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Review: Kuretake Ultra Fine Pigmented Water-based Brush Pen

June 24, 2022

I love brush pens and I’m always looking for a brush pen with ink that will withstand watercolor washes and not bleed. Additionally the brush pen has to be water-based ink because solvents (and even alcohol pens) give me headaches.

I was excited to try the Kuretake Ultra Fine brush pen with pigmented, water-based ink.

Did I mention I prefer my brush pens to have tips with individual hairs (as opposed to fiber-tipped pens, though I do have a couple favorites in that category).

So if one just looks at the specifications of the Kuretake Ultra Fine brush pen it looks like it is a great match for me. 

Unfortunately I also like push-back from the brush tip. This is more and more important as papers shift to starch and synthetic sizing and become more draggy on the surface.

This brush pen doesn’t have a lot of push-back in the hairs of the brush tip when compared to other brush pens I use (pretty much anything in the Pentel line).

The hairs are so delicately limp that I found I was actually looking more at the brush and the paper than I was looking at my subject. That’s not how I like to draw. I like to look at my subject and then feel my way across the paper because I know how a tool works and by the working of that tool also know where I am on the paper.

Yes, with practice I know I’d start to dial in the pressure range I’d want and need, but when you consider that the thinest lines and smallest stipple marks I get from this brush pen are all in the range of the Pentel Fine Brush pen (with pigmented, water-based ink in a gray squeezy barreled pen) AND with the latter I also get a far greater range of broad strokes, I think I’ll stick with the Pentel for now, revisit this pen another day. I just know it won’t become a daily pen.

The good news for those of you who don’t mind the limp brush hairs is that the ink doesn’t bleed when wet washes go over it. (There is one place on the page where I write in a wet area of the paper and the ink bleeds, but you would expect any pen to do that.)  So if you like to sketch and then add watercolor washes and like to work with thin line you might want to try this.

Note that I was testing it in a Hahnemühle 100 percent Cotton Watercolor paper journal. Where the ink line breaks up you can see the slight cold press texture of the paper. On smoother paper this pen can lay in a smooth line. And with less drag on a smoother paper (because of the lack of surface texture) the limpness of the hairs won’t matter as much. In fact comics artists working on plate Bristol will probably love this brush.

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