Giving the Pentel Duo Point Brush Pen a Workout (and a bonus Eyebrow Update)

December 9, 2016


Above: A 12-minute sketch of Dick as he sat under a bright light on the couch in the TV room—9 x 12 smooth cardstock journal. While I’d done a shorter (time duration) first sketch with this pen, this was the first sketch where I explored all the different types of lines I could get from this pen, to see what shortcuts or approaches I could use to get the effects I wanted in a subject matter that I sketched all the time, i.e., Dick’s EYEBROWS. Yes this is an eyebrow update. I find that when I work with this pen I don’t lift the pen tip as much as I do with other brush pens. I can hold back on the pressure I use and get a more scribbled approach which other brush pens are too STRIDENT for. (Montana Marker with a 15 mm tip, background applied after the sketch was completed.)


Left: Detail from the above image so you can see how the ink coming in at the base of the tip can be used for bold quick strokes along Dick’s hairline and the tips of the brush carry little ink in this situation and provide a sort of secondary line texture behind that. Bliss.

This post is the continuation of my review of the Pentel Duo Point Brush pen with a hair-tipped brush end (and one hard-tipped fiber end).

As an artist there is a cost to everything you do. You use supplies up when you create a drawing or a painting or a sculpture. You could argue that digital work has less supply costs, but ask someone who is paying for digital storage what those costs are.

And of course there is the cost of your time.

DIGRESSION—That’s the most important cost—your time. 

You could have spent that time in other ways. My belief is that you need to choose how you spend your time because if you make a conscious choice and own that choice you won’t have regret.

I’ve never regretted time I’ve spent painting or sketching. Some might argue that’s because I do a lot of my painting and sketching in the in-between moments of my life, but I think it’s because I’ve chosen to work at those moments and embraced the often wonky results as stepping stones to improvement. And those moments have in turn set me up to have more productive work sessions when the need or opportunity arose.


Above: One of the aspects of this brush tip that I enjoy is related to the ink—it has the same wetting capabilities and characteristics as the Pentel Color Brush—dye based, water-soluble—ink. You can play with it and splash it about, and dilute it for different values.

161205_c_Men-wet-pen-inkCRDetailLeft: Detail of the ink movement.

Some artists know down to the penny how they are spending for their supplies. I don’t (unless I’m teaching a class in some technique and have to buy supplies for everyone to use throughout the class—but that’s another digression I’m not going to get sucked into today).

I use supplies because—they work for me; I fall in love with them; they seem right in my hands; they further the statement I’m trying to make; and so many other reasons related mostly to fun.

I look for supplies and tools that make my life easier. I look for tools and supplies that make my work fun, or give it a certain look I want.

Sometimes I don’t like a tool right away. Later after I revisit a tool or supply with applied use over a concentrated span of time I learn how useful the tool is; how effective it is; what I can learn from using it; and how much fun it really is.

Then I’m a convert.

Or perhaps an addict.

This happened this week. I’ve bumped my previously scheduled post for today so I could tell you that I now know exactly how much a certain pen costs me to use.

On December 4, 2016, I reviewed two duo tipped pens from Pentel.

I warmed almost immediately to the Duo Point Pen which has the hair brush tip on one end (and a brownish barrel). 

I warmed to it so much that I found myself reaching for it all the time. (Only if I was going to paint did I select a different pen with water resistant ink.)

Otherwise I kept picking up this pen.

Why? Because it made a sort of dry brush line even when it wasn’t dry. And the soft hair tip was so floppy it made me hold back and “hover” over my page with hardly any pressure. If I worked at my normal speed I also got a lighter dry brush line.

When I finished putting ink down on the paper I then got to “smoosh” that ink all around with a brush and water. That’s too fun. There is so much to discover. (See the third and fourth images in this post.)

So I kept playing.

161206_c_Woman-hair-brushpenHalfLeft: The final sketch I made with this pen before it stopped working for me with any sort of dependable ink delivery, and before my forearm gave out.

I’ve included several sketches in this post so that you can see what I was doing with this pen. You may even be able to see the changes in line quality as the pen runs out. (It’s clear if you view the drawings in life and see all of them consecutively.)

I can now tell you, though normally, as I wrote a moment ago, I don’t keep track—this pen lasted me for 12 drawings. (Of the type that you see in this post.)

161206_c_Woman-hair-brushpenHalfDetailRight: Detail from the woman’s face. At A. You can see how the brush ink delivery is no longer dependable to not blotch when I don’t want it to, whereas at B. I was still able to have smooth gradations. There is not enough ink in the pen at this time to flow evenly and I’m taking more and more strokes over an area to get the effect that I might have made in one go when the pen was new. Then the flow is also inconsistent at this point.

All of the drawings took about 20 minutes of drawing time, with the exception of the first sketch I made with the pen, which was of Carl Two (6 minutes shown in the initial post about this pen) and the sketch I made of Dick (which is at the top of this post and took exactly 12 minutes because I time myself so I can assess how abusive I’m being of his time and person.)

The pen was at no time left uncapped, except during drawing time. The 12 drawings were executed between December 3 and December 6.

