Different Types of Brush Pens for Different Results

September 6, 2017
Quick sketch on Fluid Easy Block Hot Press 140 lb. Watercolor paper, using a Sakura Pigma FB Fiber-tipped Brush Pen which is fine in width; with watercolor washes.

I write lots of posts about the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and the various squeezy barreled brush Pens that Pentel makes. The beauty of those pens is the real brush tip with synthetic hairs. These individual hairs allow you to get broken strokes that play up the texture of the paper and add an emotional quality to your line. Your lines can be bold and solid or light and broken, receding into the drawing. You can achieve fine hairline strokes.

Overall there’s so much you can do with those types of brushes.

But I wanted to mention today a brush pen that many might over look—the solid fiber-tipped brush pen. 

These are brush pens with a solid tip made of some sort of fiber that has been shaped into a brush tip shape. 

Most artists are probably familiar with the Faber-Castell Artist’s Pitt Brush Pen line. These solid, fiber-tipped brush pens come in a wide color range and both the original small tip, a jumbo tip, and most recently a soft brush pen tip.

I have only recently become a fan of their soft brush pen tip. It’s a bit floppy for my taste. I recommend you try them all. For inspiration in using these pens, which are filed with archival India inks (in colors), I recommend that you look at the art of the master of these pens, Don Colley.

What he does with these pens is amazing. 

There are other companies that also make solid fiber-tipped brush pens. Tombow’s dual brush pen has a solid fiber brush tip on one end and a bullet tip on the other. The ink in them is dye-based and fugitive, but it is available in a ton of colors and it’s water-soluble so you can get some fun results with it. I’ve written a Project Friday about using these markers which you can read here.

But today, in my image you can see what is my favorite solid fiber tipped brush pen—the Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pen in Fine (FB), Medium (MB), and Bold (BB).

You can read about my thoughts on the different tips here.

Today I just wanted to bring up this pen type and remind you that it’s out there. There are times when a brush pen with individual bristles isn’t going to work for you. There are going to be times when you simply want something a little “stiffer” or more easily controllable. The tips on these pens allow you to quickly and easily get repeatable results without a lot of thought or finesse. And that makes them great for very quick and slightly more detailed work, like the beard strokes in today’s image. Add a little bit of watercolor wash and you’re finished.

If you’ve never used a brush pen before you might want to try with the Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pen FB. It has flexibility but also some stiffness that makes it even easy to write notes with. Vary the pressure you apply and you can still get very fine lines and even thicker lines. As you get accustomed to this pen you can try the other two weights to see what they bring to your sketching party—or use all three in one sketch for various approaches.

Don’t give up on brush pens simply because your first attempts to use one made you feel you’re all thumbs. There are so many different types of brush pen out there that you owe it to yourself expression to explore several and see what you can make them do.

And I recommend when you are first using a new pen of any type—sketch a familiar, “comfort” subject that you really love to sketch. For some it may be a selfie because you know the dimensions of your face. Or it might be your partner’s face. For me, the first subject I sketch with a new pen is either a bell pepper or Gert, my rubber chicken puppet. (Enter her name in the category list and you’ll see lots of posts and examples of experiments with Gert.)

By using a favorite subject you are accustomed to sketching you can shift your focus away from how to get the subject on paper, and instead concentrate on how the pen responds as you set to your task.

Have fun. Try more pens.



    • Tina Koyama
    • September 6, 2017

    I like that the Sakura Pigma is wateproof, though I find that the tip mushes down relatively quickly under my heavy hand. Also, I hate the cap on it — I make a mess when I post it. Slightly sturdier are the Zebra and Zig Mangaka, also waterproof.

    – Tina

    1. Reply

      I have the best luck Tina with the FB. The BB mushes up pretty quickly regardless of how “light” I am with it. And the MB is just an interesting odd mix of “I don’t know how to explain it.” I haven’t tried the Zig Mangaka. Does it have solvent ink? An Odor? I’ll have to keep my eyes open. I don’t remember why I don’t use the Zebra pens. I’ve tried them, but I guess I didn’t connect with them. I agree, the cap on the Sakura Pigma is really odd, like an afterthought of design/no design.

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