Project Friday: A Bit More on Brush Pens

July 28, 2017
9 x 12 inch sketch on cold press Stonehenge Aqua. Red Bienfang Watercolor Brush pen sketch with Montana Acrylic Marker Background. (One of my Sktchy app portraits made while testing this paper.)

To wrap up Brush Pen week I was going to go on an on about the brush pen some more, but I realized that in 2015 I wrote a post that includes a video on brush pens from Jet Pens as well as a bunch of links to various brush pen posts in my blog.

I think it would make a great Project Friday if you go to that post now, watch the video, and spend a little time reading some of my posts linked there. One of two things will happen—your resistance to trying or using the brush pen will begin to break down OR you will realize how absolutely besotted I am with the Pentel Brush Pens and run away as fast as you can.

I like to be open about my enthusiasms.

In the post I’m referring you to there are two “Project Fridays” so all the links contained in that post might keep you busy for awhile.

But also today I just wanted to put another word in for a non-Pentel Brush Pen that is also a lot of fun—The Beienfang Watercolor Brush Pens. You can enter those words into my blog’s search engine and come up with a lot of posts on them. And the linked post above directions you to a Project Friday about them as well as a colorfastness test. (Spoiler alert they are filled with pigmented watercolor and are lightfast.)

Another Sktchy App sketch using the same red brush pen. Sometimes I like to sketch with the red brush pen very minimally, and then go in with paint or even a darker in. But here, what started as a quick gesture sketch I’d build up in other ways just kept growing. It was too fun to not keep pushing with the pen. And yes, it is almost out of ink, which is why it isn’t as dark as the sketch above.

I like them because sometimes it’s simply fun to work with a color line.

It’s fun to pull out diluted shading from the line, or the brush itself.

And it’s easy to paint over them (here’s one example) if you want to with gouache. Here’s another post that contains an example of the use of the watercolor brush pen with gouache.

The only place I’ve been able to find the Bienfang Watercolor Brushes is through Cheap Joe’s. And just beware—in case you only skim the posts I write about them—these pens LEAK. I don’t mean that they leak when you take them on a plane. I mean they leak all the time. Set one down and come back an hour later and you can see some ink in the cap. Put one tip side down in your pencil case in your back pack and then later that day you may wonder how you have magenta ink all over your fingers when all you’ve been drawing with all day is a pencil from your case. (Ink will leak on to your other tools.)

Years ago this would have bothered me a lot. Now, eh, things happen. I will not give up the fun of using this tool simply because it might leak and get all over my hands and clothes. Why do you think everything I wear is cotton?

Is the leaking horrible? No, it’s just that it happens when you least expect it. So always carry it upright in your pencil case, and have that case upright in your backpack or purse. Store an unused Bienfang Watercolor Brush Pen upright in a pencil holder on your desk. Don’t ever store it flat or tip down.

And don’t make a mighty squeeze for more paint as you finish your sketch—use up the paint on the brush as you wind down at the end of your sketch. That way you are never putting your brush away with an overly juicy tip—and the paint has no place to go.

And why use these brush pens over the Pentel Color Brush or all the other lines of color brush out there? The Bienfang Watercolor Brush Pen contains pigmented watercolor. It’s lightfast. Do your finished artwork with it as well as sketches. Yes the tip of this brush pen isn’t as springy and lasting as the Pentel Brush Pen lines, but it’s serviceable and will last for the life of the pen.

I can’t promise not to write more about the brush pen in the coming months and years. I do use the brush pen every day after all. But I’ll stop being so pushy about it next week. 

It’s just that I have so much fun using it that I think you would have fun too, and I think if you have fun when you sketch you sketch more, and more sketching leads to a life-long, durable drawing habit that will not only make you feel better (even when crappy things are happening) but it will help you free up your creativity.


I’m so bossy.

Go get some sketching done.


    • Julana
    • July 29, 2017

    Hey Roz, I thought of you watching Omar Jarillo’s urbansketchers youtube video of the USKChicago “super sponsors.” About minute 12 there is a rep from a company called Chartpak showing some white Molotow markers (for masks and highlights) and also a new brush pen containing Higgins ink.

      • Julana
      • July 29, 2017

      By the way, Hahnemuhle is in there, too.

    1. Reply

      Thanks for giving me a heads up. I’ll have to look for that brush pen, but I have problems with the odor of Higgins ink so it is probably not going to be something I can use.

    • Tyanne
    • August 10, 2017

    Thanks to these posts I pulled out my previously hated brush pens and started using them . This time around I am having loads of fun! Funny how our preferences can change over time

    1. Reply

      I’ve been really excited to see your work in the Facebook group. I think there is a fun looseness in them that is nevertheless accurate. I think it’s something that going forward you’ll find you use more and more. Yep, our preferences do change over time. Keep rocking the PBPP

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