Since the pen cost $9.29 that means I spent seventy-seven cents of the pen on each sketch. 

I mention this because in the cost of art materials seventy-seven cents is not a huge amount. You can easily spend that much in some other types of pens, inks, and paint. You might easily spend that in paper costs, especially if you make your own journals like I do, and like to work with watercolor papers and other art papers.

I mention this “cost” because I want you to know I don’t think it was excessive.

I enjoyed every moment of using the pen, until I didn’t—and that’s because of a personal reason—I used it so exclusively over such a condensed period of time that it aggravated my pinched nerve and forearm issues. Which was GREAT. I had thought that only working with the squeezy barreled pens made this weakness cry out. Instead I now have clear, non-contaminated data that it’s the action of my hand, the posture of my sitting or standing, and the repetition which do the damage.

That’s really worth the $9.29.

What that also tells me is that if I’m to use this pen in the future I have to space out my use of it. Take lots of breaks (I’m supposed to do this anyway). And get only NINE drawings out of it, because that’s when I should have stopped.

You know, when you work with disposable pens enough, that moment when they shift their flow and are starting to dry out.

For me, when it happened with this pen I pushed ahead and did some hand actions which weren’t healthy—increased pressure, more repetition over an area.

So the cost per sketch with this pen, if used in a healthy way for me, just went up to a buck a sketch.  I’m still fine with it.

I wanted to post about this today because I know a lot of blog readers have a different attitude about their pens—they want a longer life, they want, simply put, more.

I look for “more” in what a tool can do for me and then I budget my art supply money to buy those tools.

Question: Is your art supply budget not under control? Do you have 4 different types of artist quality watercolor paint, for instance, and you don’t know which works best for the way you like to work? If so you need to hunker down and use them in a healthy way, one at a time, for a period of time each alone, so that you can begin to tell the difference. 

Buying more art supplies is never the answer. Using the ones you have so you know if they are working for you and how they can work for you is the first step to limiting your expenditures and maximizing the investment you’ve made in supplies. 

If you need a supplies budget/buying REALITY CHECK read the following blog posts:

Journaling Superstitions #13: Special Tools Make A Difference. (Superstitions are rarely true—and I tell you why this one isn’t. The sooner you get this idea out of your head and accept that it’s practice which makes a difference the sooner you’ll start to have fun.)

On Testing And Experimenting with Art Supplies. (I even suggest a process you can set up to do this.)

Project Friday: Budgets—Time vs. Materials. (I suggest ways to set up your goals so that your experimentation with supplies matches your budget and your goals.)

Right now you’re essentially “speed dating” your supplies and not getting to know their nuances and their “backstory.”

Moving from one to the next in this speedy and unorganized fashion isn’t going to help you find “the one.”

DIGRESSION TWO (or three, I’ve lost count)—Remember I also write about how there really isn’t ever going to be “the one” because art supplies come and go, or simply change from the way they used to be. But within those periods of stability you can get to learn something thoroughly if you apply yourself to one product.

What Is So Great About The Pentel Duo Point With The Hair Brush Tip?

It gives a line that I don’t get out of any other pen I’ve found yet. 

I describe it as a dry-brush effect. It’s the effect you get when your Pentel Pocket Brush Pen cartridge is almost completely empty. It’s the effect you can sort of approximate—but not quite—when your squeezy barreled Pentel Color Brush type pens start to go drier and you don’t squeeze them. (As long as there is something in their barrel they tend to flow just because of gravity, whether or not you squeeze).

There is another quality to the line. A fineness. A lilt. This is because of the structure of the hair tip. The tip is floppier and less bouncy than the PPBP or the PCB tips. It’s more like a very soft sumi brush tip. (I actually found that if I used the brush held in a more vertical fashion, far back on the barrel I got more interesting lines and “control.”)

The pressure needed is different from either the PPBP or the PCB—less is better, until of course you come to the end of the ink supply, and then you need more pressure, and in my case that’s a bad deal physically.

The ink flow into the tip is SLOWER than in the PPBP or the PCB tips so throughout the life of the pen you’ll outrun the flow if you’re a fast sketcher. You’ll need to slow yourself down to get fuller, richer lines. And that can actually be an exhilarating experience as you catch your breath.

The tip doesn’t wear well—in about five drawings I could see a noticeable difference in the tip—a fraying of the tip ends so that the tip never really came to an exact point again, only a feathery conjunction.

That led to the type of line quality I wanted. I was fine with that. In fact I became obsessed with it

NOTE: My friend Tina Koyama tells me that she has a heavy hand with solid felt tips and the solid felt tip on the other end of this pen stands up to the pressure she puts it through. She loves that about this pen. Keep that in mind when you are considering purchasing this pen.

I love that the flow was so slow, that even when the pen was fairly new, I could press down to splay the bristles and get a light layer of ink for shading. (But that’s tricky. Keep the area of the brush tip near the point of joining to the barrel (where the ferrule would be on a regular watercolor brush) up off the paper or you’ll get splotches of ink because it’s coming out there at its regular force. You’re only using the splayed tips. Of course, if you’re like me you might like those splotches too, especially around hairlines to stand in for clumps of hair, but I digress again.

