the ones that came in many colors. They are dye-based inks that are water-soluble and fugitive.
For the Color Brush set labeled E, the only VISUAL differences I can tell you about so you know which pens you’re getting are 1. they come in a set, and 2. their neck labels are silver instead of black or colored as for the other brush pens. (They are, as mentioned in the above paragraph, filed with water-soluble dye-based ink which is fugitive—but that’s a product characteristic not a visual note about its physical appearnce.)
Here’s where it gets even more interesting and and confusing. I’ve seen Pentel packaging for all their lines, including their PPBPs, change over the years. I was told it had something to do with the distributors bringing the stuff into the U.S. but never got any real definitive answer on that.
So you might go to your store tomorrow and see a display of Pentel Brush Pens of all sorts and wonder what the heck was Roz looking at, because you don’t see anything like the packages shown in this post.
And then you will see the sketches I’m making like the life drawing portrait at the end of “Why Draw?”, or the gesture sketches made in the Pixelovely post, and wonder which brush pen I’m using and why. I try to label which type of pen I use when I show an image (“Why Draw?” portrait was made with pens F and G—fugitive and water-soluble dye based, and the Pixelovely sketches were with C—fine point brush with pigmented ink, which just happens to be called a Color Brush on the packaging, oh, and by the way notice the translucent grey cap.)
You may even write to me to tell me that you’ve purchase a pen I’ve recommended, but it doesn’t do what I say it will do. For instance, I used to get lots of mail from people using the Pentel Color Brush telling me that when they painted over it the ink lines blurred, bled, and mixed with their paint. But in my images they couldn’t see that happening. That’s because I was working (in the images they referred to) with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and they were in fact working with the Pentel Color Brush.
That’s why I wrote the original article to begin with—comparing the PPBP and the Pentel Color Brush.
If you’ve read my blog for more than a day you’ll know that I’m not trying to hide things from you and confuse you. I want you to have as much fun as I’m having with my tools. Most importantly I want you to choose the tools you need in order to have the maximum fun YOU can have, based on your drawing style and media use.
But wait, it gets even more interesting (read confusing). People finally clear on the fact that I use the PPBP when I want something waterproof to work with, use their PPBP and then write and complain to me that the ink bled when they painted over the top of it.
Well, I have to refer those people to my handy-dandy post on “It’s Not Waterproof until It’s Waterproof,” because what they are really experiencing is an issue with the sizing on the paper they are using and also perhaps a timing issue—how soon after you sketch do you start painting. (Since I’m about the fastest sketch to paint person I know, being too impatient to wait any time at all before whipping out the paints, the last factor is one I rarely have to council folks about. Typically they have a paper sizing problem. And if you do too you might want to read that post. You won’t have reproducible results to mine unless all factors are the same and one of those factors is always paper. [Though a wag might comment that you’ll never truly have reproducible results because you won’t have the same humidity or lack there of that I’m working in etc. But you get the general idea.])
If you’ve read this far you’re wondering what to do about all this. (If you haven’t read this far it never mattered to you anyway—and I’m hoping you got some more sketching in.)
What you do is actually simple, but complex (or it might seem so, but I think it’s simple). (There are going to be exceptions to every rule, but I’m trying to make it simple.)
Ask yourself what you want out of a brush pen?
For instance—Do I want archival ink?
Yes: If so stay away from any dye-based inks. In brush pens and markers these tend to be very fugitive. Go for brush pens filled with pigmented inks. (Or with cartridges filled with pigmented ink.)
If you’re unsure if something is lightfast ask around (vendors don’t always know) or do your own lightfastness test.
No: Then use any pen you want, because you enjoy the way it works and the effects it gives you.
Also ask whether you want a water-soluble ink or not. For the most part in brush pens if you want water-soluble inks you’re going to get fugitive, dye-based inks. But I’ve found if I work quickly that the pigmented ink in both pens C and D are water-soluble to a slight extent. And they look marvelous when shaded out. (But they also work differently on different papers because of the sizing issue—so on some papers no matter how quickly I work I’m not going to be able to budge them with a little water.)
I hope this post has helped you see the variety of Pentel Pens you can call on for your use. All of them, for me, have a fun factor. I have favorite papers I like to use each one on. With all of them except the PPBP I tend to keep a waterbrush in one hand as I work, so I can nudge out some shading even from the quick-drying, pigmented varieties. (You can always run your waterbrush over the tip of the brush pen to pick up some ink that will now be diluted by virtue of being transferred to the waterbrush tip—there are often ways to get around what seem to be fixed impediments.
That’s when the fun factor really kicks in.
Whichever brush pen you select I hope you enjoy sketching with it.
Oh, and don’t just assume that if a pen’s ink is water-soluble it’s fugitive. I enjoy using the Bienfang Watercolor Brush Pens and they held up to a lightfastness test.
I started a new category in the category list today with this post: Pentel Brush Pens. It is meant as a way to catch posts about the differences between these pens. Since hundreds of posts have already been published showing work from these various pens you will need to look in other categories like “Brush Pen” or “Specialty Tools” to find those posts. Or you can enter the name of the specific pen you’re interested in in this blog’s search engine because I used pen names as key words in each post.
Note: All of the Pentel Brush Pens looked at today have synthetic, individual “hair” tips that I have found resilient and long lasting, as well as expressive in use.
And thank you to Darin the manager of Wet Paint who graciously allowed me to come in and take photos of all the packaged pens he had in stock. All the pens mentioned in this post are available from Wet Paint, though some might be out of stock on any given day because of demand.