All of this came in a package that made me long for one more thing—water resistant ink. I wanted so many times to wash color over my sketches, or to work up gouache paintings on top of these water-soluble lines. But there wasn’t a point—so I wet some areas in some drawings with water and enjoyed that malleable water-soluble characteristic in its own right. 

Remember too, it’s a dye-based, water-soluble ink and it’s fugitive.

There is a lot to like about this brush pen, but a lot that might disappoint you. If the above items bother you and you think that a tip of light hairs should hold a fine point more resiliently for a longer life, and that the ink in a disposable pen should flow for more than 12 sketches and be at full strength for longer than the few hours of sketching time that entails, then select a different pen. (Or use this one more delicately!!!)

Ultimately, what’s so great about the Pentel Duo Point with the hair brush tip is that it allowed me to hone in on what I really, really wanted in a brush pen so that I can refine my search.

The receipt read, $9.29.

Actual cost—Priceless.

Addendum: if you want to read about some of my favorite brush pens check out this post. And if you are confused about which pens are which (and what these squeezy barreled pens I keep writing about are) you can read this post.

    • SusanLily
    • December 9, 2016

    “My belief is that you need to choose how you spend your time because if you make a conscious choice and own that choice you won’t have regret.

    I’ve never regretted time I’ve spent painting or sketching. Some might argue that’s because I do a lot of my painting and sketching in the in-between moments of my life, but I think it’s because I’ve chosen to work at those moments and embraced the often wonky results as stepping stones to improvement. And those moments have in turn set me up to have more productive work sessions when the need or opportunity arose.”

    Roz, this is such a meaningful lesson/reminder for me during this season of my life when I feel that so little time is my own. But I do have those in-between moments that I can prioritize and mindfully choose how to use.

    Thanks for this–and all your thought-provoking posts. Happy Holidays!

    • Paul
    • December 9, 2016

    12 MINUTES REALLY!!!! It would take me at least an hour to put this many lines down anywhere near where they belong, so impressive Roz :o). But then again you are VERY familiar with this face. Do you have any idea how many drawings of Dick you have done over the years? As you say: ” PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE”. You continue to inspire and lead by example. Thank you.

  1. Reply

    Yep Paul, EXACTLY 12 minutes, because it’s part of a running joke that Dick and I share, a sort of “time me gentleman” game we play. There is a clock right in my view when he sits on the couch and the first thing I do when I finish sketching is write down the time. And then we laugh and give me a “grade.”

    I do not advocate this as a way of being but it is a natural progression from my life in which I keep a time chart for everything. (even before I was a runner.)

    The reason I don’t advocate this for others is that is sets up certain expectations for productivity when you go say to the Mn. State Fair. It might lead to more stress than fun for others if you go in knowing you have to produce x number of sketches per hour.

    Recently I went to the Bell Museum and spent a ton of time on a grizzly bear sketch and enjoyed it a lot, and that’s what you have to weigh speed against, what’s the goal and what time will it take to achieve that.

    This is also the result of years of doing 30 second drawings of birds etc. who leave before you can get much down on the paper.

    But on this day the 12 minutes was another joke as well, because the previous time I sketched him I spent over an hour! (I haven’t posted that sketch yet, I think it goes up next week, but this went up now because of the brush pen used.)

    I have no idea how many sketches of Dick I’ve made over the years. I think I’ve written on the blog about how I did a sketch of him in the early 80s where I stopped after I sketched his eye (i.e., I’d done a full sketch and transferred refined lines onto my final paper and was going to do a full up, photo realistic color pencil sketch—because that’s what I did back then. I started working on the eye and a bit of the cheek and then I was DONE. I didn’t need any more, I’d drawn what was important to me. (It is interesting that everyone who has ever seen that sketch wonders why I didn’t finish it, but Dick gets it. Though I think he probably wishes I had finished. He was of course younger then and not so tired looking when I sketched him. There was a lot of love in that sketch, maybe I just didn’t want to share it. Or maybe, as is often the case, when I accomplish what I want, I move on.)

    The point is, I stopped and I didn’t draw another sketch of Dick (except for some quick pen and ink stuff for my mail art) for another 30 years. I had the girls to sketch, other people’s dogs, and of course birds.

    It has only been in the last 7 years that I’ve started to sketch Dick again. And I’ve had to deal with those eyebrows, because now I work predominantly in pen and ink with watercolor and gouache and those eyebrows, so large, but so light, give me fits.

    As for the lines being where they belong—let’s just say that this looks like him when he’s very tired but there are plenty of lines out of place and lines which I should have not put in (but couldn’t help myself because of the way this pen works, it makes me be more sketchy) if I’d wanted him to look less tired, or even more like himself. (And I fell in love with the lines and didn’t want to wet them, knowing that I could use it as is for a blog post on this pen!)

    I will be practicing drawing him for a long time to come. (As long as he patiently sits in a bright light for me.)

    ABP—always be practicing is what we say around here. (A play on something Alec Baldwin’s character said in “Glengarry Glen Ross”: Always be closing.)

    Glad you enjoyed the post.

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